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2018 Season Review: Daegu FC

2018 Season Review: Daegu FC
Daegu FC, being touted as the favourites to be relegated, not only managed to survive K League 1 in the seventh place, but they also finished this season with some unexpected silverware in the Korean FA Cup after hammering Ulsan Hyundai 5-1 on aggregate in the final. Daegu FC Correspondent Muyeol Jung takes this opportunity to look back what must be the most successful and memorable season in the club's history and what to take into next year.
(image via Daegu FC)


Summary

It was only the second season which Daegu FC have had back in the top flight of Korea football after they were promoted to K League 1 in 2016. Unlike their plan, the Sky Blues endured the worst of it until the World Cup break when relegation was a genuine fear. However, they successfully bounced back with stunning performances after the World Cup break. Some savvy signings in the summer transfer window, such as Edgar, Ze Roberto and Tsubasa, helped to get Daegu to finish top of the relegation round. Also, Daegu Manager Andre deserves huge credit for keeping calm amid the off-field concerns to steer the team to safety.

Final Position:7th
Total points: 50
FA Cup: Champions
Top Scorers: Edgar da Silva (8), Cesinha (8)
Awards: Jo Hyunwoo (Best 11 GK), Cesinha (most assists - 11, FA Cup Top Scorer - 5, FA Cup MVP)

What Went Well


1. The World Cup Break

Due to the World Cup, K League came into a bit of a prolonged break after the first 15 rounds of the campaign were played. At that time, the Sky Blues sat at the bottom of table, gripped by the fear of relegation. During the break though Daegu went down to Namhae on the south coast for a focused summer training camp. For two weeks, it was reported that the team spent much of their time in Namhae focusing on fitness training and tactical drills. Hard work and intensive fitness training were the main drivers which enable Andre’s boys to stay energetic until the last minute of games during a hectic fixture schedule and in adverse weather throughout the summer.

2. Effective Game Management and Tactics

Even though Daegu were well prepared after the break, it was not always the case whereby the game went according to plan. However, these kinds of situations were overcome by great game management and tactics on and off the pitch whenever they encountered a crisis. Also, they were able to get result when they needed to with the right set plays or substitutions. For example, in a game against Sangju, few chances were created by Daegu right up until full time, but they earned a vital three points on the road thanks to a powerful header from a set play.

3. Restoration of Mentality and Confidence

Daegu FC have seldom been a club that has experienced a great deal of success and have sometimes been the club that fell at the final hurdle. However, this year, their old character trait was no longer with them. The Sky Blues seem to have quite a strong mentality and a confidence established through team spirit. They managed to earn points when needed and at the right time and so never dropped back into the relegation zone after the World Cup break. In addition, they went through a series of unbeaten records a couple of times; one two-wins, one three-wins, three times four-wins as well as a nine-game unbeaten run until the end of season in all competitions.

In terms of head-to-head records, they also broke a chain of worst records which dated back to nearly a decade ago against the stronger sides; a 4-2 win over Suwon Bluewings, their first at home since 2009, 2-0 win over FC Seoul, the first at Sangam since 2011; as well as a first ever win over Ulsan Hyundai on the road in the FA Cup Final first leg.

What Didn't Go Well

The entire first half of this season went completely wrong; poor disciplinary management, the least goals scored, injuries, and poor performances from Daegu's foreign imports. To be fair, Andre could have been sacked for the responsibility.

Strategically, Daegu preferred to play in a 4-4-2 formation in the early part of the season. However, the back four line was extremely porous and was broken down easily from wide areas. Particularly, there was no strong regular on each side and none of players took the position until the World Cup break. Following continuous bad results, Andre quickly set the team up in a 3-4-3 formation with two wing-backs playing deep. Afterwards, Daegu started to play better and it became a principal tactic once defensive midfielder Ryu Jaemoon returned from the injury. 

