Changchun Yatai have questions to answer in second phase

 

The 2021 Chinese Super League season saw Changchun Yatai surprise many with their fourth-place finish, but the 2022 edition of the team is leaving much to be desired.

At the conclusion of the first phase of the 2022 Chinese Super League, Chen Yang's side have failed to replicate the strong performances that saw them genuinely contend for the league title last year.

Through ten games to date, playing out of Haikou, Changchun Yatai sport just two wins, three losses and five draws - totalling just 11 points, seeing them sitting 13th out of the 18-team league.

It's a disappointing change for a team that is largely unchanged from last season, save a few new faces and some fairly un-noteworthy departures of fringe players, bar Shi Xiaotian.

And that appears to be one of the factors that have led to this sorry state of affairs in the team's second season back in the top tier - lack of quality goalkeeping.

Changchun began the season with new arrival Liu Weiguo as the presumed number one between the posts, joining on a free transfer from the much maligned Guangzhou FC, but his tenure with the team may already have come to a premature end.

Liu Weiguo was at fault for some truly disastrous errors leading to easy goals for opposing teams early in the season, and he found himself benched very quickly for long-time Changchun player Wu Yake.

The only problem is that Wu Yake himself is still not a starter-level player in the Chinese Super League, having been the team's first-choice when they were relegated back in 2018, and seeing his position taken by Shi Xiaotian while in the second tier.

Relationship between player and club disintegrated, believed largely to be due to wage demands, and Wu Yake played mostly in the final stage of last season - where Changchun Yatai's form did not replicate their early dominance in the group stages.

This inconsistency in goal has been troublesome for the team for many years, particularly since the departure of Zong Lei after the 2012 season, where Mi Tianhe and later Song Zhenyu battled for playing time.

But while the goalkeeping question has hung around the team for many years, settling for brief spells before once again requiring serious attention, the team's overall performances have been seriously lacking.

Primarily, the biggest concern has been on the defensive end. Last season, Changchun Yatai sported one of the most consistent defences in the entire league, with a back four most of the time of Jiang Zhe, Sun Jie, Jores Okore and Rao Weihui.

Jiang Zhe is gone, but most of the back line remains. What has not remained is the team's performances, and Chen Yang's consistency with his strategy. At times, he has operated a back three, with Han Pengfei slotting alongside Okroe and Sun Jie, and at times he has played a back four when needing more in the attacking third.

However, too much change from each game is making it difficult to establish chemistry and consistency for the team and is leading to too many errors at the back - highlighted by Henan's domination of Changchun in their 6-2 end to phase one.

A settled back line will play more consistently each game, and Chen Yang needs to start choosing his best line-up more frequently. It's clear that the team operates best with an attacking three of Junior, Erik and Tan Long, but the veteran Chinese forward has been rested at times this season and the Brazilians have been left to lead the line together.

Serginho's return from injury have been a challenge, and he left the Henan match early due to another setback, and getting the best out of the team should be highlighted by Tan Long's return to the attacking three, with Dilümüt playing in the centre alongside Serginho the best midfield option for the team.

Li Guangwen, Zhang Li and even Zhang Yufeng are not quite at the same level and the need to improve central midfield has been an area of concern for the past few years in Changchun.

There are too many questions that Changchun Yatai need to address when they enter the second phase of the 2022 season, which could see the team finally return to the Changchun City Stadium for the first time since 2019, and Chen Yang needs to make serious changes if he hopes to get the team back on track quickly.

They have the quality, especially with the import players already on the books, with Erik in particular having an impressive season with three goals and four assists already, so some tweaks and settled formations should help the team get things back to the way they were.

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