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2018 Season Review: FC Seoul

2018 Season Review: FC Seoul
From K League Champions to the Relegation Playoffs in the space of two years; it has been quite the fall from grace for FC Seoul. The 2018 season was the worst in the Club's history, finishing second-bottom of the league and needing to overcome K League 2 side Busan IPark over two legs to preserve their top tier status. Needless to say, after much loftier aspirations, it has been a season to forget for FC Seoul.

What Went Well

If one were to try and find one slight positive note in FC Seoul's 2018 season, which would be the equivalent of trying to find the silver lining of a mushroom cloud, would be that they still managed to stay unbeaten over Super Match rivals Suwon Bluewings. As bad as last season was for Seoul, two wins and a draw over their bitterest rivals is at least something to look back on. After the dreary 0-0 draw at Big Bird in April, two 2-1 wins - one at Sangam in May and one at Big Bird in August, extended Seoul's unbeaten run over Bluewings in the league to 13 meetings. The last gasp Anderson Lopes winner at Big Bird on August 15th was as good as it got from then on until the end of the season, however.

What Didn’t Go Well

Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong but, the shortcomings stem further back than just this past season. Hwang Sunhong tore apart this FC Seoul team and failed to properly replace the likes of Adriano and Takahagi in 2017, Dejan, Yun Illok, and Osmar in 2018. Granted, bringing back Ha Daesung in 2017 was supposed to be a like-for-like replacement for Takahagi in a deal which saw Ha move from FC Tokyo and Takahagi moving the other way but injuries have blighted Ha's second spell at Sangam. Failing to replace the team's top goal scorer in both 2016 and 2017 in Adriano and Dejan respectively was foolish. Recruitment has been a huge problem.

Decisions from boardroom level also left a lot to be desired. Seoul had three managers leading the team at various stages in 2018 and it could be argued that the first, Hwang Sunhong, should never have been in charge in the first place. Seoul finished fifth in 2017 but, despite large sections of the support calling for his head, the former Pohang Steelers and Busan IPark gaffer remained in charge - albeit not for too much longer.

Hwang left at the end of April, after which reserve team manager Lee Eulyong was given the job until the end of the season. Lee had picked up some good results and, shortly after the World Cup break, had Seoul knocking on the door of the ACL places. However, a disastrous run of form that begin in late August and into early October, ultimately lead to the demise of Lee who was to be relieved of his duties. The damaging defeat to Jeonnam which rendered Seoul having to play in the relegation round of the split being the final nail in his coffin. If Choi Yongsoo was FC Seoul's number one target all along, he should have been brought back after the World Cup. Luckily for those upstairs at Sangam, Seoul were able to avoid the drop, albeit narrowly.

Young Player of the Season

Cho Youngwook was a shining light in an otherwise drab and gloomy season. Cho impressed for Korea in the U20 World Cup in 2017 and, looked to be of Korea's hottest young prospects. FC Seoul made the shrewd decision to sign the Seoul-born forward from Korea University last winter. In his debut season as a professional, Cho showed maturity beyond his years and weighed in with some important goals and assists.

From 32 appearances, 19 from the start, Cho scored three goals and picked up two assists - four goals including the all-important equaliser against Busan IPark in the Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final First Leg. For shots inside the area, the former Korea University striker had a success rate of 63%.

However, more than stats can ever truly portray is just how at easy Cho looked in K League 1. On the ball, the Seoul-born attacker showed poise and composure and the ability to pop up with some important goals. Credit must go to Korea University for producing some really exciting prospects in recent years.

Team MVP

Go Yohan is vastly important to FC Seoul. With the loss of some big characters in Osmar and Dejan, it was imperative that Seoul kept some of their identity. Go helped with that and, at times, single-handily dragged his team through matches. In 2018, the one-club man scored eight goals and finished the season as the Club's top goalscorer. Such a tally was the Masan-born utility man's best as a professional having managed five in 2013, his previous best. Five assists for the season also put the 30 year-old at the top of the Club's assist charts.

What makes Go Yohan so important for Seoul is that, where ever he is asked to play, he is still able to perform to a very high level. Last season, Go popped up at right back, right wing back, left wing, right wing, central midfield and as a striker. Go was appointed captain midway through the season and held onto the captain's armband until his dismissal away to Jeonnam Dragons in October, a blip in what was an otherwise decent showing for the Seoul academy graduate.

Most Disappointing Player

Evandro arrived from Daegu FC over the winter after bagging 11 in 26 starts for the Sky Blues, a goal less than Junior who went on to finish as K1's third-top goalscorer. Whilst at Blue Arc, Evandro was part of Andre Gaspar's fearsome three-pronged attack alongside the aforementioned Junior Negrao as well as Cesinha. However, perhaps in a bid to offset the disappointing news that Dejan had departed for Suwon Bluewings, Evandro was unveiled as FC Seoul's latest acquisition on the very same day. The news did not go down particularly well with the Sangam faithful and, after Hwang Sunhong's rebuilding rhetoric, was somewhat contradictory given the player's age (31).

However, Evandro started just 14 games and played 90 minutes a mere seven times and was named as a substitute for 18 matches. In comparison with the Brazilian's time with Daegu, the 31 year-old made 26 starts from 29 appearances and was subbed off just three times. In a team which is struggling for goals, it cannot be easy for a striker to find their rhythm when the manager is constantly rotating the team. Evandro was disappointing for FC Seoul but, having found playing time limited, it is not necessarily the player's fault.

Towards the end of the season, Evandro looked devoid of confidence and was unable to add to his three league goals but, what was impressive about him, was that he never went missing. When called upon, Evandro would always want the ball and was prepared to put a shift in. If the former Gifu and Oita Trinita striker is at Sangam next season, then a run of games and some careful man management might just bring the best out of him.

Most Important Decision for the Off Season

FC Seoul don't appear to have any sort of long term vision, this needs to be addressed. Therefore, the most important decision for the off season has to be what tact they are going to take in the transfer market. More specifically, what to do with the foreign players currently on the books. FC Seoul's three non-Asian foreign player spots are taken up by Evandro, Matić and the returning Osmar who signed a new three-year contract. Osmar has been sorely missed and the new deal will go someway in atoning for allowing the Spaniard to depart on loan.

However, both Evandro and Matić will perhaps feel less than satisfied with how their time at Seoul World Cup Stadium has gone thus far with just four goals between them. Over the winter, the pair might have their work cut out for them in order to convince Choi Yongsoo that they should be kept around for next year, especially if someone of the ilk of Adriano or Johnathan were to become available.

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