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Preview: FC Seoul vs. Seongnam FC

(Hwang Sun-hong is introduced as FC Seoul's new coach, photo from FCSeoul.com)
On Wednesday, FC Seoul will host Seongnam FC at World Cup Stadium.    Currently, Seoul sit in second place, two points behind a Jeonbuk side that refuse to runaway with the league after drawing against sides Incheon United and Gwangju FC.  Seongnam have slipped to sixth place after losing at home on Sunday.  This will be the 27th game that Seoul will play this year, so rather than provide a recap, I will write about somethings that stood out for me on Saturday's loss to Pohang.


1.  Lineup choices doom Seoul to defeat.

(From FCSeoul.com)
As soon as I saw the team that the interim manager named, I knew that Seoul would be in trouble.  I understand the need to rotate and rest Takahagi, but there has to be a better candidate than Lee Seok-hyun to take his place.  Why not move Osmar into the midfield and play Kim Dong-woo as the left side center back?

Maybe then the midfield would have had a bit more steel to it.  Instead, Lee Seok-hyun, Yun Il-lok, and Park Yong-woo were destroyed by Pohang's center midfielders Park Sun-yong and Jo Soo-chul, allowing for Pohang's front three of Shim Dong-woo, Yang Dong-hyeon, and Moon Chang-jin to easily run at Seoul's back line.  From there, defenders lost their shape, minds, and reacted as though the situation were a four-alarm fire.  History repeats itself and Seoul lose again.

However, rather than blaming the players, I am giving this loss to whomever chose the lineup.  I like Yun Il-lok, I really do, but tackling is not what he is known for.  Yun is at best, an attacking midfielder that needs pockets of space to work well in.  He is still learning how to play center mid and needs strong players around him to thrive.  Therefore, why would you pair him with another lightweight Lee Seok-hyun?

Likewise, I think Park Yong-woo is going to be a good DM in the future, but as of now he is too inconsistent and he has been continuously caught out, especially with regards to being overpowered and/or missing tackles.  Park Yong-woo thrived last year when he and Osmar traded off, one playing as the sweeper and the other as the DM and vice versa.  Why not go back to doing that?  As of now, with Ju Se-jong injured and Shin Jin-ho having joined Sangju Sangmu, the midfield is the weakest area and completely lacks substance.  Maybe there would be fewer mistakes defensively if the midfield had more bite, especially if a destroyer like Osmar was patrolling in front of the CBs.

It is probably too early to change formations, but Hwang Sun-hong does like to play a 4-2-3-1 and that might be a worthwhile option to explore if the midfield keeps getting destroyed.  Osmar and Takahagi could line in the double pivot and Yun Il-lok, Yun Ju-tae, and Dejan could line up as the three AMs with Adriano up front.  Of course, one could argue that Seoul will sacrifice defensively since Dejan is a striker, not a midfielder, but Seoul's attack worked best early in the season when Dejan was dropping deep to link up with the midfield (Adriano's goal against Pohang was a result of Dejan dropping deep and knocking on a header).  Therefore, I do not see why this change would not work now.  As losses against Pohang twice and Jeju have shown, Seoul's three CB system has flaws that can be exploited via width and pace.

Also, why is Yoo Hyun starting?  He made some decent saves, but the team fails to perform when he is first choice.  This is just my opinion, but I feel as though the defense does not have confidence in him, and this leads to a shaky back line.  Yoo makes some great reflex saves, but because of his height, he is not very commanding in his box.  As I have mentioned before, I believe that Yoo has lost his confidence and is guessing where the ball will be rather than following his instincts.  On Pohang's second goal, he looked as though he had taken too much Ambien and he had no clue what was going on.  Why does the team insist on running out Yoo Hyun?

Finally, Cho Chan-ho made his first appearance for Seoul this season.  In my Transfer Talk piece, I stated that I think he should be the player to go since he has yet to get on to the field in any capacity, so that has finally changed.  By no means was Cho terrible, but I cannot think of anything memorable that he did on the field either.  That being said, I really hope that Cho gets his shit together and rediscovers his 2013 form, otherwise if our midfield of Yun Il-lok and Lee Seok-hyun starts too many more games, the season might be over soon.

