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Preview: FC Seoul vs Jeju United

After an unremarkable performance in Jeonju last weekend, Seoul have a golden opportunity to establish themselves when first place, and still undefeated, Jeju United come to Seoul World Cup Stadium this Saturday. A win could vault them as high as second place, but more importantly would serve notice to the rest of the league that they've woken up. However, a continually flat offense hasn't shown signs of life so far. Will they have enough to beat a Jeju side that's only conceded once through four matches? (image via xportsnews.com)



A Word on Formations

After going with a 4-1-4-1 and finding some success with it vs Gwangju, manager Hwang Sun-hong reverted back to the 3-4-3 against Jeonbuk and the offense predictably sputtered. With the wing play of Yun Il-lok and Lee Sang-ho seemingly the key to Seoul's offense this year, playing in a true three man attacking formation makes sense, but playing with three at the back is stifling the team's movement far too much and causing issues defensively. Sure, the lone Jeonbuk goal came on a set piece, but the greenies had plenty of chances and weren't lacking for freedom of movement. This is largely due to the three man backline leaving too much space behind the wingbacks when they're trying to push offensively. That freedom in the channels forces the wingbacks to adjust and play more defensively, essentially turning it into a five man back line with an additional CDM. Then it's six players constantly behind the ball and hinders opportunities to hit on the break. Playing with four at the back (and even with a CDM) would cover the field equally well, but allow more players to break on the counter.

Additionally, a traditional four man backline would keep Kim Chi-woo in a more suitable leftback position with occasional overlapping runs, not constantly running the full length of the field, which has proved difficult for him. Playing a flat four along the back covers the field defensively and also creates clearer roles for shuttling the ball up field. Instead of multiple hybrid positions, a relatively flat 4-1-4-1 or even a 4-4-2 creates more clearly defined roles for players to stick to and know their assignments. More importantly, it would mean less defensive responsibilities for midfielders and allow them to roam forward more freely and become part of the offensive game plan, which is where the most help is needed.

Dejan The Sub?

After starting vs Suwon and Gangwon, Dejan has been relegated to the bench two matches in a row. This may simply be a time-share type move by the manager to get Park Chu-young equal minutes in an attempt to get the veteran striker going, but it's effectiveness should be questioned. In the Gwangju match Dejan only had to wait 26 minutes before being subbed on for Lim Min-hyeok, and he came on for Lee Sang-ho at halftime the next week. So, if Dejan's going to be playing the majority of the match, why not just try starting him alongside Park and see what the two can come up with? The three man attack hasn't exactly scorched the earth, so switching it up slightly seems a logical move. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, playing in a 4-4-2 could really work here. With Dejan as the target forward and Park playing slightly behind him, that's two dangerous options up the middle. And even pushed back slightly, Yun Il-lok and Lee Sang-ho would still have enough defensive coverage from two central midfielders to keep their focus on attacking the wings. After four rounds and only four goals, starting both Dejan and Park should at least be an option.

The Keeper

Perhaps playing against the first place team isn’t the best time to give the largely untested Yang Han-bin another go in net, but with the consistently poor play of veteran Yoo Hyun, why not give the kid a go? While it could (and should) be argued that he could've done more on Cho Ju-young's goal for Gwangju, he did extremely well a few minutes later to deny Song Seung-min on a breakaway, was rarely out of position, and proved a capable shot stopper. With Seoul all but officially eliminated from ACL and an arguably lower stakes match in Australia vs Western Sydney coming up on Tuesday, perhaps that's then Yang can cut his teeth. But, whether it's this Saturday in league play or in the upcoming ACL fixture, he should certainly be given a long look as a potential replacement for Yoo before the team is forced into a goalkeeper signing in the winter transfer window.

The Adversary

One of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the league, Jeju come into this match stinging a bit after conceding late to get a disappointing home draw vs Gwangju. However, as Matthew Binns predicted, the Islanders are unquestionably a team to watch this season and look to have a realistic shot at the title. Much like last year, Jeju haven't struggled to score goals in 2017 and have only been shut out twice in league play since last October. Welcoming back Australian defender Aleksandar Jovanović has shored up a previously leaky backline and solidified the team from front to back. Perhaps more concerning for the league, Jeju's seven goals this season have all come from different scorers, and none were from their expected attackers. Marcelo and Mendy haven't found themselves on the scoresheet yet, and Jeju are still winning games. Once those two get going, it's truly going to be a nightmare attempting to contain all of the threats. Like Seoul, Jeju also has ACL Tuesday, but they'll be hosting Adelaide United and therefore travel time and resting players won't be nearly as much of an issue. Look for them to come out with their strongest lineup Saturday to help cement their place on top of the league.

Who To Watch

Jeju captain Oh Ban-suk is well on his way to another 3,000 minute season after a shortened 2016 campaign, and even has a goal to his name this year. Anchoring the left side of the stout three man backline, Oh has been one of the key reasons Jeju has only conceded once thus far. Proving strong up the middle yet again Oh regularly wins headers and tackles into his area, making the target play attackers like Dejan thrive on much more difficult. Converting corners and set pieces also becomes far more difficult with Ban-suk prowling in the box. Having mainly played teams in the bottom half of the table has certainly helped Oh, but he can only play who's put in front of him, and he has unquestionably shut them down thusfar. His battle with Dejan and/or Park Chu-young will be key to the outcome this Saturday.


Of the four goals Seoul has scored this year, only two have come from open play. Until they sort that out, I just don't see this squad putting anything by the Jeju defense.

FC Seoul 0-1 Jeju United

FIFA 17 Preview

Here's a look at what Marc Guay's FIFA 17 simulation predicted.

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