Recap: Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 Jeju United
Formation: At long last manager Noh Sang-rae abandoned the overly defensive and target-striker reliant 4-2-3-1 in favor of an attacking 3-5-2 and what a lovely result. The Dragons dominated possession in the first half, dictated the pace of play, and spread the ball around far more effectively than they have all year. The formation shift allowed Choi Hyo-jin to play as a wingback and roam forward more frequently, and found a much better home for the youngster Han Chan-hee as an attacking mid. Additionally, the formation allowed the Dragons to play to their speed and spread the offensive pressure between two strikers instead of the usual lone forward. The more balanced attack not only led to goals, but also far less hoofed balls over the top. A much needed change.
Tomislav Mrčela: The first start for the Australian went as well as could've been hoped. He proved more than capable of being a facilitator from the back, quickened the pace when it was needed and occassionally charged forward as well. Defensively he won at least three headers (to my counting anyway) that usually would've gone missing on set pieces and helped clear the danger. In non-aerial battles, he was calm, physical, and occasionally showed flashes of the dark arts. His defensive presence alone may well have been what caused the shift from the 4-2-3-1 to the 3-5-2, and will certainly continue to pay dividends moving forward.
Jair: Hard not to mention a debutant who scores a goal, right? The Brazilian had a strong 30 minute showing for his Jeonnam debut slotting home a more difficult cross than he made it look. But, more than the goal, Jair proved capable of playing on the wing and being a facilitator as much as the man pulling the trigger himself.
Substitutions: Not often that subs make their way into this portion of the recap, but credit where credit is due. Noh did a fine job not only going offensive in his substitutions, but also replacing ineffective players for an upgrade. Jair coming on for the frustrated Cho Suk-jae (more on him in a bit) obviously paid off with an 81st minute goal, but the other two subs were equally well done. Ahn Yong-woo coming on for Jugović to offer a bit more pace going forward was smart, and Heo Yong-joon replacing the ineffective Bae Chun-suk provided the offensive spark that led to both goals.
The Offense: Though the starting strikers had a frustrating night, the offense showed heart and fought to keep the Dragons in the match even after conceding to Jeju in the 62nd. For a team that's been struggling to score goals it was great to see the offense lift the team up like this. More importantly, with the formation shift and the addition of Jair, Jeonnam seems poised to play into their strengths more and work short, smart passes between the midfield and attackers as opposed to the "hoof it to Stevo" approach of the last few seasons.
That Hit: Just watch this on repeat.
Old Habits: Though the team built from the back well and showed patience for the most part, they often got bored and still attempted long, fruitless crosses or passes. It's not a bad idea occasionally just to stretch the opposition and make sure they're sitting as deep as you'd like, but it's a bad habit to do it with regularity and one Jeonnam still needs to break.
Pacing: With 55% of the possession, the Dragons maintained the ball well, but a lot of that came from slowly knocking it around in the back. Taking time to setup is one thing, but failing to read the quick, easy passes that are there is another. Mrčela was calling this out all game and should do well in hurrying the pace a bit.
Cho Suk-jae: It does not please me to put him in this category. The man I've been calling for nearly all year got a rare start and didn't really impress enough to show he should get the next one. As per usual, his off the ball movement was good, but not as good as it's been in the past. A number of times he wasn't where he needed to be to create another chance or keep the play going. Additionally, his rust showed through when on the ball and he lost possession far more than he won it. If he were able to get more minutes he'd likely be able to work through some of these issues, but again, he didn't really do enough last night to suggest he'll get the nod again this Wednesday in the FA Cup match vs Seoul.
Tale of Two Halves: The Dragons completely dominated the game in the first half. They owned possession, created more chances, and looked comfortable defending. The vast majority of the second half was a different story. Yes, Jeonnam had two late goals to get the win, but aside from the final 9 minutes, the second half belonged to Jeju. Having a more even game is something the Dragons will need to strive for in coming weeks if they're to continue picking up Ws.
없어요: Whole lot of nothing for this category this week.
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