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K-League: Who is a Flat-Track Bully? (Pt. 3)

(from modernseoul.org)
In December, I set out to write about whether or not FC Seoul's manager Choi Yong-soo should be fired.  I wanted to do divorced of emotion even though managers and/or firing are both quite emotional topics.  Superficially, there are good reasons to support the manager and good reasons to fire him.  Often, they are both the same argument.

Unfortunately, this endeavor has been one of monumental failure because every time I set out to do so, I end up putting it off.  During the months of December and January, Skyrim beckoned and I spent endless morning hours walking around the map completing inane quests and trying to figure out how to finish the game.  It turns out that there really is not an end at all.

In February, I have been sucked into the black hole known as Fallout: New Vegas.  I have had this game for around 4 or 5 years but could never get into it.  I decided to give it one last try recently.  Now, every time I begin to try and compose something as to whether or not Choi should stay or go, I fail and immediately start playing Fallout instead.

Last week, I decided to look at one of the seven reasons that Choi Yong-soo should be fired: he is a flat-track bully.  In part one, I listed the results that Choi has against every team.  Based on this, he is a flat-track bully.  Against the big clubs such as Suwon, Jeonbuk, Ulsan, and especially Pohang, he is below average (points: 0-3; 1.5 is average), but against the perennial relegation candidates Daejeon, Gangwon, and Gwangju he has been quite successful in the past.

I decided there was more context however, and so in part two I looked at the results of Choi Kang-hee (Jeonbuk), Hwang Sun-hong (Pohang), and Seo Jung-won (Suwon Samsung) as well.  I chose these them since they manage the Big Four clubs that have had, traditionally as well as recently, the most success in the K-League.  I looked at how they did against one another (Big Four) and teams in the top of the table (Top Six, Top Seven, Top Eight).

Here are the rankings for the results that the Big Four have had against one another.  Whenever possible, I have tried to give more weight to results that have a larger number of games played than those that have not.

Big Four: Best Results and Worst Results 
Year
Manager
P
Pts. (%)
Avg. Pts
Year
Manager
P
Pts. (%)
Avg. Pts
2012
Hwang Sun-hong
12
24 (67%)
2
2013
Choi Kang-hee
8
6 (25%)
0.75
2014
Choi Kang-hee
12
21 (58%)
1.75
2014
Hwang Sun-hong
12
12 (33%)
1
2015
Hwang Sun-hong
12
21 (58%)
1.75
2015
Choi Yong-soo
12
12 (33%)
1
2014
Choi Yong-soo
12
19 (53%)
1.58
2011
Choi Kang-hee
6
6 (33%)
1

At two points a game in 2012, Hwang Sun-hong did quite well against the top competition.  I was quite surprised that two was the highest number and was expecting something a bit more.  In fourth place, at 1.58 points per game is Choi Yong-soo, which is only slightly above average (for the four managers, there were 17 seasons to choose from).  I guess this shows how the matches between the Big Four sides resemble trench warfare to a certain extent since often times, they are so evenly matched.

At the opposite end, the most successful coach of the most successful team has two of the four worst results against the Big Four.  In 2013, Choi Kang-hee averaged only 0.75 points per game, but here were mitigating circumstances since he came back midway through the year.  Last year, other than against Suwon, Choi Yong-soo's teams struggled and this why I would say the term flat-track bully has been connected with his name.

Top 6/7/8: Best Results and Worst Results
Year
Manager
P
Pts. (%)
Avg. Pts
Year
Manager
P
Pts. (%)
Avg. Pts
2012
Choi Yong-soo
28
53 (63%)
1.89
2013
Seo Jong-won
24
26 (36%)
1.08
2011
Choi Yong-soo
6
11 (61%)
1.83
2015
Choi Yong-soo
20
24 (40%)
1.2
2014
Choi Kang-hee
20
36 (60%)
1.8
2014
Hwang Sun-hong
20
24 (40%)
1.2
2014
Seo Jong-won
20
35 (58%)
1.75
2011
Hwang Sun-hong
10
13 (43%)
1.3
2015
Hwang Sun-hong
20
35 (58%)
1.75
2013
Choi Yong-soo
24
32 (44%)
1.33

Against teams in the top six (2011, 2014, 2015), top seven (2013), and top eight (2012), Choi Yong-soo had the best season in 2012 averaging close to two points.  Again, I was surprised that 1.89 is the highest for average points.  I expected someone to be over two points a game.

As with the Big Four, games against teams in the top six/seven/eight are also variants of trench warfare since they tend to be evenly matched and the results, especially at the end of the season post-split, take on far more significance.  In other words, a loss can be stunning result so often times teams might play for a draw.  Here are the results of the post split from 2012 through 2015.


 K-League Post-Split Results: 2012 to 2015
Year
Played
Wins (%)
Draws (%)
Losses (%)
GF (avg.)
GA (avg.)
2012
112
39 (35%)
34 (30%)
39 (35%)
142 (1.26)
142 (1.26)
2013
84
30 (35.7%)
24 (28.5%)
30 (35.7%)
95 (1.13)
95 (1.13)
2014
30
10 (33.33%)
10 (33.33%)
10 (33.33%)
31 (1.03)
31 (1.03)
2015
30
10 (33.33%)
10 (33.33%)
10 (33.33%)
32 (1.07)
32 (1.07)

In 2014 and 2015, a game was much more likely to end in a draw as it would a win or loss for teams at the top of the table.  As I have written before, leagues worldwide that have more draws tend to have average less goals, which is boring for the causal spectator in my opinion.  Looking at the splits in 2014 and 2015, teams barely averaged a goal a game post-split, which makes it seem as though teams are engaged in somnambulism at the end of the season.

Ryan Walters has written comprehensively about how the K-League should borrow some ideas from MLS rather than the EPL/Scottish Professional Football League (I absolutely agree about soccer-specific stadiums).  Another thing that I think they should do is scrap the post-split and just go to a playoff round, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

My point is that teams in the top six, particularly after the split, will more often than not play for a draw.  The reason they will play for a draw is because a loss can have devastating consequences with regards to winning the title or qualifying for an ACL spot.  The next and final post will look at the cumulative results of how Choi Yong-soo, Choi Kang-hee, Hwang Sun-hong, and Seo Jung-won have done league wise in the last five years.



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