Writer's Chat: Suwon vs Jeonbuk
This Saturday sees another huge rivalry come to a head in the Kleague as Suwon Bluewings host the reigning Asian Champions League champions, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Jeonbuk will be looking to capitalise on Suwon's mediocre second half showing in Seoul last weekend after defeating Jeonnam, with an uplifting last minute winner, last Sunday. Here, our Jeonbuk columnist, Matthew Binns, joins our Suwon columnist, Scott Whitelock, to discuss all things blue and green.
First, Scott asks and Matt answers
Scott: Last time out, Jeonbuk luckily scraped a win against a plucky Jeonnam team courtesy of a Kim Shin-wook stoppage time winner. How did you rate the team's general performance and how satisfying was it to see Jeonbuk convert a possible draw into a win, something which they struggled to do last season?
Matt: I think Jeonbuk’s last season was not so much converting a draw into win, but instead letting a lead slip away into a draw, although I can certainly think of one stand out contrary example where a Lee Jong-ho 95th minute stunner ensured Jeonbuk took all three points…
It is always great to win a fixture right at the death, but perhaps the dramatic circumstances masked the actual quality of Jeonbuk’s performance over the course of the ninety minutes. For large portions of the game, the Asian champions were found somewhat lacking. Kim Jin-su’s eye-catching goal was from a dead ball scenario and Kim Shin-wook’s came when Jeonbuk threw caution to the wind in search of a late victory. Besides these two moments, Jeonbuk’s few clear cut chances were often off target or non-threatening. The Jeonju-based side lacked creativity and also struggled on occasion in defence with all four debutants along the back line still working out all of the kinks in their cohesiveness. The team did not deserve the win and there is certainly room for improvement, but I am sure the club and league’s marketing team would rather focus on the Hollywood ending when it comes to remembering this particular Jeolla Derby.
Scott: As you have mentioned previously, the pitch at Jeonbuk's makeshift home is in dire straits. Did Jeonbuk alter their tactics at all in their last game and do you think that will be a feature throughout their home matches there?
Matt: Choi Kang-hee opted for a simple 4-4-2 formation with the ball being fed down the channels and crossed into the box, but this may well have been down to the injury picked up by Lee Jae-sung the day before rather than the pitch. Unable to gain control in central midfield and often lacking in pace up front, the manager clearly hoped that Ko Moo-yeol and Lee Seung-gi would fill the vacuum left by the absent Lopes and departed Leonardo to provide both the crosses and the goal threat. Both of these players continued where they left off last season however; continually trying too hard yet failing to impress. I think Jeonbuk played better in the game when these two were removed, and Choi switched to a five man midfield, with Kim Shin-wook winning the ball and laying it off for Eder Luiz and a more advanced Kim Jin-su. I do not expect him to repeat a 4-4-2 against Suwon, but I think that it will be due to both it’s apparent ineffectiveness and also the significant threat posed by the Bluewings, rather than the higher quality pitch Jeonbuk will be playing on.
Scott: You have already sounded out the possibility that Jeonbuk will finish outside the top 3 season, but does this prediction get any worse given then Lee Jae-sung is now out injured and possibly won't return until May?
Matt: Lee Jae-sung’s absence will certainly prove a blow to Jeonbuk, especially given that both him and Lopes, two of the top three assist makers at the club in 2016 (the other being Leonardo), will be out at the same time. As mentioned, the side lacked creativity last Sunday and I feel we could see Jeonbuk resort to more conservative football given that they have the players more suited for such a tactic in addition to a manger who cannot resist it. Given the improved quality of the sides with a realistic shout in the title race though, it is difficult to envisage such a strategy proving successful over the course of the season. Hopefully the new defence, who are made up of very talented players, can start to find their stride as a unit and keep Jeonbuk within touching distance of the title race until their better attacking options have returned to the squad mid-summer.
Scott: Jeonbuk's big signing this season, Kim Jin-su, got off to a flying start, scoring on his debut last weekend. What did you make of his performance and how important will he be to this Jeonbuk team?
Matt: Jeonbuk’s defence was certainly their weakest area last season, although I feel the wing backs were not the specific players I would have concerned myself with replacing if I were the manager. That said, Kim Jin-su is a national team talent with European league experience and therefore it was a smart move to buy him rather than let him go to a rival.
I think Kim will be a welcome addition to the squad. What was on display on Sunday certainly looked promising, with him shining in both a defensive and attacking role. His ability from a set piece was also evident with the goal he scored, a feat he will hopefully be able to repeat if Jeonbuk cannot quickly resolve their lack of threat in midfield. Finally, he is motivated to prove his worth after being removed from the match squad at Hoffenheim for a prolonged period and overlooked in recent national team call ups. Kim’s performance against Jeonnam should have even seen him awarded the man of the match in my opinion, but those in power opted for Kim Shin-wook instead due to his last minute heroics.
Scott: What is your prediction for this game?
Matt: It is very difficult to look beyond Suwon winning this game. The gap between the quality of the hosts and the doubts over the visitors looks insurmountable on paper. Jeonbuk’s strongest area with potential is their back line, but they will have to be very well versed if they are to stop the three-pronged threat of Johnathan, Yeom Ki-hoon and Santos (or perhaps Kim Min-woo). I predict a “brave” defeat.
