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

K League Football Manager 2017 - The Incheon United Challenge

It did not go exactly according to plan for Incheon United last month, claiming just three points out of a possible 18 and scraping through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. July is now upon us and the transfer window is open. With games against FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings, as well as the aforementioned FA Cup match against Seoul E-Land sandwiched in between, can manager Matthew Binns bring in some fresh faces to shore up that defence?

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, May '16, June '16

There's a knock at the door. It's my 21 year-old data analyst with the coffee I'd requested 35 minutes ago. As he places it down in front of me, I give an inquisitive nodding gesture towards the cup to see if he has added the Irish whiskey one of the scouting team had brought back from duty free during their unfruitful scouting holiday to view the Chinese Super League. He nods back enthusiastically with too much innocence in his eyes. I can see he has not understood my request. I suppose I have to get back to work sometime. I message Kim Byung-ji to hold off on my hair styling appointment at 10 and tell him to go and see what the goalkeepers are up to. I instead decide to begin sifting through the morning emails. Oh how I wish it was those halcyon days of May again.

The transfer window opens tomorrow and I am left with a conundrum. How can I bring in a stellar defender with next to no money? My assistant unhelpfully pipes up with the comment that I should not have sold Jonjic, once again serving up a prime example that his advice is partially the reason why I am in this mess. I call my scouting team and tell them to see who they can find while I switch my focus to our upcoming game against Sangju Sangmu.

How difficult should it be to defeat a team of loanees who are forced there against their will? Well the scout report suggests I should be focusing on defensive positioning although Choi Jin-ho has them playing a fairly standard 4-4-2 with mixed instructions. Their biggest strength is apparently their right-back, yet 8 of the 19 assists they have conceded have come from the left side of the pitch. Surely these are conflicting facts, or perhaps they mean from Sangju's left? I try to confirm with the scout but he just repeats the same information again so I take it to mean the latter. Either way, perhaps I should be looking to revert back to my Tiki-Taka ways to release Kim Chan-hee and Lee Jin-wook down both flanks. Given how many failures I've had recently with that tactic though, I should probably tweak the instructions slightly and not be as bold in going forward.

I do make some minor tweaks to the instructions and revert back to my attacking tactic of old. I also give Velkoski a run out seeing as he is deemed fit enough to start. As the whistle is blown to signal kick-off it quickly becomes apparent we are all over them. This is the same team that had lost five games on the bounce yet we look entirely different. It only takes two minutes until our first real chance sees Lee Jin-wook hit the post. Regardless, it takes thirty minutes until the deadlock breaks. Krste Velkoski takes a free kick and sends an absolute rocket into the keepers near post. Despite it being within reach, it is too fast for their keeper who had been playing well up to now. Five minutes later and the lead is doubled, with Ju Min-kyu finally sending in a successful corner (his previous four had hit the first man) and meeting the head of Ahn Jae-joon at the far post. The half time whistle rings out and we are in complete control.

The second half remains goalless, but mostly because I remove key players to rest them for our crucial quarter final match. We still have plenty of chances though and once the match is over, the statistics speak for themselves; 27 shots to their 3. It's a bit early to call, but we are looking good once more.

Predictably, the opening of the transfer window coincides with complaints from players wishing to move elsewhere. Ulsan and Pohang have both placed bids for centre back Bae Seung-jin which I have flat out rejected. As expected, the player has gone into a sulk and has tried to garner support from the dressing room. When ten players turn up into my office in protest and start helping themselves to the mini bar I had the data analyst bring up, we need to talk. Perhaps maddened by the fact that we are fifth and they are willingly backing one of our best defenders to leave, I tell them in no uncertain terms that I am the boss and somehow they surprisingly react well to this. The prospect of the dressing room turning on me has been avoided for now.

Suwon Bluewings are rolling into town soon and I am feeling confident with my slightly configured formation. The scout report also tells me that their key player Santos is woefully out of form, "only" averaging a 7.00 for the season. Still, I am informed to keep an eye out for Hong Chul and prepare myself defensively. Somehow though, after watching the Sangju game, I think we can take them.

It takes 27 minutes until the deadlock is broken. Despite our superb passing and tackling, we are eventually dispossessed in midfield by Hong Chul who plays the ball out to Yeom Ki-hoon on the left. Choi Hyo-jin cannot get back in time to cut out the cross and we unjustly go behind as Fraga heads home. Despite this I hold my nerve and keep the tactics going. No more damage is sustained by the time we reach the interval.

