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AFC Recap: Seoul's Flexibility leads to Six Goals

(image via sposocial.com)

They were fantastic on Tuesday, winning 6-0 against Buriram United.  It is too early to read anything into this performance however.  I expected more of Buriram and was quite shocked at how easily Seoul were able to finish them off.

Unfortunately, I missed most of the first half, which seems to be when Seoul had problems with their offside trap being beaten by balls over the top.  From the highlights it looks as though Seoul probably could have been whistled for two penalties.  The first, when it appeared that Osmar had knocked over Buriram's striker was obviously a dive by the striker, but I have seen those given by other refs.  Osmar was very lucky.

The second, when Kaio got past Seoul's line and was run over by Yoo Hyun, probably was a penalty.  I only saw the end of the play, but it looked as though Yoo didn't play the ball and ran through the man.  To be succinct, it was an abject display of goal keeping and once again, Seoul got quite lucky.

In the second half Seoul was quite solid, but it is pretty easy when you are up 2-0 and have a man advantage.  They dealt well with any and all attacks from Buriram and there was one instance when Osmar had a great stand-up tackle against Kaio.  The midfield pinged the ball around with intent while the forwards made runs behind the line and the team did not just look to sit on a lead.  This reminded me of the good old days and hopefully there will be more of that on display this Tuesday.

I am not going to write too much more about what happened in the match.  I will just link a video here and you can watch the highlights.  I really recommend that you do watch the highlights, since Adriano was such class and this might be as good as it gets.

Instead, I am going to look at Seoul's formation and the players that represented for yesterday's game. Seoul started in Choi Yong-soo's favorite shape, which  was a 5-3-2 without the ball and 3-5-2 with the ball.  What interests me however, is the players who started and where they lined up.

Defense

The back five that the manager Choi Yong-soo chose was a bit unexpected.  First of all, Osmar (5) was the right center back (CB).  Last year, he usually started as the defensive midfielder (DM) and often took turns switching roles with the sweeper Park Yong-woo (22).  So right there, that is different.

Also, Osmar, who is left-footed, was stationed on the right while Kim Dong-woo (4), who is right-footed lined up on the left of the three CBs.  This interested me because it seems to run counter to traditional logic of placing players with a dominant foot on their stronger side (i.e., right-foot player on the right side).  Of course, with the use of  this notion has loss popularity (ex: Arjen Robben as an inverted winger) and maybe explains why Choi chose to line up with Osmar and Kim Dong-woo on their "weaker sides".

Osmar, playing in tandem with fullback/wing-back (FB/WB) Go Yo-han (13), forms a left-right partnership that would make it difficult for a winger with a right foot to cut inside and shoot.  Go Yo-han, who is right-footed, can still force a left-foot winger to cut inside on his weaker foot, thereby making it easier for Go and Osmar to contain the other team's winger.  On the left-side, Kim Dong-woo can contain left-footed wingers who like to cut inside and shoot.  Ko Kwang-min is not left-footed, but maybe he can help double on left-footed players who like to cut in.

Granted, this is nothing but speculation.  Often times, both Osmar and Kim Dong-woo took up differing positions and played on the side that was natural for their favored foot (Osmar on the left, Kim Dong-woo on the right).  Maybe, Choi will utilize this as a tactic in the future, but who the hell knows.  I certainly do not.

I also expected to see Sim Sang-min start as well, but he did not even make the bench.  Instead, the back-up FB was Kim Chi-woo (7).  Maybe the reason that he did not is because Choi considers Sim to be a defensive liability, but I do not know.  I actually think that the kid has talent and should be given a run-out, but I understand Choi's reasoning for playing Ko Kwang-min (27) on the left.  Ko was the left FB when Seoul had their best play last year and I am sure that Choi wants to continue with that.

On the right, I was a bit surprised to see Go Yo-han.  When Seoul won the league in 2012, he was the right FB that year, so Choi knows that he can handle the position.  Go is quite a versatile and one of the players that gives Choi so much flexibility.  The reason I was surprised that Choi elected to play Go as the RB against Buriram is because of last year's 5-1 mauling against Suwon.  That day, Go started in the center of the midfield, but due to a Cha Du-ri injury, was moved to right FB.

Seoul were already putting on a shambolic display, but from there, they went to shit.  Suwon's original plan was to attack Ko Kwang-min down the left, but after Cha left, they went after Go and Seoul's defense was shredded.  The second goal in the 5-1 thrashing came on Go's side.

Therefore, even though Go had a good game against Buriram, I expect that K-League teams will go after him all year.  I think that Seoul might regret not bringing in RB to replace Cha Du-ri.


Midfield

At the end of the season, I thought the midfield was the biggest weakness with Seoul.  This year, management has seemed to take care of this problem and now there is a logjam in the middle, particularly at DM.  Last night, I counted four DMs as having played for Seoul.

I have already mentioned Osmar, who started as a CB.  Ju Se-jong (6) played at the base of the diamond and his through ball set up Adriano's brilliantly, cheeky second goal.  I was really excited when Seoul signed Ju because of his vision and tackling when he played for Busan.  Seoul might have finally founded a suitable replacement for Ha Dae-sun.  Park Yong-woo, who played sweeper and DM last year, was substituted on for Ju when Seoul were in quite a comfortable position and had all three points locked.

The fourth DM, Kim Won-sik (15), played as a sweeper on Tuesday.  Again, I missed the first half, but he seemed to put forth a fairly flawless performance.  I was actually unaware of who he was until I saw the team sheet.  So, I looked him up and found out that he was part of the Incheon's iron curtain defense last year, but he did not play CB and instead, he was their DM.  Matej Jonjic, deservedly so, got all of the plaudits last year but obviously Kim was instrumental in acting as a shield for the back four.

Finally, I do not want to diminish Shin Jin-ho (8) and Takahagi's (2) contributions.  Each played with bravado in the midfield and Takahagi even set up Adriano's third goal.


Forwards

Adriano scored four, Dejan got one, and Park Chu-young created one.  Scintillating, sublime, and superb- I cannot think of enough superlatives to describe their performance.  The fact that both Adriano and Dejan assisted one another on their goals is great.  So far, any doubts about this partnership have been put to bed.  Hopefully, again, scoring goals will not be a problem for Seoul this year.

Conclusion

When your team wins 6-0, there is not much you can bitch about.  I wish that Choi Yong-soo would have used his substitutes earlier.  With the game wrapped up, why did he wait until the 68th minute to bring on Park Chu-young?  Also, why did he wait until the 83rd minute to bring on Lee Seok-hyun?  Finally, why did he not bring off Dejan?  At 35, he is no spring chicken and his legs need as much rest as possible.

Besides that, I have no complaints.  It is a great way to kick off the year and hopefully Seoul can build from it.  The ability of the DMs to shift between defense and midfield gives Choi lots of options to utilize and might help to make Seoul much more unpredictable.

2 comments

  1. I was excited for the opening game against Jeonbuk. I'm now dreading it. Adriano looked absolutely menacing in front of goal.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah- I was impressed. They look like an entirely different squad w/Dejan and Adriano up front and Ju Se-jong pulling the strings. On paper, Jeonbuk vs. Seoul should have goals, which probably means a 0-0 draw in the freezing cold. I am still looking fwd to it tho.

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