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2016 K League Classic Grades

With everything but the FA Cup Champion crowned in 2016, it's time to take a look back at the season that was in K-League Classic. On top filling in the Best XI, Worst XI, and handing out our own Awards, the grades are now in for all 12 teams that participated in the top flight this year. Look over our staff's assessment and leave your thoughts in the comments below!


Jeju set their sights high at the start of the season when, after a pre-season team climb to the top of Mount Halla, they unveiled a banner showing their goal of winning the league. While this was always likely to be a step too far, the ambition seen here clearly had an effect as they went on to finish in the top three of the league for the first time since 2010. Despite a difficult period during the middle of the season, a fantastic finish saw Jeju lose only one of their final 12 games, become the first team to beat Jeonbuk in the league, and take the final ACL spot. During this period their usual attacking style of play was complimented by a previously unseen solidity in defense which made them more than worthy of their third place finish.@kleaguereview


It does seem quite a generous grade for a team that ultimately finished sixth and only picked up four draws in their last twelve games. However, given that the leagues' military sides are compiled of loanees who mostly ended their service in August, achieving what would be their highest ever finish with a brand of mostly attacking football is quite the feat. Many seem to agree, with nearly 50% of votes in our season awards opting for Cho Jin-ho as Manager of the Year.@Matt_Binns


If they win the FA Cup, it goes up to an A. FC Seoul were inferior to Jeonbuk all season and while they got it together in superb fashion on the final day of the K-League, the ACL semi-final defeat means that particular trophy remains, as ever, tantalizingly out of reach. However, Hwang Sun-hong has done a great job since taking over and the future looks bright. @korearacing


For a team I predicted to finish 9th, and that was mired in the relegation battle for half the season to finish 5th overall is a terrific accomplishment. Summer signings Jair and Mrčela propelled a tremendous summer run and helped secure the team's best finish since 2009. The lackluster end of the season doesn't bode well for the future, but taking the long view it's hard to call this season anything but a success.@MrRyanWalters


A 4th place finish for Ulsan given last season's bottom half catastrophe is a huge amelioration. Defensively, the team looks stronger, though offensively, their toothlessness is the reason why they'll hope for a Seoul win in the FA Cup to send them to the ACL. Furthermore, Yoon Jung-hwan's temptations to return to manage in Japan may unfortunately be indicative that this team may have hit a plateau... They will need a big off-season transfer window to keep up with the top three sides.@Korfan12


Few anticipated much more than a relegation zone battle from Gwangju FC this year, but they wildly outperformed any preseason expectations and were never even close to the drop zone. Our Comeback Player of the Year, 32 year old Jung Jo-gook, stunning the Korean footballing world by winning the Golden Boot and K-League MVP put Gwangju on the map in a more prolific way than expected, but the team should still feel disappointed in letting Championship Round slip after a strong start to the season and boasting on of the best attackers in the game.@MrRyanWalters


Jeonbuk admittedly improved on last year and were invincible until the split. A 9 points deduction and ill-timed poor form cost them their lead, culminating in losing the title on the final day. However, it was the manager's occasional conservative tactics and sporadic approach to team selection (especially towards the end after the punishment) that ultimately cost them over the course of the year. Their 16 draws are most notable, 11 of which were from lost leads.@Matt_Binns


Having been in the bottom 2 for the majority of the season, it's a minor miracle that Incheon secured their status in the Classic on the last game of the season. Having looked destined for the drop, a change of manager really set their season back on course and inspired them on a superb end of season run. With an emphasis on attack they plundered their way to 6 wins from their final 10 games and secured their place in the league in style. @ScottySSBFC


Pohang supporters were subjected to an unfamiliar, shambolic season that saw them limp out of the Champions League in the group stages, incur the 4th highest number of losses, and have to wait until the last round of fixtures to confirm their safety, only just edging a one-nil victory against an equally dire Seongnam. Most worryingly, they lacked regular goalscorers with only Yang Dong-hyun and Shim Dong-woon scoring more than four goals, making their goal tally the 4th lowest in the league in a season when Goals Scored was of added importance. The club will be wanting to quickly put this season behind them and reinforce over the winter to ensure they are not in for another repeat in 2017, as they might not be so lucky@Matt_Binns


A disastrous season was only given a tiny semblance of decency towards the end of when a fantastic run, spearheaded by Johnathan, steered Suwon to safety in the league. Key players have been consistently out of form and the first team didn't play to their potential until the dying embers of the season came. They still have an FA Cup Final to play and winning that would take the overall grade up to a C-. @ScottySSBFC


After making a number of interesting acquisitions in pre-season, including former Belgian international Marvin Ogunjimi and former La Liga player Jaime Gavilan, a lot of people thought Suwon FC may make a success of their first ever season at this level. But despite the investment they have had a miserable year. A failure to create and score goals has been their downfall and even though they rallied towards the end of the season there was no way back. @ScottySSBFC


Quite possibly the biggest disaster in K League history. Having led the league during the majority of March and April many people were predicting that this Seongnam team could challenge for the title. But a dramatic end of season slump has seen them collect only 17 points since June and they now face the genuine prospect of relegation as they Gangwon FC in the promotion play-off. @ScottySSBFC

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