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Writers Chat: FC Seoul vs. Suwon Bluewings Preview

This weekend Round 15 in the K-League Classic kicks off with the second Super Match.  The Suwon Bluewings travel up to the capital to face FC Seoul.  Their last fixture, played on April 30th, was a tense affair that ended 1-1 with both teams disappointed not to get a better result.  Suwon Bluewings columnist Scott Whitelock and FC Seoul columnist John Emanuelson discuss the importance of Kwon Chang-hoon and his injury for Suwon along with the futures of Seo Jung-won and Adriano.  


John Asks, Scott Answers

John Emanuelson:  In the match against Jeonbuk, Seo Jung-won changed his formation from 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3.  How would rate this change?  Do you think it is something that Suwon should employ from here on out or should it be consigned to the scrap heap?

Scott Whitelock: In the 1st half it didn't work at all because it was clear that the players didn't understand exactly where they should be playing in the system. The virtue of the system is that the full backs play much more advanced thus allowing other players to come infield and support the striker. However, in the 1st half, both Yeom Ki-hun and Go Seung-bom (the more advanced midfielders in the formation) rarely moved from the touchline to support the striker, as a result Kim Gun-hee was isolated throughout the 1st half and Suwon barely mounted an attack worth mentioning. The only thing that kept Suwon in the game was that Jeonbuk, again, weren't really firing on full cylinders and a lot of their attacks fizzled out around the edge of the Suwon penalty area. 

The 2nd half was much better though. Ki-hun came infield a little more and the introduction of Kwon Chang-hoon changed the game a little more in favour of Suwon. Suwon certainly were no where near their best on the night but the formation, added with a little bit of grit and guile in their performance, allowed for Suwon to almost hang on for a crucial point at the home of the champions. But, we all know what happened in the 95th minute of the game. 

I like the formation and I think Suwon should persevere with it. It allows for greater defensive cover and overloads in the centre of the pitch, an area that Suwon's best players operate. The only problem would be that, outside of Shin Se-gye, Suwon don't really have talented enough full-backs to operate in the system. But it is an interesting dilemma for Seo Jung-won to have. 

JE: Suwon have only collected 14 points so far.  They are four points behind Gwangju, but based on their current form do you see the Bluewings finishing in the top six?  If not, how likely is relegation for them?

SW: At the moment, Suwon are the draw specialists of the K League and I really don't see that changing anywhere in the near future. In fact, it could go in the opposite direction as Suwon are looking more and more likely to concede and lose games. It's crazy to think that a squad containing such talented players is towards the bottom of the table battling it out with the likes of Suwon FC, Incheon and Jeonnam. But, Suwon's recent performances have merited the measly points haul that they have taken and the squad have nobody to blame but themselves for the situation that they are in. Any Suwon fan would be a fool to be looking up the table right now. Suwon are currently deep in a relegation battle and they need to start playing and behaving like that is actually the situation. 

JE: Even though Kwon Chang-hoon has an injury, Seo Jung-won chose to play him in the Jeonbuk match.  Are things that desperate for Suwon that they willing to risk his health?  How important is he to the team and how do you expect the season to progress if he cannot suit up for games?

SW: I don't know much about Chang-hoon's injury other than that it is a muscle strain and I was as shocked as anyone when I saw him named in the squad on Wednesday night. But I am almost certain that the club would not risk him if he couldn't play. The physios and the player himself will almost certainly have assessed it as a slight muscle strain and deemed that he could get through 30 minutes of game time. Certainly, when he did come on the pitch he didn't look like he was carrying an injury at all. He was his usual bright and energetic self and could have won the game for Suwon after he breezed past 2 Jeonbuk defenders, displaying beautiful ball control. Unluckily, he shot straight at the keeper, and Jeonbuk went up the other end and won the game for themselves. Chang-hoon is Suwon's prize asset and there is no way the club would risk his long term health for a game that we were unlikely to win anyhow. 

Kwon Chang-hoon is probably the most important player in the Suwon squad, not just for his potential revenue, but also his importance to the team. He has qualities that other players in the squad simply don't have (and that most players in the K League don't have). He is able to run with the ball, pass short and deep, tackle, link play with the striker, run beyond the striker and, most importantly, he has the energy of a Duracell bunny. If Suwon are to advance up the table and away from the lingering threat of relegation, then it is imperative that a fit and healthy Kwon Chang-hoon is utilised as much as possible. 

JE: Is it time for Suwon to fire Seo Jung-won or should they wait until the end of the season?  Who would you like to see replace him?


SW: Personally, I think if Suwon don't put in a stellar performance in Seoul on Saturday then it will be time for him to pack his bags and leave. At the beginning of the season Suwon were terrible, but then we had a mini-revival and played some good football without always getting the results that we deserved. Well, at least it seemed  like that at the time. But as we now all know it wasn't just a bit of bad luck conceding in the last 15 minutes of games, it's a systemic failure that has been the main feature of Suwon's season. In fact, Suwon have conceded a total of 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of games in the league this season. To put that in perspective, of the 25 goals that Suwon have conceded in the league a whopping 48% of them have been conceded in the final 15 minutes of the game. That's an astonishing statistic and something that should fall firmly at the feet of the manager. The quality is there in the squad but Seo Jung-won is failing to release it's potential. He needs a special performance from his team on Saturday and if it is not forthcoming then he could be on his way out of Big Bird. 

