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Writers Chat: Gyeongnam FC vs. Seoul E-Land

This Sunday is Round 8 of the K-league Challenge, Gyeongnam make their first 'home' away from home trip across the province of the new season hosting Seoul E-Land on the far southern island of Geoje. Steve Waddell for E-Land and Matthew Hannah for Gyeongnam preview the action.

Matthew Asks, Steve Answers

1. After a decent start to the season the Eland boys have hit a rough patch losing two in a row. What do you think is the cause and do you think that the team is still on track for automatic promotion?

There hasn’t actually been a great deal of difference in the performances when we’ve won or lost so some of it is just down to a bit of luck either way and the fact that most of the teams in the league are very close in terms of ability. We could just have easily have won at Ansan and Gangwon and lost against Daejeon or Busan and I’m pretty convinced if Tarabai hadn’t been taken off against Gangwon we’d probably have seen the game out for three points but instead collapsed.

As for promotion, it’s anyone’s guess at the minute. With the firepower we have you have to fancy us to at least get a playoff spot. A lot of it will come down to who can put together a run of form at some stage. Last year at this point we were just starting on a run of I think 10 wins in 11 or something like that, if we could do that again then we’d be looking good for a strong title challenge.

2. After being one of the top scorers in the Kleague challenge last season Joo Min-Kyu is off to a slow start only finding the net once so far. Was he just a one-season wonder?

If you look at the form it was more of a half-a-season wonder actually! He definitely went through a bit of a purple patch and then cooled off a bit in the second half of the season. He definitely has the ability but I think it’s more of a confidence thing at the moment, coupled with a bit of luck. Last season everything he touched went in and so he was more likely to try things and scored more goals as a result. I think there was an element of opposition players getting wise to him as well but you can see this season that things aren’t quite coming off for him. With Tarabai playing he also tends to drop a bit deeper and be a bit more of a link-up player than an out and out predator so I think that’s also part of the reason. He’s actually looked quite good at times in that role but at the end of the day as a striker he’s going to be judged on goals.

3. While your forward line of Belusso and Tarabai have been decent so far, what Eland players have flown under the radar that Gyeongnam fans should look for this Sunday?

I think the best player of the season so far has been Carlyle Mitchell who has been pretty solid at the centre of defence. At times last season I thought he was a bit of a soft touch although he showed in flashes what he could do but this year I think he’s been a lot more commanding and more consistent. It’s a pity he’s going to miss this one thanks to getting a red card for trying, and failing, to save the Gangwon equaliser on Thursday.

Obviously Glory is another standout but hardly under the radar. If you’re looking for a lesser name to watch then I’ve been impressed by youngster Ahn Tae-hyun this season. I’m not sure if he’ll start but he’s a pretty pacy forward who can play on the left or right and has shown a fair amount of promise so far. He doesn’t seem afraid to take people on and he opened his scoring account in the FA Cup at Hwaseong with a nice finish from a quick breakaway.

4. This Gyeongnam home game is being played away from Changwon in Geoje. Last season Eland also played Gyeongnam in Geoje and won 3-2. Do you think Eland will break their current losing road streak and make it two wins in a row in Geoje this Sunday?

I remember going to that match in Goeje last season, and that was the one where Joo Min-kyu hit his Joo-mes strike that got him his 15 minutes of fame outside Korea. It was a pretty good open game that ebbed and flowed at times but in the end E-Land were too strong up front for you guys. The other away game in Changwon was a fairly horrible stuffy match that ended 0-0.
My suspicion is that this one is more likely to be like the second game than the first but I don’t know really what to expect from Gyeongnam as you guys seem to be quite unpredictable this season. My suspicion is that this one might end up level, maybe 1-1.

Steve Asks, Matthew Answers

1. After starting on -10 points it looked like Gyeongnam were finding a bit of form and could look to start climbing the table but the revival has come off the tracks slightly in recent weeks. How do you see the season shaping up for you guys?

There was a lot of optimism around the club at the start of the season, even with the points penalty, with new manager Kim Jong-Boo bringing a fresh approach with what was apparently a more attacking philosophy along with some decent transfers. This was welcomed after the defensive approach of last season. Things looked promising early on with two tough 1-0 home wins and a battling 0-0 draw in Daegu. However, even after all the attacking signings of the off season we were still lacking goals. This became plainly apparent when the wheels fell off the momentum a couple of weeks ago in Ansan with the defence shambolic getting destroyed 5-0. It seems we haven't recovered from that smashing, losing two home games since. This game will be very telling I feel for how the rest of the season will go. The coach has made some mistakes in his tactics but seems too stubborn to change this so far. If he can make some tactical adjustments in this game it will give a lot more hope but if he continues to play the team the way he has I don't see Gyeongnam getting anywhere close to the mid-table by seasons end.

2.I was looking forward to seeing Christian Danalache this season but he’s only managed one goal so far and I’m already hearing rumours of a fall-out with the manager. What have you made of him so far and is there a danger of a repeat of the Milos saga?

Christian is the biggest disappointment so far. Not through any fault of his own but due to the tactics the manager plays which are not suited to his game at all. Christian needs it played up to him but Kim insists on him playing the ball on the ground running up with the ball. For anyone who has followed football for any length of time it is obvious that the tactics do not fit the player and it is killing his effectiveness. No wonder there are rumours of a fall-out if he is being forced to play in a way which basically kills the best parts of his game, him scoring goals. It is obvious that he is the best player in the side when he has the ball but it is very frustrating seeing the way he is being used. It amazes me why they bought him in to play for the team when the new manager Kim knew what his tactics would be before he was even signed. As for a comparison with the Milos saga, Christian will be long gone before it even gets to that point. At least Milos scored a few goals.

3. The game is being played in Goeje this time around and it seems that when Gyeongnam travel they get a better support than when they play at ‘home’. Has Changwon fallen out of love with the team?

To be honest it seems the city of Changwon has fallen out of love with the club. I think its a combination of two factors. Firstly the club has been in free fall for a number of years. Gradually worsening results, a relegation, sponsorship problems, a defensive brand of football that is not pretty to watch, as well as some of the scandals that have surrounded the club in recent times contributing to a -10 points start have had a grave effect upon the eroding of support for the club within the city. This has come at the same time as Changwon has seen a Korean baseball league team established within the city with the NC Dinos doing very well getting to the playoffs and capturing the city's sporting imagination (which is the case for other Korean cities as well in the battle of football vs. baseball with baseball well ahead). I cannot see it changing much in the near future. It must be noted though that these 'home' games that are played in other Gyeongnam cities and towns, the football show only comes once or twice a year so it is natural the crowds will be healthier.

4. What can we expect from Gyeongnam on Sunday and what’s your prediction for the game?

On current form I am a little concerned that Eland will be much too good. Up front Gyeongnam seem very weak which is a surprise considering the amount of talent the team has. In defence, this has suddenly become a concern as well but hopefully can be tightened up, especially if club captain Lee Won-Jae can use his organisational skills to good effect (his absence during the Anson game was a direct factor in the drubbing and he was sorely missed. Hopefully, the manager can find a way to utilize Christian better within his system that he insists on using. If not, I can see this going the way of our last two home games with Gyeongnam losing 2-0 or 2-1.

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