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

K League Football Manager 2017 Challenge: The Incheon United Adventure

July started and ended with encouraging victories for Incheon United, but it was what came in the middle that was of most concern as they continued to leak goals at the back almost willingly. Despite this, manager Matthew Binns did somehow guide them through to the FA Cup semi-finals after a tense penalty shoot out. With five games to come in August, will he be able to cement his board's objective of a top-half position before an incredibly difficult September?

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, July '16

Fourteen more games left in this season plus whatever happens in the cup. It's certainly felt longer than I initially anticipated. At times our football has been splendid to watch, only failing to score on one occasion all season, yet there has also been a huge dollop of woefulness. There's nine more matches before the league splits, meaning I will have to face almost every side in the division once more. Seeing as I've twice hit significant slumps after Pohang (our next opponent), this will probably be yet another barren month to quickly gloss over.

We have been afforded quite a bit of time until our next match though so, instead of resting the team, I opt to set their focus to defensive positioning and increase their workload significantly. I want to be well prepared for our trip to The Steelyard.

It also gives me some time to play with the 4-1-2-1-2 (or 4-4-2 Diamond) formation that has been looking good yet failing to get over the line with the three points. I decide to alter the team instructions to focus their attacks centrally and wait for a countering opportunity. I also make it quite narrow so it can serve as a starker contrast to my standard fluid attack-focused strategy.

Pohang seem to prefer a 3-2-3-2 formation, using the wing backs to send in the crosses. They also appear weak on their left apparently, which almost makes me reconsider switching back to my default tactic but I will persevere for a half and see how it prevails. I am also told to keep an eye out for Lulinha and Yang Dong-hyun as both are predicted to cause me bother.

I am inundated with good news (well two emails) before we get underway. First, Kim Tae-su is back after a lengthy lay-off. I cannot even remember when he got injured, it was so long ago. He'll be good for 45 minutes so into the starting eleven he'll go. Next, Bae Seung-jin has come back groveling, saying he no longer wants to abandon our sinking ship leave our club. Into the starting eleven he also goes, although I think he was there anyway.

Pohang are looking good for the first three minutes, with the deadlock breaking shortly after. It's us though that have made the breakthrough. Kim tae-su passes from deep, Song Si-woo knocks it on with a single touch and Velkoski beats the keeper in a one on one to take the lead. Pohang aren't happy about this, and an experienced full back like Cho Byunk-kuk should know this, yet instead he holds onto the ball for too long before being dispossessed by Park Sun-yong who crosses in to an unmarker Lazar to score. I make a quick tactical switch into a wider formation in a bid to exploit their left. It reaps dividends immediately as Park Jong-jin forces a corner which he procedes to take. Ahn meets the ball at the near post, flicking it on to the Bae Seung-jin at the far post to hammer home. We lead 2-1 at half time.

All we have to do is not get complacent. We are playing well and, so far, it looks as if I know what I am doing. Two minutes later and Pohang have scored. Yang Dong-hyun has found the back of the net after no one picked up Lazar, who strolled casually into our box and squared the ball for the striker. It wasn't a simple tap in though, Lee Tae-hee initially made a very good save but he had no chance of getting back up to stop the rebound. I make subs but it doesn't make a difference. If anything, it gets worse when Lazar hits the post shortly after. I quickly shut up shop and drag everyone back. We hold on and claim our first draw since April. I'm annoyed to have lost a lead, but when outclassed to the extent we were in the second half, I will take it gladly.

Okay, so we drew, but we did look good in that first half. Next up is a visit to 11th placed Suwon FC. Despite apparently being relegation fodder, we have struggled against them on both occasions this season, drawing one and losing the other. They play in a 4-1-2-3 formation and boast one of the league's top scorers in Australian striker Bruce Djite. They are vulnerable to my default tactic though apparently. I somehow neglect our last two encounters and switch it back ready for their arrival.

It only takes ten minutes for them to score. Our left-back has done a disappearing act allowing a cross from Gavilan on the right to meet the head of You Ho-jun. Fortunately though, this is Suwon FC, and they quickly allow me back into the game when Choi Hyo-jin delivers a ball into the corridor of uncertainty and their centre back Kim Keun-hoan blasts it into his net in a bid to clear. The scores are level once more. The 27th minute sees Suwon take the lead again more through Gavilan. I don't know what it is about this side but we can never beat them. Half time comes and I give them a hair dryer treatment to rival that of Kim Byung-ji's salon.

We head out a team renewed. Bae Seung-jin brings the scores level in just over a minute with an almost identical goal to that which he scored at Pohang. Eight minutes later we have a penalty. Velkoski steps up, shoots and the keeper saves. It's not dead yet though and Lee Jin-wook rushes in to smash home the rebound, but the keeper somehow gets his finger tips to it and pushes it out. I can only applaud at what I have just witnessed. We attack and attack, but somewhere around the 75th minute mark we find ourselves being overrun and I am not quite sure why. I wait five more minutes and then decide to cut my losses and defend until the whistle. It's a 2-2 draw again, but I feel as if we should have won that if it were not for the defence.

Two winnable games. Two draws at two apiece. I can only view them as four points lost and, with us just about clinging on to the top half, I know they will be costly. I can just feel it. Next up is Ulsan, a team that we have also failed to defeat this season. High-flying in the top 3, Ulsan boast an 80% pass success rate, the best in the league. I decide to go narrow once more and press the hell out of them in a bid to break up their play.

