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Preview and Prediction: Suwon FC vs. FC Seoul

(How I felt after Monday's game.  Image from indiatimes.com)
After being punched in the gut by Jeju United, Seoul are back in action this Sunday at 19:00.  They travel to take on the winner of the K-League Challenge play-offs, Suwon FC at the Suwon Sports Complex.  

The last time these two teams had met, both were doing quite well in the league.  Seoul had not lost a match since their opening fixture in Jeonbuk and Suwon FC were sitting in 6th place.  Since that game, both have struggled and their league position has suffered for it.  In my preview of that game, I worried about fatigue being a factor for Seoul and that the contest would end up a draw.  Instead, Shin Jin-ho went out with a bang, scoring a free kick and setting up Dejan's goal as Seoul ran out of the stadium 3-0 winners.  From there, Shin Jin-ho departed, joining Sangju Sangmu to complete his military service, and Seoul's league form has begun to slowly unravel ever since.  Here is a table demonstrating this dip.

FC Seoul
12 Games (avg).
First 6 (avg.)
Last 6 (avg.)
Diff. (%)
Goals For
25 (2.08)
14 (2.33)
11 (1.83)
Goals Against
16 (1.33)
4 (0.67)
12 (2.0)

Based on these simple statistics, it is evident that their form has tailed off a bit on offense as their scoring has decreased by 20% with Shin's departure.  What really stands out is how Seoul's defense has gone into the toilet.  According to the percentage calculator, Seoul defense has allowed an increase of 200% in goals scored in the last six league games they have played.  Take away the Jeju result and the increase in the first five games after Shin's departure is still very high at 100%.

It was probably going to be impossible to keep their sterling defensive record that they had established in the first six games.  However, in the understatement of the year, it is evident that something is wrong with the defense since there has been a significant difference between the first six games and the last six games for Seoul.  Obviously, there are other factors besides Shin Jin-ho's departure.  The easiest one that springs to mind is fatigue.

In the beginning of the season, the club started games by pressing their opponent with authority, but as the season has progressed this aggression has tapered off.  Now Seoul often start games slowly, letting opponents dictate the pace and have found themselves trailing in four of their last five games. Additionally, individual mistakes have crept into the team's game and these are the biggest reasons why Seoul is no longer in first place. I am not sure who is to blame- the keepers, the defense, the midfield, or the forwards.  However, let's start with the easiest position to spot mistakes.

Goal Keepers

I will compare how Yoo Hyun and Yu Sang-hun have done in the first six league games and the last five.  I have omitted the seventh game against Ulsan because Yoo Hyun started, but was yanked after a first half full of futility.  Yu Sang-hun came in and the Seoul defense allowed 10 shots on goal, but I do not know how many each keeper stopped.  However, I digress.

Yoo Hyun played in four of the first six games and Yu Sang-hun started two others.  Here are the results.

First 6 Games
Shots on Goal
Shots Conceded
Pct. Of Shots Saved
Yoo Hyun
Yu Sang-hun

Based on the number of shots that Seoul's opponents have had on goal, I divided that into the number of goals the defense have allowed, and that is how I came up with the percentage of shots saved. Obviously, this is an estimate because maybe some other factor besides the keeper's skills stopped the ball from going into the goal.  Nonetheless, I still think this shows how well the keepers, especially Yoo Hyun, were doing in the first six games.  To save 80% of the shots on target shows a high level of competency in my opinion.  

However, it all started to go to shit for Yoo Hyun in the Ulsan game as he became Yoo Howler.  He made the simple look complicated and failed to punch two balls out of the box, with the second leading to a goal.  Since then, Yu Sang-hun has started three games while Yoo Hyun has started two.  Here are the results of the last five league games.  

Last 5 Games
Shots on Goal
Shots Conceded
Pct. Of Shots Saved
Yoo Hyun
Yu Sang-hun

I do not know what the hell the problem is with Yoo Hyun, but it is evident that something is wrong.  Against Seongnam he was responsible for two more clangers and even though he made some very good saves against Jeju on Monday, I would still say he showed poor form by flapping and missing the ball to gift Jeong Yeong-chung an easy header.  As the last line of defense, it is imperative that he at least gets a hand on that ball.  That being said, it is unfair to place all of the blame at Yoo Hyun's hands and feet.

