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Ulsan's eternal dilemma: should we play with two upfront or not?

(from UHFC.tv)
In his latest column here, John Emanuelson posed many rhetorical and indeed burning questions concerning Ulsan and their strikeforce in particular.

Why don’t they utilize 4-4-2 to accomodate both Yang Dong-hyun and Kim Shin-wook? And why isnt the latter playing all the time…?
Well, I think I know the answer for the second question, at least with regard to the most recent game in midweek: he wasnt involved from the start because of the East Asian Cup and some accumulated fatigue, I would expect.

But thats not the main question here. Most importantly, the article got me into some serious thinking about what actually is the best option Ulsan have at their disposal and, well, I must admit I got a bit carried away.

As a result of that, I present you to this lovely Excel table Ive produced in the process; a table which should hopefully shed some light on the issue…

Now, let’s not pretend this table delivers any tangible solution. It doesnt, as is usually the case. But it gives you an idea or two and Ill try to underline some main takeaways of mine in the following three points…

1) How about we give Yang Dong-hyun an extended solo? At least one…

I cannot possibly claim I’ve seen most of Ulsan games, that should be noted in the first place. After all, if I had decided to try to do so, I would’ve most certainly died of boredom halfway through.

However, I still have seen some, and on the face of it, I must say I prefer the option with Yang Dong-hyun functioning all on his own. He invites other players into the game and it’s indeed no coincidence his top individual form (in the early rounds) overlaps with this year’s top form of the club as a whole.

When Yang does all the work upfront, Ulsan normally engage in low scoring affairs, while they barely lose. To be precise, they’ve lost only two such intervals out of 10. If sustainable, one conceded goal per 225 minutes also wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Both these points, I would say, are at least valid arguments for pursuing this alternative more often. Since Gameweek 14, Yoon Jung-hwan has opted for it only once and at no point during this season did Yang Dong-hyun remain sparheading the Ulsan offence for the whole 90 minutes. Worth a try maybe?

2) Kim Shin-wook as a lone target man is a terrible idea for Ulsan as it is for South Korea

Those who’ve known me for a while may already be aware that I don’t quite rate Kim Shin-wook, as reitirated here for example. But this is nothing personal, I swear, these are pure facts…

Without 4:1 home win against Daejeon, in what’s arguably the easiest matchup across the whole schedule (sorry Tim), Wookie’s record would stand on 0-3-4 with one poor goal scored and seven conceded.

When Kim was used upfront as a lone striker for the first time in the season, Ulsan also lost a game for the first time in 2015 (Gameweek 9) – such a big shock and downgrade it was for them.

Sure, we are still talking a small sample, but you wouldn’t bet on this option on a regular basis, would you?

3) Wookie is a fine super-sub, but hardly on his own

Take the early trip to Pohang as a prime example here: Wookie came on after 56 minutes to oversee a brilliant second half resulting in the 4:2 win, Ulsans only away one so far this season. And what was most important there: it wasn’t Yang who made way for Kim and it happened soon enough.

Ulsan have so far finished 10 matches with Kim Shin-wook being alone upfront (wrong), and three times, this was achieved via direct sub Kim for Yang, even though it makes little sense.

Yang Dong-hyun is clearly a more complex striker than Kim Shin-wook, while sharing the broad mould with him at the same time (you know, the height). Hence if Yang had been ineffective in the said match, why on earth should the situation be any different with Wookie in his place?

Why do you think Ulsan are not capable of scoring late in the game? Because Kim Shin-wook, quite understandably, fails to spark the offence all by himself – over and over again.

In KSW-YDH tandem, on the other hand, Ulsan have an unrivalled physical force that’s totally capable of coercing an opponent into a mistake or two stemming from fatigue or some lapse in concentration. So why not use it when the time is most convenient? When the defence is tired?


As stated above, the findings are inconclusive and that becomes most evident when you focus on how many times every single alternative turned out to be *the* one for Ulsan. In other words, how often its helped to lay foundations for a win.

No option seems to be particularly superior at first sight and the five-game sample is pretty small one anyway, yet you wouldnt be terribly wrong to claim Ulsan are better off with both robust forwards on the pitch.

This was their prevalent weapon in two somehow convincing home wins against not exactly miserable opponents – Gwangju entered that game fuelled by two victories and, well okay, Jeju on the road usually are miserable – and it also proved to be the game-changer in the sole Ulsan away win in 2015.

On the other hand, when given chance for the whole 90 minutes, the tall tandem combined for two losses (against two strong teams, Suwon and Jeonbuk, granted) and just one goal scored between themselves, which isnt too promising.

Also, with both strikers on the field, Ulsan seem to be instantly turning into a very one-dimensional side, where only those two are actually capable of scoring. Their supporting cast has collected one poor goal over almost 1000 minutes played in such setup, which has to be a worry for the coach.

All these aspects considered then, Id personally go with Yang Dong-hyun as a fixed starter and Kim Shin-wook as his partner for the late stages.

But what do you think, our dear reader? Should Yoon Jung-hwan finally decide to put confidence in this duo, or do you prefer another variant, perhaps even with some new face brought in recently? Let us please know below, in the comment section…

1 comment

  1. You are right about them becoming one dimensional. The year that Kim Shin-wook scored 19 goals Rafinha chipped in with 11. Was he speedy? I can't remember. Maybe they need a big man-small man combo. They probably need to overhaul the whole team but for now, I feel like they should embrace their identity as a team that plays in the old Tony Pulis Stoke style. Boring as hell but effective. What happened to Kim Shin-wook? I thought he was destined to move onto Europe.


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