Writer's Chat: Incheon vs Suwon
It's still early days in the 2017 edition of the Kleague Classic, but the table doesn't look good for both Incheon and Suwon, with them sitting 10th and 11th respectively. Incheon come into this game off the back of an encouraging rearguard performance against Kleague giants Jeonbuk 2 weeks ago, while Suwon huffed and puffed, but couldn't quite blow down Daegu's door in their 1-1 draw. Both teams are yet to register a win and will undoubtedly be going flat out to break their ducks. Here, our Incheon columnist, Jun Kim, and our Suwon columnist, Scott Whitelock, discuss both teams failings and their predictions for a key match up in the early phase of this season.
First, Jun asks and Scott answers
Jun: Suwon Bluewings were tipped as one of the favourites to win the K-League title before the season started, but after 3 rounds, they're languishing in 11th. Are you worried?
Scott: I'm not panicked or worried just yet, but I am mildly concerned, probably not by the results so far, but by the tepid performances that the team has produced. They have managed to produce only 45 minutes of good football this season, and that was the first 45 of the whole season, when they dominated in Seoul. Since then, they have managed to collapse against Jeonbuk at home and, more worryingly, draw against Daegu whilst barely troubling the opposing goalkeeper.
But, there is still plenty of time to go, and this could be the game to kick start their season.
Jun: After Jong Tese left, Suwon have finally found themselves a star in Johnathan. But it is also evident that Suwon's attack looks rather blunt without Johnathan and Yeom Ki-hun. Is this a legitimate worry for you guys?
Scott: The forward areas are much less of a worry than last year as Suwon have significantly strengthened up front through the acquisition of Park Ki-dong. The target man is yet to see any league action this term, because of Seo Jung-won's reluctance to play 2 strikers together, but the Korean is an able backup for Johnathan, having displayed his potential last year in the colours of Sangju.
Moreover, Santos is a regular scorer for the team and his quality is often overlooked, not only by followers of the Kleague, but also by his own manager. I believe the diminutive Brazilian should see much more game time than he actually does and I firmly believe that a front 3 of Johnathan, Santos and Yeom Ki-hun would pose huge problems for Kleague defences. Add to that, the fact that he is only a handful of goals away from becoming Suwon's all-time leading goalscorer, and he should be considered more highly in the managers plans.
Jun: Suwon's current central midfield players, especially Lee Jong-sung and Kim Jong-woo, don't seem comfortable playing under Seo's 3-4-3 system. Will Seo Jung-won stick with the same formation against Incheon or will he try something different?
Scott: Predicting what Seo Jung-won is going to do is almost impossible and I could write an essay on the perplexing tactics that the manager opts for. He often tries, and fails, to reinvent the wheel as could be seen last week when he opted to play Yeom Ki-hun, a player renowned for his crossing and passing ability, as a centre forward. But, I doubt that he will change the formation just yet. It was a formation that was very successful for Suwon last year and there is still time for the new crop of players to adjust to the system.
I would agree with your assessment that Lee Jong-sung has struggled this season. However, Kim Jong-woo has had a steady start to the season considering that he spent the majority of last season playing with the reserve team in the R League. He has displayed a calmness on the ball that not many of the other midfielders possess and his performance in the last fixture earned him a place in the Kleague team of the week.
Jun: What are your predictions for this game?
Scott: So far this season, I have predicted that Suwon will win every game, and they have justly failed to live up to my hype, so this time I will tread with a little caution. Given Incheon's fine defensive performance against Jeonbuk, and Suwon's bluntness in attack against Daegu, I don't believe this game will have many clear cut chances. If it is to be won, it will probably take a moment of class to break any dead lock, and with Suwon possessing players with greater technical ability I would side with them to nick this one from under Incheon's noses.
Predicted Score: Incheon 0 - 1 Suwon
Now, Scott asks and Jun answers
Scott: After being what seemed like everybody's tip for relegation this year, Incheon have had a promising start, holding Jeonbuk and producing an encouraging fightback away to Daegu. How do you asses the teams performance thus far, and do you think they can prove wrong their tag of pre-season relegation favourites?
Jun: I think it has been ok, so far. Incheon lost to Jeju, but quickly bounced back with a dramatic draw away at Daegu (they showed they have a lot of heart and fighting spirit), then another valuable point against mighty Jeonbuk Hyundai.
This game against Suwon Bluewings is crucial for Incheon psychologically. Last year, it took them 12 games to get their first win; but after the first win, they went on to win 4 more games very quickly. This is a clear indication that a winless-streak can be mentally damaging to the players. To prove the doubters wrong, Incheon can't afford to lose points early in the season.
Scott: The game against Jeonbuk could probably be best categorised as 'forgettable'. However, Incheon superbly limited Jeonbuk to just a handful of half chances and thoroughly deserved their point. What was good and what was ugly about that particular performance?
Jun: Unlike the first two games, Incheon manager Lee Ki-hyung started Weslley instead of Veselinovic up front against Jeonbuk. Weslley and Moon Seon-min's speed worked really well against the Jeonbuk defence. After coming on as a sub, Moon absolutely terrorised the Jeonbuk defence with his direct runs and he almost won the game for Incheon when he was fouled inside the penalty box in 70th minute but unfortunately Weslley failed to convert the penalty.
Incheon defended superbly, they were like men possessed. Incheon's defenders handled Kim Shin-wook and Edu extremely well; Jeonbuk tried to find their men but Kim Dae-jung, Lee Yun-pyo and Kim Kyoung-min made sure Jeonbuk's towering forwards couldn't get on the end of it.
I saw many positive and there was no "ugly" from that game, in my opinion.
Scott: The Daegu game aside, when they netted 2 goals, Incheon have struggled to find attacking fluency. Do you think this will be a feature of the season as they adapt to life without Kevin Oris?
Jun: I think Incheon are still getting used to their new forwards, but they are slowly figuring out how to utilise their two contrasting strikers.
Dalibor Veselinovic provides height and strength that used to come from Kevin Oris. On the other hand, there is the speedy Brazilian Weslley. Unlike Veselinovic, Weslley knows about the K-League; he's played for Jeonnam (twice), Gangwon and Busan.
Although Lee Ki-hyung likes to use a lone striker with two wingers, I would like to see both Veselinovic and Weslley start together for more traditional "big and small" up front.
Scott: What are your predictions for this game?
Jun: This game is going be quite close, I think. It's going to come to down to who dominates the centre of the park and protects the back, as both teams have great talents out-wide.
I think Incheon United have better central midfielders, so I'm going to go with 1-0 win for Incheon United.