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Writers Chat: FC Seoul v Jeonnam Preview

FC Seoul writer John Emanuelson and I have teamed up to take a closer look at the absurdly close K-League table, this weekend's FC Seoul vs Jeonnam matchup, and naturally Kim Byung Ji's world class mullet.

I Ask, He Answers

Ryan Walters: FC Seoul currently find themselves in the AFC Champions League, K-League, and FA Cup, do they have the depth to compete in all three? How's the squad rotation been?

John Emanuelson: I do not think they have the squad to compete in all three competitions.  Just like in the EPL, I think Choi Soo Yong will have to prioritize which competition is the most important.  In the early rounds of the FA Cup, he will go with youth.  Making it to the knockout rounds of the ACL is huge, so now he can focus on the league.

I think Choi Soo Yong has tried to rotate his squad, but because of the dire league form, he has not been able to do it as much.  He has played new midfielders such as Lee Hyun Seok, Kim Min Hyeok, and Park Yong Woo in games.  Not much has really worked this year as Seoul has been impotent in attack and dire in the back.  Their midfield lacks any sort of bite and does not do well linking the play between the forwards and defenders. At this point, I think Choi should worry less about rotating his squad and instead finding players who have form and going from there.

RW: FC Seoul are currently 10th in the league, but a scant 5 points from second place, do you see them climbing the table soon?

JE: I absolutely think they will begin to climb the table.  Once the games at Gamba Osaka have finished, they can focus on the league.  Based on their history, they begin to find their form at this point, so I do not see why it should not be different this year.

I believe they will make it into the top six.  However, I am not sure if they will qualify for next year’s ACL.  Suwon, Ulsan, and Pohang have all beaten them this year and they did not look good against any of these teams.  Likewise, they will not catch Jeonbuk either.

RW: Kim Hyun Sung is currently the only multi-goal scorer on the team and they've only scored 9 goals through 10 games. What needs to change up top for them to find more joy?

JE: Seoul should have signed a quality striker in the transfer window.  They should have signed Kevin or Ristic or tried to get Kim Shin Wook.  Park Chu Young was a desperate gamble that has not worked out so far. I don't think Kim Hyun Sung is terrible by any means, but he is not really lighting it up either.  He has been given the half-time hook in three games, which shows that Choi is obviously not satisfied with him either.  He does not seem to offer much in the way other than being tall and knocking balls down.

Answering this question is like saying which came first- the chicken or the egg.  It is difficult for me to say what needs to change. Their attack is woeful.  However, is that down to the midfield not spotting runs or the attacking players not making runs?

I think they need to sign a better striker and a midfielder with vision.  They really miss Ha Dae Sung. Watching Kim Do Heon spray balls around for Seongnam against Seoul two weeks ago made me sad. Yun Il Lok needs to find some form as well.  He has not been great this year and I think that's why Seoul has suffered as well.  He is the only player with speed, so when he does not play, opponents can sit back and pick Seoul off on the counter.  However, when he is on form, he can hit opponents on the counter and score some wonderful goals.

RW: While the Dragons haven't exactly been killing it up top averaging 0.9 goals per game, Seoul has conceded 14 goals thus far; only Gwangju and Daejeon have allowed more. How do you see the back line holding up against the Dragons attack?

JE: Seoul will struggle against Jeonnam’s wingers and Ristic will terrorize their center backs.  If I was your manager, I would play some hybrid version of 4-4-2 and have a speedy fucker play just off Ristic and make runs behind the defense.  Fabio of Gwangju, with his fleet feet, destroyed Seoul’s center backs a few weeks ago.  Kevin had a really good game as well when Seoul traveled to Incheon.  He gave Seoul’s center backs problems all game.

Seoul has been easily caught out this year as well, especially against Jeonbuk and Pohang and the goals conceded against Ulsan were pretty terrible.  Jeonnam looked great against Daejon last week on the video highlights and were unlucky not to win.  Play like that and Choi will be answering a lot of questions next week.

RW: In spite of a low K-League point total, Seoul hasn't lost a game in any competition in nearly a month. What do they have to do to keep that streak going and do you think they can pick up all three points this weekend against Jeonnam?

JE: I think Choi will play the same formation that he did in Japan and Busan, a 5-3-2 or 5-4-1 depending on what Molina does.  In Choi’s quest to become the Tony Pulis of East Asia, Seoul will play very defensive.  They will maintain their shape and look to counter. They'll rely on Molina’s set pieces and hope that he has a good day delivering.  His kicking has been great as of late, and Seoul has been unlucky to not have scored more.  I can see them scoring from a corner or free kick.

I think this game will be similar to the Seongnam game that Seoul played on Children’s Day weekend.  They will be run off the pitch by a better team, but somehow gain an undeserved point through a goal from a set piece.

Predicted Score: 1-1 and a lot of pissing and moaning by FC Seoul fans at the GS 25 outside the stadium after the final whistle.

Lineup (5-3-2/3-4-3): GK- Yoo Sang Hoon; DEF- RWB, Cha Du Ri; LWB, Kim Chi Woo; CBs, Lee Woong Hee, Kim Nam Choon, Osmar; MID- Park Yong Woo, Go Yo Han, Koh Myong Jin; FW- Molina, Kim Hyun Sung (to be yanked again at halftime).  However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Yun Il Lok or Everton get a start.