2.  Seoul are destroyed on the counter again.

As of late, this has been a theme that does not seem to be ending any time soon.  Seoul made mistakes and were ruthlessly punished for them on the counter.  In the beginning, such as here, here, here, and here, Seoul were able to overcome these mistakes.  I think the one characteristic they share is how a failure to win a tackle or header led to Seoul's opponent finding acres of space behind the back line.  Eventually, such as here, here, here, here, and here, the mistakes are being ruthlessly punished on the counter and Seoul are starting to lose games they either won or drew in the early season.

Simply put, Pohang were the better team Saturday.  They had eleven shots total, with nine being on target, and were dangerous all night.  The calamity started in the second minute as Park Yong-woo was stripped of the ball and Pohang broke.  Seoul got lucky as the shot was straight to Yoo Hyun.  However, what the hell is Jung In-hwan doing here?

Pohang were not to be deterred though and scored pretty soon two minutes later.  Seoul lost the midfield, Osmar probably should have done better on the tackle, and someone should have probably committed a professional foul.  From there, it was a slide rule pass from Kang Sang-woo for Yang Dong-hyeon to bang in.  Yang turned provider as he easily juked Kim Won-sik and set up Shim Dong-woon to score.  All night long, there was too much space down the wings and Pohang expertly exploited it.  Seoul's shape often went to shit and there was no effort to tackle.  Seoul were lucky to only lose 2-1.  What the hell is with all of the missed headers this year?  Kim Dong-woo and Kim Won-sik have had problems judging the flight of the ball and now Jung In-hwan can add his name to the list.

However, Seoul did have some good moments.  Here is the build-up to the goal.  Dejan wins the ball in the air and Seoul break with authority, something that was missing in the first half as the midfield of Lee Seok-hyun, Yun Il-lok, and Park Yong-woo was dogshit.  Dejan's free kick smacked the bar and Yun Ju-tae's shot over the bar had Shin Hwa-yong stranded on his line.  This was Seoul's best opportunity, but nothing came of it.  Seoul continue to have their moments going forward and on their day, are generally exciting, but unfortunately the team continues to be terrible in the middle and on defense.

3.  FC Seoul cannot beat the Pohang Steelers.

The last time Seoul beat Pohang in a league game was in the beginning of November 2013.  Since winning 2-0 that day, Seoul have drawn three and lost eight.  That is eleven league games without a win, which is just as bad as when Suwon dominated Seoul from 2011 until 2013.  In those eleven games, Seoul have only scored six goals (0.55 per game) while conceding 17 (1.55 per game).

Seoul have done better against Pohang in knockout competition, but two of the four wins have been on penalties and they have only when in regulation once.  So, factoring in their knockout record without penalties, Seoul have won once, drawn six times, and lost eight times, scoring 10 goals and allowing 20.

That is not good enough at any level, but hopefully former Pohang Steelers manager Hwang Sun-hong has an answer.  He could not possibly have been happy with Saturday's display and will want to stamp his input on the team as soon as possible.

FC Seoul's Opponent: Seongnam FC

Last time these two met up, Seoul was in first place and Seongnam were in third.  Since then, both of these teams' fortunes have changed for the negative, but especially Seongnam's.  They now sit precipitously in sixth place, only two points above Pohang and in danger of falling out of the championship round and into the relegation round.  Seongnam have won only once, drawn twice, and lost at three times.  In other words, their form is in the toilet.

In their first ten games, Seongnam won six times, drew twice and lost twice.  They scored first in seven of the ten games, so they could sit back and counter attack thereafter.  Often times, their opponents had much more possession and shots than Seongnam.  Here is a chart below demonstrating this.

Seongnam: Offense vs. Defense

Week
Poss.
Shots
On Goal

Poss.
Shots
On Goal
1
40.64
12
7

59.36
21
9
2
49.27
7
3

50.73
15
9
3
49
10
4

51
18
10
4
45.18
5
4

54.82
10
6
5
48.15
12
6

51.85
19
6
6
49.55
8
5

50.45
18
4
7
47.99
10
4

52.01
21
6
8
45.75
13
9

54.25
19
10
9
43.03
11
7

56.97
17
3
10
48.9
9
6

51.1
14
9
Avg.
46.75
9.7
5.5

53.25
17.2
7.2

When Seongnam were doing well, they did not have much of the ball.  The closest they were ever at 50% was in their week 6 loss to Jeonbuk.  Likewise, their opponents had almost twice as many shots as them in games, but only 41% were on target, where as Seongnam had 58% on target.  In my opinion, this demonstrated Seongnam's desire for quality over quantity and the team did well to take advantage.  After scoring, the team was quite content to sit back and play a bend-but-don't-break defense, ceding possession and allowing shots from long distance.  

