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Transfer Talk: Jeonnam Dragons


After a relatively quiet summer window in 2015, the Dragons have come out the gate sprinting in 2016 not only to fill glaring holes, but also to free up a bit of cash with some departures. With Stevo already officially out and rumors of the extremely talented Mislav Oršić heading to China, there's no doubt the team will look drastically different than they did at the beginning of the year.

Which player(s) signed in the Winter Transfer Window has performed best for your team this season?

Going into the season I was quite sure Vedran Jugović's move from HNK Rijeka would prove to be the master stroke in igniting an offensive powerhouse. He could play in the middle flanked by Ahn Yong-woo and Oršić and wreak havoc on defenses with Stevo up top. Now two of those four players are gone and Jugović hasn't quite lived up to expectations. A lot of that has to do with formations and tactics not really allowing him to play to his strengths and frequently being played out of position, but regardless he hasn't been everything I'd hoped. There's still the second half of the season, however, and he may well find himself in a much better position to succeed if there's a shift in formation with the incoming personnel.

The player that hands down wins the Winter Transfer Window contest has to be Lee Ho-seung. Joining the Dragons from JLeague 1 side Shonan Bellmare, Lee was given the opportunity to unseat presumed number 1 Kim Min-sik and was absolutely ruthless in his pursuit of the starting job. Lee's season has been smattered with a glut of tremendous saves and he rightly got the nod for Man of the Match in the second POSCO Derby. If not for his steadfast presence in the back, Jeonnam's goal difference would be much worse than their current -5.

Which position (if any) do you think your team needs to target most this transfer window?

Center back and striker, and that's exactly what they've done. With Tomislav Mrčela's signing, they've helped add size and physicality to a frail back line, and with former Jeju front man Jair they've added more pace and skill up front. However, even with the Mrčela signing, the defense could still use some help. Perhaps signing another solid CB or even a CDM to help protect the back line would be a good choice for the Dragons. They may need to target additional help up top as well if the goal drought continues. However, actually playing Cho Suk-jae would be a good start to see exactly what's needed in the offensive department.

Is there a player within K-League you'd like to see your team sign? An international player?

It's a pipe dream to think he'd step down from a 3-peat title contender and a team still in the ACL, but Jeonbuk's Kim Shin-wook would be a bold and tremendous signing for the club. For a team (and let's face it, entire league) obsessed with crosses from the wings, the pace of Ahn Yong-woo and Jair down the flanks lobbing balls into the man lovingly known as the Wookie is a recipe for pure, unadulterated happiness. At 196cm, there aren't many defenders in K-League that can match his size, and he's already proven in his time with Ulsan that if he's given enough reps, he can consistently stay in the Golden Boot race. At only 28 years of age, he's also a top level striker that could be with the team for several years to come. Granted, he's only netted once for Jeonbuk this year, but taking a cursory glance at his stats shows that's more of a statistical anomaly than sign of deteriorated skills. Over all, he's a well known Korean player that may bring more folks into Gwangyang Stadium, and signing him away from their North Jeolla rivals would signify without any doubt that the Dragons are indeed a serious club with aspirations higher than simply making the top 6.

On the tremendously under the radar side of Korean teams, Hwang Chul-hwan of the 3rd division National League's Yongin City was a remarkably exciting player in his side's FA Cup defeat to the Dragons. Unfortunately Jeonnam's the only one with video from the match and didn't show the goals they conceded. However, the first goal was the direct result of a 35 yard, curling, absolutely on point pass from Hwang to set up his teammate Sun Seung-woo for Yongin's first. A single brilliant pass can be found by most midfielders, but Hwang had at least three throughout the night and if he were playing with attackers at a higher level likely would've had at least one more assist. Being a National League player, I'm sure salary wouldn't be much of an issue, so he's a low-risk potentially high-reward type player for Jeonnam or any team that's willing to take a chance on him.

Is there someone on the team you'd like to see loaned out or sold?

With Stevo already having departed the team, there really aren't many players on the team that are underperforming compared to what they did last year, or what expectations are. Kim Min-sik has looked quite capable in the 7 starts he's been given and has completely disappeared from the team, so he'd be a good candidate to sell and potentially make a few bucks off of. Perhaps young midfielders Han Ji-won (22) and/or Oh Yeong-jun (23) could be loaned out to a Challenge side to finally get some minutes? Han has yet to see the field this year and Oh has a whopping 5 minutes to his name. It's important to have squad players, sure, but these guys are still quite young and would develop much better if they were able to get some minutes.

Realistically, who would be a great signing for the league? 

I've beat this drum before, but Will Packwood would be a solid signing. At just 23-years-old the young defender finds himself without a team after being released from England's Championship side Birmingham City last year. A long time member of the US National team picture, Packwood has represented his country at the U17 and U23 levels during his surprisingly long eight year tenure as a professional footballer. He featured quite well for the US in the Toulon Tournament in France, including scoring one of the three US goals against the Netherlands. After missing nearly nine months back in 2013 with a broken leg suffered in an FA Cup match against Leeds United, Packwood returned to fitness and regularly went the full 90 for the US in the tournament.

Quoted as saying "I'm just looking to train well and play well and looking to impress whoever I can" in an ESPN FC article last year, perhaps he should turn his eye Eastward. In a league with relatively low average height like K-League, Packwood's 191cm frame would help ensure that he could win most headers and boss the play a bit physically as well. Add in his time spent defending in the demanding world of English Championship football and you're looking at a young man that will know how to employ "the dark arts" as well or better than most defenders in the league. On top of that, he's currently a free agent, so he'd join any team on a free. Valued at just over $160,000 by Transfermarkt, his salary demands aren't likely to be astronomical either. For any of the numerous teams struggling with aerial threats, clearing the ball, or simply martialing a back line, Packwood is a low cost option who still has a ton of upside and is young enough to potentially be a defensive cornerstone for years to come. It wouldn't be the "sexy" pick like a Brazilian striker may be, but he'd help provide stability and grit for teams like Suwon Bluewings, Jeju, or even FC Seoul who are struggling to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

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