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Preview and Prediction: FC Seoul vs. Gwangju FC

(World Cup Stadium, from hoonsung.egloos.com)
After Sunday's 3-0 win over Suwon FC, Seoul have two days rest before facing Gwangju FC, who are doing surprisingly well this year.  They have been a formidable opponent against whoever they have faced and Seoul should not expect any thing different Wednesday.  How will Seoul cope with the return of Kim Min-hyeok and, if fit, Jung Jo-gook?  

In the ten games these two teams have contested, Seoul have done quite well by winning seven, drawing twice, and only losing once.  However, two of those draws were last year and this is a much more formidable Gwangju team than the ones that Seoul have faced in years past.  They are very well organized, play some nice one-touch stuff, and are always able to get a timely goal when need be. Gwangju will offer stiff resistance and I can see them catching Seoul out, especially if Seoul are looking ahead to Saturday's Super Match.  After a satisfying victory Sunday night, Choi Yong-soo will have to ensure his team is ready to play Wednesday night.

Recap: Suwon FC 0-3 FC Seoul

My initial reaction to Sunday's victory was that while Seoul were great, Suwon FC are a very poor side right now, and a better team would have scored a goal or two against Seoul's defense.  Still, you can only eat the dinner you are served and Seoul did look good in attack.  After their loss against Jeju United, when they blew a 3-1 lead in the second half, I was quite upset with Seoul's performance and detailed what their problems have been as of late.  Here they are in a short list.

1.  Starting games with very little energy.  

This was my biggest complaint and Choi must have been aware of this, because Seoul came out strongly as soon as the whistle was blown.  In the 6th minute, Osmar and Takahagi did well to press and steal the ball from the Suwon FC player.  It is this sort of energetic, high pressing that has been missing from Seoul's game since Shin Jin-ho left to join Sangju Sangmu.  Adriano did not beat the keeper, but he would six minutes later.

2.  Too many shots on goal.  

I felt as though this was the biggest problem with the defense.  In the first six games of the season, they allowed an average of 2.67 shots on goal.  In the last six, it had jumped 125% to an average of 6 shots on goal per game.

FC Seoul
12 Games (avg.)
1st 6 Games (avg.)
Last 6 Games (avg.)
Diff. (%)
114 (9.5)
45 (7.5)
69 (11.5)
On Goal
54 (4.33)
16 (2.67)
36 (6)

Via kleague.com, here are the statistics from the game.

Seoul conceded more than ten shots, but only three were on target.  That is a much better performance.  I feel quite comfortable when teams are opting to shoot from distance.  If Lee Seung-ryeol hits that shot, I will take may hat off because it would be simply amazing.

3.  Too many mistakes by individuals in defense.  

A minute before Seoul's first goal, Kim Byeong-oh was able to slip attempted tackles from both Osmar and Ko Kwang-min and get into a dangerous crossing position in the box.  To his credit, Kim Won-sik made a good tackle, Osmar recovered the ball and cleared it.  The ball fell nicely to Yun Il-lok, who drove it forward and found Adriano, whose finish was quite good.

Seoul were not perfect in this game, but whenever their was a mistake by a Seoul player, another was there to fix it.  Even though Osmar and Ko Kwang-min failed in tackling Kim Byeon-oh, Kim Won-sik was on hand to clean up.  Here Osmar misses a tackle (bad angle?), but nothing comes of it.  Ko Kwang-min's casual back pass could have cost the team, but Osmar was got in a tackle and the shot went wide.  Kim Won-sik was unable to clear this high ball, but Jung In-hwan did well (or was lucky) to stick a leg in to prevent Suwon FC from scoring.

4.  Poor marking, failure to track late runners into the box, losing their shape, and panic defending. 

I guess these four critiques are the risks of playing a high line and pressing aggressively.  If a team is able to bypass the press, there will be opportunities.  There were not many problems for Seoul in these areas since Suwon FC did not have many chances.  Seoul did well in this instance in recovering after Suwon FC were able to get the ball over the top of the defense.  However, what the hell is Yun Il-lok doing here?  Was he marking Kim Byeong-ho?  Was he expecting Seoul to win the ball and break?  Seoul were lucky that Kim's shot was over the bar.

