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2017 K League Classic Mid-Season Grades

With the All Star break marking the unofficial end of the first half of the season, a slew of teams turn their attention to the dividing line that will separate Championship and Relegation Round opponents for the tail end of the season. With the break in action, our Classic writers have hashed over the season thus far and handed out grades accordingly. 
(image via uhfc.tv)

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors: B+

With more potential challengers this year, in addition to having endured a long injury list for the first ten to twelve games, it’s hard to grade Jeonbuk too harshly considering they have found themselves once again in front come July. That said, with no ACL to rotate for, and an underwhelming transfer window attack-wise, these excuses do not hold too much weight given the finances at the club's disposal. It must be noted that their defence has improved significantly though, already matching their clean sheet record for the whole of 2016. Despite my early predictions of a 3rd place finish, it seems it’s Jeonbuk's title to lose yet again.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

Ulsan Hyundai: B+

Kim Do-hoon's first season at Ulsan seemed like a nightmare at the beginning; a series of humiliating defeats resulted in Ulsan making a group stage exit at ACL and the fans boycotting supporting at home games. However, the Horang-i managed to hit back since May and is now in second in the league. Although poor away results and an early ACL exit may still frustrate fans, Ulsan deserves a B+ in a half season with mixed feelings.
- Park Jeong Woon (@indiepark28)

Gangwon FC: B

Gangwon showed lofty ambitions ahead of their return to the Classic, spending big and purchasing a number of high profile players. For the most part, their strategy has been successful, with the side lurking in the top half around ACL contention for the majority of the season. Therefore, points must be awarded for bedding in so many acquisitions effectively. It has been consistency that has ultimately been their downfall though but, with experienced heads in the side to guide them in the run-in, they could still threaten to gate crash next year’s continental competition.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

Jeju United: B

Up until Jeju got knocked out of the ACL it was an undoubted A+. We were playing great football and picking up some excellent results. However, since then there has been a massive drop in our form. We have only won two games out of nine and have fallen down to fifth in the league.  Title talk is pretty much over but our early season form does give us hope that a top three finish should be more than acheivable.
- Duncan Elder  (@KLeaguereview)

Suwon Samsung Bluewings: B-

A disappointing start to the season left Suwon adrift and looking nothing like a championship winning team, which is what many people had tipped them to be. But some stunning away form, combined with flowing, attacking football has pushed them up the table. Whether they can make that extra push to close the gap on Jeonbuk remains to be seen, but if they can maintain their away form and make their home a fortress then it could be a very interesting 2nd half of the season for Seo Jung-won's men.
- Scott Whitelock  (@ScottySSBFC)

Daegu FC: C

We are in the relegation zone and technically bottom as Gwangju have played one game less than us. We seem like we are almost following the story many people expected to happen. So, we would be the most likely team to be relegated if we don't sign any decent players in this transfer window.
- Muyeol Jung  (@daegu_freak)

FC Seoul: C

It's been a rough season for the defending champs being unceremoniously knocked out of ACL and FA Cup much earlier than expected while also struggling in league play. A flat out failing grade is tempting for a team that so often struggles to get the simple things right and has losses to Sangju, Daegu, and cellar dwelling Gwangju. However, they've managed to stay in contention for an ACL spot by picking up key wins against top teams in the league. Claiming 3rd or 4th wouldn't mark a successful season for Seoul by any stretch of the imagination, but it would be a decent salvage job after some truly rough stretches.
- Ryan Walters  (@MrRyanWalters)

Jeonnam Dragons: C-

With three at the back, we started off like an old Soviet freight train trying to ascend a steep hill without fuel - losing our first five games of the season. The 10-won coin finally dropped for coach Noh Sang-Rae in week six and he ditched the disastrous formation for a 4-3-3 (quite why it took him so long, nobody really knows). Unsurprisingly, Jeonnam started to rise up the table after that. Our five-nil thrashings of Ulsan and Gwangju were our stand out performances and our 37 goals scored makes us the second highest scorers in the league. Our defense, with 36 goals conceded, is officially the worst in the league, and we’ve only kept two clean sheets all season. However, this is largely due to defensive organization, rather than personnel, as so many of the goals we’ve conceded have come from corner kicks (including two against Daegu last weekend). Our worst 90 minutes was probably the three-nil home defeat to Jeonbuk (the less said about that, the better). Simply put, any team with a bit of savvy can work us out, but we’re hard to stop if we get going. Nevertheless, it’s certainly been entertaining and the recent 2-2 tie versus Jeju and 4-3 victory over Daegu were fantastic games of football!
- Aodan Halligan (@aodanh)

Pohang Steelers: C-

The first stretch of the season was very good, but the middle has not been good. It isn't much different from last season. They couldn't show any effect of changing the head coach.
- Lim Seok Hyun  (@SSeokHyeon)

Incheon United: D

I feel like Incheon knew we were going to be releasing these grades, hence recent mini-revival. Perhaps in a similar fashion as to how school children would start to behave better before parents' evening. Incheon are above the relegation zone and so, to now, 2017 can be seen as a decent season. They need to win more home games, though.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

Sangju Sangmu: D

The military side have regressed from last year’s top half attacking threat, having lost the manager and most of the recruits that made that historic achievement possible. Although there have been some eye-catching names called up for duty such as Hong Chul, Kim Ho-nam and Joo Min-kyu, they have failed to find the goals that their predecessors procured with ease. With the nature of the club meaning that their will be another exodus of players come September, Sangju really need to get a grip on proceedings now and climb before their squad is depleted in the midst of a relegation scrap.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

Gwangju FC: E

Gwangju simply haven't scored enough goals. There hasn't been enough intent to go out and win actually games to get them out of trouble. Failing to follow up the win over Seoul shows a lack of character. They are currently bottom of the table having failed to replace Jung Jogook (last year's MVP) and so it is as bad as it can be at this point.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

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