Chinese column: The biggest star in China

Elkeson – Guangzhou Evergrande – Brazil - Striker:

A brilliant player has arrived to the Chinese league this year. The Brazilian offensive player Elkeson has been the best player so far in the CSL season, and he could be sold to Europe in the near future. In my perspective he is almost too good to play in the CSL, but let’s hope we can keep him here to improve the standards of the league and inspire young kids to play football as well.

Let’s try to analyze Elkeson and find out why he is so good:

When you do professional football scouting – a classic model is to follow is the SATS model.

In the SATS model – we generally look at:

  • Soccer intelligence

  • Attitude

  • Technic

  • Speed

If we start with the intelligence in the game – Elkeson is a top player in this area. The main issue here to analyze is the decision making. “When to do what in a game”? Basically speaking. Meaning when to dribble, when to pass quickly, when to run deep behind the defender, when to go for goal, etc. Decision making is one of the most crucial aspects of modern football.

And Elkeson is very clever in this area. For example in the game last week against Shenhua, we didn’t see Elkeson in the first half. He didn’t show any skills, but just passed the ball back to a teammate when he got it, because Shenhua did a very good defensive work in the first 45 minutes. Shenhua were always 2 against 1 in Elkeson’s side, so he could no attack with success, and he knew it.

In the second half Elkeson got more space, because Shenhua got tired, and then he started to show his level. Suddenly attacking number 12 left full back, Bai Jiajun, at Shenhua and winning 3 out of 3 offensive 1:1 duels against him. That is decision making at a very high level. Elkeson knows exactly when to do what and therefore, he has great success in Chinese football.

When we look at his attitude – Elkeson is a mature player. Working hard for the team and keeps believing him even if he misses a chance. Players with a strong attitude will keep going no matter what happens, where mental weak players (often young players) can play horrible after just a few mistakes. They get nervous and start to doubt on their own skills. Elkeson is a winner and you can see how much he cheers after each scored goal – he wants to win no matter what.

Elkeson’s technic is at an international level. A lot of Brazilians are grown up by playing football every day on the street or playing Futsal which is a very technical difficult game, so they improve their technic a lot as kids. Elkeson’s best skills are his dribbling and 1:1 offense skills, where the main strength is that he can attack both ways. This means that a defender never know whether he attacks on the outside or on the inside. And the left foot of Elkeson is almost just as good as the right foot which gives him fantastic opportunities in a game.

His kicking technic is also impressive. Look at the goals against R&F in the Guangzhou Derby – that is some World Class finishing with both feet. Clinical – we would call it in the World of coaches.

His speed is not at a top level for Elkeson, but his acceleration and timing on the first crucial 3-4 meters is enough for him to go past the defenders, so he has football speed. And he can use it in match situations to get himself in a scoring position. But if we did a 30meter race with no ball – I think many players in the Chinese league would be faster than Elkeson, but he uses his speed very good, and therefore he is fast with the ball.

So in general Elkeson scores high on all 4 categories, which of course makes him to a top player in China, but I would also say that he can play in one of the 5 big leagues in Europe. But for now – we are happy to have him in the CSL.

I also think that Marcello Lippi has found a good position for him at the left side of the attack. He plays what is called “a fake winger”, where Elkeson as a right footer can move inside the pitch from the left and attack both ways. It’s a very common way to play wingers today in Europe, where you in China still have more classic wingers with the left footed player in the left side and the right footed player in the right side. The tactical aspect of this new formation is that every time Elkeson moves inside the pitch, there will be a ‘high way’ of space for the left full back to attack, so it’s very difficult for the opponents to defend against this movement.

CSL: The Beijing Derby

Beijing has not had the best results recently, and on Saturday in the Derby against Tianjin they only got one point. In the last minute Tianjin equalized and got an important point in the button of the league, but also important being a Beijing rival.

I talked to some friends of mine from Beijing, who told me how important this game is for Tianjin and that the players were told to “die on pitch” to not let Beijing Guoan win the game. And it was an interesting game with a lot of fights and hard tackles like a real Derby should be.

For Guoan I believe their success in ACL is their problem. Their squad is not big and solid enough to handle two big tournaments, so their players are tired and not-focused from time to time, because there is a tournament bigger than the CSL this spring. I have seen this reaction in clubs in Europe as well, and sometimes clubs get in big domestic trouble, when they have success in the international tournaments because of lack of focus and the fact that the players are physically pressured by too many games over a short period.

Other CSL aspects

Shanghai East Asia lost their fourth (4) game in a row, and they could soon be in trouble in the button of the league. Their problem is as I mentioned before the lack of goal scorers in the team. The opponents are more focused on Wu Lei now than in the beginning of the season, which will give more space and time for other players, but no one seems to take over as a goal scorer except Wu Lei and number 12. If SIGP can – they really need to find a striker, who can score 10-12 goals a season, when the transfer window is open again.

Guangzhou R&F lost again, and I have heard that the club has sacked their Brazilian Head Coach. As a professional coach, it is always sad when colleagues are sacked, but it is a part of the game, and we all know what we go into. I do believe R&F should be in a better position in the league, and their tactical game plan has not been good enough either, so maybe the decision is correct to try a new coach.

I also think the role as Match Analyzer, which I was at a professional club in Denmark, is a role, the CSL clubs needs to develop, so you spent more time analyzing the opponents + evaluate your own games and performances. It is good for the team, but also for the individual players, who will feel appreciated and develop themself as players. Maybe R&F could look into this area as well to win more games and develop as a club.

And in the end a big congrats to Wuhan! Finally they won their first CSL game, and it will be interesting in the coming weeks to see if the new coach really has done a difference and will earn more points to the club. Sunday was for sure a good start.