5.  Yoo Hyun's form has gone into the toilet.  

Yu Sang-hun started while Yoo Hyun sat, so problem solved.

6.  Seoul continue to do well in attack.

Seoul's midfield were great on Sunday as Takahagi scored a goal and Yun Il-lok, while not great at times defensively, was a driving force on offense for the full 90 minutes.  He set up the first goal with his run through the midfield and slipping a through ball in for Adriano to score from.  Here is another example of him getting the ball deep in midfield and doing what he does best, running at the defense here, here, and here.  However, Yun needs to work on his first touch, but his deep runs opened up the field and led to Park Chu-young's goal.

Gwangju FC

As I mentioned earlier, I would say that Gwangju are this year's surprise team.  I thought they would be mired in a relegation battle, but instead they are in the top six.  Gwangju do not score a lot of goals (1.15 per game),  but they do not concede a lot either (1.31 per game).  Even though they have a negative goal differential, Gwangju still find a way to get results.  They have scored twice after 90 minutes (Pohang- 98', Incheon- 91'), twice after 80 minutes (Jeonnam- 83', Suwon Bluewings- 88'), and once after 75 minutes (Jeonbuk- 79') to either win or get a draw.  I believe this resilience demonstrates why they are exceeding expectations this year.

However, even though the team plays well, Gwangju does make mistakes.  For example, in the first match-up between these two teams Seoul were gifted two goals.  For Seoul's first, Gwangju keeper Choi Bong-jin rolled the ball straight to Ko Kwang-min to set up Park Chu-young for an easy score.  For the second, Seoul won a PK as Park Chu-young was chopped down in the box.  From there, Seoul rode their luck and came home with a result that they probably did not deserve.

Even in their last game against Jeju United, Gwangju made mistakes on all three goals.  A couple of missed tackles led to an easy goal for Moon Sung-yun.  Terrible back pass and Hong Joon-ho losing the ball to Marcelo Toscano led to a second for Jeju.  Gwangju did well to come back from being two goals down, but again Kwon Soon-hyung hit a late one from outside the box to help Jeju get all three points.  In  other words, if Seoul's fowards press Gwangju's back line aggressively, there will be opportunities to score.

The player that Seoul need to watch out for is Kim Min-hyeok.  He has great vision, racking up five assists, but his movement is quite good as well.  Seoul's midfielders will need to keep an eye on him or he could get on the score sheet again.  Jung Jo-gook went off in the second half with an injury, so I am not sure if he will play.  If he does not, then Seoul will have dodged a bullet as he has been in great form this year with eight goals already.


I would feel much better about Seoul's chances to get all three points if they had not played on Sunday.  There will be some tired legs tomorrow no matter what and I think Choi had an eye on this game when subbing out Takahagi after 67 minutes.  He waited until 82 minutes passed to remove Adriano, so I think he will play tomorrow night as well.  From there, I am not sure who Choi will name to the starting eleven, but I will take a guess.

The keeper will be Yu Sang-hun again and in defense, I think Kim Dong-woo will start on the right, Park Yong-woo as the sweeper, and Osmar will line up on the left.  One of the wing-backs, Go Yo-han or Ko Kwang-min will rotate out, which means that Kim Chi-woo or Sim Sang-min will get a start.  In the middle, I think it will be Takahagi, Ju Se-jong, and Lee Sang-hyub and up front, Adriano and Park Chu-young.  Of course, I never get this right, so take my prediction with a grain of salt.

I think this will be a tightly contested game and that Seoul's defense will need to be switched on or they will get picked up apart like this again.  Still, on paper, Seoul are the much better team and at home, so they should come away with a victory.  Unfortunately, their home form in the league has been woeful of late, losing two and drawing against the league's worst team even if the standings do not show it, Jeonnam.

If Seoul can start strongly, not let Gwangju get comfortable, then I think Seoul will win, especially if Jung Jo-gook does not play.  If they come out listlessly, expect a shocking first half followed by Seoul valiantly trying to get something back in the second half.  I am going to be optimistic and predict that Seoul come away with all three points.

Final Score: FC Seoul 2-1 Gwangju FC

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