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Writer's Chat: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United FC Preview

Korean International Lee Jae-sung and his Jeonbuk side will welcome a Jeju United team potentially reinvigorated by their recent striking addition Lee Keun-ho
Returning from an international break, the third round of the K-League recommences with a clash between an inconsistent Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and a Jeju United FC with the newly acquired Lee Keun-ho. Jeonbuk contributor Matthew Binns (myself) and Jeju columnist Duncan Elder take a look towards Saturday and what we can expect when these teams meet.

He asks, I answer:

Duncan Elder: Jeonbuk made a lot of signings over the winter transfer window, who has stood out most so far?

Matthew Binns: Despite having played five competitive games, the amount of rotation from the Jeonbuk manager has not allowed for most players, old and new, to have a decent run in the squad. That being said, a number of the new acquisitions have shown early signs of promise.

Kim Bo-kyung, despite playing only a game and a half before succumbing to injury, showed a lot of his potential during his time on the pitch, offering glimpses of his dribbling and set piece deliveries against FC Tokyo. He was initially sidelined for three weeks so he should soon be back in contention, but the Saturday game may have arrived too early for him to start.

Erik Paartalu has provided a reassuring presence when added to the midfield set-up. The two games he has not started (versus Jiangsu Suning and Ulsan Hyundai), Jeonbuk have gone on to have a difficult time with the opposition's attacks. He offers a much-needed layer in front of an unstable defence to help break-up attacking plays and I think Jeonbuk look a lot stronger when he features.

I also like the promise shown by Lee Jong-ho and Ko Moo-yeol, the latter having already earned himself a goal and man of the match performance against FC Tokyo. The former also links up very well when playing with Lee Jae-sung and Lee Dong-gook, as demonstrated in the recent ACL game against Binh Duong.

The jury is still out on a few signings though. Controversially, I still do not think we have seen the best from Kim Shin-wook, despite his headline-grabbing header against FC Seoul. This is partly due to the tactics employed though, with Choi Kang-hee having twice deployed him as a lone front man to no avail (against Jiangsu Suning and Ulsan Hyundai). When partnered with the likes of Lee Dong-gook in attack, he seems to play much better.

Lim Jong-eun in defence though is on increasingly borrowed time. Excluding an encouraging performance against Binh Duong, where surprisingly he partnered an inexperienced yet promising debutant in Choi Kyu-baek, he has been unable to settle in well with the other CB he finds himself playing with, namely Kim Hyung-il. 

DE: Jeonbuk have tried a few different formations/player combinations so far this season. Is this a sign of flexibility or not being sure about their strongest squad? 

MB: I think its a definite bid to find the former, but unfortunately I do not think Choi Kang-hee knows which of the squads to play and when. He has a similar team that he has sent out twice against Binh Duong and FC Tokyo at home, one that offers more room for attacking flair and based on a short-passing build-up. When this team is deployed, while they are yet to thrash a team, they look full of potential and something that teams in the league could fear.

Then there is the team he likes to send out against Jiangsu Suning and Ulsan Hyundai, the "away squad" as it currently stands. While all the players during these two away games have not been the same, the way they set up have negatively combined defensive frailties with a lack of chances up-front. It seems a shame that, depsite purchasing all this attacking talent, Jeonbuk have failed to effectively use it.

For the sake of the completist, the other result against FC Seoul I feel was a one-off rotation, set-up purely to stifle the threats caused by their offensive players. It was not as exciting as it could have been, but it proved functional when everyone (including myself) expected Seoul to win comfortably, so I will doff my cap to the Jeonbuk manager there.

DE: Jeju have struggled against Jeonbuk recently, are there any weakness in the Jeonbuk squad they could try to exploit?

MB: As mentioned, the central defence still looks questionable despite keeping three clean sheets prior to this fixture. Choi Kang-hee has only dropped Lim Jong-eun once this campaign (against FC Seoul), so I doubt there will be any drastic overhauls in this department come Saturday.

Ulsan's best chances against Jeonbuk came from fast counter-attacks that, were it not for the heroics of Kwoun Sun-tae (as well as some fortuitous decisions), should have seen Motors defeated. If Jeju were to sit deep and wait for the mistakes, they may very well find themselves with opportunities presented to them.

Unsure of his best formation? Choi Kang-hee looks on as his Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors side fail to break down Ulsan Hyundai in their K-League Classic Clash
Unsure of his best formation? Choi Kang-hee looks on as his Jeonbuk side fail to break down Ulsan
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
DE: After a 0-0 draw with Ulsan and a fairly solid but uninspiring display against Seoul, do you think Jeonbuk will try to be a bit more attacking against Jeju?

