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Seoul's Awful Starts

(The 2010 Champions- from vietfootball.com)

In Part I, I looked at how teams did after ten starts.  Now, I will just look at FC Seoul and how they have started and finished each season.  

As I have written before, the annual Choi Yong-soo drama is a horrendous start followed by a strong finish.  Out of it by May, somehow he still does enough to qualify for the ACL.  I cannot decide if that is good or bad.  If they gave Choi the ax, would the next coach be worse?  

So, I was curious to see how each season played out for Seoul.  I went to soccerway.com and looked at the first ten games for each season from 2011 to 2015.  From there, I made a table and split into three parts.  The left side is comprised of the results for the first ten games.  The middle part is comprised of the rest of the games for the season.  The right part, which says "End", is precisely that.  It tallies the total points a team collected and their final league position.  

(Adi wonders: Dejan, Molina, and Djeperov- they seemed like an unstoppable trio. How did Seoul f%*k that up?  From youtube.com)
2011 K-League Season

         First 10 Games                                      Last 20 Games                                       End                       
Rank
Team
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Final
1st
Pohang
21
2.1
38
1.9
59
2nd
2nd
Jeonbuk
19
1.9
44
2.2
63
1st
3rd
Jeju Utd.
18
1.8
22
1.1
40
9th
4th
Sangju Sangmu
17
1.7
12
0.6
29
14th
5th
Jeonnam
16
1.6
27
1.35
43
7th
5th
Gyeongnam
16
1.6
26
1.3
42
8th
7th
FC Seoul
15
1.5
40
2
55
3rd
8th
Suwon Samsung
14
1.4
41
2.05
55
4th
9th
Busan I'Park
13
1.3
33
1.65
46
5th
9th
Gwangju
13
1.3
22
1.1
35
11th
9th
Incheon Utd.
13
1.3
19
0.95
32
13th
12th
Daegu FC
12
1.2
21
1.05
33
12th
12th
Daejeon Citizen
12
1.2
15
0.75
27
15th
14th
Ulsan Hyundai
10
1
36
1.8
46
6th
15th
Seongnam
8
0.8
27
1.35
35
10th
16th
Gangwon FC
2
0.2
13
0.65
15
16th

Choi Yong-soo cannot be faulted for Seoul's start in 2011 since he did not begin the season as Seoul's manager.  Over matched from the start, Hwang Bo-kwan was fired after only seven games.  In those first seven games, Seoul only won once and drew three times, collecting six points.  

From there, Seoul began to pick it up as Choi won his first three games in charge and Seoul sat in 7th place after the first ten games.  Collecting 40 points in their next 20 games, good enough for an average of 2 points per game (second best in the league), Seoul rebounded nicely and finished in third.  Still, their poor start really crippled their chances that year.  However, it was obvious that Choi was a significant upgrade over Hwang.  What started out as a disaster finished on a high note until the playoffs.  

In the playoff game against Ulsan, Kim Yong-dae had a disaster of a game- drops, flaps, clangers, etc.  It did not help that Dejan, in my opinion, had a perfectly legitimate second goal whistled away for being off-sides when it was obvious to all that he was on.  That loss really took the sheen off the season.  

(from fcseoul.com)
                                            2012 K-League Classic Season

           First 10 Games                                  Last 34 Games                                     End                          
Rank
Team
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Final
1st
Suwon Samsung
23
2.3
50
1.47
73
4th
2nd
Ulsan Hyundai
21
2.1
47
1.8
68
5th
3rd
Jeju Utd.
21
2.1
42
1.23
63
6th
4th
FC Seoul
19
1.9
77
2.26
96
1st
5th
Jeonbuk
17
1.7
62
1.82
79
2nd
6th
Busan I'Park
16
1.6
37
1.09
53
7th
7th
Daegu FC
16
1.6
45
1.32
61
10th
8th
Pohang
14
1.4
63
1.85
77
3rd
9th
Seongnam
13
1.3
39
1.14
52
12th
10th
Gwangju
13
1.3
32
0.94
45
15th
11th
Jeonnam
11
1.1
42
1.24
53
11th
12th
Gangwon
11
1.1
38
1.12
49
14th
13th
Gyeongnam
8
0.8
42
1.24
50
8th
14th
Incheon Utd.
7
0.7
60
1.76
67
9th
15th
Sangju Sangmu
7
0.7
N/A
N/A
27
16th
16th
Daejeon Citizen
3
0.3
47
1.38
50
13th

Even though they have the lowest ranking of any team that has won the title in the last five years, FC Seoul still got off to a respectful start.  They collected 19 out of 30 points available and were only four points behind the top team after ten games.  From there, they really went on a run over their last 34 games, collecting averaging 2.26 points per game as they won the title quite easily that year.  

