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Preview and Prediction: FC Seoul vs. Jeju

(Good Times!  Seoul celebrate in 2010 after beating Jeju for the league Championship, from FCSeoul.com)
Most teams, with the exception of FC Seoul, Jeju United, Jeonbuk, Gwangju FC, and Seongnam, will enjoy a week off.  Seongnam, hopefully enjoyed a weekend training in Taebeak San, Jeonbuk and Gwanju played on Saturday, and FC Seoul and Jeju meet up on Monday at Sangam World Cup Stadium for a 5:50 kick-off.  

Seoul vs. Jeonnam

After last week's dispiriting draw against Jeonnam, I have avoided writing anything about Seoul.  Statistically, Seoul were the better team, having had the ball for nearly 60% of the time and having more shots (14 vs. 10) and ones on goal (7 vs. 2) than Jeonnam.  However, I would argue that Jeonnam deserved a point from this game.

Jeonnam came out of the blocks strong and Orsic's snap shot from outside the box in the 7th minute should have served as a warning.  It felt like there was a bit of a fugue state after their epic PK win over Urawa on the Wednesday night before.  So, in the 10th minute, after stopping a Seoul move on the edge of their box, Jeonnam's Kim Young-woo broke with pace and purpose running through weak Seoul tackles.  The danger seemed adverted though with a Kim Won-sik trip, but a bad Osmar back pass resulted in an own goal and a 1-0 lead for Jeonnam.

It was a terrible way to start the game and initially, I blamed Yu Sang-hun for the goal because I thought he was too casual.  Now, I think it is Osmar's fault since he put the ball in area nowhere near the keeper.  Maybe it was a communication mix-up, but these are not mistakes that teams with championship aspirations should be making.

Even after being down 1-0, Jeonnam often times seemed to be the more dangerous team.  Their left winger Lee Ji-min was a continuous danger, roasting Seoul's right CB Kim Nam-chun, and making him appear to be the hapless defender I have always suspected him to be.  It was at this point that I concluded that Seoul's summer singing Jung In-hwan  must be absolute shit if Choi Yong-soo continually picks KNC ahead of him.  Kim was dire in the first half of that game and Jeonnam obviously knew it since they continually attacked down Seoul's right side.  If not for some poor finishing and the good defensive work by Go Yo-han, Seoul could have been easily down by more than a goal.

Seoul did draw even in the 41st minute and it was from the boot of Osmar, who stepped up to take the free kick and sweetly thumped it into the net.  Even though Osmar hit his free kick well, I would agree with Ryan that the goal was as much down to Jeonnam's incompetence.  The wall had a large gap and the keeper did not react very well to stop it.  Based on this, it is evident why Jeonnam drop so many points during games even though they have stretches where they play quite well.

I was worried that Seoul would not be able to replace Molina's delivery on set pieces and to an extent it has been true.  Seoul continue to struggle to score on corner kicks, having only put one in the back of the net this year during league play.  It could be the delivery of the kicks, but it is probably more to do with the personnel that Seoul employ.  Adriano, Dejan, and Park Chu-young can head the ball, but I would not say any of the three are known for their aerial prowess.  Likewise, the same can be said for Takahagi, Ju Se-jong, and whomever fills the third spot in Seoul's midfield.

Nonetheless, they are doing quite well on free kicks as that is their fourth one this year and all of them have been scored by a different player.  If you watch the clip in the GIF, it is interesting how many players are initially around the ball.  Go Yo-han, Park Chu-young, and Osmar huddle over who should take it initially until Go backs away.  Most people, Lee Ho-seung included, expected Park Chu-young to have a go but instead Osmar hit it.  I think the ability of different players to hit set pieces, particularly ones that you would not expect to do so such as Dejan, has made Seoul more dangerous in this area since it is difficult to know who will take the kick.

Seoul had some great chances to win the game, but unfortunately bad luck and bad finishing conspired to keep the score 1-1.  That being said, Seoul's high line almost came back to bite them in the ass as the speed and interplay between Orsic and Jugovic nearly opened them up twice end as Jeonnam had a great chance to steal all three points in the but Orsic's shot hit the top of the net.

(Lee Keun-ho joining Jeju United- from kleagueunited.com)
Jeju United in 2016

Jeju currently sit in 6th place after losing at home last week to Ulsan and Gwangju winning a point from their home draw against Jeonbuk.  They are tied with FC Seoul for the league lead in goals at 22, but 8 of the goals they have scored have been in two games (5 against Suwon FC and 3 against Jeonnam).  They average under 50% in possession, but lead the league in average shots taken.

