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Preview: Incheon United vs Suwon Bluewings

(Photo courtesy of http://sports.news.naver.com)

On Saturday Suwon play their 5th game in 15 days and after a number of dominating performances without securing maximum points in recent weeks, where better to play than bottom of the table Incheon? Suwon have played some superb, one touch, fast paced football over the last 2 weeks and this was despite fielding a team with no recognised striker for the majority of this run (Yes, I know Cho Dong-geon played most of these games, but I am not counting him as a recognised striker and that is something I will talk about in detail later). The 2,000 or so Suwon supporters that will inevitably travel to Incheon this weekend will be expecting to return with all 3 points from their trip to the basement boys, and it's also something that this columnist is expecting. 

Incheon United

Only one word can be used to sum up Incheon's season to date; Diabolical. Their 5 games thus far have yielded 4 losses with 12 goals conceded and at no point have they really threatened to win a game. They are weak at the back, weak in midfield and weak up front, the imperfect trifecta. And if they keep this form up then relegation could beckon come the end of the season. 

Their last minute equalizer to salvage a 1-1 draw at K League champions Jeonbuk in midweek has rather papered over the cracks, but Incheon are certainly a team in crisis. I had the displeasure to witness their 2-3 home loss to Seongnam last week and I must say, it was one of the more pathetic performances by a K League team that I have ever seen. That day they tried to counter Seongnam by playing a 4-4-2 formation and they tried to push Seongnam up the pitch and limit their goalscoring opportunities. On paper, the game plan was solid, except for the fact that they were devoid of ideas in attack themselves. Despite having possibly the strongest man in the K League playing up front in the form of Kevin Oris, they insisted on playing short passes through midfield. It was a tactic that was catastrophic as they cheaply gifted the ball to Seongnam on several occasions and found themselves 2 goals behind after 20 minutes. They persevered with the tactic of short, inept, pointless, 2 meter passes until around the 60th minute when they decided to actually utilize their key attacking weapon and began to fire balls into Kevin Oris wherever he was on the pitch. But by that time, it was too little too late. Kevin's 'argy-bargy' brand of forward play made for an interesting last 30 minutes for the neutral but the game had been lost from the previous 60 minutes of boring and ineffective football. 

Incheon's midfield looks bad but it is in defence where they are really suffering at the moment. In truth, the entire back 4 looks unstable and the simple task of communication seems beyond the Incheon defensive unit. But the real shock and disappointment has been in the dip in form of Matej Jonjic. Last season the Croat was the rock of the Incheon defence and was a major contributor to Incheon's successful run to the FA Cup final. However, in this current campaign he is yet to hit the heights of last season. When Jonjic is on form, he is a tough, unforgiving centre back that takes no prisoners in a challenge. But currently he looks like a meek and mild mannered citizen who would rather help an old lady home with her shopping than knock a striker into Row C of the stands. He has consistently been found out of position this season and Incheon are certainly suffering for his dip in form. 

If Incheon persist in trying to play tiki-taka football through their average midfield then a long relegation battle could await them. However, if they decide to play 'un-fashionable' football and play more direct they could wreak havoc on the K League. K League defenders are not built for the challenge that Kevin Oris poses and when he is at his barnstorming best it is quite a sight to see. Maybe in a European league Oris isn't quite up to grade, but in a league where defenders are much more comfortable with the ball on the floor then it is criminal not to utilise a unique weapon such as Oris. 

Here's to hoping that Incheon do persist with their very bad Barcelona impersonation and that Suwon can come away with the 3 point haul that they have richly deserved in recent weeks. 

Prediction

As I mentioned above, Suwon have been playing very well as of late, and if they had a decent striker I could see them doing very well and challenging for every competition that they enter this season. Alas, the pre-season passed without us acquiring a half decent, experienced striker, so we are left to fight on with the inept Cho Dong-geon and the youthful exuberance of Kim Gun-hee. But Suwon's midfield should be the envy of all team's in Asia. In the last two home games they have put on midfield masterclasses against a Melbourne team that is performing well in the ACL and a Pohang team that have started the season strongly aswell. 