Even though I believe our performance has been admirable, my assistant says I should berate the players for their efforts. I overrule him and tell them how unlucky they have all been. They respond to my caring nature well with a Kim Chan-hee equaliser shortly after the restart. A long ball from Kevis Oris, who has somehow wound up quite deep, heads over their back line with Kim beating too defenders for pace, taking two more touches and smashing it past the onrushing keeper. I smugly grin at my assistant. As I do so though, Suwon quickly equalise. I miss the goal, but replays show it was a Fraga tap-in after finding himself unmarked in the box whilst four defenders run to put out the fire that is Yeom Ki-hoon with the ball at his feet. Kim Dae-jung was supposed to stay with Fraga. My petulance of dropping Bae Seung-jin for him has evidently back fired. The game finishes 2-1 even though we continue to play well. Bluewings manager Seo Jung-won even compliments our "excellent" playing style. Perhaps I shouldn't be too disheartened, but I would have preferred the three points. We are still fifth however, but the gap to top three is looking increasingly insurmountable.

In personnel news, I have hired a new scout from Germany to replace the traitor who snuck out to Seongnam when I wasn't checking my emails. He turns up on the first day at work with two potential signings for me to consider; 35 year old ex-Hamburg centre back Rene Klingbeil, and a 23 year old Austrian defensive midfielder called Tobias Kaine that possesses a higher ability than anyone else playing currently in that position. I do need a defender, but I plump for Kaine instead, especially as he is out of contract. Negotiations look good and hopefully we can get him here sharpish.

Next up is the FA Cup quarter final. Having come to the realisation that Champions League may not be achievable through league qualification, winning the cup may be my easiest way to gate crash the tournament. Having secured a favourable draw against lower tier side Seoul E-Land, as well as the likes of Jeonbuk and FC Seoul having already crashed out, we do have a decent opportunity to go far.

The scout report suggests E-Land are most vulnerable when facing a 4-1-2-3, which is a slight variation on my standard formation. I decide to do the unthinkable and sacrifice the upcoming Gyeongin derby, fielding nearly my strongest eleven for this particular match.

Despite a number of glaring opportunities missed from our players, it is Seoul E-Land who draw first blood. Tarabai manages to take the ball to the byline, firing in a low ball which is met by their striker Gil at the near post. I urge my players to go forward, and we nearly level as Velkoski sends the ball over from six yards out. We quickly come to rue his spurned chance as Gil then proceeds to hit what is described as a 30 yard screamer into the back of our net, although replays later suggest it took a significant deflection on the way in. 2-0 down in the cup to a Challenge side. It's all going wrong.

Before I can make an undignified escape to the nearest subway station, we pull a goal back! Song Si-woo creates space on the right flank, crosses to Velkoski who somehow manages to wrangle in between two defenders at the near post to convert. It at least makes me stick around until the interval.

I send the boys out with passionate words of encouragement ringing in their ears, knowing full well that I still harbour crippling doubts about our prospects. It's end to end stuff, with either team looking as if they'll concede next. Then, in the 67th minute, Lee Jin-wook somehow collects the ball within the Seoul E-Land penalty box and manages to deflect it beyond the keeper and equalise. We're level.

The clock ticks on but neither team is able to find what would surely be a winner. We head to extra time and I go on the offensive in a bid to prepare ourselves for penalties. We switch to a 4-4-2 and Kevin Oris is also brought into play. Sure enough, a third goal cannot be found and we head into a penalty shootout. I choose my players in order of penalty taking ability, with the strongest starting. We take the lead after Lee Je-hwan misses E-Land's second penalty and keep our one goal margin. Choi Hyo-jin is tasked with the decisive penalty, but he tamely strikes it and the keeper parries with ease. The first round of sudden death sees both players score. It's time for Bae Seung-jin to step up. The centre back takes a long run up but sends the keeper the wrong way. We have the advantage, and this time we are successful, as Kim Dong-chul's shot is saved by our keeper. We're through to the semi-finals where we will face one of Suwon FC, Daejeon Citizen or Suwon Bluewings. The dream lives on.

We now have only four days until we head to Sangam for the 2nd Gyeongin derby of the year and my players, as anticipated, are exhausted. FC Seoul have also been stumbling recently and, despite them having a full week to recuperate, I feel we are capable of getting something here.

My backroom staff are adamant I should line up in a 3-3-2-2 formation and play on the counter. It's a tactic I've not used before but, having clearly forgotten the encouraging performances against Sangju and Suwon, I agree. Kainz also joins the club in the morning so I find a shirt in his size and wheel him out in the starting eleven. He complains a little of jet lag, but seeing as he was a free agent, he should have had plenty of time to rest.

We start by playing very well. I would even go as far to say we were dominant. Velkoski seems to have turned up, sending two shots narrowly over the bar before Oris spurns a 1 on 1 chance wide. There's also some great passing interplay between the two strikers that results in a through ball to Lee Jin-wook who sends his shot straight at the keeper.

It then quickly begins to deteriorate. Osmar decides to collect the ball in central midfield, stride his way through the on rushing players before laying it off to Yun Ju-tae on the edge of the box. The Seoul attacker then turns and sends a powerful drive into the net to give the home side the lead. Two minutes later and Yun has doubled his tally, this time meeting Adriano's wayward glancing header at the far post to tuck home.