Predicted Score: Suwon Bluewings 1-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
FIFA 17 Preview
Here's a look at what Marc Guay's FIFA 17 simulation predicted.
Now Matt asks and Scott answers
Matt: Suwon Bluewings come into this game off the back of a Supermatch with FC Seoul. The score finished 1-1, but there is an argument to say that Suwon could have claimed victory if they had taken more of their chances early on. What did you make of the match though and do you think the score line was justified?
Scott: I feel the scoreline was justified, but not because of Seoul's improved performance in the 2nd half but more because of Suwon's profligacy in front of goal. A number of chances were created by the Suwon midfield, but rather uncharacteristically Johnathan wasted every one. And in football, if you don't take your chances you will usually be punished.
The first half was superb from Suwon as their intense pressure on the ball wreaked havoc among the Seoul ranks. Everything you would want to see from a successful team was on display in that first half; fluent passing, attacking verve, intense pressure on the opposing team and a desire and pride to play for the supporters. But then all that went missing in the second half, and the pressure on Seoul dissipated. Although, despite Seoul having a lot of possession in the 2nd half, Seoul rarely troubled the Suwon goal and it took a rather fortunate flap at a corner from Shin Hwa-yong to gift wrap a goal for Seoul. However, as I have said, if you don't take your chances in football then you will always struggle to win and overall a draw was probably a fair result.
Matt: Having twice lost the lead against Guangzhou Evergrande, and now having lost a lead against FC Seoul, is there any worry that the team is not staying focused for the whole match?
Scott: I'm not quite sure that Suwon are in panic mode just yet. The Guangzhou game should be classed as an exception as only a wonder-goal from Goulart and a fine finish from Alan pegged Suwon back in that game. And as I have said above, despite Seoul having territory and possession in the 2nd half of the Super Match, the Suwon defence stood up to the pressure well and it was only a lucky Seoul goal that stopped Suwon from winning the league opener.
Suwon's defence was quite frankly terrible last season, but the team, and the defence in particular, have taken well to the new 3-5-2 formation that Seo Jung-won is now favouring. There is still a long way to go in the season, but the signs are there that Suwon will be more secure this season than they were last season.
Matt: There seems to be a wave of positivity about this Suwon Bluewings team, with many tipping this iteration to be the side that claims the club’s first league title since 2008. Therefore, let’s unfairly focus on the negatives instead. Do you think there is a particular weakness in this side that Jeonbuk could look to exploit?
Scott: The weak area of this team is most certainly the central midfield area and that was evident during the Super Match as Suwon really struggled to maintain possession as Seoul applied pressure. With the departure of Kwon Chang-hoon in the summer, the central area of midfield is really low in quality players. It also lacks that little bit of strength and experience that a title winning team usually requires.
The jury is still out on Lee Jong-sung, as the combative midfielder is quite often found out of position. I also find his midfield partner, Lee Yong-rae, to be a little too timid in that central area and he is a player who is extremely uncomfortable when forced to make a challenge on an opposing player.
The signing of Damir Sovsic is a definite positive in this area though, and the former Dinamo Zagreb man has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in his 2 substitute appearances thus far. The Croatian is extremely comfortable on the ball, can play a pass and has enough energy to cover every are of the pitch. He is currently struggling from a lack of match fitness, but Suwon will be looking to get him ready to start a game as soon as possible.
Matt: On a more upbeat note however, Suwon have quite the front line, with the majority of our site’s columnists picking Johnathan as potentially the year’s best attacker. What is it about the ex-Daegu man that makes him so deadly and why should the Jeonbuk back line fear him?
Scott: He is quite simply (the last Super Match is the obvious exception) lethal infront of goal, and I don't think any other team can claim to have a striker of his ilk. He is not blessed with skill, pace or an eye for a pass, but he is a nuisance, never stops running and if a chance does fall to him, he will more often than not convert it.
His goals were the catalyst for Suwon's miraculous turn of form last season and if Suwon harbour any thoughts of silverware this year he must continue his form infront of goal, otherwise, it could be another long and arduous season for the club.
Matt: It’s been three consecutive draws for Suwon in 2017, although admittedly against three difficult teams. Will this weekend see a fourth or do you see it going another way?
Scott: A draw would certainly not be unthinkable. Despite Jeonbuk's squad being weakened, they still have a lot to of quality and they should not be dismissed lightly by any team in the Kleague. In Kim Shin-wook, they have a genuine, unique threat to any Korean defence and Jeonbuk would be wise to play to his strengths in this game against a Suwon defence that is still yet to prove itself.
But, I expect Suwon to come out on top on this game. I still think Suwon are yet to get anywhere near their top gear, but they have still performed well in their 3 tough, opening fixtures. This could be the game that Suwon come out on top, but only if, unlike in last weekend's Super Match, Seo Jung-won is ambitious and starts with Santos and Johnathan together, and Johnathan actually takes his chances this time out.
Predicted Score: Suwon Bluewings 2 - 1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors