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Writers Chat: Daejeon Citizen vs Jeonnam Dragons Preview

Daejeon writer Paul Neat and I got together to go over all things Daejeon Citizen and Jeonnam Dragons before our teams face off this weekend. Can the Dragons keep it together and earn an AFC Champions League spot? Does Daejeon have any hope of staving off relegation? And how many Brazilians can one team fit on its roster? Read on to find out.

I Ask, He Answers:

Ryan Walters: Although Daejeon's been in the cellar all season, most of their losses are by one goal. Do you take that as a sign that they're close to competing or are things worse than the scorelines show?

Paul Neat: Daejeon are somewhat of a strange team. They can perform admirably at times, beating Suwon away, taking FC Seoul to the limit and of course the seven-goal thriller with Jeonbuk, for example. But, even when they perform well they still suffer defeat - they're a team that is out of luck. Equally, they have this innate ability to shoot themselves in the foot. Their defending at times has been baffling. Jeonbuk's 95th minute winner on Sunday was down to Daejeon not clearing their lines and a lack of concentration. A point wouldn't have done too much to their points tally but coming back from the dead three times against the current champions would have been a huge confidence boost. Sadly, a sucker punch in the last minute of extra time had the opposite effect and Daejeon fell to a 4-1 defeat to fellow-strugglers Ulsan three days later. If they could just stop making basic errors in defending a result or two might be on the cards.

RW: Daejeon manager Choi Moon-sik recently said "I will be keeping one or two players from the current setup. The rest will go." Which players would you like to see sold or loaned during this fire sale? Do you think Adriano should be sold at a high value right now?

PN: Frankly, it doesn't surprise me to hear him say that because most of the squad are not good enough to compete at Classic level. There are a few prospects that are worth keeping hold of, though. Park Ju Won, the goalkeeper is very solid and he is still very young for a goalkeeper. A few seasons ago we let our young goalkeeping prospect Hong Sang-Jung leave to Gangwon and he has hardly played since. Park Ju Won is even better and it would be a shame to see him go. Also, there's Hwang In-Beom, a young midfielder, who has managed to get himself in the side and in and amongst the goals. I would like to see Yoo Sung-Ki stay, a midfielder who has a cultured left foot and is good from dead ball situations. He has laid on a few assists for Adriano this season. Forwards like Kim Chan-Hee and Seo Myeong-Won are perhaps worth keeping for a promotion push next year but whether they are actually good enough for the Classic is another matter. I would keep Adriano simply because he can score from almost nothing. Even with Daejeon's league position he is still amongst the top scorers in the league. He will get a move somewhere next season but for now he is a Daejeon player and very much a key player.

RW: Anyone specific you'd like to see brought in this window? General positions that need help?

PN: There isn't anyone specific that Daejeon should sign but I do believe that they need to sign an experienced and perhaps European defender. Someone who is streetwise to help eradicate the silly mistakes at the back Daejeon keep making. Also, I would like to see a playmaker brought in. Since Jeong Seok-Min left there hasn't been anyone who can take the ball forward from midfield and link up with the strikers. Someone who can get his foot on the ball and make things happen.

RW: The Citizens recently signed Flamengo forward Rafinha, and former Jeonbuk and Bucheon FC forward Lee Hyun-seung. Do you think they'll help? 

PN: Adding a few strikers will help I am sure but it is at the back where Daejeon need to strengthen. Han Eui-Gwon and Ko Min-Hyuk have already got off the mark since arriving last week but only time will tell whether they can keep producing the goods. Both players looked lively on Sunday against Jeonbuk.

RW: Can the Dragons expect a more attack-minded opponent on Sunday compared to the one they faced on May 9th?

PN: It appears that Coach Choi has realised that his side are not going to stay up by playing for draws. His tactics seem to be more attacking than how his predecessor set up with the strikers and midfielders seemingly encouraged to shoot on sight of goal. Daejeon have scored four goals in the last two games, that's an impressive feat. Sadly, they have conceded eight so, especially away from home, the manager might just tweak things slightly. With it being a home game for Citizen, I would expect to see a similar mentality to that of the side the faced Jeonbuk.

RW: With the influx of new forwards, what formation do you expect Citizen to use this Sunday?

PN: Against Jeonbuk it appeared to be more of a 4-5-1 without the ball and 4-3-3 with the ball so I would expect it to be a similar set up come Sunday.

Score prediction?

PN: I am going to think positively and go for a 1-0 win for Daejeon. The K League has this way of throwing up strange results, and Daejeon are due a win.

He Asks, I Answer:

PN: Jeonnam are riding high in 4th, surely that must have exceeded your expectations?

