Gwangju FC vs Jeonnam Dragons Preview
Jeonnam makes the short trip to Gwangju for a midweek match up between two teams that are suddenly very close in the standings. Both teams will hope to pick up all three points and advance their pursuit of a top 6 spot.
|Gwangju FC||Jeonnam Dragons|
|Date:||Jul 20, 2016|
|Game Week:||Round 21|
|Venue:||Guus Hiddink Stadium (Gwangju)|
Winners of 3 of their last 5, the Jeonnam Dragons have made a summer surge that may well see them contending for a Championship Round place if current form holds. The combination of a formation change and the additions Jair, and Mrčela have proven to be a difference maker so far. The Dragons will look to keep the momentum rolling when they head to Gwangju Wednesday night to take on a struggling Gwangju side who's over-reliance on Jung Jo-gook may be hindering their season.
The Kids Are Alright
A lot of those gents featured in that picture above have been playing significant roles in the Dragons summer turnaround. Cho Suk-jae (#9) has at last been getting minutes, and while his finishing and possession could both still use some work, he's done well to push the pace of the offense and has certainly created more chances than the Dragons were getting without him in the lineup. Lee Ji-min (#19) has helped solidify a backline that's only allowed 2 goals in the previous 3 matches in all competitions and has also found some joy moving forward and joining the attack as well. Heo Yong-joon (#23) scored his first goal of the season in dramatic fashion over the weekend to seal a late 2-1 win over last place Suwon FC. These three players recent run of form combined with Lee Seul-chan's emergence onto the Olympic national team may be enough to force manager Noh Sang-rae's hand into "playing the kids" more. This bodes well not only for this season, but could be a way forward for the Dragons for a few years to come. After multiple seasons of depending on the "well-seasoned" vets like Kim Byung-ji, Stevo, and still with Choi Hyo-jin (though... let's face it, he does not age), the play of the youngins may force a much needed sea change within Jeonnam to start utilizing the talent it develops so well at the youth levels. The true test for these players will come in the following weeks in months as more video of them is available for other teams to scout, but for now let's just hope the run continues.
After collapsing late so many times (87th & 96th minute vs Sangju, 93rd minute vs Seoul, 83rd minute vs Gwangju, 92nd minute vs Jeonbuk), Jeonnam has finally come out on the bright side of late dramatics. Perhaps more impressive than the feat of winning games late, has been the quality with which they've been doing it. I mean... just look at this Kim Yong-wook goal again. And again. And again. The Heo Yong-joon winner vs Suwon FC was a more difficult finish than it may look on the replay, but more importantly it was set up solely by a strong Jair run and lovely chip pass. The offense could still do a bit more, but if this is how they're performing before truly clicking on all cylinders, then we could be in for quite the treat the remainder of this summer.
Another New Signing
In wholly unsurprising news yet another Brazilian is rumored to be on his way to K-League. This time Korea Football News is reporting the Dragons have been in talks with Brazilian Serie C side Oeste's midfielder Maurinho. He was brought into Oeste to help their offense a scant 5 months ago and is already on the move again, so clearly things didn't go overly well with the 3rd division club. With only 4 goals to his name since 2014, it's clear Maurinho isn't a finisher as much as he's likely a creator... which doesn't exactly fit the bill for what the Dragons need right now. With Jair and Ahn Yong-woo manning the wings and Jugović up the middle, there's very little need for yet another facilitator on the squad. If the rumors turn out to be true and Maurinho is indeed on his way to Gwangyang it'll be interesting to see where he fits into the current lineup and how it'll affect the attack.
Gwangju comes into this match having won a single game since the beginning of June, a 2-0 midweek victory over the floundering Suwon Samsung. Gwangju had a hot month of May that saw them make a significant climb up the table, but have cooled off, and one could say returned to the form expected of them. More to the point for the Dragons, Gwangju haven't been enjoying their home confines very much. Gwangju haven't won in their last 5 home games, conceded at least 1 goal in each of those matches, and only have 1 game scoring 2 or more home goals. Additionally, they've only held 3 clean sheets at home this year and the most recent was to the -19 goal difference Suwon FC. Undoubtedly the suddenly confident Jeonnam attack will be chomping at the bit leading up to kickoff. However, Gwangju haven't exactly been getting blown out. In fact, 6 of their 8 losses this year have been by a 1 goal margin, and they've only had 3 games conceding 2 or more goals at Gwangju World Cup Stadium. So the Dragons will still have their work cut out for them, but should know it's quite doable to come away with all the points.
Who To Watch
Jung Jo-gook is currently tied with Seongnam's Tiago for the lead in the Golden Boot race with 13 and is the sole reason Gwangju are in 8th and not fighting off relegation. His 13 goals this year are already a career high for the 32-year-old former FC Seoul and Ligue 1 veteran and he doesn't show signs of stopping. His longest goalless streak was all of 3 games back in April and since then has gone a maximum of a single game before finding the back of the net again. Having scored twice vs Incheon and once vs Ulsan in his previous two outings, the Dragons will certainly be hoping he's due for an off week.
Jeonnam are riding high at the moment and Gwangju struggles to outscore opponents at home. It'll be a tight one, but look for the Dragons to come out on top.
Gwangju FC 1-2 Jeonnam Dragons