Conquering China, part two - Pre-Season Preparations

Pre-season in China is finally underway, and my long and successful career (stop laughing) can begin in earnest. Join me as I take Yanbian on a tour of South Korea, get well-beat by a big club and begin praying for the season ahead. 

If you haven't read Part One of this career, you can find it here.

Pre-season can raise the expectation level or crush any hope before the season has even begun. In my case, I'm neither more or less hopeful than I was before a ball was kicked on our tour of South Korea. 

Before all that, though, is the important matter of a team meeting to introduce myself to the players and layout my expectations. All but two players welcome me to the club. No doubt they’re confused as to why this random Englishman has turned up in North Eastern China to manage them and I’ll admit, I'm a bit confused myself. That aside, everyone is on board with my plan to escape relegation, and a rallying cry from the captain at least sees things kick off in high spirits.

After that, it’s time to meet the media. One journalist asks the predictable question of whether I can speak any Chinese besides that found on the menu at the average Chinese restaurant. Otherwise, it’s standard stuff, with me bigging up the club’s ambition and the quality of the squad and backroom staff.

With the first pre-season game against Anyang closing in fast, I set to work placing adverts for coaches and scouts, and send my lone scout to examine a handful of defenders picked out from the transfer and loan list. The results are fruitful: 21-year-old centre back Liu Haidong and 22-year-old left back Shan Peifeng join on loan from Guangzhou and Yifang respectively. The addition of Haidong will allow me to play Petkovic, easily my best defender, at left back if need be and Peifeng will provide valuable cover, just by having the ability to play left back.

The job adverts see numerous responses, but none of any real quality. I can’t be picky, so I sign up a regen coach and three regen scouts. If nothing else, the extra body on the training ground will help ease the workload, and my Chief Scout will have a few lackeys to order about.

Soon enough, it’s time to pack our bags and make the short trip from Yanji to South Korea. Pre-season is underway, in below-freezing temperatures, playing on frozen pitches in the snow. As someone used to boiling-hot summer games, this is something of a culture shock.

It’s a mixed bag of results. Things started poorly with the 1-0 defeat against Anyang, as we struggled for fluency and lost to a last minute goal. The games against the two university teams were a welcome confidence boost, as we were able to rack up the goals and play some really nice football. Seoul E-Land provided a much tougher test and we did well enough to come from behind twice, but I was concerned at the number of chances given up to the opposition.

We returned to China to prepare for a testimonial game against Suwon Blue Wings. A decent crowd welcomed us at the Yanji Sports Centre Stadium, but after 12 minutes they probably wondered if they were better off staying at home. Suwon’s greater quality up front really told, as Byun-Min Kook produced two outstanding finishes to put the Korean’s in a commanding position. We fought back with a well-worked goal ourselves and even started to exert some of our own pressure. Unfortunately, they got a third late on, and comfortably won the game 3-1.

That game was something of a reality check, if I needed one. Suwon are one of the biggest clubs in Asia and have high quality foreign players. This is the sort of quality I’ll need to overcome if I want to achieve my aims with Yanbian. Funnily enough, this fact didn’t stop my Assistant Manager from recommending I tear into the players for not winning a game they should be winning. I, of course, ignored him entirely.

A stroll at Yanbian Univ. restored some confidence, and we’re into the final game of pre-season against Changchun. Changchun are predicted to finish 11th in the CSL, so the game served as a useful way of measuring where we’re at. Pleasingly, we ran out comfortable 2-0 winners, perhaps a sign that the season ahead won’t be all bad.

That’s where we are, but how about the rest of the CSL?

It’s to nobody’s surprise that Guangzhou are off to a winning start, and that they've made three of the biggest transfers during the transfer window (not including the mega-signings, of course). It’s also no surprise that Guangzhou have been made favourites to win the CSL for a sixth consecutive season.

Our own odds aren't quite Leicester City-low, but the message is clear: people think we’re going down.

The opening game of the CSL season may not do much to change people’s mind. We travel to Shangdong, managed by Mano Menezes and spearheaded by one Diego Tardelli. The media reckon they’re good for a title challenge and the most likely to finish 2nd behind Guangzhou. After that is a winnable home game against Hangzhou, then a trip to Jiangsu to face Ramires and Alex Teixeira to round off the month.

I hope you’ll join me for the next instalment as the Super League season finally gets underway and we no doubt get battered by bigger and better teams. 



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Football Manager 2017 Blog: Conquering China, part two - Pre-Season Preparations
Conquering China, part two - Pre-Season Preparations
The second instalment in my attempt to rule the Chinese Super League on Football Manager 2016, with Yanbian Fude.
Football Manager 2017 Blog
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