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Kwak Tae-hwi Signs with FC Seoul

(Kwak Tae-hwi when he played for Ulsan, from goal.com)
What started out as a rumor for the last week or so is now official, Kwak Tae-hwi has signed with FC Seoul.  In my opinion, I would say that this move was somewhat unexpected and out of left field considering that the transfer talk around Seoul was whether or not the team could hang on to Adriano, not who they would attempt to acquire.  Obviously, Hwang Sun-hong must not have been happy with the state of his center backs, especially after the shambolic level of defending the team displayed against Pohang and Seongnam, if he went out and signed one so quickly.  Whether or not this is a good signing could be up for debate.

Some might disagree with me, but I would say for a Korean center back, Kwak Tae-hwi is a bit of a legend.  He has had  a long and storied career throughout the K-League and the Middle East.  At 188 CM (6 ft 2 in.), he is very tall, and is known for his ability to jump, head the ball, and he can score from set pieces.  His best year in the K-League was for Ulsan in 2011 when he scored 10 goals, which is pretty damn amazing for a center back since a lot of strikers struggle to break double figures, yet have many more chances.

Besides his height, Kwak Tae-hwi brings knowledge and stability to the team.  At 35 years of age, he has been around the game for a long time, so his cool head should prevail.  This coolness is something that has been lacking in Seoul's other center backs, especially Kim Won-sik and Kim Dong-woo, for awhile as they have been more error prone as the season has worn on.  If Seoul want to remain competitive this year, let alone win the league, they are going to need quality at the back, whether or not Kwak Tae-hwi will bring that is the question.

At 35 years of age, he is a bit long in the tooth for a footballer.  How much speed and movement does he have left?  Luckily, he plays in defense, which allows for older players to have longer careers than midfielders and strikers, but 35 is still pretty damn old for a footballer.  Likewise, Kwak has spent the last four years playing in Saudi Arabia.  How good is that league?  Is the quality similar to that of the K-League?  More goals are scored in the Saudi PFL on average, but that does not mean it is a better league.  How will Kwak adjust to the rigors of the K-League and having to play every three or four days?

In other words, this signing brings about a lot of questions.  I think though, if he does become a fixture in the squad, that this means the end to Choi Yong-soo's much loved 3-5-2 formation.  As the season progresses, the high line and space behind the center backs are being ruthlessly punished on the counter by teams and I understand why Hwang wants to revert to a four back system.  Will Hwang pair Kwak up with Jung In-hwan or Osmar?  It is my wish that Kwak and Jung are the center backs and Osmar plays as the DM, maybe in a double pivot with Takahagi.

No matter what happens, this is probably Kwak's final stop.  It is interesting that he signed with Seoul since that is where his career started.  There is a certain synchronicity to this move.  

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