Could Changchun Yatai make a change at goalkeeper?

 


Changchun Yatai have been largely stable at the goalkeeper position over the past three years, but there are some suggestions that the team could be in line to make a change as they head into their second season back in the Chinese Super League.

Shi Xiaotian on the move?

Changchun Yatai have had some memorable goalkeepers during their 26-year history, including the likes of Zong Lei (2006-2012), Song Zhenyu (2013-2016) and, most recently, Shi Xiaotian - someone who arrived ahead of the 2019 China League One season from former regional rivals Liaoning FC.

With Shi Xiaotian between the sticks, taking over the starting role that had largely been held by Wu Yake until he experienced the disappointment of relegation to the second tier in 2018, the club won the 2020 China League One title and were able to forge ahead with a superbly impressive return to the top tier in 2021.

To date, Shi has made 62 total appearances for Changchun Yatai and has kept 20 clean sheets, including five consecutive during the 2020 China League One Championship Round, while also conceding just 63 goals - primarily keeping opponents to low scoring games.

The 31-year-old was viewed as the unquestioned starter under head coach Chen Yang, featuring in the majority of the team's matches prior to suffering an unspecified injury in the December stage of the 2021 season.

The injury allowed Wu Yake to return to the line-up, and what intrigued a number of people was how the former Changchun youth product was able to retain his place between the sticks even when Shi Xiaotian appeared ready to return - with the Shenyang, Liaoning native holding a place on the bench for the final five matches of the campaign.

Now, rumours have emerged on Chinese social media website Weibo that suggest Shi Xiaotian could be moving on from the club - though it has also been stated that he has not had any approaches from other clubs to date.

If the decision to part ways is coming from the player, it will be a significant loss to the club who have enjoyed some solid performances from the one-time Chinese international, and it will send them back to the drawing board - with options for a legitimate number one Super League-level goalkeeper extremely limited.

If the decision has come from management, then there is the possibility that the club has already begun work on finding a number first-choice stopper. This could present itself in the form of a player such as 24-year-old Bao Yaxiong, currently the number one for Hebei FC - a club whose immediate future is up in the air and could see a number of first-team players depart before the new campaign rolls around.

If Hebei were to go the same way as 2020 Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC, dissolving and seeing all players find new homes in 2022, there could be an opportunity for Changchun to jump on a younger option between the sticks that could continue to develop and establish himself as a top keeper in the league over the next few years.

If, however, both parties are keen on sticking together, having Shi Xiaotian back for the 2022 season would be the best option - maintaining consistency and quality at an important position while the club looks to strengthen in other areas.

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