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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [April '16]

K-League Football Manager 2017 Challenge


After a surprisingly successful opening month to the season, Incheon United's new head honcho and self-proclaimed Manager of the Month Matthew Binns looks ahead towards an April chocked-full of fixtures. First though, a difficult test against Ulsan looks set to put a dent in their 100% record.


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], Pre-season '16 [Part 2], March '16

I have barely had time to let the glue set on my homemade Manager of the Month trophy before the next fixture is upon us. Ulsan Hyundai are coming to town on the back of a win against their chaebol-brothers Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (it seems to be a pattern in the schedule that we always have whoever Jeonbuk has just faced). The report suggests they will line-up in a 4-2-3-1 with notable players Mendy up front, and Kovacec on the left. I'm told they have a superb defence but slightly weak on crosses, yet should focus on attacking movement in my pre-match training. I intend to keep the same team that has won the last three games with relative ease.



We suffer an early stomach punch as a Kim Tae-won cross in from the right picks out Mendy in the six yard box yet the imposing striker is denied by keeper Cho Su-hyuk at point blank range. Kovacec however is there to tuck home the rebound and gives Ulsan the lead. We react well though. Kim Tae-su plays through Kim Chan-hee but the youngster's shot ricochets off the post. We also earn a penalty after Lee Chang-yong pushes over Ahn Jae-joon in the box. Velkoski's penalty is saved however and we head in at the interval 1-0 down.

The second half fails to build on our near-chances with Velkoski squandering multiple chances. I went for something a bit unorthodox, removing him for Ju Min-kyu who can play as a striker, but who has only acted as playmaker for me. I also take off the silent Song Si-woo for Park Jong-jin and then introduce Lee Jin-wook for a carded and exhausted Kim Tae-su, switching the formation to a 4-4-2 to take advantage of the wings. It backfires hideously though as Kim Tae-hwan scores from a Mendy cross. Full time comes and I cautiously inform them that "I am far from pleased" with what I saw, but stray away from being too aggressive as I don't wish to damage their confidence from March. It is only our first loss after all. Fortunately Jeju and Sangju lose so the team is still in second.


Next up is Suwon FC, and they are fresh off the back of a defeat to, you guessed it, temporary cellar dwellers Jeonbuk. The scout report suggests they tend to play cautiously yet still favour a 4-4-2. I am also told they will be without 8 players, including star acquisitions Adrian Leijer and Bruce Djite. It seems like a good opportunity to make some changes, especially with Seongnam and Jeju in the next seven days.


Once change however is forced upon me when my keeper Cho Su-hyuk suffers a pulled hamstring in training. He is expected to be out of action for five weeks, meaning my next most capable back up is promising yet inexperienced 20 year old, Lee Tae-hee. Hopefully Suwon FC should prove a gentle introduction to the first team. Ideally Kim Byung-ji has been training him well. I also decide to let Lee Jin-wook and Park Jong-jin take to the wings and offer Kevin Oris his first start of the season, having previously been out with injury. Ju Min-kyu gets a start after his promising substitute appearances and the young Vietnamese lad Lương Xuân Trường which my predecessor picked up also sees some action. The only other other notable change was Jonjic in for Bae Seung-jin Seven changes are made in total. I will get a reputation as the next Choi Kang-hee at this rate.


It takes twenty-one lifeless minutes for the game to kick into gear when captain Ahn Jae-joon bundles home a rebound from Lee Jin-wook's saved shot to give us the lead. After that though, we just fall apart. Suwon attacker Lee Jae-an loses his marker Jonjic in the 25th minute to run onto a through ball and stroke home an equaliser. Four minutes later we fall behind as Lee Gwang-hun heads in unchallenged from a Kim Byung-oh cross. Then, at the stroke of half time, Lee Jae-un makes it 3-1 after Kim Byung-oh plays through an admittedly excellent pass that leaves Jonjic rooted and beaten for pace. We are losing 3-1 at half time.

I give them all the hairdryer treatment at half time, opting for three subs in the shape of Velkoski on for the ineffective Oris, Jin Seong-wook on for Lee Jin-wook, and Jonjic apparently off for Bae Seung-jin. It was only as the teams lined up that I realised in my blind rage I had pointed to Ahn Jae-joon instead and Jonjic was back out in defence. Fortunately the second half is better with Song Si-woo converting a Ju Min-kyu through ball to make it 3-2, before Jin Seong-wook crosses to fellow sub Velkoski to bring the scores level with ten minutes to play. We are unfortunately unable to find an equaliser, but I reluctantly commend them on their second half performance in the dressing room and take the blame in the press conference for giving a way so cheaply. Hopefully Jonjic will recognise the self-sacrifice of my managerial credibility in the public eye and thank me with an actual performance next time.


Next up in my list of Jeonbuk's sloppy seconds is Seongnam FC, who beat the reigning champions 2-1. They are an attacking team, often opting for the direct pass. Koo Sang-bum has also made some impressive recruits, his most notable being former Newcastle United and Melbourne Victory attacking midfielder James Troisi. I opt for my strongest team with the exception of Kim Tae-su who I replace with Ju Min-kyu due to the rate of assists he seems to be getting. Plus, we'll probably lose to high flying Jeju in three days so it is best to make sure we get the three points here after our last two outings.



As the full time whistle rings, it's clear that my Manager of the Month trophy is probably even more deserved given the performances I have witnessed this month. I can barely speak to them. How on earth did we not score here?! More importantly, how the hell did we concede four!? I take the time to introduce Ahn Jae-joon to Bae Seung-jin as they clearly haven't met each other before despite playing four games together. It was an absolute shambles.