Yu Sang-hun has been up and down at times, having a role in the own goal against Jeonnam and for whatever reason he has not gained the complete trust of the manager.  Yu is young, but he has shown a propensity to come up big when it matters, so I think he should be the first choice as Seoul's keeper. Hopefully the Jeju game will have convinced Choi of this as well.


Of course, shots on goal is not a great metric to rate keepers or defenders since it does not give an indication of the shot's quality.  Based on the statistics at kleague.com, here is a table of how teams are doing defensively in the K-League.

K-League Classic: Defensive Statistics
Team (GA per game)
Shots (avg.)
On Goal (avg.)
Pct. On Target
FC Seoul (1.33)
114 (9.5)
52 (4.33)
Gwangju FC (1.17)
114 (9.5)
59 (4.92)
Suwon FC (1.5)
129 (10.75)
66 (5.5)
Jeonbuk (1.17)
129 (10.75)
73 (6.08)
Incheon United (1.58)
137 (11.42)
68 (5.67)
Suwon Bluewings (1.75)
137 (11.42)
76 (6.33)
Sangju Sangmu (2.08)
142 (11.83)
70 (5.83)
Jeonnam (1.5)
149 (12.42)
66 (5.5)
Pohang Steelers (1.08)
149 (12.42)
73 (6.08)
Jeju Utd. (1.5)
151 (12.58)
72 (6.0)
Ulsan (1.08)
155 (12.92)
83 (6.92)
Seongnam (1.17)
191 (15.92)
83 (6.92)

Ulsan and Pohang have allowed the fewest goals this year, hence they have the best goals against (GA) average.  Seoul and Gwangju have allowed the fewest shots in a game and they have both the fewest on goal.  However, if we look a percentage of shots on target, Seongnam has the lowest with only 43% on target.  So, nothing definitive can be said about any teams based on these limited stats.

However, the more shots a team allows, the greater the eventuality is that one of those will go in. One could say that, based on the number of shots allowed per game, that Seoul's defense is doing quite well.  This would have been true of the team's performance in the first six games of the season.  Here is a table comparing the first six games versus the last six games for Seoul.

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)

As you can see, the number of shots the defense allowed increased by 53% in the last six games, which is a lot, but what really stands out is the number of shots that are on target.  Based on the percentage calculator, the number of shots that the defense has allowed on target is up by 125%.  I think this demonstrates how much Seoul's back line has deteriorated with regards to their performances in the last six games.

Again, how much of this is down to Seoul's CBs is debatable.  Yoo Hyun has made some notable gaffs lately, which serves to lessen confidence in him.  Likewise, whenever Go Yo-han bombs forward, it leaves the back line open to counters and Seoul have been put to the sword for it against Urawa at home (Lee's first goal) and Jeju United (Kim Ho-nam's header to tie the game at 3).  This is not to single out Go, who has been Seoul's best player as of late, but to just give an example of the flaws when playing a 3-5-2 formation.

Midfield and Forwards

How many mistakes are occurring because of the midfield?  I see midfielders such as Takahagi choosing inopportune times to try and win the ball or failing to track the runners into the box.  This puts undue pressure on the CBs, which has led to a greater increase in scoring chances for Seoul's opponents and goals.  I think this is the area where the team misses Shin Jin-ho the most.  His departure has had the knock-on effect as squad players are now getting more opportunity than they should.

Park Yong-woo, Lee Seok-hyun, Lee Sang-hyeob, and Yun Il-lok are all the future of team and deserve playing time, but none seem ready to grasp their opportunity.  While demonstrating their potential, they have also made mistakes, which is why they should not be mainstays in the first 11.  Right now, I bet Choi Yong-soo wishes that he had not let Kim Min-hyeok depart.  For Gwangju FC, he has 4 assists already and is a big reason why they are in 6th place right now.  Imagine how well he would have done slotting into Shin's place.