A few minutes later and Yun has his hat trick. The ball is headed clear by Lee Jin-wook, but only as far as Osmar who passes through the defence to Yun who scores. Adriano then gorges on a rebound just before the interval to make it four. I don't think the fans will be happy.

I take off the young Kim Dae-jung before his confidence is completely destroyed, as well as Velkoski who is the victim of a tactical change when I revert back to my old ways. A further fifteen minutes later and Kim Chan-hee is on for Lee Jin-wook. It all seems rather uneventful, perhaps as FC Seoul have resorted to sitting back and defending. We do claim a consolation in the form of Oris, who powerfully heads home a Kim Chan-hee cross in the 75th minute, but that's about it. We drop down to 6th. I send my assistant to the press conference whilst I find a dark room to sit in for a while.

On a somewhat brighter note, we've now played every team twice meaning two things; there's only one cycle and half left to go before this pain can end (for this season at least) and that Jeonnam Dragons will be the next side on the agenda. Having defeated them convincingly twice already, it will be good to pick myself up a bit from this slump.

Jeonnam have a new manager in the guise of former Incheon interim Kim Bong-kil, having finally seen sense and offloaded Noh Sang-rae. 50 year old Kim used to play for the Dragons in the mid 90s but this is his first permanent gig in management despite his prior coaching experience. I opt for a variation on my preferred tactics, moving the AM role down to DM purely to accommodate my new signing. I also give Oris a start as well as keeper Lee Tae-hee. Finally, I drop Bae Seung-jin for a more experienced head in Cho Byung-kuk, thus satisfying his need for more first team involvement.

Jeonnam start brightly and we find ourselves restricted to minial chances, the most notable being Jin Seong-wook stinging the palms of the keeper yet none of our attackers followed up on the rebound. Then, in the 36th minute, Park Gi-dong plays through Oh Youn-jun to score a near post rocket and leave us with a deficit to claw back. There's no reason to panic though, it's only Jeonnam.

The second half starts tentatively, yet it only takes ten minutes for the next goal to roll in. This time, Yang Joon-a and Han Young-min's delicate interplay make my team look foolish to double the Dragons lead. I quickly take off our new DM and replace him with Song Si-woo in AM. Lee Jin-wook is also brought on for Jin Seong-wook which makes a more notable difference. The substitute plays in a cross to Oris who nods one goal back. We throw everything at them for the equaliser but it ends 2-1. Unbelievable. It was only Jeonnam.

Like last month, I find myself begging this to end, knowing full well that the pain will only continue through to July. It's Gwangju next though, a team I have also been able to manage to beat twice already. I succumb to my assistant's recommendation to revisit the 4-1-2-1-2 that looked promising yet ultimately failed at Jeonbuk in June. I feel I will give it a go for a half and change it if the results aren't forthcoming.

It starts bleakly. Despite our opening dominance, a cross into our box heads our keeper's way, but Lee Tae-hee is unable to land ahead of the goal line in his efforts to catch it, ultimately scoring an own goal in comical fashion. Besides this though, we continue to pummel Gwangju, finally making a break through in the 19th minute when Ju Min-kyu lays the ball off splendidly for Choi Hyo-jin to blast in at the near post. Pressure continues to mount with Velkoski testing the keepers reactions on numerous occassions yet ultimately to no avail. Half time rings out and the scores are level.

I decide to stick to the tactic for a little bit longer before resorting to all out attack. The signal I needed to do so came in the 58th minute however when Goo bon-sang clattered into my player, earning himself a 2nd yellow. With the man advantage, I resort to the "Tiki-Taka" default, bringing on more attacking talents in Park Jong-jin, Kim Chan-hee and Oris, and go for broke to find a winner. We had racked up over 25 shots and 86 minutes before they succumbed.  Gwangju defender Jeong Ho-jeong fouled Kim Chan-hee in the box to award us a penalty. Kevin Oris makes no mistake and we end the month with a deserved 2-1 victory.

Thankfully we have a whopping 16 days until the next game, followed by five clashes tightly packed together at the end of August. You can only sit back and admire the K League's inability to schedule matches effectively. Still, it will give my players and I some time to rest and work on our tactics. I opt not to take any further part in the transfer window due to my lack of funds. As soon as it closes though, Kevin Oris pulls up with a hip injury in training and will be out for 2-3 months, meaning it is unknown if he will be back for the FA Cup semi-final in late October.

At the end of July, I still sit 5th in the table with the joint highest number of losses, yet also the 3rd highest number of goals. 3rd is pretty much out of reach but making sure I stay in the top half is now vital if I am to meet the targets set by the board.

You can read the next part here.

This article is the seventh 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. His latest entry see him finally start competitive football after a lengthy pre-season. You can take a look here.

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