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Writer's Chat: Suwon Bluewings vs Ulsan

On Saturday a very inconsistent Ulsan team make the long journey north to play a consistently frustrating Suwon Bluewings team. Here, K League United columnists Scott and Tim talk about Suwon's inability to hold onto leads and Ulsan's varied form.

First, Tim asks and Scott answers:

Tim: Prior to last week's 2-1 win in the Suwon derby, the Bluewings only had one league win to their name, despite being competitive in all matches so far. What's been the cause of this inability to turn draws into three points?

Scott: This is quite a simple answer. For the first 60 minutes of games Suwon play a very attacking, fast paced game and usually dominate teams. They create a lot of chances but haven't been able to convert a lot of those chances and as such only have slender leads to protect. As a result, in the last third of games Suwon tend to sit back and let other teams attack them. I'm not sure if it is an issue to do with fatigue or if it is a mental thing, but either way, the midifeld tends to drop back 5 yards which prompts the defence to drop back 5 yards, resulting in Suwon mostly playing in and around their penalty area for 20-30 minutes. Of the 19 goals Suwon have conceded this season 17 (90%) have come in the 2nd half of games. That is an alarming figure for any professional football club and one that needs to be rectified if Suwon are to have any hope of claiming that 3rd placed ACL spot.

Suwon's team isn't one that can defend strongly for long periods of time. The players that Seo Jung-won has at his disposal are largely attacking players and a central midfield pairing of Santos and Kwon Chang-hoon is a great example of this. In my opinion, if it is the coaches that are instructing the players to drop deeper in the 2nd half, then it is a huge tactical mistake. Even Suwon's defence doesn't have strong defenders, so to expect that team to defend a lead would be naive. It is an old cliche, but for Suwon, attack is certainly the best method of defence.

Tim: The lack of an out and out striker has been problematic for Suwon this year. Are Kim Gunhee and Cho Donggeon enough to guide the Bluewings back to the top of the table?

Scott: First of all, Cho Dong-geon is a terrible football player and I wouldn't be happy if he was leading the line for my local pub team. That being said, he is an absolute genius because he has been able to con people into paying him to play professional football for a long time. So well done to him.

Secondly, Kim Gun-hee has the potential to be a huge name in Korean football. He's only 6 games into his professional career but it's already clear to see that he has all the attributes needed to play at the top level. He has an unbelievable first touch, which is vital to his role in the Suwon team as he is expected to hold the ball and play it to the midfield. He also has great pace for such a tall man, which he is now beginning to utilise a little more. In the opening games of the season he was very reluctant to do anything other than collect the ball and feed it to another player, but as of late he is starting to be a little more selfish and run at players. Added to this selfish streak is 2 quick and nimble feet and on a couple of occasions this season he has embarrassed and bamboozled defenders. Perhaps the most notable of these occasions was for Suwon's consolation goal against Jeonbuk when he left both Choi Kyu-baek and Lim Jong-eun for dead with a neat turn and then played a great square ball for Yeom Ki-hun to finish. Gun-hee is a young man with a very long way to go in his career but sometimes you just know a diamond when you see it, and Gun-hee could just be Korea's next crown jewel.

Tim: The Bluewings haven't kept one single clean sheet in the league. Why is that? 

Scott: As I have mentioned above, this is often because of they way that they play in the final 3rd of games. They play with a lot of fear and drop back into their own half attempting to maintain their leads. And 90% of the time they just cannot do that because they don't have the necessary types of players to do that.

But also, the Suwon defence make a lot of personal errors that lead to goals. The one defender who commits the majority of these errors is Koo Ja-ryoung and quite astonishingly he has played in more games than any other defender this season. I'm not quite sure why Seo Jung-won continues to keep faith in him because every time he plays he looks likely to make a mistake that will cost his team a goal. He does posses a fair amount of pace, which is great to have when your team is dominating and you play a high line of defence with a lot of space for the opposing team to run into, but when you are defending your own penalty area (as i've said, Suwon tend to do this for the last 20 minutes of games) it is not an attribute that is required. A number of times this season I have been caught screaming at Seo Jung-won to substitute him when we have been attempting to defend a lead, but alas, it never happens.

A lot of the personal errors tend to come from the defence attempting to make incredibly stupid passes into midfield. Min Sang-gi did such a thing last weekend and was responsible for Suwon FC's equaliser in the Suwon derby. After Suwon FC's Kim Byuong-oh had comically taken an air shot and given the ball back to the Suwon defence, Sang-gi (who was having a good game), under no pressure at all, attempted to play the ball into midfield, but instead played it back to Byuong-oh, who then ran at the defender an scored a well taken goal. That was yet another in a number of personal mistakes usually made my the centre backs, but luckily this time it didn't cost Suwon the whole 3 points.

If Suwon are to climb up the table then they really need to start cutting out these mistakes. 

Tim: Do you feel like after the hard fought Suwon derby win, the Bluewings can go on a run in the weeks ahead and start climbing up the table?

In short, yes. Not counting the first 2 weeks of the season, I firmly believe that Suwon have been the 2nd best team in the division and the only thing that has stopped them from being further up the table has been silly mistakes in the last 10-20 minutes of games. I am very proud of the team because pretty much everybody in Korea (including myself) had written them off before a ball had even been kicked at the beginning of the season. But they have played some superb football and at times have looked better than they did last season when they finished in 2nd place.

The last few games Suwon have had some tough fixtures, but the next 3 games see them face off against Ulsan, Pohang and Incheon, and with no disrespect to those teams, they are 3 winnable games for Suwon.

I don't expect Suwon to finish outside of the top 4 this season, I just hope that they can fight Seongnam all the way for that final ACL spot.

Tim: What would you say is Suwon's one greatest weakness this season?

Scott: There's only so many ways I can say this, but the defence is dodgy if you can put the defenders under pressure. As I have said, they regularly make idiotic passes into midfield, rather than just playing safe and sending the balls into the channels. If teams can pressure and hassle the defence than they will get a lot of joy. Sangju and Jeonnam did it to great effect earlier in the season and both teams played very well against Suwon, but since then not a lot of teams have adopted that approach.

The key for Suwon is to try and emulate their attacking and controlled performances that we often see in the first 60 minutes of games, and take that into the latter stages of the game. If they can do that, then success will come.

Predicted Score: Suwon Bluewings 2 - 1 Ulsan

(Tim's answers are yet to come. They will be on the site ASAP)

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