Young Player of the Year

This would probably be the question which has a convergent response if fans were asked to answer because there are many good young players who deserve the title, namely: Choi Youngeun (23), Kim Wooseok (22), Kim Daewon (21), Jung Seungwon (21), Jang Sungwon (21), and Park Hanbin (21). This year, Andre would not have been under the stress as much as other mangers would have for using U23 player due to plenty of resources available.

2018 Season Review: Daegu FC Kim Daewon Kim Dae-won

Among them, Kim Daewon was the most outstanding in all competitions, despite not being named as a nominee for the 2018 K League 1 Young Player of the Year along with Jung Seungwon. The 1997-year forward joined Daegu in 2016 and would have to hone his skills in Reserve League until he eventually broke into the first team where he scored three goals with five assists from 23 appearances in the league. In the FA Cup, he was also one of the key players who led Daegu to be crowned as winners of the competition this year with three decisive goals in the tournament; against Mokpo City FC in the quarter-final, Jeonnam Dragons in the semi-final, and Ulsan Hyundai in the final.

2018 Season Review: Daegu FC Choi Youngeun Choi Young-eun

Alongside him, Daegu’s second-choice goalkeeper Choi Youngeun needs to come into the limelight. He joined Daegu only this year as a second goalkeeper after he graduated Sungkyunkwan University. To be fair, no one would have imagined him standing between the sticks instead of Jo Hyunwoo until Jo received a staggering call up for 2018 Asian Games as one of Korea's three over age players after his brilliant performances in the World Cup.

With Jo set to represent the nation, the rookie Choi was put to the test in the FA Cup 5th round. There were growing concerns for him having never played at professional level despite strong shouts from Andre, insisting that the team were ready to cope without Jo. It did not take that long until the young custodian overturned any worrying into faith after he made a couple of huge saves. For the nine-game run with him between the sticks, Daegu picked up three wins in a row on two separate occasions.

Team MVP


2018 Season Review: Daegu FC Cesinha

This is Brazilian playmaker Cesinha's third season in Korea and one which he will surely not forget for the rest of his life. He didn’t have a good start to this season due to minor injuries and with the team in a bad form of run. However, the attacker came back much stronger after the break, synergised with newly brought in Brazilians, Edgar and Ze Roberto. At the end of the season, he received the honour of not only being recognised as the player with the most assists in K League 1 with 11 from 25 appearances, but also voted as the 2018 FA Cup MVP as the top scorer in the competition.

Most Disappointing Player

Apart from the inexperienced players in the squad, Go Seung-beom would be the most disappointing player in the team. He was introduced to Daegu on a year loan from Suwon Samsung Bluewings. By then, Daegu needed a versatile player who is able to play in midfield and out wide, while Go Seung-beom, who had fallen out of favour at Big Bird, needed a team where he could get more game minutes. Fans were chuffed with this deal because what he showed for the Bluewings in 2017 was great.

In the opening match of the season, he had a bit of a bad day because he pushed an opposing inside the box after he failed to clear the ball away. Despite of that, he regularly started as either right wingback or midfielder for a few more games. However, while Daegu’s performances started to deteriorate, he hardly made any more appearances and from the summer onwards he never appeared in the starting lineup. The reason why he was not involved with the team still remains unclear, but it has been rumoured that he picked up an Achilles injury in summer. This year, he had to settle for only nine appearances, compared to 33 in 2017.

Most Important Decision of the Off Season


The most important decision of the off season is arguably re-appointing Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez ahead of the 2019 season. The club's Chief Executive Cho Kwangrae is very well known for his ability to find young players with potential and develop them. However, at Daegu, he was not as successful as he was at both FC Seoul and Gyeongnam. There was a time when I kept on insisting that Daegu have too many players per coach and need more high quality coaches who can help players to improve individually with a good football philosophy in connection with the first team.This year, Luis not only led the reserve team to the runner up spot in the R League, but also helped Andre’s side when the team were struggling at the bottom of the table.


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