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Recaps, Preview, and Prediction: FC Seoul v. Ulsan Hyundai

(Good times in Seoul on Saturday- from SPOTV via youtube.com)
The grind continues as Seoul play their 7th match in 22 days, which for some would be considered overkill, but Seoul's manager Choi Yong-soo's mantra is that you can rest when  you die.  Therefore, Seoul will continue to burn, and pillage every team and village in their quest to win the K-League Classic.  The next stop on their tour begins on Sunday at 14:00 with FC Seoul taking the field at Munsu Stadium to face-off against perennial underachievers Ulsan Hyundai.


Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan have been the 5th best team in the K-league over the last five years.  In 2011, Ulsan finished in 6th place, but made it to the championship game, losing to Jeonbuk.  In 2013, Ulsan lost their last two games, gifting Pohang the title.  So, they have some success, but considering the team's sponsor Hyundai is on the league's masthead and they have spent quite a bit on salary in the past, they should have had much better results.

K-League Classic Teams:  Best to Worst (2011 to 2015)
Team
P
W (Pct.)
D (Pct.)
L (Pct.)
GF (Avg.)
GA (Avg.)
Pts. (Pct.)
Avg. Pts.
Jeonbuk
188
104 (55%)
47 (25%)
37 (20%)
327 (1.74)
191 (1.02)
359 (64%)
1.91
Pohang
188
95 (51%)
49 (26%)
44 (23%)
293 (1.56)
189 (1.01)
333 (59%)
1.77
FC Seoul
188
94 (50%)
51 (27%)
43 (23%)
285 (1.52)
198 (1.05)
333 (59%)
1.77
Suwon Samsung
188
90 (48%)
45 (24%)
53 (28%)
274 (1.46)
207 (1.10)
315 (56%)
1.68
Ulsan Hyundai
188
79 (42%)
53 (28%)
56 (30%)
254 (1.35)
206 (1.10)
290 (51%)
1.54
Jeju United
188
70 (37%)
55 (29%)
63 (34%)
260 (1.38)
239 (1.27)
265 (47%)
1.41
Seongnam FC
188
64 (34%)
55 (29%)
69 (37%)
214 (1.14)
217 (1.15)
247 (44%)
1.31
Incheon United
188
56 (30%)
72 (38%)
60 (32%)
193 (1.03)
204 (1.09)
241 (43%)
1.28
Jeonnam
188
59 (31.38%)
59 (31.38%)
70 (37.23%)
208 (1.11)
238 (1.27)
236 (42%)
1.26
Busan
188
55 (29.25%)
55 (29.25%)
78 (41.48%)
199 (1.06)
239 (1.27)
229 (41%)
1.22
Gyeongnam
150
41 (27%)
42 (28%)
67 (45%)
163 (1.09)
207 (1.38)
165 (37%)
1.1
Daegu FC
112
30 (27%)
36 (32%)
46 (41%)
128 (1.14)
159 (1.42)
126 (38%)
1.13
Gwangju
112
29 (26%)
35 (31%)
48 (43%)
124 (1.11)
154 (1.38)
122 (36%)
1.09
Sangju Sangmu
98
21 (21%)
27 (28%)
50 (51%)
104 (1.06)
175 (1.79)
90 (31%)
0.92
Gangwon FC
112
25 (22%)
25 (22%)
62 (56%)
108 (0.96)
177 (1.58)
100 (30%)
0.89
Daejeon
150
30 (20%)
38 (25%)
82 (55%)
146 (0.97)
266 (1.77)
128 (28%)
0.85

Next,using Jae Hyeok-lee's article Money, Money, Money!  (Update 2.0) as a source, we can see a breakdown of money spent last year in the K-League Classic.  If you are interested in reading more, I recommend you click on the link.  It is actually quite interesting since you can see how much teams spend on their foreign players and that money spent, more often than not, equals league position.  Here is a table of the money teams spent and their league position before the split.

(From flickr.com)

                                        The Money League

 League Table (Pre-split)                                               Money League
Rank
Team
Points
Rank
Team
Wages (approx.)
(KRW in billions)
1
Jeonbuk
68
1
Jeonbuk
9.17
2
Suwon
60
2
Ulsan
6.93
3
Pohang
56
3
Suwon
6.77
4
Seongnam
54
4
FC Seoul
6.06
5
FC Seoul
54
5
Pohang
4.21
6
Jeju Utd.
46
6
Jeju Utd.
4.19
7
Incheon
45
7
Jeonnam
4.19
8
Jeonnam
42
8
Seongnam
3.8
9
Ulsan
40
9
Busan
2.72
10
Gwangju
35
10
Incheon
2.39
11
Busan
24
11
Gwangju
1.95
12
Daejeon
13
12
Daejeon
1.79
                Table from Jae Hyeok-lee's article Money, Money, Money! (Update 2.0)
Granted, post-split the table changed quite a bit, with Seoul moving up one spot and Ulsan jumping up two spots while both Incheon and Jeonnam fell a spot.  I think what jumps out the most is how much money Ulsan spent, yet how little of it led to success.  I am sure that management was aware of that, so this winter there was quite the clear out.

Looking at the winter transfer tracker, 22 players left Ulsan in the winter while 18 joined.  However, it is a bit more complicated than that, so I looked at soccerway.com to see how many of the departing players featured for Ulsan.  Some might have been on the roster, but not got on the field, and were released since they did not meet the standard.  Also, some might not have transferred, but been released.  According to soccerway.com, 31 players made an appearance for Ulsan last year and 15 of them left the club after last year.  As I mentioned above, Ulsan have had 18 new players join them, but only seven have featured (not counting Lee Jung-hyub).  

