By PETER DAVIS
Australian defensive midfielder Rostyn Griffiths has pulls no punches in analysing the Guangzhou R&F's difficult start to the Chinese Super League season.
While the other half of the city - Guangzhou Evergrande - have flourished this campaign, it has been a disastrous start to the season for Griffiths' Blues, who had collected just five points from their opening eight games before their heartening 2-1 win over Beijing Guoan on Friday.
"Teams have figured us out. Teams now know how we play," the former Central Coast Mariners and North Queensland Fury man told Goal Asia.
"Last season we were quite unpredictable, we were quite new to the Chinese Super League and teams didn’t know what to expect from us."
While Friday's win will ease some pressure, Brazilian coach Sergio Farias has been in the gun at the club who finished in an impressive seventh last season in their return to the CSL.
They sit just three spots above the relegation places after being widely tipped for an impressive season.
Their last match before the win over Guoan was a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Jiangsu Sainty, which saw ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Yakubu dropped to the bench and Griffiths, who started his career at Rovers himself, is brutally honest of his side's season.
"We should have got a couple of draws but overall the results have been a true reflection of the games we have played," he said.
There is clearly a disappointed mood at R&F and the Chinese media have blamed both the manager Farias and the depth of the squad itself - the latter with which Griffiths disagrees.
"I don't know that it is an overall lack of depth, " he said.
"We have quite a big squad and some of the younger guys are waiting for an opportunity but haven't been prepared well enough yet."
The depth argument seems to have little grounds; R&F have brought in China international Zhang Yaokun from the disbanded Dalian Shide and four from Evergrande themselves, including China internationals Jiang Ning, Li Jianhua and Wu Pingfeng.
Griffiths concluded that it could be the new signings and younger players that finally put the spark in R&F's season: "The fresh faces we have brought in have not been involved too much yet but have the quality too make more of an impact," he said.
Beijing-based Peter Davis watched Liaoning Whowin play Chengdu Blades in 2008 and has been hooked on Chinese football ever since. He is a regular contributor to Wild East Football and can be found on Twitter at @peteydavis