That is why I would rank the 2012 squad as the strongest in the K-League in the last five years.  They were stout defensively but could also play scintillating, attacking football.  2012 was, by far, Choi's best season but it probably helped though to have the two best players in the league on your squad that year.

(from yonhapnews.com)
2013 K-League Classic Season

           First 10 Games                                  Last 28 Games                                     End                     
Rank
Team
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Avg.
Final
Pts.
1st
Pohang
28
2.8
46
1.64
1st
74
2nd
Suwon Samsung
20
2
33
1.18
5th
53
3rd
Jeonbuk
17
1.7
46
1.64
3rd
63
3rd
Jeju Utd.
17
1.7
41
1.46
9th
58
5th
Busan I'Park
16
1.6
38
1.36
6th
52
5th
Incheon Utd.
16
1.6
34
1.21
7th
50
7th
Ulsan Hyundai
15
1.5
58
2.07
2nd
73
8th
Seongnam
12
1.2
48
1.71
8th
60
9th
Jeonnam
11
1.1
29
1.04
10th
40
10th
FC Seoul
10
1
52
1.86
4th
62
10th
Gyeongnam
10
1
27
0.96
11th
37
12th
Daejeon Citizen
7
0.7
25
0.89
14th
32
13th
Gangwon FC
5
0.5
31
1.11
12th
36
14th
Daegu FC
4
0.4
28
1
13th
32

For Seoul, this was the first time that Choi Yong-soo's team got off to a really poor start.  In ten games, they collected just ten points, good enough for a point a game.  This was the type of performance that lead to Hwang being fired in 2011.  

However, I would argue there were mitigating circumstances.  The team in 2011 played poorly from the start, but the team in 2013 did not play that poorly.  I would say that some of that much of their start was down to bad luck- a late goal by Pohang (8:58 mark) in the first game, a Kim Yong-dae boner (5:00 mark- in his defense it did take a weird spin after he blocked it) in the second home game, a wonder goal by Bosancic (0:32 mark-watch the run and then the lob), etc.  It did not help that the team could not defend a lead during that time, as the Ulsan and Suwon games demonstrate, which led to them having such a shitty record through their first ten games.  Of course, after June, the team began to play better and collect points.  

However, they were a geriatric side that year who struggled to score goals when Dejan was not in the line-up.  Nonetheless, I would still argue that this squad was worthy of praise.  There were several late game winners and they had a great run in the ACL and were unlucky to be put out by the away goals rule in the final.   As I have said before, 2010 was probably my favorite season that I have followed Seoul, but the 2013 squad is my favorite Seoul team.  Even though they came up short in the league and the ACL Final, they battled valiantly.  

(from mesingoal.com)
2014 K-League Classic Season

           First 10 Games                                  Last 28 Games                                     End                     
Rank
Team
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Avg.
Final
Pts.
1st
Pohang
22
2.2
36
1.29
4th
58
2nd
Jeonbuk
20
2
61
2.18
1st
81
3rd
Jeju Utd.
19
1.9
35
1.25
5th
54
4th
Suwon Samsung
15
1.5
52
1.86
2nd
67
4th
Ulsan Hyundai
15
1.5
35
1.25
6th
50
6th
Jeonnam
14
1.4
37
1.32
7th
51
7th
FC Seoul
12
1.2
46
1.46
3rd
58
7th
Busan I'Park
12
1.2
31
1.11
8th
43
9th
Gyeongnam
10
1
26
0.93
11th
36
9th
Sangju Sangmu
10
1
24
0.86
12th
34
11th
Seongnam
9
0.9
31
1.07
9th
40
12th
Incheon Utd.
4
0.4
36
1.29
10th
40

In what is beginning to feel like a pattern, Seoul struggled to get out of the gate again.  After ten games, Seoul sat in 7th place and collected only 12 points.  Ten points separated them from the top and it was such a massive hole that Seoul were out of the running before the end of May.

Once again, there were mitigating circumstances as Seoul lost the core of its team.  Dejan and Ha Dae-sung moved to China, Adi retired, and Molina was injured for the first half of the season.  Dejan's replacement, Rafael Costa, turned out to be a hobbit and struggled to make the cut.  I do not know how much due diligence was done before signing him, but I also feel as though Choi might not have really given Costa that much of a chance.

