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Writers' Chat: Suwon Bluewings vs FC Seoul

Match Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs FC Seoul (Saturday 19th September 2015)

This weekend, FC Seoul travel to Suwon to play in one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the season. The 'Supermatch' between these two sides draws more fans than any other game, and Suwon World Cup Stadium is likely to be packed for this weekend's match. The last time Seoul travelled to Suwon, they were on the receiving end of a five-one hammering, can they do better this time out?

John Emanuelson and kleaguefootball.com's Steve Price discuss the big match:

John's questions for Steve

1.   John:  I feel as though when it looks like Suwon is about to challenge Jeonbuk for the top spot, they slip.  For example, allowing two goals in the last ten minutes against Jeonbuk, drawing against Busan, and losing at home to Seongnam, Gwangju and Daejeon.  How frustrating must that be?

Steve: I feel like that too. Jeonbuk had that flying start to the season and since then everybody else has been playing catch-up. Although Suwon’s form has been similar to Jeonbuk’s for the last fifteen or twenty games, the title has really been Jeonbuk’s to lose from as early on as April. Going into this weekend’s match, Suwon actually top the form chart with eleven points from their last six games, but in the context of playing catch-up, every lost point feels like a missed opportunity when in reality nobody wins every game. The game against Jeonbuk really hurt Suwon as it was such a good chance to blow the title-race wide open. However, if Suwon can close the gap before the league splits then they have an outside chance of winning it still.

2.    John:  In the beginning of the season it was Yeom Ki-hun who was in great form followed by Santos for a bit.  Which member right now is playing the best for Suwon?  In other words, who should Seoul probably keep an eye on?

Steve: Everybody who watches K-League football has their eyes on Kwon Chang-Hoon right now. He is still only twenty-one and is getting better as the season progresses. He got his big break over the summer when he was called up for the national team and is on top form right now, having scored six goals in his last ten games for Suwon. Kwon has great anticipation and seems to be able to think faster than other players on the pitch. It probably won’t be too long before he moves to Europe.

3.     John: Suwon brought some new guys in like Kaio and Leo.  How do you feel it worked out for them?  Also, how has the team coped since Jong Tae-se has left?

Steve: Before he left, Jong Tae-Se was having a really good season for Suwon. His all-round game is excellent and he offers a lot more to the team than just goals. His replacements haven’t had the impact that Adriano had when he moved to Seoul. I was expecting big things from Iliyan Mitsanski but he has struggled to get in the side so far. Maybe he still needs some time to adapt, but a player of his pedigree should be able to cut it in the K-League.

4.     John: To become league champions next year, what do you think Suwon needs?  Which position or positions are their weakest right now?

Steve: Suwon have actually more-or-less matched Jeonbuk in goals scored and conceded so I don’t think there is any specific area to improve on, although they need to work on closing out games in order to really challenge for the title. In fact, if matches were only 45 minutes long, Suwon would be top of the league. Jeonbuk’s array of striking talent really helps them when they need a late goal, and if Suwon were to bring in a more consistent goalscoring striker to back up Santos, or if Mitsanski can perform for Suwon, then I think they can compete for the title next year. The fact that three of Jeonbuk’s players have scored more goals this season than Santos really highlights the difference between the two clubs’ attacking options. Suwon’s midfield is very strong, but it will be difficult for them to keep hold of Kwon Chang-Hoon in the summer, so they might need to find another quality attacking midfielder too.

John:  I don't have a car.  Every year I go to Suwon, it takes me an hour or two to leave the stadium, regardless of whether I am going back to Seoul or into Suwon's city center.  Besides leaving early, any tips on how to beat the traffic?

Steve: It’s a bit of a nightmare when the super-match is on as the area isn’t designed for that much traffic. The situation will get easier from next year with the construction of the next phase of the Bundang line, with Gwanggyo Jungang station not too far from the World Cup Stadium. However, the construction of Gwanggyo new city has made traffic on the eastern side of the stadium worse this year. I recommend having a post-game beer at the stadium then jumping on a late bus straight to Seoul. There are red buses from either side of the stadium so take your pick. 

A large crowd at the Seoul World Cup Stadium for FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings

Steve's questions for John

Steve:  After a great run in late July / early August, Seoul have gone off the boil over the last three matches. Is this just a blip or are their other reasons behind their last three results?

John: I think the biggest reason is that the quality of their opponents has improved.  Seoul should have always beat Incheon, Ulsan, Busan, and Daejeon.  They probably expected the Jeju game to be a walk in the park, came out flat, and deserved to lose.  Pohang and Jeonbuk are much better than the abovementioned five teams and even Seoul themselves, to be honest, so it isn’t surprising that their great run has come to an end. 

Also, I blame Seoul’s coach Choi Yong-soo.  He plays the same system and players, game in and game out.  His substitutions are almost always like-for-like and never with the intention of rolling the dice and winning the game.

The players are flat, the offense directionless, and the football on display is quite dull.  Really, this has been Seoul’s 2015 season in a nutshell.  So these last three matches have not been a blip, but instead, a microcosm of the last two years under Choi Yong-soo’s management. 

