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Writers' Chat: Gyeongnam FC Vs Daejeon Citizen

Top welcome bottom on Wednesday evening when K League Challenge Champions elect Gyeongnam FC host Daejeon Citizen at Changwon Football Center for round 26 of the 2017 season. Gyeongnam recently extended their lead to 11 points at the top of the league thanks to wins over Seongnam and Bucheon in the previous two rounds. Contrasting fortunes for Citizen, meanwhile who, lead by former Gyeongnam assistant manager Lee Youngik, prop up the table and are set to record their worst ever finish in the K League. Ahead of Wednesday's clash, I sat down with Gyeongnam FC columnist James Edrupt to discuss the match, the contrasting fortunes of each team, and what the future holds.

Image via Gyeongnam FC Facebook


from Soccerway.com
Team News

Gyeongnam FC


5 Cho Byungkook - suspension
6 Choi Jaesoo - suspension
24 Jung Hyunchul - suspension
25 Lee Beomsoo - injury


23 Park Jisoo - suspension served

Daejeon Citizen


7 Levan Shengelia - injury
14 Kim Taebong - injury
15 Jang Junyoung - suspension
20 Kim Jinkyu - injury

James asks, Paul answers:

James Edrupt: What do Daejeon need to do to establish themselves near the playoff area of the Challenge? They seem to always be scrapping around near the bottom. What must change?

Paul Neat: Two things that need to change are the manager, and the date. For Daejeon to be challenging for the playoffs there needs to be a new manager and for it to be 2018 as this season is a complete and total write-off. The best Citizen can hope for is to finish top of this mini league that has formed at the bottom with Ansan Greeners, Seoul E-Land and Daejeon Citizen. But, both Ansan and E-Land have started to pick up results and are breathing down the neck of FC Anyang so even that looks unlikely at present.

from Soccerway.com
To be able to at least finish the season in a positive manner, the manager needs to go and the club ought to bring in a young and hungry coach who has something to prove. I had suggested a few months ago that the club should have given the job to Kim Eunjung, a legend with the Purples having been part of the 2001 FA Cup winning team, as well as returning the year Cho Jinho lead Daejeon back to the K League Classic in 2014. But, quite simply, even if the the club don't plump for Kim, there needs to be a change in approach terms of how managers are appointed. It seems that giving a former assistant manager the job is the preferred route but the club got lucky with Cho Jinho and every appointment they have made since has been poor.

On Monday, I received a Tweet from Karel De Smet, the Belgian central defender who signed for Daejeon in 2013 but due to injury never featured, declaring his interest in the hot seat at Purple Arena. The Tweet was in response to claims from Pedro Henrique, who was released by the club after just a couple of FA Cup appearances, that the coaching staff at Purple Arena weren't quite up to standard Perhaps a foreign coach is the way to go for Citizen?

Read his story here.

JE: You have had a slight upturn in results over the past month or two. Have the two new signings from us in left back Jeon Sanghoon and centre back Park Jusung helped matters for Daejeon?

PN: Without doubt, both Jeon Sanghoon and Park Jusung have helped shore up the defence no end. It makes one wonder how different of a season Daejeon would be having if those two had been signed during the winter and not midway through the season. Park Jusung is calm and assertive, whilst Jeon Sanghoon offers tenacity and can take the ball forward when needed. As you know, the latter is predominantly a left back but, since he joined Citizen, he has been playing on the left side of a back three and has done very well in that role. I am a little uneasy with a back three, though. I would like to see Daejeon play with a back four for the trip to Changwon with Park Jaewoo at right back, Park Jusung and Yun Shinyoung in the middle (Jang Junyoung is suspended), and Jeon Sanghoon on the left.

JE: Most of us would of predicted that Dănălache and Lee Hoseok would have linked up far better than they have this season. What has happened here regarding these two?

PN: I thought the same as you. I remember speaking to you about Lee Hoseok in particular before the season had kicked off and looking forward to what I had hoped would have been a successful season for the Purples. Things haven't quite worked out but that's through no fault of either Cristian Dănălache nor Lee Hoseok. Dănălache is Citizen's leading scorer with nine league goals, that makes him the joint third highest scorer in the Challenge. Lee Hoseok has scored four and has three assists to his name which is perhaps not as much as people were expecting from a player who topped the Challenge assist charts last term. However, Lee Hoseok has found himself in and out of the team and playing in a number of different positions and so those stats are commendable. Such upheaval cannot help a player's confidence or their on-field relationships. The manager has only just decided what his best eleven is, the season only has two more months to run. It's too late now.

JE: Prediction for Wednesday night?

