“I don’t make predictions and I never will” were the wise words of Paul Gascoigne, and while you might question the mercurial midfielder’s decision making, you can’t question that. He’s a wise man, Gazza, even if he did end up as player manager of lowly Gansu Tianma for a bizarre two-month spell in 2003. So why did we not heed his advice and stick our necks out back in March with our predictions for the Chinese Super League’s 2019 season? With the league campaign, over it is time to look back at what we got right and what we got wrong. That's the celebration ceremony of Guangzhou Evergrande's 2019 CSL champion. A celebration with Chinese characteristics: Red flags/huge banners/slogans of non-footballing undertones/mass human formations/taking advantage of any chance for promotion of corporate brand (Hengchi). pic.twitter.com/EA0K9KBVnV — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 1, 2019 1. Guangzhou Evergrande Prediction: 1st They finished on top in the end, but it did not look like that would be the case for the first half of the season. Fabio Cannavaro survived, while some of his players also fell foul of the club’s peculiar policies. Wei Shihao finally lived up to his undoubted potential as Paulinho and Anderson Talisca starred in Evergrande’s toughest title win of their octet. Yang Liyu was another positive, while China striker Elkeson added 10 goals since his return in the summer and surpassed Wu Lei as the CSL’s all-time top scorer. The best 10 goals of the 2019 CSL selected by CCTV (1): 10. Cao Yunding (Shenhua, matchday 25 2:2 Shandong) 9. John Mary (Shenzhen F.C matchday 17 vs Tianjin Tianhai) 8. Feng Jing (Chongqing matchday 22 1:1 Evergrande) 7. Odion Ighalo (Shenhua matchday 4 4:1 Beijing Renhe). pic.twitter.com/g6Ku2JJyZE — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 3, 2019 2. Beijing Guoan Prediction: 3rd Credit to the club that they went all the way and took it to the final day of the season. Sadly, their hopes of a first title in 10 years were not to be. They started off the season with a preposterous 10-game winning streak – the longest season-starting streak in CSL history – and finished runners up with a points total that would have won them the league in every season since 2014. Zhang Yuning kicked on after stalling in Europe with a decent contribution of eight goals and six assists. Cedric Bakambu’s numbers don’t tell the whole story as the player lost some of the Workers’ Stadium support, as well as his passport. Renato Augusto was the star man, while Jonathan Viera’s injury coincided with their August blip. Coach Roger Schmidt was sacked and replaced with Bruno Genesio. The best 10 goals of the 2019 CSL selected by China Central Television (2): 6. Jonathan Viera (Beijing Guoan matchday 8 1:0 Guangzhou Evergrande) 5. Hulk (Shanghai SIPG matchday 4 2:3 Chongqing) 4. Fernando Henrique (Chongqing matchday 15 1:0 Tianjin Teda). pic.twitter.com/3TZLjrBI5U — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 3, 2019 3. Shanghai SIPG Prediction: 2nd It was always going to be difficult for the champions, having lost their top scorer Wu Lei to Espanyol. They chose not to strengthen immediately, but started as they had left off in 2018. The loss of Elkeson to Guangzhou Evergrande amid the Brazilian striker’s naturalisation to Chinese meant they had become even more reliant on the always reliable Oscar and Hulk. Marko Arnautovic became the club’s first signing for several transfer windows and the champions made it to the last week of the season with the chance to defend their crown. In the end, Arnautovic scored more than Elkeson for SIPG, but four of his nine goals came on the closing day. The best 10 goals of the 2019 CSL selected by China Central Television (top 3): 3. Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang matchday 19 3:3 Tianjin Teda) 2. Roger Guedes (Shandong Luneng matchday 15 2:0 Beijing Guoan) 1. Eran Zahavi (Guangzhou R&F matchday 24 2:1 Tianjin Tianhai). pic.twitter.com/oxXbXPfpe0 — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 3, 2019 4. Jiangsu Suning Prediction: 8th The Nanjing side did not bring anyone of note in during the winter window and impressed to finish the best of the rest. Improved on last season’s fifth and made the case for stability in the topsy-turvy world of the CSL by sticking with coach Cosmin Olaroiu, who has since been linked with the vacant China job. Alex Teixeira shone brightest and was ably assisted by Eder, but it makes you wonder