Steve: What's going on with Yoon Il-Lok? Denied a chance to move to Porto earlier in the season, he isn't even getting off the substitute's bench at the moment.

John: Jesus, what a way to not handle a player!  I still am a bit skeptical that Porto really did want to sign him, but maybe they made a bid.  I think it was best for him to not go to Porto because I couldn’t’ see him playing very much for them. 

That being said, if Porto did make a bid and it was knocked back by Seoul, then I don’t understand why he isn’t getting more games.  In fairness to Choi, Yoon was terrible in the games he played in the beginning of the year.  After being removed from the starting lineup, Seoul did play better and went on a bit of winning streak.

However, at the beginning of July, Yoon was reinserted into the starting lineup as Choi switched his formation from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 and Yoon played quite well.  He was great against Jeju and scored his first and only goal the following week versus Gwangju.  He started against Seongnam after that, was subbed off in the second half, and has not been seen until last weekend against Jeonbuk. 

In that game, he was chosen because of his success against Jeonbuk, but was yanked after 45 minutes.  He wasn’t great by any means, but he wasn’t terrible either.  I put it down to the coach who never plays him, then expects him to become world class, and the current system that he is in love with.  Yoon Il-lok is a winger, not a striker, so why play him out of position.  It is moments like these that make me part of the “Choi out” brigade. 

Steve: What is your opinion on Park Chu-Young's performances for Seoul?

John: In the beginning of the year, I was quite critical of him.  I thought he was a desperation signing designed to bring the fans and their money to the stadium for a game or two.  It didn’t help that Seoul started poorly yet again for the third year in a row and the offense was an absolute mess when he made his debut.  

Now, I would say that I feel he has been a good signing.  He has had some good moments for Seoul and I feel as though their position in the league would be much lower without him.  Park was terrible against Jeju three weeks ago, but so was the whole team.  Before that though, I felt as though Park had been playing pretty well since the end of May. 

I said if he scores ten goals for Seoul this year that I would consider that to be a good first season and I still feel that way.  Of course, he still hasn’t risen to the heights that Dejan had reached, but it might be unfair to expect him to do so.  I think next season will be a make or break for him since he won’t have the excuse of being new to the team.  His movement is good, but he needs to finish his dinner more frequently. 

Steve: Last time Seoul visited the Bigbird Stadium, they were on the wrong end of a five-one scoreline. Will they approach this weekend's game with caution?

John: This is Choi Yong-soo we are talking about, so of course they will be very cautious this weekend.  I expect a very dull first half with Seoul sitting back and hoping to maybe score on the break with Adriano.  I can’t imagine Seoul going past the halfway line too much for fear of being eviscerated.  Also, it doesn’t help that the team’s form has gone to shit recently. 

I am not optimistic after watching the Jeonbuk game last week.  Other than the first 15 minutes, Seoul was dreadful.  There is no cutting edge, the team doesn’t function as a unit, players hold on to the ball for too long, and no one is afraid to take a risk and go for it in fear of making a mistake. 

Steve: Seoul have the leakiest defence in the top-half. Is there any particular reason for this?

John: It is hard to say, but in my opinion, I think it is a combination of factors involving personnel and Seoul’s formation.  Last year, they were very solid defensively as they only allowed 28 goals, which was good enough for second best in the league.  The back three was primarily comprised of Kim Ju-young, Kim Jin-kyu, and Lee Woong-hee. 

This year, as you have pointed out, they have been shit.  I think the loss of Kim Ju-young to Shanghai SIPG has probably hurt them the most.  I thought he was one of Seoul’s most reliable players last year, maybe even their MVP.  His replacements, Kim Nam-chun and Lee Dong-woo, have not been up to his standard.

In the beginning of the season Seoul as a whole struggled, especially Kim Jin-kyu.  He was torched by Jong Tae-se repeatedly in the April game.  I feel as though he has Kim Ju-young’s departure has affected him the most 

Speaking of Kim Jin-kyu, it didn’t help Seoul’s defense that he was out for two months after sustaining an injury in Gwangju the next week following the Suwon game.  With his loss, Lee Woong-hee went to shit and was frequently exposed on the right hand side.  Lee makes way too many mistakes with his positioning and then gets beat by the pace of his attacker.  With Kim Jin-kyu back, Lee’s performances have improved, but I still don’t feel confident about him. 

Also, Seoul’s midfield is atrocious.  I do not really rate Osmar as a defensive midfielder.  He is always good for a mistake or two a game.  Go Yo-han has his moments, but he is too easily pushed off the ball and the jury is still out on Takahagi.  I think he will be an upgrade on Koh Myong-jin, but Seoul’s midfield is still lacking something.

Finally, I feel as though Seoul’s formation makes them susceptible to any team that has speedy wingers.  When Seoul’s wingbacks push up and are by-passed by an opponent’s wingers on the counter, it puts the back three under too much pressure. 

I really hate the system they play and I wish that Choi would change, but I know it won’t happen. I feel as though he is in danger of recreating Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as the coach of Ireland. 

Suwon Bluewings vs FC Seoul kicks-off at 15:05 on Saturday at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.

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