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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [Pre-season '16 - Part One]

K-League Football Manager 2017
It’s January 2016 and South Korea is in the midst of yet another bitterly cold winter. PSY’s Daddy dominates the domestic music charts, the new Star Wars movie has been swiftly displaced in local cinemas by a Christmas episode of Sherlock, and the noisy northern neighbours have apparently tested a H-Bomb to ring in the new year.

The domestic football league has also seen some changes. The end of 2015 saw Gyeongnam found guilty of bribing referees and reprimanded accordingly. Fortunately for the Korean FA, their squeaky clean flagship club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have decided to try and reclaim the AFC Champions League on behalf of their country by investing heavily in the transfer window. Elsewhere, K-League Classic club Incheon United, in their bid to stave off the threat of relegation, have taken the bold step of hiring an inexperienced 27 year-old British manager by the name of Matthew Binns. What could possibly go wrong?

The Challenge: 
Citizens Unite! Stand up to the Korean Chaebols by leading a citizen club to title glory. 

I haven’t even made it to the ground for my unveiling before I start attracting the ire of the K-League supporters. Through a hugely miscalculated tie selection during this morning’s preparation for my big day, I have already invoked criticism for having aligned with sworn rivals FC Seoul. Perhaps I should hold off on unpacking all my belongings into my new office until this all blows over.


After going through the standard meet and greets with Chairman Yoo Jeong-bok and coach Park Sung-chul, I am left to roam around and become familiar with my surroundings. The lack of assistant manager upon my arrival is already alarming and further inspection reveals a staff list down to the bare bones. Just 3 general coaches, a goalkeeper coach and a single scout is all I have to start this pre-season. With two places available for additional coaching staff, I immediately place adverts for an assistant and fitness coach. I also make use of the four additional scouting slots with another series of adverts for a chief scout, data analyst and a couple more run-of-the-mill scouts to try and flesh out my player knowledge a bit more. We will have to see what comes back in the next week or so.

There are however five physios on the books and I have been told to reduce these immediately. Rather than employing a fitness coach, my predecessor was clearly more about applying bandages rather than seeking out actual preventative measures. Hopefully I can resolve this before it can do significant damage to my pre-season preparation.

In terms of the transfer kitty, I’ve been handed £300,000 to make amends to the squad, with a wage budget of just over £67,000, £63,000 of which is being used on the current squad. It seems to be money well spent though according to Park, who assures me we have strong wing-backs, plenty of depth in defence and attack, and a youth team bursting with talent. The only negatives he can find is a lack of quality coaching, scouting and on-field decision-making. Perhaps things could work out positively here after all.

Incheon United Squad Depth Report

I head straight for the tactics page and begin my tinkering. While it would be advisable to find a formation that best suits the players on the books, given the apparent depth I have in the squad I will lay out my “philosophy” first and find the players that best suit it. After all, if it’s good enough for Pep Guardiola…

I’ve set up in my preferred 4-2-3-1 due to the flexibility it offers in changing personnel mid game. I have decided to treat my centre backs as defensive centre backs with a role on defending rather than supporting. I will leave that to the full backs who I am hoping will push up into midfield and assist there. Central midfield will consist of a ball winning midfielder who can drop back and provide assistance to the two centre backs, and a deep lying playing maker who can create passes that will link to the midfield. After seeing what my Jeonbuk counterpart Choi Kang-hee is up to with Leonardo and new signing Lopes, I have opted for my wingers to become advanced playmakers with an attacking focus, moving in from the wings and dropping into the holes to take chances. My central attacking midfielder will also focus on supporting, with the striker pulling back to provide further assistance to the onrushing midfield whilst potentially pulling out any opposing central defenders. It all looks so good written down.

4-2-3-1 Wide Formation
4-2-3-1 Wide Formation

Team Instructions
Team Instructions
Looking at my squad depth report, I intend to focus on strong back ups for the AMC and AML roles, in addition to another reasonable deep-lying playmaker and possibly a goalkeeper if there’s some funds remaining. The lads are sent to a Turkish training camp and I await to see what becomes of the seeds I have sewn.

I do not have to wait long. Jeonnam Dragons are after Salzburg’s Hwang Hee-chan on loan. Surely this would be a step back for the European-based midfielder, but it doesn’t stop me from chucking my own hat into the ring. It’s too good of an opportunity not to be involved! The offer is accepted but the player is yet to decide on his destination.

More worryingly, Jeonnam, Pohang and FC Seoul are after my highest rated right back and key-player Choi Jong-hwan. I am not in the business of selling key players and stand firm in spite of their proposals. It does me no good however and, after rejecting the offers, myself and the player come to blows. He demands Champions League football, and despite my more than hopeful reassurances that he will eventually get it at Incheon, he will not budge. My parting shot of telling him I was sending him to the reserves was childish I admit, and was something I did not follow through with, but it’s not the most ideal of starts.

