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2019 Season Preview: FC Seoul

2019 Season Preview: FC Seoul K League 1
After another season to forget for FC Seoul, manager Choi Yongsoo will be looking to put the Club back on track and in a position to challenge for the top six at the very least. The influential and dependable Osmar has returned to the club to add some stability at the back. Elsewhere, highly-rated Uzbek international midfielder Ikromjon Alibaev has joined from Lokomotiv Tashkent as has Aleksandar Pešić who will be the man tasked with firing the capital club back up the table as Choi Yongsoo attempts to bring the good times back to Sangam once more.

Last Season

W9* D13 L16 11th - Relegation Playoffs
*10 including Relegation Playoff Final first leg

What Happened?

Three managers, two of whom shouldn't really have been in charge, the sale of several key players and lacklustre recruitment resulted in FC Seoul finishing 11th in K League 1 - the lowest in the Club's history. The three-times K League Champions then had to suffer the indignity of the relegation playoffs to preserve their top flight status. Choi Yongsoo, who returned to the club after two year and four month absence, took over following the away loss to Jeonnam Dragons at the beginning of October. Said defeat, Seoul's sixth in their previous nine, was the final nail in the coffin for caretaker gaffer Lee Eulyong who was relieved of his duties shortly. Lee had taken over from Hwang Sunhong at the end of April. Seoul, condemned to the bottom half of the split for the first time in their history, turned to Choi Yongsoo.

Choi's first game in charge was a 1-0 away defeat to Jeju United the following week. However, after picking up four points from six in back-to-back home games with Gangwon and Jeonnam thanks to a 2-2 draw and 3-2 win respectively, Seoul went into the final two matches of the season needing just a single point to secure survival - a home fixture with Incheon United and an away trip to fellow strugglers Sangju Sangmu. Still, after two consecutive 1-0 losses, Seoul slipped to eleventh and had to overcome K League 2 high fliers Busan IPark. A 3-1 win in Busan and a 1-1 draw at home ensured top flight football for 2019.

2018 Season Review: here

Notable Moves

Osmar Ibáñez Barba has returned to the club after a season-long loan with J.League 1 side Cerezo Osaka. Upon his return, the Spaniard penned a new three-year deal and, given how poor Seoul were defensively in the second half of the 2018 campaign, the former club captain's presence will give everyone at the club a much-needed lift.

Alibaev practicing freekicks at FC Seoul's winter training camp in Kagoshima,Japan.
In December, Seoul moved early to secure the signing of Uzbek international midfielder Ikromjon Alibaev from Uzbek Super League Champions Lokomotiv Tashkent. Alibaev is said to be an intelligent player who can pick out a pass and could be the dynamic midfielder that they have been missing. Adding a player of his pedigree, whilst using the other Asian foreign player quota wisely, may just prove to be a shrewd bit of business from FC Seoul.

In addition, the Club's long search for a striker was finally concluded when the capital club unveiled the signing of Aleksandar Pešić from Al-Ittihad. Pešić was the top goal scorer in the Serbian Superliga before making the move to Saudi Arabia and so arrives at Sangam with good pedigree.

Anderson Lopes (Consadole Sapporo), Bojan Matić (Vojvodina), Kim Dongwoo (Jeju United), Shin Jinho (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Sungjun (Ulsan Hyundai), Yun Sukyoung (Kashiwa Reysol), Lee Sangho (contract terminated), Shim Sangmin (Pohang Steelers), and Yoo Hyun (Tochigi SC) have all departed.

2019 Winter Transfer Tracker: here


Aleksandar Pešić's arrival has put Seoul's striker concerns at ease somewhat, but, with Evandro Paulista conspicuous by his absence from the pre-season training camp in Kagoshima, Seoul may well be in the market for even more firepower. From the strikers who have remained at the club from 2018, namely Park Chuyoung, Park Heeseong, and Yun Jutae following the completion of his military service, only six goals were scored between the trio. Such a meagre tally only reinforces the notion that further personnel changes could be afoot at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Elsewhere, Seoul could do with adding an experienced winger to their ranks. Only Go Yohan and Cho Youngwook featured regularly last season whilst Yoon Seungwon has struggled to show what he is capable of on a consistent basis for the past couple of years. Kim Hangil has operated as a right winger sparingly but has yet to cement his place in the first team, whilst Shin Jaewon and Lee Sungjae both arrive as youngsters and so little will be expected from two first year professionals initially.

Ko Kwangmin has returned to the club but Seoul will need to add more depth in the full back areas. On the left, Seoul only have Ko following Shim Sangmin's departure to Pohang and Yun Sukyoung's loan spell coming to an end.

Key Player

Osmar Ibáñez Barba

Taking into account what FC Seoul lacked last year - composure, character, and leadership amongst other things, it is therefore hard to look much further than Osmar. The Spaniard's calm-headed nature, composure, and leadership will be of great benefit to the team on and off the field. But, perhaps most important of all, the former Buriram United midfielder will add some much-needed stability in front of a back four which looked alarmingly suspect at times last term.

Young Player to Watch

Cho Youngwook

As a first year professional, Cho Youngwook made 30 appearances in 2018, 17 of which came from the start, scoring four goals and laying on two assists. As turbulent as 2018 was for FC Seoul, the emergence of Cho was a definite bright spot. The 20 year-old played as a central attacking midfielder, winger as well as an out-and-out striker under three different managers. The former Korea University forward showed great ability and composure on the ball last term and will be looking to build on a decent first season as a professional.

Biggest Question

Can FC Seoul put 2018 well and truly behind them and become relevant again?

Little will be expected of Seoul but, within the club, the aim will be to get into the top six first and foremost with anything that comes thereafter merely a bonus. Can Choi Yongsoo bring the good times back to Sangam? A push for AFC Champions League qualification will be unrealistic but if the likes of Alibaev and Pešić can hit the ground running then Seoul could be a dark horse for the top four.

Reason to Watch

Whilst expectations might be low, certainly compared to previous seasons, but what will be expected is a reaction. Furthermore, Choi Yongsoo will have had a full pre-season and transfer window to mould his squad into something that resembles the FC Seoul of old. The pressure will be on Choi to produce.

FC Seoul 2019 Season Squad Numbers: here

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