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Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen Vs Busan IPark

Cho Jin-ho makes his long awaited return to Purple Arena as Daejeon Citizen welcome an in-form Busan IPark for round 8 of the K League Challenge season. Where as Busan have catapulted themselves right into the early promotion mix, Daejeon are languishing near the foot of the table and in need of a win to kick start their season. With a returning Cristian Dănălache from suspension, current Daejeon Citizen manager Lee Youngik will be desperately hoping that his side can spoil his opposite number's return.

Ahead of Saturday's clash our Daejeon columnist Paul Neat sat down with Busan IPark columnist Jae-hyeok Lee to discuss the season so far and what they expect come 3pm Saturday afternoon.

Paul asks Jae

As many predicted, it has been a very good start for Busan thus far but have Cho Jin-ho's men surpassed your expectations in terms of quite how good the start has been, or is it more or less what you foresaw?

I would say they've generally met what I had hoped for. The team is good, but not great. The side underwent a lot of changes during the off-season, and so I wasn't sure how well or how quickly they would gel together. So far, so good though; well in the playoff race, and still in touching distance of the title and auto-promotion (long, long way to go though).

Speaking of Cho Jin-ho, he was of course the man who lead Daejeon to the 2014 K League Challenge title, how has his appointment gone down with the Busan fans now the season is underway? What has he done differently to his predecessor(s)?

His appointment went down very well with Busan fans. As you mentioned, he was known for getting Daejeon up to the Classic in 2014, and then his solid season with Sangju last season. Busan seem to have a clearer idea of how they are trying to play, which has helped (compared to when under Yoon Sung-hyo), and the squad is improved overall compared to what Choi Young-joon had.

How have Busan been lining up formation wise? What has Cho Jin-ho's tactics been like? He liked to exploit the pace of Adriano when he was at Daejeon, playing counter attacking football. Has it been a similar situation down at the Gudeok so far this season?

The formation has not been entirely consistent this season, but on paper it tends to come out as a 4-4-2, a 4-1-4-1, or a 4-3-3. Lee Jeong-hyeop has been the regular centre forward, and what tends to change the formation shape is who the other attacker is. Lately it's been Lim Sang-hyub which has pushed things into more of a 4-4-2. When it was Romulo it tended to go more 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3.

Cho Jin-ho seems to be finding his preferred XI, and with it it, on paper, it goes as a 4-4-2 (and on the pitch as a 4-4-1-1). Right now, I think his preferred XI consists of: Kim Hyung-geum; Yasuda, Danny Morais, Cha Young-hwan, Yu Ji-hun; Jung Seok-hwa, Kim Moon-hwan, Heo Beom-san, Park Jun-tae; Lim Sang-hyub, Lee Jeong-hyeop.

As I mentioned in my season preview, Busan did very little to strengthen the center of the pitch. Kim Moon-hwan has been a pleasant surprise, but Challenge seems to be his level, while former Daejeon man Heo Beom-san has been decent as well. However, Busan, like most K League clubs, focus their play heavily down the flanks - especially when Romulo is not in the side. Busan are not a counter-pressing side, nor are they a counter-attacking side. When they attack, Busan tend to push a lot of players up, and the lack of a true defensive midfielder tends to leave the defense exposed.

In more tactic nerd talk, Busan often try to create overloads on the flanks through Lee Jeong-hyeop or Lim Sang-hyub (more frequently the latter) drifting wide and combing with the wide midfielder (usually Jung Seok-hwa or Park Jun-tae) and either the same side fullback or central midfielder. If they can find space, a cross will come in. If Busan do try a 'counter' it usually will come through the mobility of Lee or Lim.  

You have said in the past that the Gudeok is perhaps the better venue for Busan to play the home games, has the change from the Asiad helped with attendances?

It's hard to say for certain given the season is only a handful of games in, but purely on the numbers the move has not hurt the attendance figures. Thus far, Busan are averaging about 4,600 a game which is 3,000 higher than last season's average of 1,500+. Is that because of the Gudeok move? Time will tell as always, but I suspect the more positive feel around the team is a bigger factor (plus we've been winning a bit). 

Finally, what's your prediction?

Busan has not played well in Daejeon the past several meetings, but the team is more confident these days and Lee Jeong-hyeop is on fire. I think it'll be a close one, but Busan has the ability to pull off a win. I'll say 2-1 to the IPark.

