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

The K-League Football Manager 2017 Challenges - Incheon United

April provided Incheon United with a much needed reality check as they proceeded to pick up five out of a possible twenty-one points on offer. Still in fourth though thanks to an unbelievable March, Matthew Binns' men will now have to resolve their newfound problems quickly as derbies against Suwon Bluewings and FC Seoul loom menacingly over the horizon.

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, April '16

It's fair to say April was a stark contrast to the month that had preceded it. Giddy dreams of Champions League have quite rightly been put to one side in order to focus on the task at hand. I took several notable batterings in the last 30 days but the prospect of being hammered in back to back matches against fierce rivals Suwon Bluewings and FC Seoul would surely see any discontent escalate and my position questioned.

Fortunately I have been afforded some time before my next match, nine days to be precise. I plan on revisiting the countering 4-1-4-1 tactic I dabbled with in my 1-1 draw against Jeju in a bid to limit the damage against these two opponents. Unfortunately, Park Jong-jin has torn ligaments in his knee during training and will be out for the next three months. Choi Hyo-jin will also be suspended due to his yellow card accumulation but the silver lining comes in the form of my first team goalkeeper Cho Su-hyuk who has recovered from injury. He should be fit for at least one of these games.

The Suwon scout reports seems to suggest I could also be in for trouble. The Bluewings seem to prefer a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation, focusing on attacking with direct passing and winning the ball back with quick closing down when not in possession. They are ninth however and I am fourth. I should try to have some confidence. I'm still going to line-up defensively however.

We start off well. Kevin Oris manages to get the ball in the back of the net after five minutes but is annoyingly ruled for offside. Kim Do-hyeok then comes close with a fierce long range effort but is denied by the upright. The team seem relatively tight, that is until their recent signing Augustor Fraga latches on to a Suwon clearance that had somehow looped over my back line, leaving the striker to finish unchallenged. Their goal came against the run of play and was undeserved given the effort my lads were putting in. We continued our tight formation into the second half, eventually resorting back to my default tactic around 65 minutes in search for a goal. It amounts to little though and we head back to Incheon with nothing to show for our troubles.

Losing to a Suwon side hurt, especially when it is the Bluewings variety. Although I clearly feel there were positives, the local press has not seen it the same way and have declared I have brought embarrassment on the club. I do my best to take the flack for my team. We cannot have a crisis of any remaining confidence when 1st placed FC Seoul are coming to town in three days.

Looking at the FC Seoul squad before kick-off, it is apparent that defender Kim Chi-woo has a slight knock that his manager is expecting him to play through. Knowing that losing here would most likely destroy any good will the fans may have had for me up to now, I instruct my team to target him in particular, going hard in the tackle in a bid to make Seoul waste one of their substitutes early on. It's certainly a despicable act, but it is all about marginal gains.

The whistle blows to signal kick-off and I brace myself for Seoul's onslaught. It takes less than a minute for the first shot to find the back of the net. However, its not the visitors who have found a lead. Our very own Kim Do-hyeok lost his marker Ju Se-jong in the box and worked his way onto the end of a beautiful through ball by Kevin Oris, finishing superbly. We are leading, and there's 89 minutes to hold on to.

I let play continue a little in this current formation and it is similar to the performance against Bluewings. We are holding strong and barely giving our opponents any space to move forward. Somehow we weather the storm until near half time when I double down on defensive instructions to get us in at the interval with a lead. Then, as we are defending for our lives and kicking Kim Chi-woo all over the pitch, Seoul's Ju Se-jong adds to his poor defending by proceeding to haul Kim Do-hyeok down, receiving his 2nd yellow card.  Half time comes around and we're a goal and a man up against FC Seoul. We have to stay focused here and not let complacency become an issue.

We nearly do though just two minutes into the second half. Bae Seung-jin gives the ball away to substitute Adriano who breaks through on goal with defenders chasing. As he enters the penalty area, I fully expect him to dive and claim a penalty. As this is not Sangam though, and thus the chances of him being awarded a penalty are slim, the Brazilian holds off going to ground and decides to let fire. Fortunately for us, he decides to blaze it into the FC Seoul fans behind the goal, sending their contraband cans of Cass flying.