With departure of Yoon Bit-garam to China and Lopes to Jeonbuk, it was expected that Jeju would be weaker in attack this year, but that has not been the case and I would say they are better so far.  Lopes' replacement, Marcelo Toscano has four goals already and new signing Lee Keun-ho has chipped in with two goals as well.  Up front, they have Kim Hyun who stands at 190 CM and is always lends an element of danger any time he is in the box.  Finally, midfielder Song Jin-hyung has four goals for Jeju and is one of the K-League's Best Eleven (h/t to Nicole Cheng) so far this season.

Defensively, Jeju have conceded 15 goals this year, but their is talent in their back line.    At 193 CM, Lee Kwang-seon is like an oak tree and a savvy pick up from Avsipa Fukoka.  Lee too has been named as one of the K-League's Best Eleven and has three goals to his name already, demonstrating how much of a danger he can be on set pieces.  Providing many of the kicks for these set pieces is Jeong Woon, who has three assists already and has also made the K-League's Best Eleven.

In other words, Jeju has a lot of talent and their ability to utilize their speed and height makes them a dangerous opponent.  Seoul have never lost a league game at home to a Jeju team, but that streak could come to an end on Monday.

(Image from yonhapnews.co.kr)
FC Seoul in 2016

This has been a good season for Seoul so far.  They are challenging for the K-League title and are through to the quarter finals of the ACL.  They have had some disappointments such as their losses against Jeonbuk and Pohang, but have rebounded nicely each time.  I expect this trend continue.

Having played what feels like a game every three to four days, Seoul seem to be a tired team as of late.  Jeonbuk have had the same schedule, but unlike Jeonbuk, Seoul does not have their squad depth.  Jeonbuk's manager Choi Kang-hee, employing what Matthew Binns has described as being "Roster Roulette" when rotating the squad, seems to have his team peaking at the right time.  Supporters of Choi Kang-hee will laud his genius, but I think all of his chopping and changing could have backfired and cost them, especially in the ACL.

Likewise, Jeonbuk the K-League's Cobra Kai, have been the beneficiaries of quite a bit of good luck this year.  Here are some examples:

  1. Adriano's inability to finish in the first game.
  2. The ball probably crossing the line in the Ulsan game.
  3. Were out played by Jeju at home.
  4. Leonardo's deflected free kick against Seongnam.
  5. Shin Se-gye's red card in the Suwon game (which was absurd, but sort of funny).
  6. A last minute win against Jeonnam (great goal though).
  7. Lee Yong's red card for a phantom foul in the Sangju Sangmu game.
  8. Jung Jo-gook hitting the bar at the end in the Gwangju game.
Eventually, I hope, the breaks that have gone their way will catch up to them and with that, Jeonbuk's form will falter.  However, I do agree with Matthew Binns about the "tired cliche" of champions winning games even when they do not play well being true.  Jeonbuk have shown the mental fortitude to overcome challenges even when things have not clicked for them.  

However, so have Seoul and even though they do not have the same size of squad that Jeonbuk does, they have the ability.  Adriano is a wonderful striker and Dejan, with some rest, will hopefully return to his early season form.  Park Chu-young has embraced the role of super-sub and has four goals to his name already.  Takahagi might have not made the cut the Japanese national team (h/t again, Nicole Cheng via 0Nicole0_), but Ju Se-jong scored his first goal for the Korean national team even though they were destroyed 6-1.  Osmar continues to play well and the back line, for the amount of grief that I have given them, is still the best in the K-League as Seoul allow opponents only 4 shots on target per game.  

It is evident though, in my opinion, that Seoul miss Shin Jin-ho and that it is urgent they sign another midfielder who is similar to him in quality.  The drop-off has been minimal, but I feel as though Seoul do not press their opponents as well since his departure to Sangju Sangmu. This, I believe, has had a knock-on effect in other areas for Seoul with regards to how the team starts and the early goals they have allowed.  For example, against the Suwon Bluewings, Pohang Steelers, the first leg versus Urawa Reds, and Jeonnam, Seoul have conceded before 20 minutes was even finished.  

That being said, I am going to go really far back in history and cite as precedent Aston Villa's title win in 1981.  That year, they played 42 games and only used 14 players.  Hopefully, Seoul can do the same this year.  