The most important player for Suwon this season is quite obviously Kwon Chang-hoon. He has now scored 4 goals in his 5 K League games and if Suwon are going to score goals he is looking like the most likely source of them. Last season Chang-hoon could be quite erratic with his forward runs. He would quite often run into areas where there was no space and would also often be late in arriving to the box during promising attacks. However, he seems to have mastered both of these arts. He is now timing his runs superbly and is also very intelligent in finding space in the oppostion's half. He is very quickly becoming a complete player and is vital for Suwon that he stays fit and starts every game. 

Yeom Ki-hun is also, once again, leading the team in assists, providing 3 key passes for goals in the K League. But it is also his all round game that is making Ki-hun so important. When the team is down it is usually Ki-hun who picks the team up and carries them on his back. This was the case in Jeju last weekend as the defence severely let a promising attacking display down. Suwon conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes and looked set for defeat. But a moment of magic from Ki-hun allowed Kwon Chang-hoon to level the game and atleast take home the point the team richly deserved. I've said it before, and i'll say it again, Ki-hun is the best player in Korea and is criminally underrated. 

Suwon's defence has also improved drastically from the opening games of the season. As I have mentioned previously, Suwon don't know how to defend against opponents that play direct football and the current formation of 4-1-4-1 does not allow for much cover for the defence. As such, on several occasions at the start of the season Suwon were cut apart and weren't able to contain even the simplest of attacks. However, the addition of Baek Ji-hoon to the starting line-up seems to have quelled this worry and Suwon are producing much more comfortable and assured displays at the back. Seo Jung-won is currently opting to rotate his centre back partnership and is yet to stick with a centre back partnership for successive games this season and that tactic appears to be paying off. The defence is full of energy and besides the 10 minute melt down in Jeju, are playing well. 

Suwon's last 3 games have seen them secure 3 draws but the results don't tell the true tale of how they are playing. Against Melbourne they produced an outstanding performance and dominated them from the 1st minute to the last minute registering 16 attempts on goal to Melbourne's 4. Infact, Melbourne only had 1 shot on target the whole night and were fortunate to score from it. Next up came the Jeju game where Suwon played comfortably and passed the ball very well. However, playing without a centre forward that day seriously hindered the team and it wasn't until Kwon Chang-hoon was introduced to the game that Suwon really came to life in an attacking sense. And if it wasn't for the defensive melt down at the end of the game Suwon would have come away with the 3 points that they probably deserved on the balance of play. Then came the Pohang game at Suwon World Cup Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Much like the Melbourne game, Suwon dominated this game also, with Pohang's only real attack of merit coming from a dodgy penalty award. Suwon notched up 20 shots on goal and held 55% of possession, but yet again, playing without a recognised centre forward severely hindered Suwon's chances of winning the game. For all the midfield's attacking endeavor there just isn't the right man on the pitch to convert the chances that are created. 

As for this game, the result will all depend on 2 factors; 1.) Will Cho Dong-geon play? And 2.) Will Incheon continue to play their poor mans version of Tiki-Taka football? Firstly, if Cho Don-geon is asked to play as Suwon's number 9 then it could be another long day at the office for Ki-hun and co. in the Suwon midfield. Dong-geon is quite simply a terrible footballer who should not be playing at this high of a level. I do not care what his reputation was in past years, these days he is just not up to the standard of a K League striker. His first touch is horrendous and he is never brave enough to try and get the ball out of his feet to have a shot. There was one instance during the Pohang game when he was one on one with the last defender. He shimmied and found himself a couple of yards of space, and with the goal bearing down on him he decided to stop and try to play in a non-existent team mate. When Dong-geon plays it makes the teams task much more difficult. However, with a must win Champions League game on Tuesday night I expect that he will start and Kim Gun-hee will be saved for the trip to Osaka. Lastly, how Incheon play will probably have the biggest effect on the game. If they try to play passing football through the spine of Suwon then I expect them to unravel and wilt under the pressure that Suwon would inevitably put them under. However, if they can play a more direct style of football then it could make for an interesting game. Again, though, I expect them to do the former rather than the latter and for Suwon to have a comfortable game. But the result will be entirely dependent on whether Suwon can take their chances.

Score Prediction: 

Incheon United 0 - 2 Suwon Bluewings

1 comment

  1. What horrible team Incheon is. they've done nothing the whole 95 minutes but they scored the draw.God damn luck.Unlucky suwon they played great football, sometimes you play so well but you end up losing or a draw. I have a feeling Incheon will be regelated this season which I want .they are terribly awefull team

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