Writers Chat: Suwon Bluewings vs Jeonnam Dragons Preview
Ryan Asks, Scott Answers
Ryan Walters: Though the season hasn’t gone as expected for the Bluewings, they’re not exactly getting blown out of the water in their losses. Would you say they’ve been unlucky or are the results fitting of the team’s performance?
Scott Whitelock: Maybe at the beginning of the season luck was playing a part in Suwon's downfall. The team was attacking well and were just prone to conceding soft goals in the last 15 minutes of games. There was also a few diabolical refereeing decisions, most notably Shin Se-gye's 2nd yellow card in the Jeonbuk game. However, as the season has drifted on it has become more and more apparent that this Suwon team just aren't playing anywhere near their natural ability. The free-flowing football of March and April has been replaced with a tepid, nervous style that see's the ball played backwards more than it is played forwards. The defensive frailty is also still there to be seen and has never subsided throughout the months.
Suwon's season has been an unqualified disaster and their place in the table is entirely merited. Fortunately for Suwon, it appears that Incehon and Suwon FC are having an even worse time and that is the only thing currently keeping them above the relegation places.
RW: Suwon have conceded at least one goal in 79% of their home matches resulting in a meager 3 clean sheets at Big Bird this year. With that in mind, it seems they’ll have to outscore Jeonnam if they’re going to pick up all three points. Who should the Dragons defense watch out for?
SW: Suwon certainly can't defend any sort of lead and they have relied all season on outscoring their opponents. And that there in lies Suwon's problem, because none of their attacking threats have shone this season. Yeom Ki-hun, despite leading the Classic in assists (this probably speaks volumes about the lack of quality midfielders in the league), the captain looks like a shadow of his former self. His positioning has been a constant problem this season, with the ball finding him when he has drifted in field and off the touch line. A player with the ability of Ki-hun should just position himself on the wing and never budge. But this year, perhaps in desperation to change the teams fortunes, he has been playing much further in field and has been pretty useless in most games.
Kwon Chang-hoon has shown fleeting moments of class but not much else. Whereas Santos, the other big name, has plodded along at an economical pace, doing just enough to keep the critics off his back, but not enough to be heralded for anything. The midfielders that have rotated all season (e.g. Ko Cha-won, Lee Sang-ho, Koh Seung-beom, Baek Ji-hoon et al.) have been below par and have never promised any significant return.
All in all, if I was a team on a rich vein of form, as Jeonnam are, I wouldn't fear anybody in the Suwon side. However, football can be a strange game. And on their day, if every player plays to their natural ability, Suwon are one of the most dangerous teams in the league and so Jeonnam must remain very alert and not take this Suwon team lightly.
RW: Jair hasn’t really stopped scoring since he put on a Dragons shirt and has 4 goals in the last 5 matches. How do you think Suwon will line up defensively to try and slow him down?
SW: Honestly, I'm not quite sure that Suwon ever have any defensive plan set up. It would be a scam if the team with the 3rd worst defensive record in the league tried to claim otherwise. Suwon's defending this season can be probably be labelled as 'reactive', although those reactions mostly come a little too late. There is never any clear thought out plan at how to best keep the oposition team at bay. Instead, defenders just tend to ad-lib the tactics and force their way into rash challenges, or more popularly, back off and don't make any challenge at all. The entire defence (excluding the quality Lee Jung-soo) has been a disaster from the first minute of the season and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I thoroughly expect Jair to be Jeonnam's key threat, yet no special measures will be put in place for him and he will most likely have free roam of the pitch to do whatever his heart pleases.
SW: You can probably already tell that I don't hold out high hopes for this game. The 1st half performance against Pohang midweek was just about the worst that I have ever seen Suwon play. They let Pohang walk straight through the heart of the defence on 5 separate occasions, with not a single challenge being made. It was a criminally pedestrian performance by a team who looked like they had thrown the towel in. It wasn't until Kim Gun-hee was introduced with 30 minutes to play that Suwon had any bite to them, and in the end they were unlucky not to win a game that Pohang should have won 5-0.
But, Suwon do have both Kwon Chang-hoon and Jonathan returning for this game. The former has returned from Olympic duty, where he failed to perform, and the latter is returning from a 4 game injury lay-off. It is thought that both will go immediately back into the starting line-up, and they are both much needed. Also, Wednesday night saw Hong-chul's first playing time of the season. The left back has been out all season with a cruciate injury and he has been the one player that I have missed more than any. He is a quality defender but is also an adept distributor of the ball with his left foot. Many people have tried to fill his boots this season but not a single one could deliver the ball like him and so it is great to have him back in the squad.