The single scout Shin Jin-won has come back however with one of the first of my assignments, the hunt for a decent alternative in the deep lying playmaker role. He proposes chasing Pohang’s Son Jun-ho or Seoul E-Land’s Ju Min-kyu. Their stats are inseparable but, after once hearing a lone, possibly inebriated fan shouting “Dae-Han-Min-Kyu” at Jamsil’s Olympic Stadium, I opt for the K-League Challenge buy, partially with the thought that if this works out I will be seen by my peers as a shrewd buyer in the market.

As I await for my first purchase to arrive, Seongnam FC are alternating bids between centre-backs Matej Jonjić and Bae Sung-jin. Considering we are a team likely to battle in the lower half this year, our defenders certainly seem valuable commodities. I reject both of these but fortunately there is no backlash from either player. It seems neither wish to play for Seongnam.

Whilst at the training camp, I discover I currently have the highest injury list in the league. Whilst they should be back for the start of the season, the likes of Kevin Oris and Ahn Jae-joon are out injured for most of the pre-season. At least my many physiotherapists will be keeping busy.

I also see a return on my job adverts for new behind-the-scenes personnel. After perusing the candidates, I opt for an ex Real Madrid B fitness coach in Quique Sanz, a 21 year old data analyst/coffee boy in Lee Kung-hoon, and Im Jong-hun, a long-time Ulsan coach, as my assistant manager. I am also required to offload a coach according to the board although I am supposed to have a slot free, so I opt for defensive coach Lee Ki-hyung. Not only did he have the lowest stats, but anyone with a name that sounds like “Leaky” in that particular role cannot be a good omen.

Finally, my hunt for a decent alternative on the flanks comes back in the form of Daejeon’s Kim Chan-hee. Definitely not a purchase I actively sought out, but a decent, promising player and the scout reports suggest he would be a fine back-up, providing adequate depth across the attacking midfield.

It’s at this point the Turkish training camp comes to a close and I realise something. I haven’t played any friendlies! I am unsure whether it was supposed to be myself or the assistant manager who organised these fixtures, but given he’s only been here for four days I will give him the benefit of the doubt instead of summoning him into my office for a leathering. With February looming though, I scramble to arrange a friendly against J2 League side Ballena Shizuoka and start readying my team for their first ninety minutes under my stewardship.

I let the assistant pick the team. I know I shouldn’t have but, in the scramble to start playing, I went for the quickest option available and got straight in. Plus I felt it would be best to get a second opinion on our players. It’s not great. Our keeper makes a mistake early on, and despite an equaliser after the break from Velkoski, we go on to lose 3-1. The post match analysis makes for difficult reading. Disgruntled right back Choi made the most mistakes, the keeper had the lowest rating and, more worryingly, Matej Jonjić looks notably out of sorts in my system. I will persist for now, but if he does not fit, hopefully it won't be too late to reignite Seongnam’s interests and cash-in. Finally, the ball is staying in the centre of the park, with our longest passing movement being the ball being played around the centre-circle. I will need to look at our width and see how I can stretch the play.





So as February dawns, my transfer budget is significantly depleted, the sick bay is full, my right back hates me and my team have just been outclassed by a second division side from Japan. On the plus side, I have seen to my staffing issues and have strengthened most of the gaps. I lock the door to my office, adjust my controversial red tie into a manner that suggests "business", and quickly schedule a number of friendlies to see me through to the start of the season.

Other News

  • FC Seoul have hired Choi Jin-han as manager. Whilst it may be his first managerial gig, he has a history of playing at Seoul and is certainly an appointment for the nostalgic supporters.
  • Seongnam FC promoted U18s manager Koo Sang-bum to the role of manager. His CV boasts of coaching experience at Sangju Sangmu and Gangwon. He also holds the record for 3rd most league assists in 1986.
  • Recently purchased Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Striker Kim Shin-wook has been loaned out to Jeju United for the rest of the season.
You can read the next instalment here.

This article is the first part of the #KLeagueFM17 challenges, a series we are running on our website and encourage others to do so on their's as well. If you enjoy Football Manager and the K-League, then we suggest you should take a look for yourself and see if there is a challenge which you can complete during these matchless winter months. The short online entry form can be found here.

The form and style of this piece takes it's inspiration from the fantastic Championship Manager series written by Iain Macintosh on The Set Pieces website. You can read that particular series here.

2 comments

  1. Never trust a red tie!

    Also, Lương Xuân Trường or bust, man! Get him on the field.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's currently featuring in my increasingly long injury list. Should be back in February though. May give him a friendly or two.

      Delete

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