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Transfer Talk: Jeonnam Dragons

(image via foxsports.com.au)

How active do you think your team will be in the winter window?

Luckily the Dragons shored up the frontline by re-signing Stevica Ristić and Mislav Oršić before the conclusion of the 2015 season and adding Cho Suk-jae (more on this later), so that third of the field remains solid. However, given the disappointing second half last season, the departure of de facto number one Kim Byung-ji, and an anemic backline I'm hoping Jeonnam's quite active during this window. The midfield was serviceable if not solid last season, and with a better system, could potentially be better and help the backline. If that's the goal, a true CDM, two CBs, and possibly a starting GK should all be on Jeonnam's winter shopping list.

What's your team's biggest area of need? Who are some potential targets you'd like to see fill those holes?

With the amount of K-League keepers that have already moved or been made available and Jeonnam's seeming indifference to them, I'm guessing they're OK heading into 2016 with Kim Min-sik as their starter. At 30 years old, he's at the beginning of his prime years as a goalkeeper and is likely cost effective, so there's an inclination to give him the reins and see what he can do. Yet, he's only logged 1,500+ minutes twice (2011, 2014) and has yet to earn the starting position on three different teams. With nearly 40 games on the schedule, that's a big jump for a relatively untested keeper. I'd hoped the Dragons could swoop in and nab Busan's Lee Bum-young since they're on the way down to Challenge, but all reports show him on his way to Japan. Luckily this transfer window runs until the end of March, so they'll be able to start Min-sik and see him for a few games before being forced to make a decision.

The true concerns lie at Center Back. The position was shaky at best last season, and with regular starter Lim Jong-eun transferring to Jeonbuk alongside Lee Jong-ho, there's work to do. Playing a 4-3-3 as the Dragons often do relies on the backline staying put and communicating extremely well due to the lack of help from the mids. Lim never showed a nack for either quality. A wandering CB with seemingly zero positional sense that wants to take shots from 40 yards out is much better off on another team. Perhaps Jeonbuk have designs of him playing CDM and allowing him to roam a bit further up field... but I'm still not too sad to see him go and his departure will likely improve the defense.

While there may be some Korean replacements within the league, I'd like to see Jeonnam look to Australia and fill their "Asian" player roster spot with a solid CB. As mentioned, Ristić and Oršić are already on the books for 2016 as is Brazilian Leandro Lima which fills the maximum three foreigner spots. However, there's an additional foreigner spot if the player is from an Asian nation. With the Socceroos officially part of the AFC, that means Australian players. Following the lead of back-to-back champions Jeonbuk, looking South and finding an anchor for the back like Alex Wilkinson seems like a solid idea.

When asked, resident Aussie soccer writer Lew Dub suggested Melbourne City FC captain Patrick Kisnorbo or Leigh Broxham of Melbourne Victory as both of their contracts are up for renewal in 2016. Kisnorbo would be the stopgap option as he's 34 and would likely only offer a year or two at max. The Melbourne native spent over a decade in the UK where he had successful spells with Hearts of Midlothian, Leeds United and Leicester City, captaining the latter during their time in the Championship. Kisnorbo made the last of his 18 appearances for the Socceroos in 2010, so international duty certainly isn't a concern and there's a lot of wear on those tires. However, even if it were for a single year, Kisnorbo would immediately improve the backline by offering a dominant presence no one on the current roster can.

Broxham, on the other hand, is 27, battle tested, feisty, and moves forward as a false six efficiently while remembering his defensive responsibilities (unlike Lim). Broxham made his debut in 2006, and has plenty of AFC Champions League experience having played in all four of Victory's campaigns. He was also the third player to reach 150 A-League appearances and has played over 2,100 minutes in each of his previous two campaigns, showing a durability that was severely lacking in the Dragons injury-plagued 2015. If Jeonnam can swoop in to become the second team he plays for, he could be a huge piece in taking the next step from perennial mid-tablers to top 6 and potentially ACL. Most importantly, he's young enough to anchor the defense for years to come and takes up the flexible Asian roster spot, leaving three options for other positions on the field. It should be noted, however, that in a recent Fox Sports Australia article he was listed as a midfielder. This means if the Dragons picked him up, then he could play the CDM role in my desired 4-4-2 formation in front of a (hopefully) improved backline.

Is there someone on the team you'd like to see loaned out or sold?

It would seem Leandro Lima's time with the Dragons is at an end. Last season manager Noh Sang-rae couldn't figure out how to fit the CAM into his plans and often played him out of position. He made 20 appearances last year, but only 10 were starts, and that's simply not enough for someone taking up a foreign roster spot. He's been in Korea since his first season with Daegu in 2012, so the league knows him and it likely won't be too difficult to put a move together with another K-League club. Most notably, his departure would free up a roster spot for another non-Asian foreigner and there's already talk of Croatian midfielder Vedran Jugović coming over on loan from Oršić's former team HNK Rijeka. According to a source with knowledge of Rijeka, their trainer used him most often as a right attacking midfielder who crosses well, has a shot from distance, and tracks back defensively. He was a regular in the starting 11 last season logging 25 starts, but this year has seemingly fallen out of favor and has made only 5 starts through 21 matches. The same source said Rijeka's trainer Matjaž Kek rated Jugović above Oršić, which is what led to a lack of playing time for Oršić at Rijeka. So the notion of both playing the midfield should mean we can expect big things from the duo.

What transfers have already taken place and how do you see them playing out in 2016?

Lee Jong-ho to Jeonbuk and bringing in Korean U23 International Cho Suk-jae as a replacement was a huge move and one that got out of the way early. I wrote about it in more detail HERE, but the gist is that I'd expect Cho's 19 Challenge goals to translate into roughly 8-10 Classic goals, which isn't far off the pace Lee Jong-ho offered. Cho's a true poaching attacker, so my main hope is that the system is bent slightly to play him at CF just behind Stevo to clean up any messes.

Who's an "ideal" signing that would do well in the K-League? 

He wouldn't necessarily be ideal for the league, but U23 International CB Will Packwood is still without a home and could anchor the backline for years to come. I've previously made the case for him to come to Jeonnam, so I'll spare that and simply say it'd take a lot for him to wind up here. It'd also throw off the Jugović loan and any chance at landing Broxham, but I'm greedy and landing a young American CB might be worth it for selfish reasons.

An actual ideal signing for the league would be absolutely anyone with international recognition. The league is starving for star quality and desperately needs a name to put asses in seats and eyes on screens. Robin van Persie and Fernando Torres are names that have been thrown around, and though neither will likely materialize, either would be great for the league.

Have a better idea who would fit well in the league? What do you think about Kisnorbo, Broxham, or Jugović joining the Dragons? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. True Broxham has served mostly as a defencive midfielder but this year he's been played in the backline more than once.

    1. Honestly, the Dragons could use help in either position, but CB would be the preference. With the lower physicality in K League, he could likely handle a full time role in the backline quite well. Just a matter of if they actually reach out and if he'd leave the only club he's ever known.

  2. Broxham is a very good player, but a makesshift CB, Knisorbo is past his best and too slow for the league. The best Aussie CB's coming off contract are Donachie and Bowles (Bris), Thwaite (Perth), Ansell (Victory),Elsey (Adelaide)... if you were desperate there is also Anderson and Faty from Sydney. Best CB's till on contract that are suited are Devere, Topor Stanley, Jurman and Djulbic

    1. It's already been a pretty busy window for the Dragons, but they've yet to address CB, so I'll definitely be looking into these guys. Thanks for the list!


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