As for replacements, it is a little early to speculate on that. But I have admired a lot about the way that Ansan have played this season, therefore my choice would be to go in for Lee Heung-sil. Free flowing in attack and with the manager not afraid to select a side to go win a game rather than merely contain the other team. The football is fast and quick paced and with the higher grade of players in the Suwon side he could be a success. Also, he has prior experience of the K League having coached at Jeonbuk for 7 years. 

Final Score: FC Seoul 2 - 1 Suwon Bluewings 

Scott Asks, John Answers

Scott Whitelock: After a few weeks of indifferent results FC Seoul appear to have hit form again with a comfortable and complete performance against Suwon FC followed up by a home win against a talented Gwangju team. Is there a sense that maybe the team have put their recent bad results behind them and can now mount a full push for the title?


John Emanuelson: Hopefully, the indifferent results were just a wobble, but  I am a "glass is half empty" kind of guy, so for me I think it is too early to declare Seoul's poor form over just yet.  Against Suwon FC, Seoul were dominating but I feel as though it was more that Suwon FC are not a very good team right now and that Seoul performed as should be expected. Last night's game versus Gwangju FC perfectly encapsulated Seoul's season so far: great start, shaky decisions in the back leading to danger, brilliant going forward, timely goals, but an inability to slam the door (what the hell was that?) shut when leading.  In other words, Seoul are consistently inconsistent, but I guess that is the lot of every team in the K-League besides Jeonbuk so far.  

That being said, even though Seoul have struggled recently, under Choi Yong-soo they have tended to do really well in July and August.  If Seoul can emulate their usual summer form, then I think it is absolutely possible for them to push for the title.  Eventually, I think Jeonbuk will have to run of poor results at some point and hopefully, Seoul can seize on that.

SW: Adriano has been the main man for FC Seoul this season amounting a truly remarkable goal tally in just one half of the season. Is there any serious worry in Seoul that with the transfer window fast approaching he may not be in a red and black shirt come August?


JE: Adriano is having an incredible season with 23 goals across all competitions.  Before the Urawa Reds game at home, I was worried that he might leave in the summer, but now I do not think Adriano will leave until the end of the season because he really wants to break the ACL record for goals scored in one campaign. With 11 goals to his name in that competition, Adriano just needs three more to surpass Muriqui and Seoul offers him the best chance to do so.  Also, he seems quite happy with the team and is enjoying his role in the partnership of Deadriano, so I think that is another reason for him to stay as well.  Once 2016 is over though, I would not be surprised to see him leave to a mid-level club in China or even the Middle East. 

SW: Whereas Adriano has been taking all the plaudits for his goals one of FC Seoul's best performers, Ju Se-jong, has flown under the radar a little. What does he bring to the Seoul midfield and how much did Seoul miss him during the recent international break?

JE: When Seoul signed Ju Se-jong, I was quite excited and I felt as though he Seoul had finally replaced Ha Dae-sung.  Ju is great at picking out a pass, can dribble, shoot, take set pieces, and is decent defensively.  In other words, I feel like he is almost a complete midfielder and Ju is still young, so I can see him improving even more.  In their loss to Jeju United, I think Seoul missed him quite a bit as their midfield was dominated in the first half and there was a lack of marking or tracking back in the second half during the Tangerine's come back from being down 3-1.  If Seoul win the title this year, he will have played a massive role and he is one of the players that the team should be built around in the upcoming years.

SW: The last meeting between these two teams saw a score draw that lacked any real goal mouth action. How do you see this game panning out and are Seoul in a better position to face their fierce rivals now?

JE: A lot rides on this game for both teams, so I think it will be quite similar to their last match.  Suwon cannot afford to lose if they do not want to get mired in the relegation scrap and Seoul need all three points to keep pace with Jeonbuk.  I expect Suwon to utilize the same formation they played against Jeonbuk in an effort to match Seoul and stymie their attack.  In the past, Seo has had Suwon play cautiously in the first half on the road, but I think that would be a mistake, and if Suwon want a result they should go straight at Seoul.  That is how teams have had success at World Cup Stadium this year.  

In the end though, Seoul has Adriano and I think he will be the difference.  In the four games he has played against the Bluewings, he has six goals total and has found the back of the net in every single fixture.  Last time, I predicted a draw and was chastised for my negativity, even though in the end I was right.  This time, I going to pick Seoul to win since a) they have the better team and b) are at home.  If Seoul cannot win this game, then they really have no right believing they will challenge for the championship.  It will be tough, but I think  Adriano scores a goal and Seoul will hang on to win.  

Final Score: FC Seoul 2-1 Suwon Bluewings

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