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K League Coach: FC Seoul, Unlucky or Underperforming?

FC Seoul- unlucky or under-performarng? Hwang Sun-hong is feeling the pressure.
After being held at home by Sangju, Seoul now sit in 9th place. With only two league wins so far this season questions are being asked of the team and staff. They are the second lowest scorers in the league with nine goals, only Daegu, who sit bottom of the table, have scored less. Much more is expected of Seoul's squad of internationals and expensive imports. Have the team deserved more return for their efforts or are they underperforming? We take a look at their chance creation versus Sangju and try to get to the bottom of another uninspiring game.
(image via K League)

Game Information

Team: FC Seoul
Opposition: Sangju Sangmu
Date: April 29th, 2018
Competition: K League 1 Round 10

Match Overview

Seoul can point to their domination of possession and territory in their claim that they deserved more than a single point against Sangju. To go along with this they can say the nine corners they earned showed enough attacking intent to warrant more than a goalless home draw. However, Sangju will have been very happy with their performance and say that Seoul failed to create any meaningful chances, and could have actually stolen the win for themselves.

Chances Created 

Seoul had a total of 12 attempts during the game:
  • Three shots on target
  • Four shots off target
  • Five blocked shots
  • Six of the 12 shots were headers

Yellow - On Target.  Red - Off Target.  Blue - Blocked.   H - Header.

Expected Goals Zonal Breakdown

When discussing performances people often talk about shots on and off target and use these to quantify how threatening a team were when attacking. However, many analysts now use "expected goals" as a much more detailed analysis of a teams goal threat. Expected Goals (xG) breaks down the probability of a goal being scored based on the location of the shot. The field is broken down into seven zones, each with a statistical likelihood of a goal being scored.

This percentage was determined by analysing 1000s of the shots in the English Premier League since 2009. It includes blocked shots, headers (which have a lower xG rating when isolated) and goals from corners but excludes penalties. A great breakdown of the methodology used can be read over at SBNation. There are much more detailed xG formulas now that also include the number of defenders between the player and the goal, if it was a counter-attack, and what height the shot reached the goal at. However, for this analysis, we will use the basic location-based formula to calculate Seoul's xG rating for the game against Sangju.

Value of Seoul's Chances

When analysing the 12 shots on goal that Seoul took they come out with an xG of 1.13. At first look, this would seem to argue that Seoul just about did enough to perhaps have scored and potentially win the game - 1.13 doesn't give the impression that Seoul bombarded the Sangju goal but gives them a little room to argue that, on another day, they could have come away with the win. It allows little room for error and is hardly the level of performance Seoul should be accepting when home to Sangju. Though Snagju are a solid side, they have conceded two or more goals in four of their 10 games so far this season.

However, when applying more context to the data the picture looks worse for Seoul. Coaches and players must be able to look at the data and mix it with what they saw in the game. Of Seoul's 12 shots, five of them were blocked, some almost instantly. This suggests players were making bad decisions about when to keep the ball and when to shoot. When discounting shots that were blocked by a defender their xG drops to 0.78. A further concern is that of the seven remaining attempts on goal, five of these were headers which have a lower success percentage. Seoul clearly struggled to create meaningful chances.


The fact that Seoul could not create enough attempts on goal during a home game against Sangju to comfortably argue that they deserved to win the game must be a big concern. The most optimistic interpretation of the chances Seoul created gave them an xG of 1.13, hardly a number to fill fans with confidence. The players they have at their disposal would suggest that it is not necessarily a talent issue. On some occasions, players may be making poor decisions on when to shoot or continue to build the attack, but a look at how Seoul create their shooting opportunities sheds more light on their current lack of goals.

Brazilian striker Evandro spent most of the game trying to attack high looping crosses or dropping into midfield to help build play. Seoul only had two shots from within the penalty box that were not headers, one of these saw Evandro bring out a good save from the Sangju 'keeper. Rarely were players receiving the ball to feet around the penalty box. Crosses were coming from deep and looped into the box, rather than being cut back from the byline. Sangju are a well-organised, defensive unit but if Seoul have serious desires of competing at the top end of the K League, they must be able to break down stubborn defences and give their strikers the type of service that leads to goals.


  • Seoul must try and get more from their centre midfielders. Currently, play is channelled wide too easily by opponents. The midfield three must work to move the ball quickly and break lines centrally with their positioning to get the ball into more dangerous areas without their striker having to drop in to create the play.
  • A lot of balls into the box originate from wide players, but players who are still within or on the edge of the middle third. There needs to be more of a threat in high wide areas, to stretch defences out and to create better goal scoring opportunities.
  • Once Seoul have possession around the edge of the box they must show a little more patience. Instead of shooting into crowds of defenders from low percentage zones, attackers should try and move the ball quickly in tight areas where defenders are scared to make challenges and where better shooting opportunities can be created.
  • Finally, though not immediately related to scoring, Seoul played a low press, dropping off to the halfway line when Sangju had the ball. This meant when winning the ball Seoul had further to go to get to goal, and players had to make much longer runs. A team that wants to be challenging at the highest levels on the continent should not need to fear Sangju so much and drop so deep. Instead, if they employ a high press system Seoul can force errors in the opponents third and regain the ball closer to goal, allowing them to create chances before the other team can reorganise and have bodies behind the ball.

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