Jae asks Paul

Daejeon were tipped for a playoff spot before the season kicked off, but things have not gone entirely smoothly to start. Still a long way to go, but the side sits closer to the bottom than the playoffs. What has gone wrong?

It has been very stop start so far for Daejeon. Lost on the opening day, got a decent draw against Seongnam a week later and then eventually beat E-Land after that. I was hoping that Daejeon would kick on from there but sadly that hasn't been the case. The manager, Lee Youngik, is somewhat of a tinkerman, he has chopped and changed the back four a lot and has inexplicably dropped his two main goalkeepers, both Jeon Soo-hyun and Lee Chang-young have come in but both have been axed without really doing an awful lot wrong. The back four has only had one mainstay, the captain Kim Jin-kyu. It's hard to keep clean sheets and when there's no continuity at the back. 

There are some issues in midfield, too. Daejeon lost Kim Sun-min to Daegu and haven't really replaced him. In came Kim Dae-yeol, ironically from Daegu, but he doesn't have that intensity and box-to-box mentality that Kim Sun-min brought to Daejeon's midfield. He is a big miss and, thus far, Hwang In-beom has been underwhelming. 

Busan lost their top scorer from last season (Popp) during the offseason. Similarly, last season's top scorer (for both Daejeon and the Challenge), Kim Dong-chan, departed for Thailand and was replaced by the golden boot runner up in Cristian Dănălache. Lee Jeong-hyeop has certainly made up for Popp's goals, has Dănălache compensated well for the loss of Kim Dong-chan?

Dănălache is a big signing and one that went down well. He will get goals provided he has the right level of service. With a midfield that struggles to get the ball forward quick enough, it is a concern as to whether there will be sufficient levels of service to the strikers. At present it seems as though the players around him haven't quite got on his wave length yet, Lee Hoseok aside who of course was with him at Gyeongnam. He is a clever player and has good movement but at the moment Daejeon don't seem to know how to get the ball into him for him to do what he does best, sticking the ball in the back of the net. Still, it is early days, Daejeon have a new team more or less and so I am sure that as time goes in things will begin to gel.

Again, like Busan, Daejeon has a new face managing the side in Lee Young-ik. My quick look research says this is his first full managerial gig. What kind of football has he had Daejeon playing (formation, tactics, etc)?

It is indeed his first managerial job, he was number two at Gyeongnam last year and has been a coach for FC Seoul's youth team as well as at Sangju. He was actually a coach at Daejeon in the mid 2000s.

He hasn't even decided what his best back four is yet, let alone is best eleven, and so I don't think we have quite seen the Daejeon Citizen that Coach Lee wants them to be. He pledged to the fans that he was going to play attacking football when he was first appointed, his 4-3-3 system is testament to that. He likes to play a big man up top with wingers who are direct eitherside. More often than not he has had Kim Jung-joo or Levan on the right and Lee Ho-seok on right of Cristian Dănălache. He seems to like to use width, getting the balls into wide areas before trying to feed Dănălache who can either have a shot at goal or play in the other winger, Lee Ho-seok has had some success with this with the goals he has scored.

#HwangInBeomWatch. Daejeon were (somehow) able to keep hold of their talented youngster during the offseason. How did they do that, and how has Hwang done thus far this season?

He had talks with Benfica and an unnamed Bundesliga club in the winter but failed to agree terms so Daejeon very nearly lost him. This season though he's been underwhelming, in truth. I want him to dictate the pace of games and really have the confidence to be able to get himself involved more. He drifts in and out of games too easily and, unfortunately this term, has failed to impose himself in ways the we all know he is capable of. I can't foresee him being a Daejeon player for much longer, there are rumours that he is off to Benfica in the summer. Perhaps his head has been turned and that is why he is under performing. He started having English lessons recently so it looks as though he is preparing for his departure to Europe.

Any important team news?

Cristian Dănălache is back from suspension after getting himself sent off against Anyang a few weeks ago, he will be a big plus for Daejeon has without him the forward line lacks a focal point or a leader. Captain Kim Jin-kyu is a doubt, he picked up a muscle injury and has missed the last few games as a result. 

Prediction for the match?

Busan are in great form, and the FA Cup win over Pohang on Wednesday is impressive, so I am worried. I am forever hopeful but realistically this is going to be tough, 2-0 to Busan.

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