Writer's Chat: Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United Preview
Duncan Asks, Ryan Answers
Duncan Elder: Jeonnam have made two signings already this transfer window, what will these two players bring to the team and are any of them likely to play against Jeju?
Ryan Walters: The hope with both Tomislav Mrčela and Jair is that they'll bring stability to the front and back of a shaky Jeonnam squad. Mrčela's a 195cm tall fringe Australian national teamer who not only brings a physical presence that's been sorely missing, but should also be able to confidently martial the backline and organize an incredibly frail center of the pitch. Jair will be a familiar name for folks in your part of the land as he was last seen in K-League with the Islanders. That was back in 2012, and he's since spent time in the Arabian Gulf League, J2, and J1 with... less than ideal success. However, those that have seen him play say he has solid pace and that's one thing the Dragons will be sorely missing with the departure of Mislav Oršić. If nothing else, he's at least a different attacking option on a team that's running quite short in that department. I'd expect both to start this Saturday and hopefully factor into the match.
DE: Yang Ju-na transferred from Jeju to Jeonnam over the winter transfer window, how has he been performing?
RW: Reliably. He has 11 starts through 18 matches and has been versatile enough to play both CDM and more than occasionally on the backline. He's even surprised a bit with 2 goals so far this season and has been one of the only midfielders capable of transitioning the ball from the defense to the attackers. Hopefully Mrčela's arrival means Yang can play his more natural position of CDM in front of the backline and occasionally roam forward as well. He's proven capable enough defensively to shield the backline on his own and hopefully will be one of the central pieces in a shift from the 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 diamond with him as the defensive anchor of the midfield behind Vedran Jugović. Or possibly a 4-3-3 with similar responsibilities. Pipe dreams aside, Yang has established himself as a lynchpin for this team in less than half a season. Pretty impressive stuff.
DE: Last time Jeju played Jeonnam we won 3-0 and kept a rare clean sheet. Is there any reason for the Jeju defence to be more concerned this time round?
RW: I really wish I could say yes, but no, not really. The Dragons only have 4 games scoring 2 or more goals out of 18 matches played this year, so the track record really isn't there to suggest they're capable of worrying the Jeju defense any more than they did last time. Though they've been better at home of late, they've only scored 5 in their previous 5 home matches and were shut out twice. Throw in the departure of leading goal scorer Oršić and they shouldn't be overly concerning to anyone... yet. If Jair is able to gel with the team and Noh Sang-rae actually plays Cho Suk-jae, then maybe things will change, but it's highly unlikely all that will happen this weekend.
DE: Despite their respective positions in the league, Jeju have conceded more goals that Jeonnam. Jeju generally try to make up for their poor defence by scoring more goals, how are Jeonnam trying to solve the problem?
RW: If the Mrčela signing's any indication, then they appear to be going at the issue directly. The simple fact of the matter is the Jeonnam defensemen just haven't been good enough this year and they need to be replaced. However, it should be noted that a portion of the blame needs to be shouldered by the manager. Far too many set piece goals have been conceded by defenders not knowing their assignments and leaving players unmarked. Additionally, they've often seemed confused whether their zone marking or playing man-to-man. And while that comes down to the coach, capable defenders can make adjustments on the field and communicate with each other to solve the problem. With a healthy Choi Hyo-jin back in the lineup and "Tomi" as he'll be known here taking up a center back role, there seems to be hope. That said, an additional CB signing or a lock-down leftback in the transfer window would be smart.
DE: How do you think this game will pan out?
RW: Jeonnam's a team in transition that doesn't score a lot, but Jeju's winless in 3 and has been shut out in 3 of their previous 5. This has low-scoring draw written all over it. I'll be optimistic for entertainment's sake and say it'll finish 1-1.
Ryan Asks, Duncan Answers
Ryan Walters: Though this is nothing new, Jeju are performing much better at home yet again this year. They've only lost once on the island, but the other 6 of their 7 losses have come on the road. Basic logic would suggest it's because of travel, but there has to be more to it than that, right? Are there tactical changes on the road? What gives?
Duncan Elder: Yea well actually mid way through the season I thought we had perhaps overcome the away game curse. After early away losses to Jeonbuk and a Jung Jo Gook inspired Gwangju we went on to record away wins against Ulsan, Suwon and (finally!) FC Seoul. Recently we have dropped off again, including a terrible performance against Sangju and a very unlucky loss in the last game against Incheon when we conceded two last minute goals.
My theory is that in away games our opponents (the home team) expect to get something from the game so are more likely to come out and attack us. As defense isn’t our strong point we are therefore more likely to concede and ultimately lose the game.
RW: As you brought up, Jeju only have 3 clean sheets this season and one of them was in the reverse fixture. Was that more of a strong defensive showing from Jeju or an inept performance by Jeonnam? What went right in that match defensively and will they employ the same strategy this weekend?
DE: Yea well Jeju have two strong CB’s who are excellent at dealing with crosses and long balls. I didn’t see the game but if your tactic was to get the ball up to Ristic I imagine they would have dealt with that quite well. Of course Jeonnam have made a few changes to their squad so I guess you will attack in a different way in the upcoming game which will require a change in defensive tactics on our behalf.
RW: In 10 out of 18 games this year Jeju have conceded 2 or more goals and it's been especially bad on the road where they have a -4 goal difference (compared to the +9 they carry at home). However, Jeonnam have only scored 16 goals through 14 matches at home this year. Will one of the teams buck the trend this weekend, or do you see a low scoring affair in the cards?
DE: I can certainly see Jeju scoring this weekend, which means Jeonnam will have to come and and get a goal if they want the points. I don’t see you boys carrying that much of a threat but as you mentioned Jeju certainly know how to concede goals away from home.
RW: Toscano leads the team with 6 goals, but more interestingly there are four players tied with 4. What's helped cultivate such a balanced attack?
DE: While Marcello plays in the striker's position he is really good at bringing other players into the game (He has eight assists this season). We also have some quality players in the wing and attacking midfield positions who are capable of scoring goals when the chances come.
DE: I’ll go with a 2-1 Jeju win. We aren’t in the best run of form at the moment, but I think our attack will just about offer too much for your defense to handle.
Who wins tonight's @JeonnamFC vs @jejuutdfc #KLeague match up? Match Preview: https://t.co/tzBdex2eAD— Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters) July 9, 2016