Osmar, as Miroslav pointed out, is probably best suited for the DM role.  However, as demonstrated against Pohang and Urawa in the frst leg of their ACL fixtures, the team suffers defensively when he is moved up because he has locked down the left side of the field this season.  Kim Nam-chun, as he has shown time and time again, is not an adequate substitute and Jung In-hwan and Cho Chan-ho must be absolute shit if Choi Yong-soo will not let them get a sniff of the pitch.  Otherwise, there is no reason why they should not have played at this point.  I think Choi Yong-soo has done a decent job rotating players for the most part, but his handling of Dejan is not one of them.

He started the season quite well as the deep-lying forward, helping to make the offense click by coming short for the ball and looking to feed Adriano.  Now, after heavy use, Dejan looks tired and there is nothing to be gained by playing him for the first 45 minutes to see if he has got it or not.  It is a terrible strategy and Dejan should be rotated, especially against lesser competition, more frequently. In games against weaker teams, Dejan should be on the bench and only play 20-30 minutes if necessary.   Both Park Chu-young and Yun Ju-tae are more than adequate to take his place and should have more starts than they do. Unfortunately, the manager makes choices that seem to befuddle at the best of times.

Championship Ambitions or Happiness with the Top Three

Despite Choi Kang-hee's best efforts, let me be the first to congratulate Jeonbuk on their third title in the row.  They were made to sweat for it as it took 12 games this time, but Jeonbuk are finding their form and the breaks are going for them.  I pissed and moaned about their luck previously, but when it comes down to it champions make the breaks for themselves and Jeonbuk have been ruthless in seizing these opportunities.  Seoul, if they continue to play this way, will have no chance of winning the title.  I cannot see how they will rectify their situation either unless there is a renewed focus, from top to bottom, on defense.

As of now, if I were Choi Yong-soo I would be worried about finishing in the top 3 and qualifying for the ACL.  Seongnam are a very formidable side, despite losing at home to Incheon, and can match Seoul.  Jeju demonstrated their potency on Monday by putting four past Yoo Hyun and when their attack is clicking, they are probably the scariest team in the K-League.  Even though Ulsan struggled in the beginning, they have showed promise throughout the season and finally the results are beginning to go their way.  Their front three of Kovacec, Kim Seung-jun, and Kim Tae-hwan are as good as any other team's attack right now and I could see them pushing for a top three spot.

Suwon FC: A Brief History

The story of Suwon FC is pretty great.  They started out as a semi-pro club in 2003, but eventually became a professional team in 2012.  Three years later the team won the K-League Challenge playoff and are now in the Classic.  I think it is great because that is some shit that happens in FIFA video games, not in real life. It is like when I decide to play as Morecambe FC and the team got promoted from League 2 all the way up to the Premier League.  Eventually after six or seven seasons, my computer guys end up winning the Champions League as well.   I really do hope that Suwon FC beat the drop this year, but not at the expense of FC Seoul this weekend.

Suwon FC: 2016

As of now, Suwon FC sit in 10th place having only won twice this season.   Suwon FC, like Seoul, started the season well enough with one win, and four draws.  In the sixth game, they were beaten 3-0 and since then, have lost four of their last six matches.  Here is a table comparing their first six games and their last six games.

Suwon FC
12 Games (avg.)
First 6 (avg.)
Last 6 (avg.)
Diff. (%)
Goals For
10 (0.83)
5 (0.83)
5 (0.83)
Goals Against
18 (1.5)
7 (1.17)
11 (1.83)

Statistically, there is not much difference between the first and last six games.  They have scored the same amount of goals in the last six as they did in the first six games and also conceded only four more goals as well.  Yet, their record has been much worse in their last six games.