It's absolutely chucking it down in Incheon, so much so that the press even see it as a suitable line of questioning. I state that I will not do anything, but then proceed to change my tactics to keeping the ball off the ground and as direct as possible to the men up front. We're going to channel our inner Tony Pulis for a result here. Let's see if Ulsan can do it on a rainy Tuesday in Incheon.

We start well, as in neither side is particularly dominating proceedings. Ulsan striker Mendy pulls up after 12 minutes and has to be taken off, a definite positive for us. Perhaps buoyed by our good fortune we actually start creating chances for ourselves. Unfortunately, the biggest chance we make is into our own net. Ahn attempts to clear the ball, despite nobody pressuring him, kicks it against Bae and it rebounds past the keeper and in. 1-0 to the visitors. I don't change my formation though as what I see is taking hold. My patience is rewarded just before half time when Jin Seong-wook gets onto the end of a perfectly weighted pass by Velkoski, stroking the ball past the keeper and into the back of the net with ease. We head in at the break with the thought that today might just be the moment it all turns around.

What a stupid fool I must've looked fifteen minutes ago. It's just past the hour mark and Ulsan have decided to score not once, but twice. Kim Tae-hwan and Han Sang-woon doing the damage. We do pull one back in the 83rd minute, Park Jong-jin running late into the box from a corner and hitting a ferocious shot beyond the keeper but we fail to find an equaliser. We lose 3-2 and I feel it is not going to get any better.

Seongnam are the opponents to follow, a team I also have lost to twice this year. My scout is telling me I should look to control the game. Tiki-Taka it is then! It did not work on the previous occasions mind but I guess third time's that charm.

This game is certainly end to end, with both keepers Lee Tae-hee and Kim Dong-jun putting in superb displays to keep the opposing teams out. While the defence may be a worry in terms of protecting the goal, Ahn certainly is worth place in the squad for the absolute belter he screams in from the edge of the box to take the lead. Both teams continue at it well into the second half. While it may have been wise to shut up shop, I know we cannot hold a one goal lead and persist on finding a second. We really should have had three or four but, somewhat typically, it is Seongnam who find the goal next. Hwang Ui-jo dribbles into space on the right, crossing in to meet the head of Moon Chang-hyu. Its one a piece with 15 minutes left on the clock. It would have been great if we had held out, but Moon then scores almost an exact repeat in the 83rd minute to claim all three points for Seongnam. The stats reveal we had 25 shots to their 16, but that means very little considering we have finally dropped out of the top 6 and are in eighth, behind Jeonbuk who started the season with a nine point deduction.

And so onto our final match in August. As mentioned, next month will be very difficult with the likes of FC Seoul, Suwon Bluewings and Jeonbuk on the cards, so we needed points this month. Still, three points here could offer a glimmer of hope ahead of the league split. Our track record against 4th placed Jeju is one draw and a loss, What's worse is that traitor Lee Yun-pyo is deemed an "excellent defender" by our scout and could cause us problems. Given our inability to defend though, I do somewhat regret not putting my foot down when he requested his move back in February.

Similar to the Seongnam match, this game sees both teams throwing caution to the wind. Jin Seong-wook hits the underside of the bar after ten minutes but the rebound is cleared quickly by Jeju. The islanders then take the lead through Lee Keun-ho, the striker latching on to a lob through ball from Lee Chang-min. They continue to increase the pressure and then, just before half time, Lee Keun-ho increases Jeju's lead again. The interval is called shortly after and I go on rampage in the dressing room kicking whatever I can find. These players, these incredibly inadequate players, are not even trying. I don't imagine they are even listening. In fact, I imagine most are just wanting to put on those stupid big white headphones that all footballers seem to take on the bus and blast senseless noise into their skulls to drown my pleas to just play better. They don't care, they are just here for their underwhelming pay packets. I despise them all.

Maybe something did get through though. It takes five minutes to find our feet, but when Kim Chan-hee dribbles into the box, he sensibly squares it to the unmarked Song Si-woo to tap in. Five minutes later and we've forced a penalty from them. Krste Velkoski, seeking redemption after his miss at Suwon, steps up and squanders a glorious chance to equalise. I take him off for Song Je-heon, a player my predecessor purchased before I left and one I forgot I had. I didn't even realise I was giving him his debut if I am being completely honest. We throw everything at them and eventually, after 75 minutes on the clock Bae Seung-jin heads home to bring the scores to two a piece. I am not done there though and continue urging them forward. It amounts to nothing though as the full-time whistle is blown. I reluctantly commend them on a strong second half performance. Maybe I inspired them with my half-time team talk, or perhaps they took pity on me when I started inconsolably weeping part way through it, but we snatched a point here when the scoreline could have been far more embarrassing.

August draws to a close with us only chalking up three points out of a potential fifteen, with no wins to our name. There have been some positives to take when looking at our attack, yet our defence looks woeful and I am not sure how I am going to rectify it without losing the goals we are scoring. The top six is still achievable, but it will certainly be a difficult ascent with the upcoming fixtures remaining. We are three points off 6th placed Jeonbuk, who we face next, followed by Sangju, Suwon Bluewings and FC Seoul. We are really going to have to figure out something special to get something from these next four games.

The next part can be read here.

This article is the eighth 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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