Chinese column: Beijing, Qingdao, and Wu Lei

Another interesting week of CSL is over. Shandong is still ahead with maximum points and I look forward to analyze them live next Saturday at Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai. Meanwhile I will start with Beijing Guoan, who got 10 points after 4 rounds.

Crystal clear game plan

I must admit that Beijing Guoan played a fantastic game Friday against Jiangsu. Especially in the first 45 minutes, but in general their style, concept, common understanding, movement, and timing in run and pass was excellent. Clearly some of the best I have seen in my time in China.

When Beijing build up they create what is called “the bowl”, where the full backs move high up the pitch, and the central defenders have a lot of space between them, so the back four is formed like a bowl. This is very risky if you lose the ball, but also very difficult for the opponents to pressure because they have to run more meters to chase the ball.

In the same time the two wingers move inside the pitch, so the full backs are the wide in the team. This gives Beijing to full backs at the winger position and two wingers at the central midfield position together with the other 2-3 central midfielders. Why do they wish to do this? Because they can play 5 against 2-3 opponents in the central part of the pitch, because they have 5 players in this area.

Some game plan one is to try to play through the middle of the best and create majority situations. Football on the top level is all about creating majority situations like; 5vs4, 4vs3, 3vs2, 2vs1, etc. If the opponents close this part, Beijing can play on the outside of the opponent organization to the pre-mentioned full backs. And finally they can pick game plan 3 which is to play a direct ball to Kanoute, who is so strong and experienced that he will keep 9 out 10 balls with the back to the goal. Finally Beijing can choose to play the deep ball to number 9 Guerron, who is extremely fast and difficult to handle for the opponent. He is like a hand grenade with this explosive speed.

Both wingers are playing in the “wrong” side meaning the right winger is left footed and the left winger is right footed. Also a part of the clear plan to let them move in the pitch using they preferred foot and let the wide space to the full backs.

Furthermore it seems like Beijing’s team is in good balance. They got a left footed left central defenders, and this can seem like a small details, but I will tell you as a professional coach how much it matters, when the teams left central defender can play the ball constructive forward with his left foot.

The system is a 4-2-3-1 and in some periods more like 4-4-1-1, but it is very flexible and the players are aware of their roles and which tools they should use. A very, very solid performance and a team in total balance and control.

Primitive but efficient Qingdao-style

I really looked forward seeing Qingdao due to their impressive start of the season, but the game on Saturday was not good. Their defense had big problems in the counter attack phase, where the back four line was too high and didn’t move which is a sin for a back four defensive line!

Guangzhou R&F had several counter chances and could easily have scored more in the first half. Let’s just say that it was not because of solid defensive work by Qingdao that R&F didn’t score more than once.

Qingdao’s style is rarely simple. The keeper kicks the long ball every time he has the ball, and then they put pressure on the opponents trying to win the important “second ball”. If the defenders get the ball – the two central midfielders number 13 Quan Lei or number 17 Liu Jian comes down, get the ball and immediately kicks it deep towards the two strikers – again no risk.

Their pressure line is around the middle of the pitch, which in football coaching terms is called “low pressure”, so Qingdao basically plays without any risk in the offensive and in the defensive part of the match.

It’s important for me to say that I’m not talking bad about Qingdao. I am only analyzing their style. What you need to understand it that in modern football, it is the squad and not the head coach, who decide the concept and playing style – meaning FC Barcelona’s players can’t play like Stoke City or the other way around. So the Qingdao Head Coach is doing a correct thing – 10 points in 4 matches is fantastic, so big applause to him for the results, but the team will not win any beauty prices for wonderful football, but at the top level – the results matters and nothing else.

I still think that a few tactical chances could make Qingdao even more difficult, because now all opponents know what they are doing. But if they tried to play one short pass sometimes before they play long then they will more difficult to read and can surprise the opponents.

Wu – Wu – Wu Lei!

Yet again Wu Lei played a fantastic game, and a more defensive East Asia team won a clever and important victory. I was at Shanghai Stadium analyzing Wu Lei’s performance, and here we go:

8min: Wu Lei’s first action – a good dribbling and he wins a free kick

12min: Another good 1vs1 dribbling, and a good finish – wins a corner kick

15min: Has a finish and is fast to pick up the second ball and scores to 1-0

20min: Runs with the ball over 30meters and has another finish – keeper saves

23min: Looses a 1v1 and Changchun gets a counter attack

29min: Works hard in the defense, and wins the ball

35min: Shows football intelligence when he slows down and keep the ball in a difficult counter situation where East Asia was 2vs5

37min: Now in the center positions as number 10 – has moved away from the right side

43min: Dribbles again, finishes and wins a corner kick

46min: Back as right winger

55min: Direct free kick – all right quality

67min: Counter with a top, top class first touch where he keeps the speed with the ball. Basically Changchun players can’t catch him without the ball when Wu Lei is running with the ball… Wins a free kick

75min: Again Wu Lei uses speed in a counter attack

80min: East Asia makes a defensive change and now Wu Lei is the central striker

81min: 1vs2 and he passes the ball instead of trying = football intelligence again

84min: First touch with the chest, good control, good skills

90min: Wins a 1vs1 – close to win a penalty

Over all Wu Lei was yet again the best player on the pitch. Always dangerous, always clever in his decision making, goal scorer and a key, key player for East Asia. Natural movement, elegant, and plays with a huge amount of confidence, which is essential for football player. 90 % of your performance comes from inner energy and mental balance, a Swedish Olympics study has proved some years ago.

Some statistic:

  • Wu Lei hit a team mate in 95 % of his passes

  • He won 90 % of his 1vs1 situations

  • He lost the ball 4 times

  • He won the ball 4 times

  • He dribbled past an opponent 10 times with success

  • He had 5 finishes at the goal where 4 of them had quality