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

K-League Football Manager 2017 Challenges
January had seen a relative amount of upheaval behind-the-scenes at Incheon United, with new members of coaching staff, two promising players from the second tier recruited and a spectacular fallout between new manager Matthew Binns and star right back Choi Jong-hwan. To further compound matters, after an administrative cock-up, Incheon squeezed in just the one friendly against Japanese second tier side Ballena Shizuoka, in which they proceeded to lose 3-1. With one month until the first game of the season, the manager will have his work cutout if his side are to be ready for the visit of Jeonnam Dragons.

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

Previous Instalments: Pre-season '16 [Part 1]

Seongnam are persistent in their chase for Matej Jonjić, now offering almost £300,000 for the defender’s services. After using a good chunk of my initial budget on Kim Chan-hee and Ju Min-kyu, I could really do with replenishing the kitty but it just seems ridiculous to let the Croation go given his stats. Despite this though, I have decided to drop him for the friendly against FC Hiroshima in a bid to test out some alternative options.

The scout report suggests that Hiroshima have recently been sending out a 4-1-2-1-2 narrow formation, with their attacks being centrally focused. They seemed to have made some alterations come kick-off though. It was strongly advised I consider a specific defensive midfield role for this game, changing my “philosophy” into a 4-1-2-3. I did not listen. I should have listened.

Prior to kick off, I undertook some mild rotation to give some unused players a run out in addition to starting my two new acquisitions. I also opted for poacher Song Je-heon to lead the line just to see what he can offer me, especially as Kevin Oris will not be returning from injury until March. Things start well, with two shots and three corners all within the opening minute. Park Jong-jin on the left wing has notably started brightly. However, it would all go wrong so quickly. Defender Park Dae-han hacks down the Hiroshima striker in the penalty box, earning himself a deserved yellow and conceding a penalty, which the Japanese side take the lead from. Despite this setback, its pleasing to note the midfield are performing well yet the defence is out of sorts. The half hour mark comes around and it’s 2-0 as two Hiroshima attackers are not picked up. Something will have to change at the interval.

I remove Park Dae-han at half time and replace him with Jonjić. It does not work. We concede a penalty immediately but thankfully it is saved. However, the Japanese outfit then proceed to score from a direct free kick two minutes later. To make matters worse, Park Jong-jin then pulls up injured with hamstring trouble, ruling him on out for the next five weeks. I do eventually bring on Velkoski who scores almost immediately from a Kim Chan-hee cross but it is barely even a consolation. It felt as though we were thoroughly outplayed here, despite what the stats suggest.

There’s little time to rest until our next game due to the haphazardly manner in which I booked these friendlies. Suzhou Dongwu are apparently 4-4-2 long ball merchants and also occupy Chinese League Two. If we struggle here we really do have a problem.

We do not struggle. Again, I opt for rotation to make sure everyone who is fit is receiving some game time, but I think I’ll have to start putting together my final squad soon. It seems the players are beginning to find their feet also and we find ourselves 3-0 up at half time. Jin Seong-wook opened the scoring after latching onto a Velkoski header. Velkoski then puts his own name on the score sheet by beating the defensive line onto a through ball and drilling home from close range. The third was a tight angled shot from Lee Yun-pyo on the left. We seem to be doing a professional job here.

Based on the club doctor’s orders, I remove Ahn Jae-joon after 45 minutes to ensure his injury does not flare up again and replace him with Jonjić Yet again, the Croatian’s introduction coincides with a cross into our box and them heading home. Fortunately, Jin Seong-wook is having a fantastic game and lets fly with a 25 yard screamer to bring the score up to 4-1. Whilst he may not have been entirely at fault for the first conceded goal, Jonjić is later beaten and we concede again to make the final score 4-2. I wonder if Seongnam are still interested?

Behind the scenes, I have brought in a defensive minded coach as an upgrade on my current backroom offerings. Again, the board make me remove one member of staff to make way for him. His arrival sees our defensive team rated as one of the strongest in the league, however it is also the 2nd worst for goalkeeping training (first place being newly promoted Suwon FC). I am pretty sure this wasn't the case before and, as I look through my staff, I suddenly realise the coach I had let go was my goalkeeping coach. The board and fans cannot find out about this! I subsequently take out yet another job advert for a goalkeeping coach and now sit awaiting for candidates to fill the position.
I have one last friendly before March, an away trip to Beijing Guo’an. Having featured in last year’s AFC Champions League, making it to round of 16 before being dispatched by Jeonbuk, I figure this would be a good final test for my side. The scout reports suggest they tend to play an attack-minded 4-4-2 with a zonal marking defensive strategy. The report also suggests they are susceptible to a 4-2-3-1 and that I should focus my attacks down the right.

I have decided to give Park Dae-han a second chance after his previous outing. I also let Jin Seong-wook keep his place on the left wing. I additionally get to test out my predecessors recently acquired Vietnamese defensive midfielder Lương Xuân Trường, who makes his return from injury. Finally, I've dropped Jonjić He can prove to me later in the season why I should trust him, but for now I need to play with the defence that (kind of) works.

We take an early blow as Beijing's Sergeev breaks free with the ball and lobs it over the keeper in embarrassing fashion to make it 1-0. Besides this though, the first half offered very little for either side. The second half is an improvement. Crosses had been mostly failing before but I opted to instruct my full backs to overlap and exploit the flanks after the break, with the intention of stretching their organised back line thus opening up some opportunities. The full backs pressed well and crosses into the box increased yet unfortunately their was no equaliser. Despite the scoreline though, it was mostly encouraging and something to build on.

And with that friendly, my pre-season schedule was once again free of fixtures, with the club being unable to find anyone to face from now until the start of the season in two weeks time where we will verse Jeonnam.

Speaking of which, Choi Jung-hwan has not given up in his quest to move away from the club. More offers from FC Seoul and Jeonnam Dragons come in. I reject the former and accept the latter, with the spiteful notion that he can leave, but not for Champions League football. He does not care though and opts to go anyway, but I do take the bold decision to then use the newly acquired funds to take Jeonnam's right back Choi Hyo-jin. Whilst he may be slightly older, he is still a very decent option and should be able to offer some security to that back line.

So as March looms and I await my first competitive debut, I am without a goalkeeping coach and have eventually agreed to let my disgruntled key right back leave the club to much discontent from the supporters. Furthermore, it will not be long until I see him again lining up against his old side. I have won one friendly out of four, and desperately need to nail down my starting eleven. On the plus side, players are finally recovering from injuries so I should have a wealth of choices come opening day. The challenge starts here.

Other News:

  • Jeonnam Dragons confirm the surprise season-long loan capture of RB Salzburg’s Hwang Hee-chan. They are looking quite formidable ahead of our opening day clash.
You can read the next instalment here.

This article is the second 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.

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