(Lee Kwang-seon scores the winner in the 88th minute against Ulsan, from koreajoongangdaily.joins.com)
By the Numbers

FC Seoul’s Attack Vs. Jeju Utd.’s Defense

FC Seoul Attack
Jeju United Defense
Possession (avg.)
Possession (avg.)
Shots (avg.)
Shots (avg.)
On Goal (avg.)
On Goal (avg.)
Corners (avg.)
Corners (avg.)
Free Kicks (avg.)
Free Kicks (avg.)

Seoul average a lot of possession while Jeju like to concede it.  The Jeju defense concedes more than 10 shots a game, which is good for the Seoul offense since they like to shoot the ball.

Jeju United’s Attack Vs. FC Seoul’s Defense

Jeju United Attack
FC Seoul Defense
Possession (avg.)
Possession (avg.)
Shots (avg.)
Shots (avg.)
On Goal (avg.)
On Goal (avg.)
Corners (avg.)
Corners (avg.)
Free Kicks (avg.)
Free Kicks (avg.)

As with possession, for the Seoul offense and Jeju defense, the same holds true for Jeju's attack and Seoul's defense.  Jeju average the most shots per game while the Seoul defense concede the fewest, so it will be interesting to see how each team tries to work the other out in this area.  I would say one area of alarm for the Seoul defense is the number of free kicks they concede.  Jeju are strong at set pieces, so the defense must not concede 17 to them in this game or there is a danger that the Tangerines will score.

Dejan dances after scoring against Ulsan, from SPOTV via youtube.com)

This ended up being more about Seoul that any analysis about Jeju, so the title is a bit of a misnomer. However, as I mentioned earlier, Jeju are one of the best attacking teams in the K-League and they utilize their speed and height well.  Seoul's defensive trio, who most likely will be Kim Dong-woo, Kim Won-sik, and Osmar, will have their hands full.  I expect that Seoul's DM, Park Yong-woo, will have to put in a shift in the back as well.

In the midfield, Seoul will miss Ju Se-jong, who is playing for the national team.  I am not sure who will take his place, maybe Yun Il-lok again, but Takahagi should play and one of those two will have to keep an eye on Song Jin-hyung.  I think in this area both teams are fairly even, so whoever plays up front for Seoul and Jeju will most likely be the difference makers.  With regards to Seoul, Choi Yong-soo will most likely start with Adriano and Dejan, but I am not sure who Cho Sung-hwan will go with.

(Jeju (red) vs. Incheon United (blue), from kleague.com)
Generally, Jeju line up in 4-2-3-1 with wingers splitting out wide like in this image above.

(Gwanju FC (red) vs. Jeju United (blue), from kleague.com)
Sometimes, Jeju also line up in a 4-2-3-1, but the wingers are really close to the striker and two defensive midfielders as seen in the image above.  There is some variation in where the players start, but the formation has been pretty much the same for 10 of the 11 games they have played- 4 in the back, two holding mids, two wingers, and a striker.

(Suwon FC (red) vs. Jeju United (blue), from kleague.com)
However, Cho chose to change his formation to a 5-3-2/3-3-2-2(?) in the game against Suwon FC (image above) and I think this is what he will do on Monday as well.  He will want to have three CBs to mark Adriano and Dejan and I think he will also want to utilize Marcelo Toscano and Lee Keun-ho as a tandem to test Seoul's back line.  That being said, I am often wrong about these things and Cho could decide to try and beat Seoul by going after Seoul's wing-backs by overloading on one side through his wingers and full backs.

One other thing that Jeju has done that I find interesting is how they move Song Jin-hyung around.  In the second and seventh games, he started out as one of the holding midfielders.  In the fourth and sixth games, he took up a position on the right side of the midfield.  In all of the other games but the first, when he did not start, Son played in the hole right behind the striker.

In sum, both of these teams can score goals, which should lead to an open and exciting contest with lots of goals to be expected.  Unfortunately, expectations are rarely met in these types of contests and instead, I think it will be a tight contest as there will be little space to operate in the center of the midfield.  Therefore, whoever utilizes their wide players the best will come out on top.

If Seoul score first, I expect that they will win the game, but if they concede in the first twenty minutes then a draw or loss is on the cards.  I think Ju Se-jong's absence will be felt and that Seoul will be lucky enough to labor to a draw, but somehow they find another gear and steal a win.

Final Score: FC Seoul 2-1 Jeju United

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