How the Chinese Super League looks after six games

The 2022 Chinese Super League season is now six games deep and there have been quite a few surprises, as well as plenty of expected results based on teams' respective off-seasons.

Surprises at the top

The 2021 campaign was largely a two-horse race, with Shandong Taishan claiming a domestic double while Shanghai Port were runners up in both the league and cup - with expectations high for both teams entering the new season.

However, things are shaping up quite differently at the top of the Chinese Super League, with the top three consisting of teams virtually no-one would have predicted a couple of months ago.

Wuhan Three Towns, who have enjoyed successive promotions from China League Two up to the CSL, currently sit atop of the results after picking up five victories out of their opening six games.

Their surprisingly strong recruitment this off-season currently has them as the team to beat, though they are closely followed by Shanghai Shenhua in second place and Henan Songshan Longmen in third.

Shenhua have endured a few seasons of mediocrity, so to see them with identical results to the league leaders, with both teams yet to experience defeat this season, is quite a welcome surprise for their fanbase - especially after months of lockdown did not help their preparations.

And Henan, who have been a largely mid table team in the Chinese top tier for a number of years, are finally competing at the top end of the standings thanks to four wins and two draws keeping them just two points behind the aforementioned sides.

Big names in the middle

Outside of the top three, plenty of big clubs occupy the middle/top positions in the standings, with Shandong Taishan and Beijing Guo'an sitting fourth and fifth respectively.

Shanghai Port currently sit ninth, behind last season's fourth place finishers Changchun Yatai on goal difference after both sides experienced mixed results to begin their campaigns - with Changchun picking up too many draws while Port have suffered three defeats and three victories.

The majority of teams occupying the middle ground in the league were to be expected, such as Tianjin Jinmen Tiger, Zhejiang and Wuhan Yangtze River.

Shocks at the bottom

However, the interesting picture comes at the bottom of the league.

Hebei, who suffered financial difficulties and looked all but certain to wrap up this off-season, have the worst record in the league at the time of writing, having lost every match they have contested.

Above them, sit both Guangzhou FC and Guangzhou City - who are looking at serious threat of suffering shock relegations if fortunes are not changed soon.

Guangzhou FC's struggles are less surprising, considering the monumental shift in their financial situation since the 2021 season - with the majority of first-team players departing, including all import players and all naturalised players.

Only a handful of genuine first-team quality players remain with the team, which is largely made up of youth team players, and they have just one win to their name so far.

Guangzhou City are struggling as equally as Hebei, without a single win to their name, having suffered some big-score losses against the likes of Changchun Yatai (4-1 and 3-1 respectively).

There are still four games remaining in this phase of the league, and an undetermined number of subsequent games to come, so the make-up of the standings could well change over the next few weeks and months.

For now, though, there have been plenty of interesting results that are making for an truly unusual Chinese league season.

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