I think Jeonnam are going to dominate this game. They have looked incredibly dangerous in recent weeks and have registered wins against some good teams. They look lively in attack and I think that they could easily overwhelm a weak Suwon defence. I think it could be a close game, but Jeonnam will probably have just enough to beat Suwon.
Predicted Score: Suwon 1 - 2 Jeonnam
Scott Asks, Ryan Answers
Scott Whitelock: After a mini purple patch, in which Jeonnam won 4 out of 6 games played, they were brought back down to earth with a huge bump on Wednesday night as FC Seoul plundered 4 goals. Do you think the margin of defeat will leave any mental scars on the team?
Ryan Walters: It really shouldn't. The scoreline and even the result were more indicative of the quality on each roster than the actual game itself. Jeonnam edged Seoul on possession, had more shots, and had the same amount of shots on target and corner kicks. As I said at halftime of the match, it was simply a game where Seoul converted their chances and Jeonnam didn't. As much as it pains me to admit it after calling for him all season, Cho Suk-jae had an absolute howler of a match and probably needs to sit for a while. He missed several point blank range efforts and took far too many extra touches inside the box. It was a performance bad enough to get him subbed in the 35th minute (unless the substitution was due to injury?). Additionally, Maurinho, Jair, and Jugović all had some close misses and hit the post more than once. They got themselves in position and played relatively well overall, but the lack of quality in the final third showed through. Dejan and company had no such issues at the other end, and capitalized on nearly every chance they created. So, to answer the question more directly, no I don't think they'll have any mental hangups going into Saturday.
SW: Jeonnam's upturn in form coincided with the arrival of their summer signings. Can their recent wins be solely attributed to the new men or are there other factors also?
RW: I talked with Vedran Jugović and Tomislav Mrčela about this quite a bit in Part 1 and Part 2 of my interview with them and they were a bit humble about it, but I would 100% say the turnaround in form was due to the summer signings. Mainly Tomi's presence in the back has allowed the team to shift from an overly defensive 4-2-3-1 to a much more free flowing 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 that allows Choi Hyo-jin and Hyun Young-min to bomb up and down the wings at will. They had to compensate for lack of quality with more bodies at the back before and it limited them offensively. Tomi's eliminated that problem. Additionally, according to Jugović this is his ideal midfield position and formation, and it's showed. He's controlling the midfield far better than when he had more offensive responsibilities and does a solid job transitioning the ball from the defense to the offense. To be honest, I think everyone's a bit surprised at how well Jair's played right away. The thinking seemed to be a pacey winger that would give defenses something else to think about, but he's become a true goal threat every game. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Stevo and Mislav Oršić leaving the team were blessings in disguise. As Jugović pointed out in the interview, there was an over-reliance on Oršić specifically and the team would often hoof the ball up to him and watch. Now they're playing as a single unit and working together far better.
SW: You have recently been touting the possibility of Jeonnam pushing up the table and scraping their way into the top six. Do you still think this is possible after Wednesday's defeat, and if so, how can Jeonnam do this?
RW: Wednesday's loss to Seoul was a good test of exactly where the Dragons are this season. Of the 4 wins you mentioned earlier, only 1 was against a team in the top half of the table. So, they've been doing what they need to do to avoid relegation and beating teams in the bottom half, but Seoul was a very different story. It was Jeonnam's first true test of playing one of the big clubs since their turn in form and unfortunately it didn't go the Dragons way. Again, I think it showed the difference in quality and time to gel more than anything. Seoul has arguably the best roster in K-League and has had five months and three separate competitions to gel. Jeonnam's roster's been overturned this year and is only playing in one competition. So they may not be able to keep up with the proverbial big dogs just yet, but Championship Round is certainly still attainable. The Dragons are only 4 points behind current 6th place side Gwangju FC and only have 3 games vs Top 6 opponents (Jeonbuk, Gwangju, Sangju Sangmu) in their 7 remaining matches before the split. Additionally, 4 of those 7 remaining matches are at home, so the odds are in their favor to close that 4 point gap and finish in the Championship Round.
SW: What is your prediction for the game?
RW: Going to have to agree with you on this one and say the Dragons offense will prove to be too much for Suwon.
Suwon Bluewings 1-2 Jeonnam Dragons
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Who wins Saturday's 9th vs 10th place matchup?@ScottySSBFC & my #KLeague United preview: https://t.co/S3lEY3AFAq— Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters) August 19, 2016