Van Bronckhorst raring to kick off his Chinese odyssey

0 188彩票可靠吗Print E-mail China Daily, May 21, 2020
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Guangzhou R&F head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst shows his players how it's done during a training session in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Monday.

Guangzhou R&F head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst is chomping at the bit for his debut Chinese Super League campaign to kick off, and has declared his charges ready for battle after an extended offseason afforded the Dutch great extra time to settle in to his new job.

The former Barcelona, Arsenal and Rangers star was appointed by R&F in January, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the 2020 CSL season.

Now with CSL clubs awaiting news on a possible June or July kickoff, van Bronckhorst and his squad are raring to put their long hours on the training pitch to the test.

"It's the first time that we've trained six weeks straight. We are very happy with the amount of training we've managed to get in. We talked about the tactics and the players are getting stronger physically," van Bronckhorst told media after a Monday training session.

"The best solution under these circumstances is that we hope to play the league as soon as possible. Now many months have passed without playing. There are not many months left to play this season…All our players want to be ready for the start of the season."

The Chinese Football Association is awaiting approval for a CSL kickoff date after submitting plans to the General Administration of Sport of China, with late June or early July thought to be under consideration.

Quite how the season will be contested, however, remains unclear.

At a meeting between the CFA and its member clubs in Shanghai earlier this month, a number of scenarios involving a shortened campaign were discussed, and it's clear that CSL clubs are bracing themselves for an abbreviated but more intense schedule.

"I understand the new setup for the games, and we will play fewer games. We need to adjust to the current situation," said the 45-year-old van Bronckhorst.

Despite boasting the league's top scorer, Eran Zahavi, among their ranks, R&F could only manage a disappointing 12th-place finish in the 16-team standings last year, with a goals-conceded total of 72 and a minus-18 goal difference telling the story of its leaky defense.

Tightening up at the back is, therefore, a priority for van Bronckhorst, who operated in midfield and defense during his playing days.

"Obviously, we want to improve not only attacking but also defending," said the Dutchman.

"Last year, we conceded many goals. We are working hard with the whole team to be stronger in the defense... Hopefully when the game starts, the players can work hard to improve tactically and mentally. It's not just about working hard in training.

"I think we are improving in every aspect of what's needed, such as defending, attacking and corner kicks. We need to adapt to a different way of playing, which is very demanding for the players. But they are doing an excellent job."

Israeli striker Zahavi, a two-time CSL Golden Boot winner and the proud owner of the league's single-season goal record of 29, is refusing to rein in his scoring ambitions just because the season is likely to be shortened.

"If there are going to be less games, it's more difficult (to break my record)," Zahavi told media on Monday. "Sometimes, if it's more difficult, you push yourself to a higher level. I will try. If I can do it, I'll be more than happy.

"I need to prove that I'm one of the best foreign players in China. It's very difficult to keep scoring, which means I have to work hard every day for this. The pressure is on me and I always put pressure on myself to maintain my standards. "

Zahavi says van Bronckhorst's arrival has energized the squad, with players keen to impress the new coach and competition for starting berths intensifying as a result. "We are really ambitious to play… and everybody is really positive," said the 32-year-old.

That's exactly what van Bronckhorst wants to see.

"We know that everyone wants to be in the starting XI for the first game. The competition is really fierce. Ultimately, it's for me to decide which eleven to start the league," he said.

"After working for months with my players, I feel good about them in terms of how they play and how they perform physically. I'm combining them with my tactics. We still have some weeks to go.

"For now, the team is almost complete. There's no need to change anything in the squad... At this moment, we have no plans to add some players to the squad."

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