The Chinese Super League already has its first managerial casualty and Goal Asia’s Peter Davis looks at why this happened so soon
By Peter Davis | Chinese Football Editor, Goal Asia
Something that is rarely discussed or indeed noticed by most (outside regular viewers of the Chinese Super League) is the weird world of managerial changes in China, the all too regular issue has reared its ugly head again with the resignation of Wuhan Zall coach Zheng Xiong just six games into the season. Xiong has almost immediately been replaced by Serbian Ljubiša Tumbaković who coached Shandong Luneng to two CSL triumphs.
Admittedly, Wuhan’s start to the season has been quite bad with five defeats and a draw but the first four defeats were by just one goal against very difficult opposition for a newly promoted side. Asia Champion’s League sides Jiangsu Sainty, Guizhou Renhe and Beijing Guoan were first up followed by a tough fixture against the much fancied Dalian Aerbin. To call for their manager’s head would seem somewhat premature to many supporters but call they did come the final whistle of the Aerbin defeat and those vocal fans got their wish in the end, an away draw with Changchun Yatai was followed by a 2-0 defeat to Guangzhou R&F and Xiong leaving Wuhan.
Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case in fact it is something of a tradition in recent years, Jiangsu Sainty sacked Slovakian coach Ján Kocian and Shandong Luneng showed Croatian boss Branko Ivanković the door after five rounds of the 2011 CSL while Qingdao Jonoon let Bosnian coach Blaž Slišković go just four ties into the 2012 season.
While the number of managerial changes are not at the standards of England which are at a five year high of 33 managers losing their jobs in the current season, Chinese football or rather the bosses behind Chinese football clubs do seem to have a tendency toward knee jerk reactions when it comes to not so much hiring but employing managers.
Marcello Lippi was hired under odd circumstances with the Guangzhou Evergrande powers that be replacing the South Korean Lee Jang-Soo with the Italian. Jang-Soo had lead Evergrande through arguably its greatest spell to date by getting the 2010 China League One and 2011 CSL titles back to back as well as the 2012 China Super Cup. Lippi replaced him mid-May last year with very little grounds to sack the South Korean coach who had brought so much success to the club.
Jaime Pacheco was also harshly dismissed from his role as Beijing Guoan coach, CSL runners up in 2011 and finishing third in 2012, the Portuguese will be remembered affectionately by Guoan fans. Another high profile side, Dalian Aerbin who count Seydou Keita, Guillaume Hoarau and Fábio Rochemback in their ranks, are still in limbo themselves with current manager Li Ming only in caretaker charge.
One story to the contrary though is that of Hangzhou Greentown’s manager Takeshi Okada who moved in December 2011 to his first role following his time at the helm of the Japanese national team. Amid such difficult times in 2012 and early 2013 with rising tensions between China and Japan, Hangzhou have to their credit stuck by their coach.
Foreign managers in the CSL are very common, only six of the 16 CSL sides have a Chinese manager currently. Brazilian, Argentinean, Italian, Japanese and South Korean managers all ply their trade in China’s top tier. The most common nationality of manager other than Chinese is surprisingly Serbian with Aleksandar Stanojević (Beijing Guoan), Radomir Antić (Shandong Luneng), Dragan Okuka (Jiangsu Sainty) and now Ljubiša Tumbaković (Wuhan Zall) representing the nation in China.
With Wuhan Zall already changing their manager, attention on this topic will now change to the next manager on the ropes in the CSL. Several managers are badly underperforming, chief of which is Alexandre Guimarães of Tianjin Teda who have not won a CSL game in six months and currently sit bottom of the CSL on -3 points following a deduction for match fixing. Guimarães has publicly stated that he will not resign although should the Tianjin side get further adrift it may not be his decision to make.
The inevitable “Who’s next?” question aside, we can hope that managers are given significant time to turn around their clubs fortunes before getting the unenviable job of clearing out their desk which is something that is seemingly something becoming more common in Chinese football.
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