After becoming the first Chinese player to net in the Eredivisie last season, Zhang Yuning heads into the new campaign looking to establish himself in the Vitesse Arnhem attack.

  • By Michael Bell
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The striker started his career with Chinese side Hangzhou Greentown, joining their academy at the age of eleven. Last year he made his first team debut in a Chinese FA Cup tie with Wuhan Hongxing, scoring in a 1-1 draw. This turned out to be his only appearance for the club as two months later it was announced that he had joined Vitesse Arnhem. The forward had several trials with Vitesse since he was 14-years-old but due to Visa issues he had been denied a move until his 18th birthday.

Zhang began last season with the U19 squad but was eventually promoted to the U21’s and then handed his first team debut in February as a late substitute in a 3-0 win over Heerenveen. Four weeks later he came off the bench in the 88th minute with Vitesse drawing 1-1 with Roda JC, and moments later netted the winner with a close range header. The goal was the first scored by a Chinese player in the Eredivisie.

On the final day of the season, Zhang was handed his first start for the club and scored his second goal in a 2-2 draw with Vitesse. His performances for Vitesse led to Zhang making his debut for the Chinese national team in the summer, and the striker netted twice and added an assist in a 4-2 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

Zhang has featured prominently in Vitesse’s pre-season, scoring three goals in six matches.

Style of play

Zhang is a predator in the box with most of his goals scored for Vitesse and China coming from close range, and mainly headers. He is a strong and physical presence in the box, quick and has good technique on the ball.

What can we expect from Zhang this season

China has been waiting for one of their own to make a mark in European football and Zhang’s form for Vitesse has raised expectations back home for the young forward. Vitesse matches will be visited by a number of loyal supporters wanting to watch the new Chinese wonder-kid in action and he will have to deal with the added pressure.

With Henk Fraser taking over Zhang is expected to make a strong mark in the Eredivisie this season, but will start the campaign as second choice centre-forward after Ricky van Wolfswinkel returned to Arnhem. However, if van Wolfswinkel can’t re-discover his form, Zhang will be next in line and given his impressive scoring record in pre-season he seems ready to impress.

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