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2016 Season Review: Daejeon Citizen

Daejeon ended the season how it began, with a defeat to Daegu. Photo credit: DCFC.co.kr

The 2016 season proved to be one of much promise but little substance for the Purple Arena faithful, with their beloved Daejeon seeing their promotion push fizzle out 
unceremoniously, and thus fail to make an instant return to the K League Classic as they'd once hoped.

Despite being a well-established club, a club that once won the FA Cup no less, Daejeon lack financial clout and, as the name Citizen would suggest, are a team funded by the City of Daejeon. Although already competing with one hand tied behind their back somewhat, funding to the football team was cut which meant that budgets set aside for player recruitment and retention was reduced. The result was the inability to renew the contracts of Brazilian utility man Wanderson, now of Asian Champions League outfit Jeju United, or indeed former Malaga central defender Alvaro Silva. Both were important first team players for Daejeon, the latter seemed to develop a telepathic-like understanding with Jean-Claude Bozga in the heart of Daejeon's defense, whilst the former added guile and poise to the forward line whilst scoring some important goals. Their respective departures left the squad somewhat threadbare and lacking in experience and although Daejeon battled bravely in their absense, they were never quite the same. The result was a young and inexperienced squad who, at times, struggled for confidence and consistency.

What Went Well

Daejeon lost just four home games all season, with three of those coming at the very beginning of the campaign, during what was very much a bedding-in period for the new players - new fewer than 12 players made their Daejeon bow during the opening day defeat to Daegu. Despite losing their first four games of the season, including their first two home games, Daejeon's home form was on par with the best in the league, with eventual champions Ansan also suffering a mere four losses on their own turf. Any successful team will see their home stadium as their fortress to protect, Daejeon cerainly did that and put many to the sword at Purple Arena with notable wins over Bucheon, Busan, Gangwon and Seoul E-Land not to mention a five nil thumping of Ansan. Daejeon's form in front of their own supporters was second to none in 2016.

In addition, Citizen's attacking prowess was there for all to see with Kim Dong-Chan, Gustavo and Hwang In-Beom putting in some scintillating displays over the course of the campaign. Once Daejeon got their sticky start out of the way, the Purples began to develop a rhythm and looked like they could diplace any team on their day. 

Further more, a handful of rookie players made their debuts for Daejeon in 2016; players such as Lee Dong-Soo, a versatile player who operated as a full back and as an anchoring midfielder, stepped up to first team football with aplomb. Others included, defenders Kim Hae-Sik, Jang Jun-Young and forwards Park Dae-Hoon and Yoo Seung-Wan, who all looked like decent prospects going into next year. Perhaps the experience that this season brought them will stand them, and indeed Daejeon, in good stead for 2017.

What Didn't Go Well

Whilst Daejeon were strong at home, the same cannot be said for their fortunes on the road. Citizen picked up just four away victories in 2016, with two of those victories coming against the hopeless Goyang Zaicro. Out of the top six - the sides that had something to play for on the final day - the average number of away victories was 10, Daejeon with a mere four were well below average. Departing manager Choi Moon-Sik's insistence on playing attractive football was admirable in one sense but arrogant in another. Daejeon's inability to adopt a system designed to grind results out away from home will be seen as a key factor in why the team failed to reach the playoffs and why the manager decided to jump before he was pushed. Simply put, there was no plan B.
Team MVP

Kim Dong-Chan, the former Jeonbuk Hyundai striker who was snatched from under the noses of the old enemy Suwon Bluewings before putting pen to paper on his Daejeon contract, was red hot for Citizen, scoring 20 goals. His impressive goal tally only tells half the story, however. His movement, guile and tactical nous created space for the likes of Gustavo and Hwang In-Beom, with Gustavo in particular who was all too happy to make the most of said space to arrive late and score some well-worked goals. Quite frankly, it doesn't bear thinking about how Daejeon's season might have turned out had it not have been for the arrival of Kim Dong-Chan.

Team Goat

One signing that really seemed to capture the imagination was the arrival of Seo Dong-Hyun on loan from Jeju United. His record for Ansan during his two year spell proved that he could get goals in the Challenge and thus seemed to fit the bill perfectly. But, despite that, Seo Dong-Hyun looked uninterested, unfit and distinctly lacklustre in a Daejeon shirt.  A wrist injury allowed Kim Dong-Chan to enter the fray, after which Seo Dong-Hyun never got a look in and, eventually, saw his loan deal terminated. He spent the rest of the season on loan at Suwon FC scoring just once in 10 appearances. 

Most Important Decision of the Off Season

What must be considered of utmost importance is new contracts for Jean-Claude Bozga and Kim Dong-Chan, whilst also convincing wonderkid Hwang In-Beom that he should stay at least one more season before departing for the big leagues. All three players were extremely impressive for Citizen this season and so they won't be short of potential suitors should they be made available. However, Bozga has made noises to suggest that he would be open to extend his stay should the right offer be made. As for Kim Dong-Chan, his spell at Daejeon has been his most prolific in his career to date and his adored by the fans; such factors could influence the 30-year-old to extend his stay. However, the Daejeon number 10 currently resides in Hannam, Gyeonggi Province so it might not even be a matter of offering him the right money but factors of location that influence his decision. But, if Daejeon are serious about promotion next year then there's no better striker out there that would be available to Daejeon. If it were I who were in charge than I would be handing Mr. Kim a blank cheque and insisting that he simply name his price. 

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