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Writers Chat: Ansan Mugunghwa FC vs Seoul E-Land FC Preview

On Sunday, Ansan will play hosts to Seoul E-Land for the second time this year. Going into their sixth meeting all-time, the series is tied at 1 win 3 draws and 1 loss to each team with 6 scored apiece. Both teams are coming off of mid-week fixtures with The Police holding Bucheon to a scoreless draw at home and Seoul E-Land securing a late victory against Gyeongnam. Ansan has picked up 26 points from 13 games and sit 2nd in the table as E-Land are at 18 points from 12 games putting them at 5th.

Here I spoke with Stephen Waddell, K League United’s Seoul E-Land correspondent about the match up.

Kyle Asks, Stephen Answers

Kyle Gobler: E-Land has had pretty inconsistent results lately, what would you attribute that to? How do they get back on track?

Stephen Waddell: It's hard to put a finger on exactly what the problem is right now. Part of it is just the fact that the teams in the Challenge are all fairly closely matched and anyone can beat anyone else on their day. A bit of luck one way or the other can make a difference between winning and losing. I think we saw that in the last game at Ansan where the two teams were pretty even and E-Land lost it, whereas in the Gyeongnam game we probably didn't deserve to win but took three points.

Having said that the team hasn't really clicked at all this season and it looks too scrappy at times. The main tactic seems to be lumping long balls forward for Tarabai to chase down which is pretty one-dimensional and the midfield is almost non-existent at times. We keep sticking to this 4-3-3 formation and I'd like to see us mix it up a bit more although there's maybe not too many options to really change things around. 

As to how to get back on track, confidence is so important and the team really needs a bit of a boost from a couple of good results and then hopefully they can go on a bit of a run of form.

KG: What players do you figure to be the difference makers in this one for E-Land?

SW: So far this season there's really only been one standout and that has been Tarabai. He does a huge amount of running and his work-rate is tremendous for someone who is probably naturally a penalty-box striker. His goals have been absolutely vital so far and we look pretty lost when he's not there.

In theory Belusso should also be a key man but he's been a bit lukewarm since he arrived and needs to really push on and deliver some end results.  

KG: Being a fairly new team, who do you see as the team’s biggest rival(s)? How do you feel about playing the police team?

SW: In terms of rivalry I don't think there's really anyone that gets the fans blood pumping. Half the time I'm not even sure if the crowd at Jamsil are aware of who the opposition even are. On the field, Gangwon are becoming a bit of an annoyance but only because they seem to keep beating us. The police team are pretty low key so I don't think there's any great feeling one way or another about playing them.

KG: With the transfer window opening soon what do you see as E-Land’s biggest needs, if any? What might we see from them?

SW: I'm not sure if E-Land will see the fairly mediocre season so far as reason to invest more to push for promotion or as an excuse not to. We really need a player to get a grip of the midfield possibly two but we've also signed midfielders in the last window who haven't featured in the team yet. We really could do with a different option up front as well. A tall striker that can win things in the air would be a big help. We still have a spare foreign slot so the optimist in me thinks maybe they have a European free-agent lined up but the realist thinks probably a loan or two from a Classic side and a few of the fringe players moved out. 

KG: Prediction for the game?

SW: Confidence is not high at the moment from my side but these games are usually very tight. If it's not 0-0 then Ansan will edge it by 1 goal.

Stephen Asks, Kyle Answers

SW: For a while there it looked like Ansan might take the league by storm but you've stuttered a bit in recent weeks and been overtaken by Gangwon. Has anything changed?

KG: There have been a few games with questionable starting lineups like resting Lee Hyung Jin in goal against Daegu for Son Jung Hyun, resulting in Ansan’s first home loss of the season. Let’s just say that there is a large gap between our number 1 and 2 in goal and leave it there. Other than that, all things point to the team’s finishing or lack thereof that has dropped off as they have created many chances on goal.

SW: One of your biggest problems last season was scoring goals but you've bagged 18 already this season. Have you found the answer up front?

KG: It does appear so; Ansan is playing some pretty decent attacking football, making it much more fun to watch than teams of the past. A few of the new recruits have had big impacts early. Gong Min Hyun has been a great presence up top after spending the past three seasons at Bucheon. He has knocked in four and been a part of many other goals. Han Ji Ho has been all over opposing defenses and grabbed three for himself. Last season after six starting midfielders and forwards departed halfway through the season we had no true forwards in the squad and it most certainly showed.

SW: Has success on the park made any impact on the crowds at Ansan which have always been quite poor?

KG: Sadly, not really. The team has really made an effort in advertising and social media compared to past seasons. The only large attendances we’ve seen have been some of the one-off events; Indonesian and Thai ethnic festivals. The recent streak of beautiful yet hot weather has caused Korean fans to say that it was too hot to be outside and if they actually do attend they sit in the covered upper deck or stand in the tunnels. None of those options really help the stadium atmosphere.

SW: What's it like following a team where everyone is on loan for a season and a half? With one eye on promotion do you think the team could cut it in the Classic or does the system mean you'll probably come straight back down again?

KG: Having players come and go at various times obviously is never good for chemistry. The Police also don’t get to scout and sign players the way that other clubs do, definitely a disadvantage.

This 2016 team is by far the strongest Ansan have had since I have started following them. Sadly, most of the impact players will leave midseason next year. So depending on who comes in next year, it could go very badly and see us right back down or give us a boost. On the bright side, those same players will be here for the full 2016 season.

SW: Score prediction for the game?

KG: The last two games Ansan have dominated in just about every category but produced only one goal. They will need to play well against E-Land and actually finish, a win would be huge. I feel similarly to Stephen and think its 1-0 to either team.

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