Unlike in 2011 or 2013, when Seoul struggled, they did not really turn it on after the first ten games.  The team really never gelled or went on a run.  They did not lose a lot after the first ten games, but they did not win a lot either.  Instead Seoul most drew against other sides.  Still, they somehow managed to qualify for the ACL at the expense of Pohang, so that is something.

For the final 28 games, they were the third best side in the league, which seems impressive.  Unfortunately, Seoul averaged just 1.46 points per game at that time.  I believe this shows that a draw was the most likely result of any contest Seoul played in.  That being said, Seoul's showing is more a symbol of how poor the league was than any thing they did that year

Just looking at the last 28 games though shows what a slog it was that year.  No wonder the league only averaged 1.1 goals per game.  Only two teams, Jeonbuk and Suwon, collected more than 1.5 points per game.  This is why I would say that 2014 could be dubbed "Year of the Draw".

This season was my least favorite of all the years I have followed the K-League.  It was one of attrition as teams failed to attack or score goals but did bore the hell out of spectators. 

(from youtube.com)
2015 K-League Classic Season

         First 10 Games                                    Last 28 Games                                     End                        
Rank
Team
Pts.
Avg.
Pts.
Avg.
Final
Pts.
1st
Jeonbuk
25
2.5
48
1.71
1st
73
2nd
Suwon
17
1.7
50
1.79
2nd
67
3rd
Jeju Utd.
15
1.5
35
1.25
6th
50
4th
Pohang
14
1.4
52
1.86
3rd
66
4th
Jeonnam
14
1.4
35
1.25
9th
49
6th
Ulsan
14
1.4
39
1.39
7th
53
7th
FC Seoul
12
1.2
50
1.79
4th
62
7th
Seongnam
12
1.2
48
1.71
5th
60
9th
Incheon Utd.
12
1.2
39
1.39
8th
51
9th
Gwangju FC
12
1.2
30
1.07
10th
42
11th
Busan I'Park
8
0.8
18
0.64
11th
26
12th
Daejeon Citizen
5
0.5
14
0.5
12th
19

Seoul, for the third year running, failed to come out of the gate and were 13 points behind the champions.  Thirteen points- Jesus Christ- that is terrible.  Unlike 2011, 2013, and 2014 though, Choi did not have any mitigating circumstances.

He was not an interim coach, nor did he lose any star players besides Kim Ju-young.  The team looked unprepared, uninspired, and most damning, unsure of what to do.  It is at this point that Choi probably deserved to be fired.

However, with some luck (I still can't believe that Daejeon let Adriano move) Choi was able to get Seoul back on track and the team finished strongly, albeit, not as well as in 2011 or 2013.  Yet, it is sour grapes to complain when the squad did win the FA Cup and beat their main rival Suwon convincingly in the last two contests they have played.

This is the first year that, after ten games, no team averaged more than two points a game.  However, five teams did average over 1.5 points a game, which helped to make things much more interesting.  I think it also helped that nine teams were all grouped within half a point of one another to make the ACL race much more interesting.  It is just too bad that Jeonbuk jumped out to such a big lead and that for them the title was a foregone conclusion.

(from fcseoul.com)
Conclusion

With the 2016 season about to begin, it looks as though history will repeat itself and Jeonbuk will be the champions three years in a row.  They have signed quite a bit of attacking talent this window- Ricardo Lopes, Kim Bo-kyung, Lee Jong-ho, and Kim Shin-wook to name a few.  They have also signed Eric Paartalu, who plays as a DM.  I really do not know much about him, but I guess he is good on set pieces and will add steel to their midfield.  I really hope Jeonbuk will suffer from having too many cooks in the kitchen and that they suffer because of it.  

That being said, I do not think it is likely.  I think we are witnessing a dynasty in the K-League.  Three championships in five years and three-peat are quite impressive feats.  They are like PSG at this point in my opinion.  


I feel as though this also shows how Seoul wasted their opportunities.  They won the league in 2010, should have repeated in 2011, and maybe even 2013.  Sure, Seoul was an old team in 2013 and played quite a few games that year, but on paper they were a better team than Pohang.   I guess what I am trying to say is that they should have won the league at least once more, maybe even twice.  It also shows how short the window to greatness is because after 2013, Seoul have come nowhere near it since then and it looks increasingly unlikely, truth be told, they will approach it any time soon.  

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