Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Incheon United
(Photo courtesy of http://sports.donga.com)
K League Classic returns from it's mini-break with a number of intriguing battles in what promises to be a thrilling weekend of Korean football. The Seongnam vs Jeonbuk game is probably the standout game on the calendar but this encounter, an early season relegation 'six pointer' throws up a number of exciting prospects. We will see the league's worst attack (Incheon) play the league's 2nd worst defence (Suwon) in a game that surely promises goal.
In my own personal opinion, Incheon have been the worst team in the K League this season. Jeonnam are very close behind in 2nd place, but Jeonnam's deficiencies have mainly been caused by tactical ineptitude rather than a distinct lack of quality, which has been Incheon's downfall. Boasting the worst attack in the league and the 3rd leakiest defence, it's difficult to find any ray of light for Incheon supporters.
However, Incheon will be looking to capitalize upon their away win at Seongnam last weekend and claw their way up the table whilst sinking Suwon straight into danger.
Last week saw Incheon abandon the tiki-taka football that Kim Do-hoon has favoured this season and instead opt for a more functional and direct style of football, a tactic which ultimately paid off. They sat deep and defended as a unit around their penalty area, mainly limiting Seongnam's potent attack to a handful of pot-shots. When they did have the ball they didn't really muster any decent attacking football until the 79th minute when the ball fell kindly to Kevin Oris and the big frontman finished expertly from 20 yards. It was a perfect away performance and the kind of backs to the wall football that will be required from Incheon throughout the season if they are to escape the dreaded trap door.
It's been a miserable campaign for Incheon thus far, but if they can repeat their performance from last week then back-to-back wins (for the first time this season) might just be achievable.
For the past couple of months I have been praising Suwon's performances and bemoaning the lack of luck that they have recieved, whilst also stating on a number of occasions that their position in the table is a false one. But after the abysmal performance at home to Ulsan (2-4 loss) and conceding yet another injury time goal away at Pohang (drawing 2-2) I think it is time for me to start conceding that maybe this Suwon team is not built to challenge in the upper echelons of the K League.
The main reason for this is the absolute imbalance in the squad. The forward positions are filled with quality in abundance with the likes of Yeom Ki-hun, Kwon Chang-hoon, Lee Sang-ho, Santos, Ko Cha-won and rising star Kim Gun-hee. I think most of these players would walk into most K League teams starting line-ups and add the new addition of Johnathan to that list and it's a pretty frightening forward line.
On the flip side, however, there is hardly any quality in the Suwon defence with possibly only Yang Sang-min gaining any credibility this season. The centre back area is particularly one cause of concern and Seo Jung-won is yet to find his preferred pairing, instead opting for constant rotation which breeds constant confusion. The defence has a lot of experience but has no pace to it at all which is concerning for a team that tactically holds a very high backline.
Added to the weak defence and imbalanced squad is the gung-ho tactics that Suwon continue to play. As i've said on numerous occasions the 4-1-4-1 formation that Suwon play allows for very attractive and attacking football, but it also leaves us open to vicious counter attacks almost 100% of the time. It's not surprising that Seo Jung-won wants to get all his best talent on the pitch and playing in their preferred positions but at the moment it just isn't working for Suwon. It is also not surprising that Suwon have the 2nd worst defence in the league and have let more points slip from winning positions than any other team in the K League this season.
Although Suwon have a horrific defence, scoring has not been a problem thus far with the team registering 18 goals so far. And so, I think it is now time for a more conservative approach to be adopted with the team reverting back to the familiar 4-5-1 system of last year. I think it is paramount that Suwon offer more support for their backline and try to build from the back as we have enough quality players on the pitch to carve out opportunities and score goals. The focus should now be on trying to keep a clean sheet rather than simply just try to outscore the opposition. Thus, 2 holding midfielders are needed, rather than just the one. To do this either one of Santos or Kwon Chang-hoon would need to vacate the starting line-up and with Kwon Chang-hoon becoming more and more invaluable with each game that he plays it may be time for the diminutive Brazilian to spend some time on the sidelines to allow for a more sturdy approach.
The forward line would take care of itself with Yeom Ki-hun and Ko Cha-won feeding either Kim Gun-hee or Cho Dong-geon from the wings, with Kwon Chang-hoon slotted in behind in his more favoured number 10 role. And with Santos vacating that area he may get even more room in the centre of the park to operate. Behind them the defensive midfield pairing of Baek Ji-hoon and Oh Jang-eun would be able to provide a firm shield for the defense and allow the full back's to push up much more than they have been doing in recent weeks.
And what better time to do this than against Incheon, the league's worst attacking team with only a meager 9 goals to show for their efforts this season. If Suwon can keep a tight and rigid formation against Incheon I would favour them to keep a clean sheet. And at the other end I would think that there is enough quality in the Suwon team to score atleast one goal.
With Suwon eyes beginning to venture towards the bottom of the table rather than the top I would suggest that now is time for a more practical approach to move us further up the table. And if Seo Jung-won continues to persevere with his attacking philosophy whilst not collecting many points it won't be long before the first few doubters start calling for his head.
Score Prediction: Suwon 1 - 0 Incheon United