PN: I am expecting a defeat, I just hope it isn't a moral damaging defeat. What I am also hoping is that Lee Youngik plays somewhat of a defensive and protective formation that doesn't leave his team too exposed. As mentioned earlier, Lee has found that the back three system works well but, away from home, this needs to be more of a back five with two proper full backs playing either side of that back three. If the Purples can try and soak up some pressure and hit Gyeongnam on the counter then who knows? I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Citizen put up a good fight but fall away in the second half, as has been the case in a lot of games this season. As you know, Gyeongnam can steam roll teams once they get in to their stride and come strong in the second half. For this reason, I am worried because this is usually when Citizen fall apart.

I will say a 3-0 win for Gyeongnam.

Image via Gyeongnam FC Facebook

Paul asks, James answers:

Paul Neat: It's just a matter of time, isn't it: when Gyeongnam are crowned Challenge champions? 

James Edrupt: If you would have asked me this question about month ago I would have said I "no way, there is a long way to go yet!". Granted we have always been looking down on everyone else due to our fantastic early season form, but we hadn't won a game in over a month and Marcão wasn't finding the net at all. But there have been a few shrewd signings over the last month, in particular that of Kwon Yonghyun from Jeju United. The lad is a top player with such quick feet and he scares the hell out of defenders with his direct style of play. We were lacking a bit of cutting edge to unlock defences, with this addition he can certainly do that. A recent run of five straight wins and some breathtaking performances to boot have us sitting pretty at the top of the table by 11 points with just 11 games remaining. We have, on paper, two easy fixtures this week in Daejeon at home and Seoul E-Land away. Compare that to Busan IPark in second, they have two very tricky away games against an improving Seongnam outfit and Asan who are always great at home. A great chance to definitely lay a marker down and pull further clear if results go our way. The finishing line is well and truly in sight.

PN: Last season of course, had it not have been for the points deduction, Gyeongnam would have finished in the playoffs. What has it been about this season that has seen the team kick on?

JE: Our recruitment in the summer was superb and keeping the solid back four that we had last season in tact was key. We kept the spine of the team together and signed a like-for-like player in Marcão for Dănălache who left for Daejeon, of course.  Marcão took to the K League straight away and his sheer size and leap was a sight to behold in a Gyeongnam shirt, terrorising defences up and down the country. We signed a few players from the Classic, of note one player that was weighed in with seven goals for us and probably has the same number of assists is Jung Wonjin from Pohang Steelers. He's a dead ball specialist who is deadly when on his game. The energy of the players in the midfield is unreal with the fitness of the team the best I've known it being since following the club.

PN: There's no shortage of familiar faces heading down to Changwon this weekend; Cristian Dănălache , Lee Hoseok, Jeon Sanghoon, Park Jusung and, of course, Daejeon's manager Lee Youngik who was Gyeongnam's number two, are there any of these players that you think the team will be wary of?

JE: Dănălache,on his day, can score against any team in this league, he just needs the correct service to score. It'll be a great battle against Park Jisoo and Ivan on Wednesday night. Park Jisoo is a no-nonsense defender who will put his head in where it hurts. Ivan on the other hand reads the game so well and will be key against Dănălache. Lee Hoseok may have a point to prove coming back to his old stomping ground. On his day can score some cracking goals and be a real menace running off the shoulder of defenders. Both Jeon Sanghoon and Park Jusung may be in for a busy night as, without a doubt the wingers in our side are very quick, and with Marcão up top and Bruno buzzing around just off him they will have to be switched on for ninety minutes.

PN: Lee Youngik was Gyeongnam's number two last season, he moves to Daejeon and then all of a sudden Gyeongnam are storming the league whilst Daejeon are rock bottom? Coincidence? Or is there more to it, do you think?

JE: The number two at Gyeongnam now is Lim Wanseop and his coaching staff all came from last seasons Challenge champions side Ansan Mugunghwa (Police) whom have now reformed as Asan Mugungwha FC. They have come from a championship winning side and brought that winning mentality with them. They came straight into our set up and have hit the ground running.  Our manager Kim Jongbu is ruthless as a gaffer. He is not afraid to sub a player out if not performing, it doesn't matter in what minute of the game it is. I heard from my sources at the club that Lee Youngik, whilst being a lovely man, was just "too nice" and he wasn't strict enough with the players and they found it hard to get motivated by him. This may be a reason for Daejeon's poor form this season. At this stage of the season, in late August, the table doesn't lie.

PN: Finally, what are you predicting from Wednesday's match?

JE: Top versus bottom clash. I can only see one outcome here: a home win. We really have the grit between our teeth at the moment and, buoyed by two superb away victories against Seongnam and Bucheon, the boys should be firing on all cylinders.  

Gyeongnam 3-0 Daejeon

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