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2018 Season Preview: Suwon Samsung Bluewings


2017 was another year of disappointment for Suwon and after the departure of Johnathan in January it looked like 2018 would be more of the same from the Gyeongi-do giants. But an excellent transfer window combined with a promising start to their Asian Champions League campaign has seen that negative mood dissipate very quickly. It will be a tough task, but at this early stage it appears as though Suwon could have what it takes to at least challenge their closest rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai. 
(image via https://www.facebook.com/SuwonSamsungFC/photos)


Last Season

W17-D13-L8, position 3rd

What Happened?

A season that promised so much in January was wasted by far too many dropped points at home. Suwon only picked up a paltry 9 victories at Big Bird stadium (in all competitions) and it was only their superb away form that allowed them to finish in 3rd place and make it to the semi-final of the FA Cup where they were cruelly eliminated due to some poor refereeing. That run doubled with ACL qualification kept criticism away from the manager's door, but another big year is expected for Suwon and it may be difficult for Seo Jung-won to escape this time should things go wrong in 2018.

Notable Moves

The winter departure of Johanthan left Suwon in a precarious position but the move by the Suwon hierarchy to replace the Brazilian with outgoing Seoul legend, Dejan Damjanovic, was a masterstroke. The Montenegrin arrives in Suwon with a wealth of Kleague experience having scored over 150 goals during his time in Korea and having lifted numerous trophies with FC Seoul. If Suwon are to have any success this season they will rely on Dejan to match or better his goal tally of last season (19 Kleague goals) when he finished as runner-up in the Golden Boot race.

27 year old Brazilian, Cristovam, has been brought in to add much needed depth in the wing-back area and has already impressed in his four games thus far even bagging his side's only goal in the ACL game against Kashima. He spent last season as an integral cog in the Parana team that successfully gained promotion to Serie A in Brazil and his attacking displays from right-back have already endeared him to Suwon fans.

Attacking midfielder, Waguininho has been added to the squad to add some speed to an attack that was all too flat footed last season. He is a tricky winger who is comfortable on both feet and also has an eye for a goal. But crucially, he already has some experience of Korean football having spent 2016 and 2017 with Bucheon FC in Kleague 2. During his time at Bucheon he managed to score 21 goals but it was his goal scoring exploits of last season, when he spent much of his time playing from the right-wing, that earned him his move to Suwon.

Needs

Last season, Suwon were well placed to atleast challenge for the Kleague Classic title until goalscorer Johnathan was injured and spent a month on the sidelines. During that time, Suwon not only struggled to score goals, but also didn't do enough to create chances against the teams they faced. They meekly dropped out of contention and only qualified for the 2018 ACL because of Johnathan's return for the last few games of the season.

Therefore, what Suwon need is for the other attacking players to really step up and contribute this year. In the form of Dejan they have a known goal scoring quantity and if the team creates chances for him, he will gladly convert them. But more needs to be done to assist him as Dejan is not the type of player who can win a game all by himself as Johnathan would do in the past. If Suwon are to have even a modicum of success in 2018 they will need the likes of Yeom Ki-hun, Waguininho, Lim Sang-hyub, and the captain, Kim Eun-seon to have a stellar year.

Key Player 

Cristovam and Lee Ki-je

Much will be expected of Dejan and a lot rests on his shoulders, but if Suwon are to continue playing in Seo Jung-won's favoured 3-4-3 formation then the wing-backs will be of paramount importance.

The wings were an area in which Suwon really struggled to get any attacking consistency last season and the likes of Jang Ho-ik and Koh Seung-beom couldn't provide any penetration from the right all  season long. Because of that, Suwon often resorted to overloading central areas of the pitch, which became all to predictable, or they just simply fired long balls forward more often in hope rather than in expectation.

Both new full-backs have shown that they are capable in possession, have an eye for a pass and Cristovam also possesses a little bit of the X-factor that is sometimes required to break down stubborn Korean defences.

The supporting cast surrounding Dejan will need to up their game in 2018 but these two will need to do more than most.

Biggest Question 

Can the manager earn his stripes

Seo Jung-won inherited a talented squad when he took the manager's job in 2013 but managed to do very little until he guided the team to 2nd placed finishes in 2015 and 2016. And a solitary FA Cup win in 2017 has been a very poor return for a Suwon team who consistently have been tipped to do better. Seo Jung-won has had the players at the disposal to do better with one of the biggest football clubs in Asia but he has fallen short of the level expected of a manager in his position.

Part of the reason for this is the odd decisions that Seo has made throughout his managerial career and his insistence on reinventing the wheel and over complicating situations when perhaps a more traditional solution would be better. Last season, his biggest mistake was rigidly sticking to his 3-4-3 formation despite there not being the personnel available to make it work. And when Suwon did lose Johnathan in the closing stretch of the season he had no 'plan B' or alternative way to win. Whereas Choi Kang-hee was able to adapt and utilise the depth of his squad, Seo just couldn't and it may be his managing of the club that has kept a talented group of players from challenging for the league.

Seo Jung-won is quite rightly regarded as a legend in Suwon because of his playing career, but this season will be the making or the destroying of him as a manager.

Reason to Watch

Love them or loathe them, Suwon are one of the most entertaining teams in the league. They drop points when they shouldn't and they snatch unlikely victories in thrilling circumstances. Nothing ever comes easy for them and their propensity to make defensive blunders means that most of their games are close affairs.

Added to that, they have had a superb transfer window and now boast one of the best starting elevens in the league and one of the fiercest attacks too. They may not have the strength and depth of Jeonbuk, but on their day, the first team will be more than a match for anyone in the league and their front 3 have the potential to score goals left, right and centre.


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