2017 Season Preview: Daejeon Citizen
Daejeon Citizen's squad is much-changed from that of 2016 with new manager Lee Youngik (above) looking to guide the Purples back to the K League Classic in his first season as a manager. The former Gyeongnam assistant manager, who was was part of the backroom staff at Daejeon in the early 2000s, has gone on record to state that he understand's the demands of the fans and the culture of Daejeon Citizen Football Club. (Image courtesy of www.facebook.com/dcfc1997)
W 15 D 10 L 15 – 7th (Challenge)
Any successful team is consistent but last season Daejeon seldom put together a run of results befitting a side that was tipped to be in the running for a quick return to the Classic. In fact, citizen would merely be able to last three games unbeaten before falling short. The 2016, then, season was a rather disappointing one for Daejeon Citizen which rendered the Purples finishing in an uninspiring seventh place eleven points behind eventual playoff winners Gangwon.
Fifteen defeats for a team that was supposed to be gunning for promotion is pretty damning. Four of those defeats were how Citizen began the season; 2-0 reverses against Daegu and Seoul E-Land at home and away respectively, followed by a 1-0 defeat away to Ansan and a 3-1 loss at home to Bucheon. Such a poor start meant that that Daejeon were playing catch up from as early as April and, in truth, never really got themselves on solid footing.
There was an also over-reliance on Kim Dongchan, The Purples’, and indeed the League’s, top scorer who found the net no fewer than 20 times last term. Daejeon’s next top scorers were Gustavo Sauerbeck with a six, and Hwang Inbeom with five. If Kim Dongchan didn’t find the net then few others usually did.
Such an eventuality is perhaps synonymous with how Daejeon’s season panned out; there was no plan B. Former boss Choi Moonsik was mostly to blame for this as, instead of finding a system to fit the players he had at his disposal, he tried to implement a style of play that just wasn’t suitable and when that didn’t work, Daejeon usually lost. There were a lot of young players amongst the Daejeon team last year, at the back in particular, yet Choi insisted on trying to play the ball out from defence with players who, Jean Claude-Bozga aside, simply weren’t comfortable in doing so. At home Daejeon his system had its merits but Daejeon didn’t travel well.
Cristian Danalache: How do you replace the league’s top scorer? Quite simply, sign the league’s second top goal scorer instead. With Kim Dongchan heading to Thailand to join Police Tero (formerly known as BEC Tero Sasana), Daejeon were left with a huge void to fill but in signing Cristian Danalache, the Purples have gone a long way in filling Kim’s shoes. Danalache scored 19 goals for Gyeongnam last season, where Citizen’s new manager Lee Youngik was the assistant manager.
|Lee Hoseok and Cristian Danalache in Gyeongnam colours (image courtest of Naver.com)|
Lee Hoseok – At Gyeongnam, Danalache was prolific, perhaps down to the service of one of the K League Challenge’s highest assist makers in Lee Hoseok. As well as laying on ten assists for his team mates, Lee also scored nine goals from the wing in a season where, had it not have been for their points deduction, Gyeongnam would have been in the playoffs.
Jean-Claude Bozga – One of the few positives from last season was the signing of Jean-Claude Bozga, the towering Congolese-Romanian centre back who joined on a free from FC Vestsjælland in Denmark. K League fans are perhaps used to a revolving door transfer culture where foreign players seldom stay for much longer than a year or two. Thus, when a player who has proven to be more than capable at this level, and is keen to stay, it is a crying shame that talented players such as Jean Claude-Bozga are allowed to leave. The player himself was extremely keen to stay at Daejeon, he believed in the “project” at Purple Arena and had a great relationship with the fans. But, due to a breakdown in the relationship between his agent and the club, no new contract ever materialised for Bozga. His composure, leadership qualities and tactical nous will be missed by Daejeon this year.
This is Daejeon’s third season at this level, cumulatively, having won the division in 2014 and returned a year later. The squad is much better equipped that it was this time twelve months ago and is the strongest that Daejeon have had since their days of being Classic stalwarts. New manager Lee Youngik has made some smart acquisitions with the dressing room now boasting of a good balance of youth and experience. With Levan Shengelia joining on loan, wonderkid Hwang Inbeom staying, and the likes of Cristian Danalache and former Republic of Korea international Kim Jinkyu on the playing staff, all Daejeon need is belief. There is perhaps a lack of real quality in the full back positions but elsewhere on the pitch Daejeon look well catered for.
The talent is spread generously across the Daejeon squad this year but one player who could be considered key is Lee Hoseok, the attacking midfielder brought in from Gyeongnam. As mentioned above, Lee was the leading assist maker in the K League Challenge with ten, and quite a large proportion of these assists being for Danalache. If Lee Hoseok can provide the ammunition, Danalache will be on hand to pull the trigger. Lee Hoseok is extremely quick and likes to play on the shoulder of the last man; this could also give some indication into how Lee Youngik will be setting his Daejeon team up in his first season as a manager.
Reason to Watch
Daejeon’s squad has been assembled for one reason and one reason only, and that is to return to the K League Classic and will be making a beeline for those playoff spots at worst. With firepower and pace up front, Daejeon have the tools to play expansive and attacking football, something which the Purple Arena faithful appreciate. Another reason is that the jewel-in-the-crown that is Hwang Inbeom, the wonderkid. There’s no doubt that this boy is going to be key for Daejeon but for much longer?
|Hwang Inbeom in action versus Chungju last season (image courtest of DCFC Facebook)|
The local boy from Galma-dong has been tipped to reach the very top so there’s the real possibility that the attacking midfielder could move to Europe in the summer. It was reported in the media earlier in the winter that Hwang had had talks with Portuguese giants Benfica as well as an unnamed German club who are a UEFA Champions League regular. Thus, so it could be a case of catch him whilst you can, before he becomes a household name. Some of his goals last term, the jinking run and neat finish away at Anyang for example, were an joy to behold.
Last year Citizen were way off the pace in the earlier stages of the season, eventually catching up to a degree. It appeared as though Daejeon simply weren’t prepared, looking lethargic and like a team full of strangers. However, during the winter, Lee Youngik has sent his Daejeon squad on not one but three training camps, including a trip to Spain where the Purples took on some well-known European clubs.
|Daejeon Citizen line up versus Victoria Plzen in Murcia, Spain. (Image courtesy of DCFC Facebook).|
After the annual trip to Tongyeong on the south coast, Daejeon headed to Murcia for a series of behind-closed-doors friendly matches which included a draw to SV Ried of Austria, a narrow defeat to Legia Warsaw and a 2-0 victory over Victoria Plzen. Daejeon then headed down to Goeje island for further preparations so it would seem that everything is in place for a good start to the campaign. So, the biggest question is, can Daejeon get off to a good start and give themselves a solid foundation in which to build a push for promotion?
Daejeon face Ansan Greeners on Saturday 4th March, match preview to follow…