Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Gwangju FC
(Photo courtesy of www.bluewings.co.kr)
After gaining their first league win since the middle of may on Saturday, Suwon look to record back-to-back wins in the league on Wednesday night when they take on an out of form Gwangju side. Seo Jung-won is likely to ring the changes after an exhausting encounter with high flying Jeju at the weekend and with Gwangju claiming a confidence inspiring last minute equaliser against the Champions this game is evenly poised.
Just as Suwon's opponents at the weekend, Jeju, had taken the K League by storm this season, Gwangju have equalled that fete, if not caused more shocks. The perenial strugglers were almost relegated last season after a very poor campiagn but have come back much stronger this season amassing a total of 20 points from 16 games, an impressive statistic when you consider they only claimed 42 points in the whole of last season.
Gwangju's improvement has been due to their much improved defensive record. Whereas last season they shipped goals for fun, this season they have only conceded more than 1 goal in a game on 7 occasions, and 4 of those games came in the first month of the season as the team was still begining to settle. Gwangju play in a very conservative manner, inviting teams to attack them and then looking to break quickly. They don't score a lot of goals, but their defensive approach is, so far, working for them and they have drawn many positive comments from followers for their improved performances.
Gwangju's undoubted star of the season has been Jung Jo-gook. The veteran striker is currently having the best season of his career blasting 10 goals in 16 games. The big striker doesn't tend to get involved in the game much, but when the ball has fallen to him he has taken his chances well, and his goals have been one of the catalysts for Gwangju's improvement this season. Suwon's back 3 will need to marshall him well and look to cut off any supply to him at source.
Although Gwangju have performed admirably this season, as of late, their form has significantly dipped, and they haven't won a game since they beat Suwon FC over a month ago. Losses to Jeju and Seoul, along with draws against Jeonbuk and Seongnam have seen them drop down the table and Suwon will feel that now is as good a time to meet them.
Some people may disagree with me, but I classed Saturday's win against Jeju as Suwon's best performance of the season. Whilst only retaining 40% of the possesion in the game they managed to limit a very strong Jeju team to 3 shots on target, all of which were very tame efforts that barely registered a save from the goalkeeper. At the other end of the field, Suwon looked sharp, alert and counter attacked very well. They registered 12 shots on target and hit the woodwork twice in the game. It wasn't the free-flowing football that people may expect from a Suwon team, but it was what was needed. There are many different ways to win a game of football and Suwon executed their new more conservative approach to near perfection. The only blot on their copybook was Yeom Ki-hun's refusal to play his position appropriately. Again, he drifted far too wide when he should be playing much narrower and closer to Kim Gun-hee, the main striker. Towards the end of the 2nd half when Ki-hun began to float around the pitch a little more Suwon looked more threatening on the counter attack and this is something that the veteran midfielder needs to start doing more of.
With a tough away trip to Ulsan on Saturday coming up, I expect Seo Jung-won to make some changes on Wednesday in order to save the legs of some players. Lee Jung-soo has been a rock in defence over the last 2 months but at his age he struggles to complete 2 games in a week and so I would expect him to drop out of the team and for living legend Kwak Hee-ju to come take his place at centre back. Also, with Yang Sang-min having only just returned from injury I wouldn't expect him to be able to complete two games in a week, and so he will most likely be replaced by Jang Oh-ik at left wing-back. I would also like to see Cho Won-hee come out of the team and for Go Seung-beom to be given another chance in his preferred central midfield role. He offers bags of energy and that may be something we need against a stubborn Gwangju defence.
I expect the formation to remain the same, as performances and results have improved since Seo Jung-won switched to 3 centre-backs. However, I do expect Suwon to take much more of an attacking approach to the game than they did against Jeju. As the home team, playing against a defensively minded team, the onus will be upon the Suwon players to come out and attack and they will need bodies forward in the Gwangju half if they are to break down one of the better defences in the K League.
It could be a long and frustrating night but I expect Suwon to just edge this one and record their first back-to-back wins in the league since 2015.
Prediction: Suwon Bluewings 1 - 0 Gwangju FC