We continue to hold on, with Choi Hyo-jin, who had came on for a struggling Matij, clearing off the goal line in the 58th minute. As each five minute period passes, I pull the team further back and become increasingly conservative in my tactics. We see it through though and the stadium is delirious as the full time whistle rings out. I look at the muddy and bloody faces of Incheon's new found heroes and I couldn't be happier. There shall be so-mek tonight!

There's another game in four days, but it is somewhat of a reprieve given that it is an FA Cup tie against football league side Gangneung City. I try to focus as the scout tells me that they knocked out Gangwon FC in convincing fashion in the second leg but I am not too concerned. I just need to recover from the night before. Despite my lack of concern though, I opt for a relatively strong squad. Kim Tae-su and Jonjic will feature as they are banned for the following K-League game. Kim Chan-hee is handed a start as it's been a while, and the quartet of complainers last month (Kevin Oris, Lee Jin-wook, Kim Do-hyeok and Cho Byung-kuk) who wanted, and have been getting game time, stay in the side in the hope of them retracting their request sooner.

It's a fairly routine affair with an expected scoreline. I miss most of the first half as I proceed to seek out a place to nap after kick-off. Still recovering from the excessive post-match celebrations against FC Seoul, I make my excuses and tell the coaching staff I will watch from the stands to analyse formations. Waking up from my slumber at half-time after being disturbed by the cleaner, I check my phone and see we are three goals to good, with two Kevin Oris goals and an effort from Kim Chan-hee ensuring we are spared of a possible "cupset". I stumble down to the bench for the second half and give an approving thumbs up in the direction of the bench. Within three minutes of the second half, the visitors pull a goal back and then Kim Tae-su is taken off injured shortly after. Fortunately sub Velkoski and Jin Seong-wook make it 5-1, until the visitors are afforded an injury time consolation. Any potential embarrassment has been spared though and we can look forward to the next round.

My last two games of the month will see the visit of Jeonnam in addition to an away trip to Gwangju. Having hammered the Dragons on their own turf in the opening round of fixtures, I think it seems reasonable to expect something similar here. Despite their impressive signings, they have failed to impress so far. I'm still advised though to prepare my side defensively in preparation for their much-hyped attack. I get the feeling the scouting team are just rehashing previous reports.

Again, another routine victory. We seem to be developing a level of professionalism after the Seoul and Bluewings games. It may be annoying for those who still doubt my appointment, but we again saw off the opposition with ease. Song Si-woo opened the scoring from the edge of the area on 11 minutes after latching onto a Park Je-sik through-ball. Jin Seong-wook then converts a splendid Choi Hyo-jin assist to double the lead before the interval. The second half is less exciting, but Song does double his tally for the day after Oris provides him on the hour mark. Job done.

And so on to the Gwangju game to see out the month. Another re-hashed scout report identifies Jung Jo-gook as the main threat and advises I should focus my efforts on attacking movement. It also predicts the sky is blue and two plus two totals four. I am beginning to wonder what exactly I am paying the scouting team for.

It is as predictable as the scout report as we cruise to a 4-0 victory with relative ease. Goals from Oris (2), Lee Jin-wook and an absolute stunner from Ju Min-kyu ensure that I am once again in contention for my homemade manager of the month award that I seem to be routinely awarding and taking from myself. Gwangju had few chances and offered very little threat despite their apparent attacking talent. Perhaps placing their hopes on an ex-Seoul has-been and a Barcelona Juvenil A forward, instead of reinforcing their defence, was not their smartest idea.

May comes to a close with little cause for concern. With the transfer window just over a month away however, no doubt some of my unused players will start making noises in June in a bid to find playing time at this club or another. It does not matter for now though, we are third in the table, still in the FA Cup and continuing to fuel dreams of Champions League football. Roll on June.

You can read the next part here.

This article is the fifth 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.

You can also join our Seoul E-Land columnist Steve Waddell in another #KLeagueFM17 adventure as he takes on the challenge that is the K-League Challenge with Seoul E-Land. Part one can be read here.

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