RW: This is my first season truly following the Dragons and they were pretty much everything I had heard through the first three months of the season: decidedly mid-table. They showed flashes of brilliance like the home win against Jeonbuk, but also confounding lapses like handing Gwangju its first win of the season and the 3-0 drubbing FC Seoul put on them. They were a fun team to watch and cover for the site, but I expected them to go the way of my EPL team, Everton. Then the month of June hit and they caught fire. I think all of the truly talented pieces that were there early on finally figured out how to gel together, and more importantly manager Noh Sang-rae finally changed his tatics a bit to give the midfielders more freedome. The fact that he changed his mind when he seemed so dead set on one style and the six game unbeaten run Jeonnam went on were both pleasant surprises.

PN: Is a Champions League place a realistic possibility? Should that be the aim?

RW: I really think it is at this point. Though the table remains tight, Jeonnam has a pretty favorable schedule to finish out the season, including playing Ulsan and Busan again, and Daejeon twice (sorry). Six of the remaining twelve games are at home as well, so the league schedule's relatively favorable for them to stay in the top three. Especially when considering the departure of Edu in Jeonbuk, which will unquestionably weaken that team with Suwon lurking in the background.

Even if they should fail to secure a top three finish in the league, the Dragons have an amazingly favorable line to the FA Cup final. Their next match is at home against the Ulsan Dolphin People Brigade (or whatever) and any of the K-League opponents they would get after that are manageable. Pohang would be the only team I'd hope to avoid there, so I'll have my fingers crossed that FC Seoul can do their job and knock off the other POSCO team.

Regardless of whichever route they take to get into the tournament, the 2016 Champions League should definitely be their aim for the rest of the season.

PN: What's been Jeonnam's secret?

RW: He's not so much of a secret anymore, Mislav Oršić. This being a team game there are obviously a multitude of other factors that have gone into the Dragons success, but he's definitely at the center of it. Once he finally started getting regular starts at the beginning of June, Jeonnam couldn't be stopped. The timing was also helped by a healthy Lee Jong-ho returning and the ever present target man Stevica Ristić up top, but unquestionably, it's been Oršić's play that has led the Dragons this season. He's excessively strong on the ball and has made many a defender look a fool, has a solid shot from distance, and has a poachers instinct around the net. He also tracks back defensively, marks well enough, and helps defenders transition out of the defending third. He's currently on a season long loan from Croatian club HNK Rijeka with the rumor that the Dragons have an option to make the move permanent. Really hoping they can pull that off as he would be a huge asset to have if they're able to make it into the Champions League.

PN: Are you happy with Jeonnam's transfer business thus far? Where do you think the manager would want to strengthen? Is there room in the budget?

RW: I mean... I'm definitely rallying for Will Packwood to dawn a Dragons jersey. But in a more realistic manner, I think Jeonnam's fine staying quiet this window. When we were doing transfer previews last month I had a lot of ideas for what the Dragons could do to improve, but that's changed quite a bit due to the performances on the field. Pretty much everyone's playing up to or better than their potential right now, so it's a group that I don't really want to see messed with. Kim Byung-ji's certainly gotten on in his years and this may well be his final season, but backup Kim Min-sik looked solid against Jeonbuk, so I'm not uncomfortable there. Overall the team lacks a bit of depth, but I see them adding after the season.

PN: Many teams see Daejeon as the whipping boys of the league, and with just 8 points on the board they may have a point. My question is, is there a danger that Jeonnam could underestimate Daejeon?

RW: 1,000 times yes. One of the reasons Jeonnam had the six game run they did is because they have a tendency to play to their opponents level. For matches against FC Seoul, Pohang, and Jeonbuk, they up their game and bring everything they have. Meanwhile, they've put in some head scratchers against Gwangju and Daejeon. Luckily it's something they seem to have shaken off with their recent defeat of Ulsan at home... but even that didn't come easy. Combine this tendency with not playing well on the road and there's certainly potential for this weekend's matchup to go poorly for the Dragons.

PN: How do you see the game going? What's your prediction?

RW: Though I just mentioned Jeonnam's bad tendencies, I think they're a bit pissed about how things went down in Suwon and will be looking to take it out on Daejeon. Lee Jong-ho and Oršić should be back in the lineup and should both be looking to make good on picking up foolish yellow cards to get them suspended in the first place. The Dragons are also starring down a relatively long break after this match, so they should be eager to go into that on a high note. While I do think Jeonnam's going to pull off the win, I don't think they'll be able to prevent your boys from scoring. Thinking it'll probably a bit closer than I'm comfortable with at times, but will finish 2-1 to the Dragons.

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