As I mentioned above, this strategy worked quite well in the first nine weeks of the season and then in week 10, Seongnam lost Seoul and they have been a bit of a downward spiral since then.  In week 11, they beat Sangju Sangmu 3-2 and the stats with regards to possession and shots corresponded with the average of the first ten weeks.  After week 11, that is when things began to change.  

Seongnam: Offense vs. Defense

Week
Poss.
Shots
On Goal
Poss.
Shots
On Goal
11
40.93
9
4
59.07
17
5
12
55.66
15
9
44.34
12
5
13
51.08
15
9
48.92
21
14
14
52.92
10
6
47.08
10
6
15
53.68
9
2
46.32
11
6
16
51.71
8
5
48.29
16
8
Avg.
51.00
11.00
5.83
49.00
14.50
7.33

In weeks 12 through 16, Seongnam's possession jumped to 53% while their opponents fell to 47%, which is obviously not the direction that a team would want to trend if they are set up to play on the counter.  Likewise, the number of shots that Seongnam average a game has increased slightly while the number they allow has decreased slightly.  Unlike the first ten weeks, where the team scored first 70% of the time, Seongnam have only scored first once in the last six games.  This would mean that they would have to do much more chasing and that is probably something that does not suit the way the team is set up.  I think looking at the statistics of Seongnam's wins bares this out.

Wins for Seongnam: Offense vs. Defense

Week
Poss.
Shots
On Goal

Poss.
Shots
On Goal
1
40.64
12
7

59.36
21
9
3
49
10
4

51
18
10
4
45.18
5
4

54.82
10
6
8
45.75
13
9

54.25
19
10
9
43.03
11
7

56.97
17
3
11
40.93
9
4

59.07
17
5
Avg.
44.09
10
5.83

55.91
17.00
7.17

In the six games they won, Seongnam had less than 45% of the ball and were out shot 70% by their opponents.  In all but the eleventh game, the team scored first and then could be content to sit back and counter.  

Losses for Seongnam: Offense vs. Defense

Week
Poss.
Shots
On Goal
Poss.
Shots
On Goal
6
49.55
8
5
50.45
18
4
10
48.9
9
6
51.1
14
9
12
55.66
15
9
44.34
12
5
14
52.92
10
6
47.08
10
6
16
51.71
8
5
48.29
16
8
Avg.
51.75
10
6.2
48.25
14
6.4

In the five that they have lost, especially their last three games, Seongnam have had the ball for more time than they would have liked.  The average number of shots that Seongnam had on goal has stayed the same, but on goal has increased slightly.  For whatever reason though, Seongnam cannot finish these opportunities.  

Their leading scorer last season, Hwang Eui-jo, has struggled after starting so well.  He has four goals, but has not scored since Seongnam's win over Ulsan, a stretch of seven games.  Seongnam's metronome last year Kim Do-heon has two goal this year, but no assists.  Tiago, on the other hand, has been great for them this year with eleven goals and four assists.  Obviously, he will be the player that Seoul must watch out for.  

Prediction

Who the hell knows?  Seoul seem to be able to win Tancheon Stadium, but they cannot seem to be able to beat Seongnam at World Cup Stadium.  Last year, in the first fixture at Sangam, Seoul were lucky to draw one-all as they were passed off the pitch.  In the second fixture, Park Yong-ji scored the goal of the season against Seoul and Seongnam came away 1-0 winners.  Therefore, based on previous results, along with the recent turmoil that Seoul have experienced with Choi Yong-soo's departure, and the weakened midfield, I am going to predict a draw.  If Seongnam had any sort of form, I would predict that Seoul would lose.  However, I think both of these teams need a result and the game will be a cagey, tense affair, with little space for either attack to prosper.  There will be goals in the game, but they will all come from mistakes.  Which ever team makes the fewest will come out the winner.

Final Score: FC Seoul 2-2 Seongnam FC

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