He Asks, I Answer

JE: Jeonnam have acquired some new players, such as former FC Seoul legend Choi Hyo Jin. How is he doing? How would you rate Jeonnam’s other transfers this year?

RW: Choi Hyo Jin has been an absolute rock at the back. Overall the defense has been playing quite well thus far this season in large part due to his contribution. He and Hyun Young Min have held down the wings amazingly well all season, with the best example being the home win against Jeonbuk. Being the only K-League team to hand them a loss this year had a lot to do with the Dragons finally getting their offensive flow right, but it had much much more to do with Choi and Hyun denying the Motors any joy in the offensive zone.

As for other newcomers, I've been impressed with a few aspects of Mislav Oršić's game this season. He has tremendous pace down the wings, and does well to gain possession back for Jeonnam. That said, he's still quite young and is prone to making mistakes when distributing the ball.

JE: Looking at the table, two through ten are really tight. Also, no team has been consistently dominant outside of Jeonbuk Motors. How does dropping two points at Daejon feel, especially considering how much better Jeonnam was in the game?

RW: The Daejeon draw combined with the Gwangju loss the week before felt like getting punched in the teeth. Had the Dragons done their job and picked up those extremely easy 6 points, they'd have 19 and would be firmly in second place. A six point gap with Jeonbuk would be tough to overcome, but at least they'd be up there in the conversation. Instead, they played down to their opponents yet again and came away with 1 point and find themselves where they always seem to. Mid-table.

JE: Like every other team except Jeonbuk Motors, Jeonnam seem to be fairly inconsistent. What has been the most frustrating part of the season for you?

RW: The defense on the road. They've allowed a scant two goals at home this season, but have yielded a stunning seven goals against. Perhaps POSCO's putting something extra special in the smokestacks behind the stadium on game days? Maybe Kim Byung Ji's mullet only has super powers when it's close to home? I'm not sure what it is that has them falling apart on the road, but it's maddening.

However, in an effort to be fair, I'll point out 4 of the 7 goals against on the road came against Pohang with Kim Min Sik having an abysmal night in net. The other three came in the head scratching loss to Gwangju, so it's possible the defense simply had two off days and there won't be a larger trend. I'm hoping this upcoming game against your lads in Seoul will give a clearer picture of where things are.

JE: What is Jeonnam’s biggest strength?

RW: Though they've turned in the disappointing performances mentioned above, it still has to be the defense. Like I said above, it's helped tremendously to have Choi Hyo Jin back there for all 10 matches thus far. With him, the Dragons find themselves tied for 4th best in the league with 10 goals against. Not to beat a dead horse, but the 4 allowed to Pohang were quite crap, so they could easily be sitting with 7-8 against had a professional keeper been in net that night. That would have them tied with Jeonbuk or right behind them.

JE: What is their biggest weakness?

RW: The attack and possibly the coaching. The season's still relatively young, so I haven't been able to fully determine whether it's a lack of creative thinking from the players on the field or poor strategy, but the Dragons are far too in love with the long ball. The perpetual offensive strategy is to lob it up to Ristić and hope he comes up with a miracle. Now, I like Ristić. He's fine. But he's a target striker. A poacher. He shouldn't be the one we're relying on our offense to go through. Though the Dragons do well in the midfield, and with possession statistically, they are utterly predictable in the final third. A ball down the side, cross to Ristić. Lather, rinse, repeat. Ideally the team could find an out and out CAM to spark a little more creativity in the center of the pitch, or at the very least play with two strikers so it's not so easy to plan against us.

JE: Who do you think is Jeonnam’s best player so far this season?

RW: I'll stick with the theme of the day and say Choi Hyo Jin. Without him, I'm quite sure we would've conceded more goals and wouldn't have been able to eek out the low scoring wins we have thus far this season.

JE: Is it just me or does your goal keeper with the mullet, Kim Byung Ji, look like he should be the Asian villain in an 80’s movie?

RW: It's not just you, but you misspelled "super hero." Clearly the mullet is where he derives his power and is the single source of energy that has allowed him to keep playing the game into his 45th year on this planet. Why else would a grown man that knows he's going to be on television every single week keep that haircut?

JE: Last year, Jeonnam started so well, but then faltered. Will the same thing happen again? Will Jeonnam be able to finish in the top six?

RW: They've had a decent start to the season this year, and these next few games will help determine where they'll end up. Are they the Dragons that dramatically beat Suwon in the FA Cup and beat Jeonbuk? Or are they the ones that gifted Gwangju its first win and drew at home to Daejeon? The upcoming road tests against Seoul and Jeju should help bring some kind of clarity to what we're actually dealing with. In my opinion, they'll be fighting for that 4-8 slot all season long and should find themselves above the line when the time comes to split the league.

JE: Finally, neither teams scores a lot of goals. What kind of game do you expect for this to be?

RW: Jeonnam's coming off an emotional midweek FA Cup win against Suwon and likely will be quite leggy, so that's not going to help their already struggling offense. My hope is that your boys will be looking forward to their upcoming ACL match against Gamba Osaka a bit too much and may rest key players to equal this out. If either or both of those things come to fruition, this will likely be a duel to see which side can more closely represent the "boring boring Chelsea" model.

Predicted Score: 1-1

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