We went a goal down within two minutes after an unmarked Troisi sent them ahead. Hwang Ui-jo was then afforded a tap in nine minutes later to double the scoreline. Our left back Park Dae-han then decides to worsen matters by getting himself sent off in addition to serving them a penalty, which Hwang Ui-jo gladly accepts and makes the score three. Fianlly Park Jin-po crosses to Seong Bong-jae
at the far post to make it four at half time. Despite changes the second half fails to offer anything for either side. In the end we drop down to 4th, but fortunately Seoul lose 4-2 to Ulsan (who are now top) and Jeju lose 1-0 to Jeonbuk.

I have three days until we face Jeju and it seems we need to make significant changes if we are not to be turned over again in the same manner. Confidence is notably dropping amongst the lads and we need to arrest this bout of poor form. I don't believe we can defeat Jeju but a draw would be a decent result. The scout report agrees, suggesting we should focus on defensive positioning, although I do not need anyone to tell me that. Jeju offer serious threats up front with Marcelo and top scorer Kim Shin-wook who currently boasts four goals in five. They also have Incheon deserter Lee Yun-pyo who looks set to line up against us. I cannot bear to see his smirking face at full time if we lose, so we must perform here.


I changed to a 4-1-4-1 formation, aiming to counter Jeju's attacking threat. I have instructed the players to also close down quickly and pass directly to attack when in possession. This will need to a disciplined display.

And it mostly is. Genuine chances seem few and far between, but we take ours in the 32nd minute when Park Jong-jin's free kick is met by the glancing header of Ahn Jae-joon who pushes it into the path of Kim Dae-jung arriving at the far post to convert. It's all looking good until midway through the second half when Kim Shin-wook scores a typical "Wookie" goal when he bundles in a six yard box scramble. However, these two highlights are pretty much it and we walk away with a hard earned point and our pride intact.


After weeks of facing teams who have just played Jeonbuk, the champions are finally heading up Incheon way to try and derail our project. Choi Kang-hee has made unflattering comments in the pre-match build-up, to which I childishly responded by calling him a tactical dinosaur, clearing venting pent-up anger that I may have possessed in an alternative reality. It seems we will have to do our talking on the pitch.


Park Je-sik has pulled up with an abdominal strain a day before the match, caused by lifting weights. Ju Min-kyu though should have more than enough about him though to fill in for the next five weeks. I do opt for my default tactics, despite the hard-earned draw at Jeju, as I feel we could catch Jeonbuk on the back foot, especially given their poor form regardless of the point deduction.


It started well. We took the lead on nine minutes through a Ju Min-kyu rocket from the edge of the area. Unfortunately, Jeonbuk's start Brazilian winger Leonardo quickly replies with his own 25 yard stunner and we are back level after fourteen minutes. Velowski is then injured and replaced by Park Jong-jin. From that point on though the game would change completely.

Lee Dong-gook taps in after begrudgingly great work from Lee Jae-sung to give Jeonbuk the lead. three minutes later, Lee Jae-sung gets himself on the score sheet after he heads in a Leonardo cross. Shortly after, Lee Dong-gook taps in again to make it 4-1. Three goals in the space of ten minutes. Confidence is abysmal as the referee mercifully calls half time.

I genuinely don't know what to do. Do I defend and limit the damage in a league that now prioritises goals scored or do I continue to throw everything at the champions? I passionately implore my players to go back out there and try to get something. Six minutes later though it was 5-1 as Lee Dong-gook finishes off a hat trick of tap ins. Bugger. We do get some luck though as Lim Jong-eun deflects in a Ju Min-kyu shot (who has again been excellent given the circumstances) to at least give us a goal back. We then score another to make it 5-3 on the hour mark as Bae Seung-jin heads in a Ju Min-kyu corner. We have thirty minutes to score two more goals and salvage a point. Perhaps a remarkable comeback is on the cards here? Perhaps this could be the moment my team properly comes together under my leadership. Perhaps we can keep chasing this improbable Champions League dre.... and it's now 6-3 to Jeonbuk. Game over. 36 year old Lee Dong-gook with his fourth if you're asking.

The final game of the month sees military side Sangju Sangmu stroll into town off the back of a narrow defeat to Pohang. Their set up seems pretty standard; yet another 4-4-2 with mixed playing and marking styles. The biggest concern is within my own dressing room however where Kevin Oris, Lee Jin-wook and Cho Byung-kuk are all demanding first team football. Seeing as we have not won any of the last six games, perhaps they have a point so I cave in to their demands and fit them into my flatlining system in the bid to jump my campaign back to life. Besides Ahn Jae-joon is still out with a slight injury from the Jeju match so there's no harm in Cho being afforded a start.



Well that certainly could not have gone better! Kevin Oris has a natural affinity with Song Si-woo it seems, with the stiker scoring one and assisting the attacking midfielder twice, with Song returning the by playing Kevin through for our second. We are 3-0 up in half an hour and are cruising towards those coveted champions league places. We do come slightly undone before half time though when we fall for Cho Young-cheol's lob over our defence, allowing Yoo Jun-soo through on goal to score a one-on-one. It does not derail us and we proceed to finish the job off in the 2nd half when a Ju Min-kyu corner is converted by disgruntled left winger Lee Jin-wook. Full time score is 4-1 and have averted unhappiness amongst the ranks of my substitutes with valuable game time. A perfect way to end what was looking like a disastorous month.


As May arrives, I can be pretty certain that this month's non-existent Manager of the Month award will not be heading my way. Six games without a win definitely hurt our promising start, yet we sit fourth on goals scored behind Pohang. FC Seoul are already seven points out of sight, but the title was never on the cards for the first season. Speaking of which, the next two opponents on the fixture list will be Suwon Bluewings and the Gyeongin rivals themselves. If we play like we did against Sangju, and blatantly ignore the rest of the month, we may just stand a chance.



Read the next instalment here

This article is the fourth 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.

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