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Preview: Jeju United vs Jeonnam Dragons

In the last game of the weekend Jeonnam head South to play against the free scoring, top of the table Jeju United. After two losses on the trot, do the Dragons have it in them to stop the slide and pick up their first point(s) of 2017?
(image via dragons.co.kr)

Overview

(via soccerway.com)


That Defense

Before going into anything too drastic, let us remember we're two weeks into the season. Any true trends or issues that are going to arise will need a bit more time. However, the points count the same in March as they do in September, and the Dragons are the only team with nothing to show for 180 minutes played largely due to defensive issues. Had the defense played tighter to Kim Shin-wook in the opener, then we're looking at a hard fought road point in Jeonju instead of a loss. Had they found their positioning in transition quicker against Sangju, then perhaps they find a way to eek out a draw. It's too early to call for a full on switch in formation, but it should be clear the current lineup isn't covering ground defensively the way they need to if a 3-4-3 is going to work.

Namely the left side of the field was a disaster vs Sangju. All three goals originated from either a defensive mistake or lax marking that allowed a cross from the left side. Moving Go Tae-won back to the left and Mrčela to the right is the first and easiest switch to help alleviate this. Go seems more comfortable on the left and is a touch faster to cover the ground often left by Hyun Young-min. Which... leads to the other change they may want to consider. It may be time for Lee Seul-chan to replace Hyun in the starting lineup. The veteran showed well last season, but he's been absolutely destroyed for pace in the first two matches this year and may prove more valuable in a defensive sub role. Some of the pressure created on the left may be stemmed if Vedran Jugović is healthy and back in the lineup Sunday, then he will provide the defensive cover the back line needs right now while also serving as a calmer distribution option in the midfield than the youngster Han Chan-hee. In fact, his presence alone should allow Han to roam further forward with less concern of defensive responsibilities.

Chances

In spite of two losses in two weeks, Jeonnam have had their chances. In large stetches against Jeonbuk and Sangju, the Dragons dominated possession and dictated the pace of play. Both Ahn Yong-woo and Heo Yong-joon have played well on the wings and have provided an outlet for the midfielders. They're relied on to run down long balls a bit too much for my taste... but I won't get into that for the third straight post. Additionally, they've done well at creating chances, they just haven't been finishing them. Feczesin has two for two on paper scoring Jeonnam's only goals thus far this season, but he had two golden opportunities against Sangju that were simply mishit. Again, it's early in the season, so he'll likely shake off the preseason rust and round into even stronger form. But the Dragons are going to need him to do it much sooner than later if they're to start picking up points.

Timing Is Everything

Jeju are coming off the back of a Wednesday night ACL match in Adelaide United where they coughed up a single goal lead twice and had to settle for a 3-3 draw. Not only will the Islanders be a bit crestfallen having dropped points they surely could've gotten, but they're bound to be tired after an enduring match and some serious travel. Most of Jeju's core players featured in the match and Marcelo went 70 of the 90 minutes. He'll certainly feature this weekend, but he may not start and go the full 90, which is a break for the Dragons.

The Adversary

Though the midweek ACL draw vs Adelaide may sting a bit, this is still very much a team on the up. Jeju sit in first place in the league and seem to have all of their new pieces clicking from the get go. With 11 goals in their previous four matches in all competitions, the Dragons defense unquestionably has their work cut out for them. The Islanders have picked up 2017 where they left off 2016 scoring almost at will. The addition of Frédéric Mendy from Ulsan means this team can now hurt you in a number of ways. They can go small and fast as they did last season, or they can use Mendy's strength up top and dominate possession through a target man. Oh, and their defense is better than it was last year as well. Australian Aleksandar Jovanović is back for his second run with Jeju and has helped settle a backline that was too leaky for a title push last season. Long story short: there are very good reasons Jeju sit atop Miro Tramita's Round 2 Power Rankings.

Who To Watch

He may have put his name on the map with his utterly ridiculous nearly half-field curler to embarass Gamba Osaka's keeper in ACL, but Lee Chang-min has been solid in every match for Jeju this year. In addition to the two he netted vs Gamba, he also scored in Jeju's 3-0 drubbing of Ulsan last weekend and doesn't show signs of stopping. Simply listening to Jeju matches, his name is one of the most freuquently mentioned as the 23-year-old former Dragon seems to be rounding into a true playmaker.

Prediction

Jeju may be tired from the long journey back from Australia midweek, but there's too much talent on this squad and too much disarray at the back for Jeonnam for this to go well.

Jeju United 3-1 Jeonnam Dragons.


What are your thoughts and opinions on the match? Will Jeju's high scoring ways continue? Do the Dragons have a few tricks up their sleeve to shock the league with a win? Feel free to leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter.

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