MB: The answer to this goes back to my points in regards to the formation. Up to now, it seems the squad is being rotated as something the manager feels he needs to do rather than has to do. It is admittedly an oversimplification, and Choi Kang-hee no doubt has his own explanations for his recent squad selections, but his line-up for the Ulsan game really felt strange considering only two of his players were going away for international duty and Ulsan had struggled to break down newly-promoted Suwon FC the week before. He had the chance to play the same team who had been encouraging against Binh Duong but instead opted for vast changes that, by the full-time whistle, should have cost them more than the two points they eventually dropped.

Now Jeonbuk will have games both on the weekend and midweek for the next three weeks. Rotation will actually be necessary. A full six points before going into this busy period would have been far more preferable. 

I think the manager will opt for an attacking formation seeing as the game is at home. Kim Shin-wook therefore may find himself rested for the weekend's game with a view to starting him against Binh Duong away. It could possibly be Lee Dong-gook operating in the striker's role, with support coming from Lee Jong-ho behind him. The wings could be given to Ko Moo-yeol and Ricardo Lopes, with Erik Paartalu and Lee Jae-sung controlling the central midfield positions. If Kim Bo-kyung is deemed fit to start, then expect Lee Jae-sung to move into a more attacking role with Lopes possibly being displaced by Lee Jong-ho.

Then again, the manager could just decide to park five at the back again and wait for a Wookie header to seal/steal it.

DE: What is your prediction for the match?

MB: Jeonbuk to win 2-1.

I think Jeju United will pose some difficulties to the Jeonbuk defence but, if Choi Kang-hee rotates his team from the Ulsan game as I expect him to do so, then the home side should have more than enough fire power to put Jeju to the sword.

If the manager decides to keep a line-up similar to the one fashioned against Ulsan, then the game could really be Jeju's for the taking. With an eye on the game against Binh Duong the following midweek, perhaps this scenario is not completely out of the question.

I ask, he answers:

Jeju United's most recent acquisition Lee Keun-ho joined the club over the international break. (Photo Credit: Jeju-Utd.com)
Matthew Binns: Let’s address the recent exciting news at Jeju; last week’s signing of experienced Korean international Lee Keun-ho from El-Jaish. With experience playing at both Ulsan and Jeonbuk, as well as ACL regulars Gamba Osaka, this could prove to be an inspired acquisition. How do you see him slotting into the team and who will be making way? Will a change in formation be required?

Duncan Elder: I think this is a very good signing, our front line for the first two games of the season had very little K League experience and it showed with our attack not being as effective last year. I think he will start in a front three with Karanga and Kim Ho-nam

MB: Saturday could see Ricardo Lopes line-up for Jeonbuk Hyundai against his former club. Having scored eleven goals in thirty-three league appearances for Jeju United last year, not to mention a wealth of assists, how much do you think his absence will be felt this year?

DE: We have already felt his absence in it the first two games this season. We have lost his aggressiveness, pace and directness and our attack has clearly not been as good as last year. Added to this is the fact we lost our best CM which means Song Jin-hyung, our second best attacker last year, is playing as a deep midfielder in a 4-2-3-1. The loss of these two players has been huge, although hopefully the addition of Lee Keun-ho will improve things.

Last time out, Jeju United found themselves unable to break down a resilient Gwangju defence.
Last time out, Jeju United found themselves unable to break down a resilient Gwangju FC defence.
(Photo Credit: Jeju-Utd.com)
MB: After a strong start in their opener against Incheon, Jeju found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline against Gwangju. What do you see as having gone wrong in that particular fixture?

DE: It was our attack. Against Incheon we were lucky to have scored three goals as they all came from defenders at set pieces. Against Gwangju when we needed a goal we didn’t look like we had enough when going forward and struggled to put pressure on them. Hopefully the addition of Lee as well Kim Ho-nam and Marcelo having had time to settle in will mean we will see an improvement against Jeonbuk and in the upcoming games.

MB: Do you see a change in approach or tactics prior to this match in order to deal with any specific threats posed by Jeonbuk?

DE: Our defence has been pretty decent in the two games so far this year. At 193cm tall Lee Kwang-seon should give Kim Shin-wook a run for his money and he already showed his ability to keep tall, strong target men quiet with his performance against Incheon’s Kevin Oris. The problem could come on the wings however as our full back’s have shown a tendency to get forward which could be punished if pacy players like Leonardo and Lopes are chosen in front three. Of course with Jeonbuk’s vast array of talent it is hard to know exactly who will play and in what formation so this will likely keep Cho Sung-hwan guessing! Either way I’m sure we will sit back and try to hit you on the counter.

MB: Finally, what is your prediction for the match?

DE: I can’t see us getting much from this game, so I’ll go for a score draw. 1-1 with Lopes and Lee Keun-ho both scoring against their former teams.

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