That is quite a lot of turnover, so how have they done?  As of now, they are 5th place with two wins, two draws, and two losses.  They average less than a goal a game (0.83) but give up the same amount (0.83) a game.  It is early, but it seems like things have not clicked yet for Ulsan and they remain consistently inconsistent.  They were dire against Sangju Sangmu in their opening game but much better against Jeonbuk and deserved to win that game.  Ulsan have wins over Jeonnam and Gwangju, both of whom are at the foot of the table, but lost to Jeju at home last week.

(Shin Jin-ho's last game- from SPOTV via youtube.com)
FC Seoul vs. Suwon FC

FC Seoul thoroughly dominated Suwon FC and they won 3-0.  I missed Adriano's goal in the first half and ended up watching the second half on my tablet in a coffee shop with the wifi cutting in and out, but Shin Jin-ho's free kick was brilliant.  Likewise, Shin's assist for Seoul's third and final goal, Dejan out-muscling a defender and just punishing the ball with a strike from his left foot was sublime.

It was Shin's final game (h/t Nicole Chung, who always has great info on Seoul) before joining up with Sangju Samgum and what a way to go out.  Seoul are absolutely going to miss him, and while Lee Hyeon-suk has done well so far this season, it will be a test to see how Seoul cope without Shin's energy, set piece deliveries, and vision.  Seoul's loss is Sangju Sangmu's gain and maybe, if they can continue to get results like last week against Pohang, they might beat the drop as Jeonnam continue to look like a team that lacks belief.

(Dejan scores- from The AFC HUB youtube.com)
FC Seoul vs. Buriram United.

I missed the first 60 minutes of the game since I had to work until 8:20, get a beer after, etc.  Since Seoul were up 2-0, it seemed as though they put the handbrake on and looked not to make too many errors.  Outside of a knockdown by Adriano for Park Chu-young to bang into the 37th row, Seoul did not do much in the second half.

Then again, neither did Buriram United, who were able to finally score a goal after 427 minutes.  It was on a PK that, in my opinion, was a dubious call by Abdulrahman Mohammed.  In the end Seoul won 2-1, but actions have consequences and a good friend of mine lost out on Lotto winnings since Seoul only won by one, not two goals.  Maybe Takahagi was on the Burriam player's back, but I could not tell by the replay and the stream I watched had some lag.  Usually, Afreeca streams work really well, so I am not sure what the problem was.

Speaking of Takahagi, he has taken over on set piece deliveries for Seoul and he got assists on both goals, so that is good.  Will they miss Shin as the season progresses, but if Takahagi continues to deliver, maybe not as much.  

By the Numbers

Rather than guess how the game will turn out, instead I will just present some statistics.  Here are how Ulsan Hyundai are doing this season


Possession
Result

Shooting
Result

Opponents
Result
Season (avg.)
55%

Season (avg.)
11.6

Poss. (avg.)
45%
Home (avg.)
55%

On Goal (avg.)
7.5

Shots (avg.)
11.6
Away (avg.)
52%

Home (avg.)
15

On Goal (avg.)
5.3
Range
46-57%

On Goal (H) (avg.)
10



 (H= Home)

In terms of possession, they have been quite strong averaging over 55% and have had more possession than their opponents in 5 of 6 games.  FC Seoul, in the past, have been the team with more possession.  Often it has been detrimental as they would pass it sideways and backwards.  It will be interesting to see if Ulsan decide to concede possession to Seoul and defend like Jeonbuk did in the first game or try and keep the ball and play their way.

Here is how Seoul have done so far this season.

Possession
Result

Shooting
Result

Opponents
Result
Season (avg.)
51%

Season (avg.)
14

Poss. (avg.)
49%
Home (avg.)
52%

On Goal (avg.)
7.8

Shots (avg.)
7.5
Away (avg.)
51%

Away (avg.)
11

On Goal (avg.)
2.7
Range
45-56%

On Goal (A) (avg.)
5.3


(A= Away)

Finally, here is Choi Yong Soo's record against Ulsan, including the K-League playoff game in 2011 and last year's FA Cup match.

P
W
D
L
GF (avg.)
GA (avg.)
Pts. (avg.)
18
6 (33%)
5 (28%)
7 (39%)
23 (1.28)
25 (1.39)
23 (1.28)


Against Ulsan, Choi averages less than a point a game and Ulsan is one of the few teams to outscore FC Seoul during his tenure.  In other words, this has always been a tough fixture and I do not expect it to be any different this weekend.

Lineup and Formation

(from Footballuser.com)

Seoul do not play a mid-week game for the first time in three weeks, so I expect Choi to name his strongest 11.  Dejan came off in the 65th minute and Ko Kwang-min in the 66th minute, so I expect both will play on Sunday.  I think Kim Chi-woo will get the nod over Go Yo-han, which is why Ko is on the right and not in his usual left spot.

Prediction

The ride has to come to an end at some point and Seoul usually struggle against Ulsan.  However, they have won their last two games in Munsu Stadium.  I think Seoul could take all three points on the road as their strong defense continues, but I think Ulsan's keeper Kim Yong-dae will really be up for it on Sunday (if he can play).  If Kim Yong-dae plays, I think this ends in a draw.

Final Score: Ulsan 1-1 FC Seoul



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