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