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K League Coach: A New Approach or More of the Same at Seoul?

K League Coach: A New Approach for FC Seoul under Lee Eul-yong
Following on from last weeks analysis of FC Seoul's scoreless home draw to Sangju Sangmu, we take a look at their 2-1 Super Match win at home to fierce rivals Suwon Bluewings to see what, if anything, has changed since the appointment of Lee Eul-Yong as caretaker manager.
(Image via K League)

Game Information

Team: FC Seoul
Opposition: Suwon Bluewings
Date: May 5th, 2018
Competition: K League 1 Round 12

Match Overview

After a poor start to the season, a turgid 0-0 home draw against Sangju Sangmu was the final straw for manager Hwang Sun-hong who decided to offer his resignation to the FC Seoul hierarchy. The team have struggled to score goals all season and it was no different against Sangju. Hwang Sun-Hong's resignation was accepted, despite the pleas of the clubs' upper management, Hwang's assistant, Lee Eul-Yong, was then appointed as caretaker manager until the end of the season.

Their midweek game away to Gyeongnam offered more of the same, again finishing 0-0. There was little to suggest that Seoul would come out firing against Suwon, but after taking an early lead, they were able to secure a 2-1 victory to give their fans some long-awaited joy. Across all three games, Seoul have used 14 players as starters and played the same shape in each game. Lee has hardly shaken things up in any major way, but small changes can make a huge difference in football.

This analysis does not intend to justify or discredeit the fnal score, but to see what Seoul may have altered for them to start scoring.

Chances Created
Against Suwon, Seoul had a total of 11 attempts during the game, down from 12 in the 0-0 draw against Sangju.
  • Two goals
  • Three shots on target
  • Two blocked shots off target
  • Four off target
  • Green - Goal. Yellow - On Target.  Red - Off Target.  Blue - Blocked.   H - Header.

Expected Goals Zonal Breakdown

For for the definition of xG (Expected goals) see here
Location of 1st half attempts vs Suwon
Seoul took a 2-0 lead into halftime from five attempts on goal. They managed to have two efforts from within zone one -  the opening goal, and one scrambled onto the post, both coming after some questionable defending from Suwon when dealing with Evandro. These five chances amount to an xG of 1.02. This is almost as high as the chances from the entire game against Sangju (1.13) but this time resulted in two goals. Seoul had converted chances at an above average rate.
Location of 2nd half attempts vs Suwon
In the second half, Suwon took greater control of the game and Seoul tended to be pinned deeper in their own half, looking to play on the counter. They created six attempts on goal in the second 45 minutes, giving them a second half xG of .51. Though not as high as the first half, a total xG of 1.52 is an improvement on 1.13 from the game against Sangju. Seoul had come away with more goals than statistically expected.

What Was Different?

So how did Seoul win 2-1 when they had an expected goals rating of 1.52? Well as with any statisical analysis there are alway variants and coaches will only use data as a guide. As mentioned in the previous article, context is key. It is when we look at the differences between the two sets of chance's that we begin to see how Seoul were able to offer a much better attacking threat against Suwon than against Sangju.

The immediate difference was that none of the attempts against Suwon were headers. Headers have a much lower conversion rate and the performance against Sangju saw Seoul throwing a lot of long high crosses into the box. This did not play to their striker's strengths at all. All of the attempts against Suwon came from a player shooting with the ball at their feet, a much more likely way of scoring, and something Anderson, Evandro, and Park Chu-young are much more suited to.

Seoul were much more patient as they approached the final third of the field, recycling possession or looking to switch play when their progress was halted, rather than simply lofting a ball high into the box. They were also much better at getting the ball into the channels around the Suwon back line for their strikers to run on to and take in their stride. The opening goal came when a ball into the channel was not properly dealt with and Evandro was able to roll the ball across the box for Anderson. The second goal also came from the ball being played into Anderson's feet with him facing goal. He was able to carry it into the box and finish smartly across the goalkeeper.

Things To Keep in Mind

Seoul have not suddenly found the answer to their problems. The early goal certainly had an impact on how Suwon intended to approach the game. As discussed in the article from the previous meeting of these two teams, Suwon can at times be more than happy to sit deep with bodies behind the ball. The early goal forced Suwon to come out more and may have created more space for Seoul to exploit.

Secondly, Seoul were able to capitalize and punish a defensive error for the opening goal, and also had another great opportunity to score when the Suwon goalkeeper hesitated in closing down Evandro, leading to Anderson hitting the post. Though Seoul, and specifically Evandro, should be congratulated for forcing these errors, it is not something they can rely on each week.

Finally, though Seoul may have improved their attacking threat, Suwon had a lot of chances, and actually had the ball in the Seoul net on two occasions, only to see them ruled out for offside. Seoul must make sure that they do not start scoring more goals only to see them making more at the other end.

Recommendations

Despite a decrease in overall attempts between the games against Sangju and Suwon, the type of chance created was of much higher quality and better suited to the attackers Seoul have. They must continue to work on this approach and develop their shared understanding as not to revert back to long balls when games aren't going their way. This game saw a small improvement in their performance, which may possibly be accredited to the new coaches short amount of time with them, but there is much more work to be done.

Seoul must work on breaking down deep lying defensive units that get numbers behind the ball. The away game at Suwon, and the home game against Sangju, showed how Seoul can struggle to break down stubborn opponents and resort to ineffective tactics that do not suit their front line. A club the size of Seoul cannot always rely on counter-attacking opportunities, they should be able to take the game to opponents.

Goalkeeper Yang Han-bin tends to plays a lot of long balls despite that not being their attackers' strengths. Lots of these balls often resulted in the ball dropping lose or Suwon regaining possession.

As Seoul wanted to defend their lead in the second half, they began dropping deeper and deeper. Seoul must try to control a game to defend a lead through possession rather than sitting back. This was dangerous play, with Suwon having goals disallowed and several chances

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