what they would have done had they signed Gareth Bale after seemingly sealing the deal for the Welsh wizard. Wang Song became the first player to score in 16 consecutive top-flight seasons. In the 2019 CSL season, Renato Augusto & Yan Junling are the only 2 players who played full 2700 mins. Alex Teixeira is close, only being absent for 2 mins. Oscar played 2520 mins, being ranked 13th. Great achievement for the Brazilian trio since they are outfield players. pic.twitter.com/sVqv9VI5GV — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 5, 2019 5. Shandong Luneng Prediction: 4th Li Xiaopeng did his growing managerial reputation no harm with a fifth-place league finish and by reaching the final of the Chinese FA Cup, where his side face Shanghai Shenhua in a game that is being built up as an audition for the national team manager job. The usual suspects got the goals: Italian striker Graziano Pelle, Jose Mourinho favourite Marouane Fellaini and the overwhelmingly talented Roger Guedes. According to recent reports, domestic coaches take an edge over foreigners in CFA's seeking for national team head coach. The favorites are Li Xiaopeng (Shandong Luneng)& Li Tie (Wuhan Zall). The Eaff E-1 football championship (Li Tie) & CFA cup final (Li Xiaopeng) will be tests. pic.twitter.com/XUaBPzoWjz — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 5, 2019 6. Wuhan Zall Prediction: 13th The team of the season. Jean Evard Kouassi has stepped up to the starring role that he was never going to be offered at former club Shanghai SIPG and, after getting the side promoted as champions of China League One last season, he carried on in the top flight. Fellow foreigners Rafael Silva and Leo Baptistao also starred, while Stephane Mbia was a rock, but it was all down to the management skills of former Everton favourite Li Tie in the dugout. Li is in charge of the China team going to the EAFF tournament in South Korea this month and is rumoured to be lined up for the top job. In an interview with local media, Uli Stielike, who helped Tianjin Teda to the 7th in CSL, commented 'CSL have spent too much money in the past decade. Like the case of Carlos Tevez: he contributed little but said bad things about teammates & CSL. That should not have happened.' pic.twitter.com/tmUNzqRf19 — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 3, 2019 7. Tianjin Teda Prediction: 15th Another prediction that was wildly off the mark. Goals galore from Frank Achemapong, Johnathan and former Bayern Munich forward Sandro Wagner kept the Tianjin side well away from the drop. In the 3:0 victory over Shenzhen F.C, Sandro Wagner claimed the 3rd goal for Tianjin Teda and get on the goalsheet for 7 matches in a run. The ex-Bayern striker has made 11 goals in 24 games in his 1st season in CSL though he waited 14 rounds to register his 1st goal in China. pic.twitter.com/SbLBhEYDDO — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) November 23, 2019 8. Henan Jianye Prediction: 16th As wrong as the Teda prediction. Record signing Henrique Dourado returned to Brazil in the summer, but it did not matter. Fellow new signing Franck Ohandza arrived from Shenzhen and did the business up top, outscoring Cameroon international Christian Bassogog. The dictionary definition of solidly mid-table. In the press conference following Dalian Yifang's last game, Yannick Carrasco said he is willing to return to Europe after contributing everything to the club. Carrasco, whose on-pitch attitude & skills are highly regarded, scored possibly his last goal in China in this game. pic.twitter.com/Ps8BCiW1qo — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 1, 2019 9. Dalian Yifang Prediction: 7th Rafa Benitez swapping Newcastle United for Dalian was the biggest story of their season, although Zhong Ting becoming the oldest CSL player at 40 deserves a mention. Benitez’s “project” in Dalian is a work in progress and how far he takes it will depend on if he stays. The manager and star player Yannick Carrasco have both been linked with a return to Europe. More was expected of Marek Hamsik and Salomon Rondon, players Benitez worked with at Napoli and Newcastle United respectively, but both disappointed. 