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Preview: Seongnam vs Suwon Bluewings

(Photo courtesy of www.http://sports.donga.com)
Seongnam and Suwon go head to head in Tancheon at the weekend with both teams desperate for points to stop their mini-gluts. With Seongnam slipping further and further away from the ACL qualifying places, and Suwon sitting precariously above the relegation zone, this game has extra spice to what is usually, already, a keenly fought contest between two local teams.

Seongnam

It will be best not to judge Seongnam on this season until it has actually finished, but over recent weeks what was being deemed as a superb season is at risk thanks to a poor run of results. In truth, recently, Seongnam have looked a shadow of their former selves and are even struggling to remain in the top half of the table. 

Seongnam  started the season superbly, leading the league throughout the months of March and April and remained undefeated through their first 5 games. Infact, until the end of May, the only teams to beat Seongnam had been Jeonbuk and FC Seoul, and even they were fortuitous results for the big two teams. The first half of the season saw Seongnam lose only 4 games and as such, they were riding high up the table.

However, since June, Seongnam have had a mixed bag of results. Out of their 18 games in June, July and August they have secured 5 wins, 5 draws and 8 losses which has seen them fall further down the table. On the pitch calamity, was also mixed with off the pitch calamity as the board attempted to sell star man Thiago for $3 Million, only to find out that he was actually on loan to Seongnam from parent club Penapolense.

Despite their great start to the season Seongnam haven't looked anything like the team that performed so well and impressed so many people last season. Last season Seongnam taught the whole league how to properly play counter attacking football. They were extremely resilient in defence and they knew how to play to the strengths of Hwang Eui-jo. They rarely attacked but in Eui-jo they had a man who only needed one chance and he finished the season with 15 goals to his name.

This season, Seongnam have attempted to replicate the same formula but it just hasn't been the same. They have conceded far too many goals, and have already conceded more than they did in the entirety of last season. Moreover, they just don't threaten their opponents enough. Hwang Eui-jo's off field interests (the striker has allegedly cast his eye over a few of Seongnam's female supporters) appear to have affected his performances and without his goals Seongnam are always going to be fighting an up hill battle.

For 3 months the fantastic Thiago (he was going to be my pick for player of the season) kept Seongnam afloat but now that he has gone Seongnam have very little attacking inspiration on the pitch. They may be relying on a strong back 4 and a few lucky goals to propel them towards ACL qualification. But it may be more likely they finish closer to pain than glory come the end of November.

Prediction

Suwon's season has gone from bad to worse in recent weeks and with their next 4 games all being played away from home, it stands to reach new lows. With prospective away travels to Seongnam, Gwangju, Jeonbuk and Incheon, it is not difficult to imagine Suwon only gaining 1 point from the whole month of September.

Suwon are in a deep decline and that decline is further heightened by Suwon FC's recent resurgence. Furthermore, Incheon have already shown this season that they have some fight in them with the mini-run they went on in the month of June. Suwon have never hit any significant run of form throughout the season, and if Incheon can replicate what they did in June, then Suwon will be sinking fast in sand that they cannot escape.

Suwon's failures have been two fold; a tepid attack lacking any creativity and an error prone defence that receives very little protection from central midfield. These two failures have never been addressed by a coach who week-on-week looks more and more like an amateur who doesn't recognise his own squad. Seo Jung-won has had a terrible season and if things don't dramatically improve he will almost certainly be shown the door come the end of the season.

With that in mind, this trip to Seongnam is perhaps Suwon's most important of the season so far and should be attacked with vigor. However, what Suwon will most likely do is pass the ball around a little in midfield, feed the ball to Johnathan in a wide position and never allow the predatory striker to touch the ball in the box. This recently has been my biggest criticism of Seo Jung-won as he does not appear to know how to use what could be Suwon's key to remaining in this league. Johnathan was signed (and billed) as the man to save Suwon's season, but thus far he just hasn't had the opportunity to prove his worth. As I've said many times already, the Brazilian is a striker that will put the ball in the back of the net. Thus, it would make sense to give him as many touches of the ball in the box as possible. But Johnathan is primarily asked to recieve the ball out wide and he invariably loses the ball in this position, or alternatively plays a safe pass back into midfield. In Suwon's last outing, away at Sangju, the striker had a total of 2 touches within the penalty area. One of those touches showed exactly how dangerous he is in the box as his alertness and superb technique allowed him to feed a one-touch pass to Santos who finished an easy chance to score a goal. 1 out of 2 touches resulted in a goal. Just think what might happen if he had 10 touches within the box. It's now time for the manager to attack games with a little more purpose and if he was to play with two strikers it may allow for Johnathan to play a little more centrally.

Unfortunately, Yeom Ki-hun is injured and will miss the whole month of September, and it is expected that Kwon Chang-hoon will fill his spot on the left side of midfield. This will significantly weaken Suwon's attack as Chang-hoon is more of a square peg in a round hole when he is asked to play out wide. He can do the role to a decent level but his all round game is better suited to playing centrally and supporting the striker. Alternatively, Seo Jung-won may want to push Hong-Chul up from full back to replace Ki-hun. The left back is a good crosser and attacks well and that could be an option.

I personally don't think much will happen in this game. Both teams play a cautious brand of football and I think if you offered both managers a draw before the match then they would probably take it and run for the hills. Seongnam and, particularly, Suwon are finding goals difficult to come by at the moment and I don't imagine that there will be much attacking fluency on show. I would hope for a draw for Suwon's sake, but at this point in the season I have just had any remaining optimism battered out of me.

Predicted Score: Seongnam 1 - 0 Suwon

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