For whatever reason, Suwon FC struggle to score goals.  From what I have seen, it looks as though Suwon FC like to get up and down the field and shoot the ball.  Unfortunately for them, it has not led to great results.  In every game Suwon FC have played but two, against FC Seoul and Gwangju FC, they have had more than 10 shots, but only 47% are on target.  It seems as though many of these are probably outside the box, which have little likelihood of going in.  If they had been promoted last year, I do not think their inability to score would be that significant since most teams had the same problem.  However, I think that is going to hurt them this year since most teams have improved scoring-wise and there has been an increased premium put on scoring goals by the K-League itself.

Defensively, the team is not that great either.  This year, Suwon FC have only kept three clean sheets and those were against bottom feeders Pohang, Jeonnam, and Incheon.  In their five losses, they have allowed an average of 2.8 goals, so when Suwon FC lose, they lose badly.

In sum, I would say that Suwon FC are not a good team right now.  Their form is poor and besides a solitary 1-0 win over the worst Pohang team in five years, Suwon FC have been an abject side over the last seven weeks.  Scoring only four goals (0.8 per game) while allowing 14 (2.8) is a recipe for relegation and if Jeonnam and/or Incheon ever begin to improve their form, Suwon FC could be in real trouble.

By the Numbers

FC Seoul Attack
Suwon FC 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.)

With over 15 shots a game, Seoul demonstrate a propensity for shooting the ball a lot.  Suwon FC seem like they will be obliging hosts since they concede over 10 shots a game.  Keeper Park Hyung-soon had better be on his toes this Sunday.  

Suwon FC 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.)

Suwon FC shoot a lot, but get very little in the way of success.  Seoul's defense, while statistically still look good, have been terrible these last six weeks.  Maybe this is the game that will allow for Seoul to regroup and reassert themselves defensively.  If ever there is a time that Seoul should come away with a clean sheet from the game, it is now.  

FC Seoul: Where the Goals Come From
How Scored
Goals (%)
In the Box
14 (56%)
Outside the Box
3 (12%)
Open play
17 (68%)
1 (4%)
Free Kicks
4 (16%)
3 (12%)

Most of, not surprisingly, are from open play.  Interestingly enough, Seoul are the only team in the K-League classic to not have a goal scored from a header.  

Suwon FC: Where the Goals Come From

How Scored
Goals (%)
In the Box
8 (80%)
Outside the Box
0 (0%)
Open play
8 (80%)
Free Kicks
1 (10%)
1 (10%)

Any success that Suwon FC have had offensively has been inside the box.  They have yet to score from a shot outside the box and just like Seoul, Suwon FC are bad at scoring from headers.  They have had only one headed goal this year, which was Lee Sung-hyun's winner against Pohang.  


Suwon FC have tended to play in a 4-3-3 and I do not see this changing at all.  FC Seoul, on the other hand, have lined  up in a 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation and I do see that changing either.  It will be interesting to see how Suwon FC's manager will choose to attack Seoul when they have the ball.  Will they try and overload on the wings, taking advantage when Seoul's wing-backs bomb forward, or control the middle of the pitch?  Ju Se-jong is back for Seoul, so maybe the midfield for Seoul will not be as weak as it was on Monday.  

I am not sure who will play for Suwon FC.  Their striker Marvin Ogunjimi is certain to cause the Seoul back line problems, but he has not played since the Suwon Derby.  Is he one of the injured players that Miroslav was talking about in his Power Rankings?  

For Seoul, I expect that Choi Yong-soo will name a strong side.  Here is who I think will play Sunday.

I am not sure who will be the sweeper.  Kim Won-sik did not have a good game, but I think he is better in this position than Park Yong-woo.  Nonetheless, I could see Choi dropping him to the bench since he has been quite ruthless with players under performing this year.  

Seoul really need to win this game if they want to retain their fanciful notion as a championship contender and they should win this game.  Suwon FC have been poor as of late and leaking goals.  If Seoul cannot win this game, then questions need to be asked of their manager and the team as a whole.  I do not think this is going to be a very good game for the neutrals to watch.  Neither side has been very good since their last meeting, so I think the result will be predicated on who makes the fewest mistakes.  I think Seoul will focus on playing good defense more than attacking, but because they have more quality, will come away with a close win.  

Final Score: Seoul 1-0 Suwon FC

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