10. Chongqing Lifan Prediction: 12th Manager Jordi Cruyff said he wanted to stay up and they did so comfortably. They called on the experience of 36-year-old Sui Weijie in goal and the creativity of Adrian Mierzejewski behind top scorer Alan Kardec. Fernandinho, not the one who is reported to be naturalising, chipped in with a few solo stunners. Before their valedictory match in front of the home fans, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Mascherano were awarded No. 34 shirt (Lavezzi's 34 goals in 3.5 seasons) and No. 304 shirt (Mascherano's 304 interceptions in 2 season) respectively in memorial of their contribution. pic.twitter.com/oRPOgkNmpt — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) November 27, 2019 11. Hebei China Fortune Prediction: 6th An ageing Javier Mascherano topping the club’s assist charts hints at the kind of season experienced on Beijing’s outskirts. New arrival Marcao showed the goalscoring touch that had him top of the K-League scoring charts last season, and he was backed up by Dong Xuesheng, but more was expected elsewhere from the likes of retiring Ezequiel Lavezzi and the now loaned-out Ayoub El Kaabi. Last minute rabona winner in China pic.twitter.com/oZQEKz6iKm — ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 14, 2019 12. Guanghzou R&F Prediction: 8th The CSL’s longest serving manager, Dragan Stojkovic, got his team to do what they do best: give the ball to Eran Zahavi and then let him do the rest. The Israeli striker banged in a barely believable 29 goals to surpass Elkeson’s longstanding single season scoring record. Countryman Dia Saba helped out too, while Mousa Dembele did not quite light up the CSL as many had hoped. Nothing Good Comes easy! Put In All The Hard Work! One Day It Will Pay Off ️ One More Day To The Final ️ #Ighalo #Shanghaishenhua pic.twitter.com/6YV3RxBvPm — Jude Ighalo Fans (@judeighalofans) December 5, 2019 13. Shanghai Shenhua Prediction: 5th The Shenhua-est season in recent memory from the Shanghai side. Quickly sacked Quique Sanchez Flores and lost free-scoring Odion Ighalo to the African Nations Cup and then injury. The signing of Kim Shin-wook was questioned and he answered emphatically in goals. The signing of Stephan El Shawaary was welcomed and he hardly played. Gio Moreno finished top scorer, which makes it seem like any other season in the last decade, and they made a cup final. From a genuine fear of relegation midway through to the chance to win a second FA Cup in three years. All very Shenhua. After his team being thumped by Tianjin Tianhai 5:1, Rafa Benitez said in the press conference: 'This is a match I don't understand from footballing perspective', accusing some of his players giving up too early. Rafa may have understood how complicated Chinese football is. pic.twitter.com/HQKFjQLIlV — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) November 27, 2019 14. Tianjin Tianhai Prediction: 10th Alan was, as predicted, the key man for the youngsters who make up the de facto China B team to Guangzho Evergrande’s A squad and he was. Pre-season saw them lose their star power of years past along with the Quanjian name and they survived on the rather hopeful tactic of there somehow being two worse teams in the league. They got lucky. In the last game of the season as a dead rubber, Shanghai SIPG thrashed Shenzhen F.C 6:0. Marko Arnautovic showed his teeth with 4 goals, which added his goal-scoring record to 9 CSL goals in 11 games. All the 6 goals are teamwork from the trident Arnautovic, Oscar & Hulk. pic.twitter.com/uOkxFyld8A — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 1, 2019 15. Shenzhen FC Prediction: 14th The first newly promoted side to go straight back down since 2015, it started off so well with an opening-day win but that did not last. Nor did star signing Ola Kamara, who was in the wind back to the MLS and Wayne Rooney’s DC United in the summer. John Mary stepped up and showed he deserves to be in the CSL, earning a Cameroon call-up in the process, but his goals were not enough. After being defeated by Dalian Yifang in the last matchday, Beijing Renhe gained 14 pts in 30 matches this season, the record low points total in CSL history. Another record: only 1 fan traveled for the away game supporting the club relocated 4 times in the past 15 years. pic.twitter.com/54oSU5q96c — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 1, 2019 16. Beijing Renhe Prediction: 11th They were expected to be worse than last season’s eighth place finish but no one quite knew just how bad they would be. They were dreadful and entered the record books for all the wrong reasons: losing a record eight on the spin and the lowest points tally. The 15 other teams will certainly miss them next season. Dreadful.