2016 Season Review: Suwon Bluewings
What was a dissapointing season for so long, was ultimately a successful one when Suwon claimed the 2016 Korean FA Cup. Despite some woeful performances from established high level K League players, Suwon managed to pull it all together when it really mattered fighting their way out of the relegation fight with ease and deservedly winning the FA Cup. Seo Jung-won saved his job with the cup win and there is a renewed feeling of hope around the club. If Suwon can keep that feeling going into next season then a top 3 finish should not be beyond this group of players.
What Went Well
Until October came around, absolutely nothing went well. But in the latter months of the season Suwon were a real force to be reckoned with as they destroyed their contemporaries during the end of season relegation round. The return to form of Kwon Chang-hoon, Lee Sang-ho, Yeom Ki-hun and Koo Ja-ryoung along with the emergence of key talents Johnathan, Jang Ho-ik and Lee Jong-seong propelled Suwon to a new level. Their end of season romp lead to them lifting the FA Cup and ultimately salvaged an underwhelming season for the club.
What Didn't Go Well
In short, almost everything. Key players didn't work hard enough for the vast majority of the season resulting in Suwon fighting it out at the bottom of the table almost from the beginning to the end of a long, hard season. Without a decent centre forward in the squad, youngster Kim Gun-hee was asked to lead the line in the 1st half of the season, a task that was too big for his talented, yet inexperienced shoulders, and it was only the arrival of Johnathan in the summer that saved Suwon from the ultimate embarrassment of relegation.
Player of the Year
After almost every player had played so poorly for so long, this is a really difficult assessment to make. But the turn around in Suwon's form came when both Hong-Chul and Johnathan were match-fit and firing on all cylinders, so the award should go to them equally. Hong-Chul in particular was superb when he returned from injury and he had been sorely missed. His return allowed Suwon to switch to the 5-3-2 system that was so successful for them. But without Johnathan's goals, Suwon may well have dropped down to the Challenge. The Brazilian had a superb end to the season scoring 13 goals in the final 11 games.
There have been some stinking performances from a number of players this season, most notably seasoned performers letting the team down on a number of occasions. Despite being a fan favourite Baek Ji-hoon has shown that he is passed his Classic sell by date and should drop down to the 2nd tier next year. The same can also be said of Lee Yong-rae, who played to the best of his ability, but his ability is limited and would be more suited to that level. Shin Se-gye, the club's 1st choice right-back, has been dreadful all season and Suwon have perhaps dodged a bullet regarding a decision on his future as he will join Sangju Sangmu next season.
But anyone who reads my articles will know instantly the one player who does not cut it in the top flight, and that player is Cho Dong-geon, and quite frankly, he wouldn't cut it at any professional level in Korea. Although the 'target man' was mildly successful during his stint with Seongnam, he is now a player who is living off that legacy and only that legacy. He is slow, he can't control a ball, he can't pass the ball more than 5 yards and he rarely takes a shot. He is possibly the worst striker I have ever seen (and after being a Barnsley FC supporter for 23 years I have seen my fair share of terrible strikers) play and if he is still at the club next season then there will be serious questions to answer.
Most Important Decision of Pre-Season
The most important decision the club has to make this winter, is who will replace Hong-Chul, with the 1st choice left-back completing his military service with Sangju Sangmu next year. As Suwon found out this season, having 2 attacking full-backs can completely change the set-up of a team and finding a good replacement should be top priority. While there aren't a lot of high quality full-backs in the league a return to Korea for Yun Suk-young may work well for both parties. While the left-back hasn't played a lot of football over recent years he may still possess the quality required.
Influential striker, Johnathan, has already returned to Brazil after his loan spell expired. But, the striker has hinted on social media that he will be back and internet rumors are rife that he will sign a longer term contract soon. It's rather an obvious decision that all available funds should be used on securing that transfer, as Johnathan looks to be a cut-above any other striker I have seen in Korea.
Finally, this is the year that Suwon should be looking to cut all the dead wood that is part of the playing squad. The likes of Baek Ji-hoon, Lee Yong-rae, Park Hyun-Beom, and especially the high earning duo of Oh Jang-eun and Cho Dong-geon should be shown the door. This season has seen the emergence of some good, young talent at Suwon and the under-performing old guard must be moved on to harness and supplement those young players.