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2019 Season Preview: Gyeongnam FC

2019 K League 1 Season Preview: Gyeongnam FC

Gyeongnam FC head into the 2019 campaign riding on the crest of a wave.  The Reds find themselves involved in three competitions this year, competing with Asia's best in the AFC Champions League in addition to the K League and FA Cup. With some key players leaving the club also, it has forced the Reds to bring in a number of players in the window, with some very key additions to the already talented squad manager Kim Jung-boo finds at his disposal.

Last Season

W18  D11 L9, 2nd Place

What Happened?

Gyeongnam were new to the top flight of Korean football last season.  After blowing teams away in K League 2 back in 2017 and gaining automatic promotion, the Reds didn't let up and continued their blistering form into the 2018 campaign.  Marcão, the league's eventual highest goalscorer come December, made his presence felt as early as the opening day, bagging himself a hat-trick and then getting a red card to round things off for him.

The Reds had a sticky patch in the month of April, only picking up one win.  Questions were starting to be asked about if Gyeongnam were the real deal or not.  The Reds picked up their form during May but were still not playing the attractive brand of football they were clearly capable off in the earlier parts of the season.  The World Cup break for them couldn't have come at a better time.  This gave players who were playing with niggling injuries a chance to rest up and recharge their batteries.  It worked and, after the World Cup, the team really pushed on to another level, propelling them into second place, a position they would eventually finish up in.

The brand of football the coaching staff had Gyeongnam playing was one of the best in Korea, gaining plaudits from all over the nation.  Negueba and Kunimoto were pivotal in everything they did in the attacking third of the pitch.  The side had a truly remarkable injury record, managing to keep the key members of the squad fit throughout the season.  This, in turn, made the fluidity of the football a joy to watch at times.  Huge credit as well must fall at the feet of the manager Kim Jung-boo.  A tactical genius at times.  If he saw Gyeongnam were being overrun in certain areas of the pitch he wouldn't be afraid to change up his tactics or even no matter what time in the game he would substitute a player for a better option off the bench.  The feel-good factor within the fan base has changed remarkably as well throughout last season.  Supporters of the club came back in their droves and this spurred the players on to perform so well as they did last season.

Notable Moves

Jordon Mutch: Jordon has made the leap from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps to ply his trade in the K League with Gyeongnam FC.  An attacking box to box midfielder, he has all the tools in his game to be a success here with the club.  Englishman Mutch was born in Derby in the UK and started his professional career with Birmingham City in 2008.  He made 24 appearances for the Blues scoring two goals.  In recent times he has been a key player for Cardiff City and Crystal Palace in the English Premier League.  Injuries have somewhat hindered his development in the game during his career but he is still at a good age at just 27 and coming into the peak of his playing days.  He is a good size for a midfielder at 6 ft 2 inches and has the height to dominate in midfield.  Moving to the Reds could be the chance he needs to push on to a higher level.  He can provide some vital experience in the middle of the park and can give great advice to players around him in the squad.

Luc Castaignos: Castaignos joined the club to wrap up our foreign allocation this week with numerous media outlets rushing to the Changwon Football Center to report on his announcement.  His CV is quite impressive.  A Dutch international player at youth level from Under 17s through to the Under 21s, the striker started his career at 15 times Eredwisie champions Feyenoord in 2009, scoring 15 goals in 39 appearances in two years playing for the club.  He then had a brief stint in Italy at Inter Milan, making the field just six times and scoring once.  He has spent the majority of his playing days after leaving Inter with Twente where he played 94 times finding the net 37 times.  He joins Gyeongnam on the back of quite a barren run of form, however.  A change of scenery, like Jordon Mutch, could resurrect his career and get him scoring goals again.  The player clearly has the pedigree as he has played for two of the biggest clubs in world football in the past.  However, he has huge boots to fill as he is a direct replacement for Marcão who has left for pastures new in China.  He really has to hit the ground running if he is to endear himself to the supporters.

Key Player


The Japanese play-maker showed glimpses of what he can do last season.  It took him a while to adapt to the way Gyeongnam played at first but after his bedding-in period was over, everyone who watches the K League could see what a naturally gifted footballer he really is.  Predominately left-footed, his dead ball delivery on free kicks and corners were on the money more times than not.  He had people out of your seat every time he got the ball as he always tried to make things happen when in possession.

A lot more emphasis is going to be on him this season to provide the team with moments of magic.  Kunimoto really has to up his game again if we are to see a repeat of what he achieved last campaign.  He has challenged himself in a recent interview given to Korean media to achieve both double digits in goals and assists.  It will be fascinating to see if he can gain a good understanding between him, Castaignos and Mutch.  If they can, it'll be one of the best trios in the K League.

Young Player to Watch

Kim Joon-beom

At 21 years old Kim has all the attributes to make it to the very top.  Last season, he started over 50% of the games for Gyeongnam and, towards the latter part of the year, he showed great maturity to his game.  He is a competitive player who isn't afraid to go in where it hurts.  When on the ball he hardly ever gives it away and is a very tidy player when taking care of the ball.  He scored a beautifully struck goal away at Sangju last season in a 1-0 win for the Reds.  However, to improve his game he has to do this more; score goals.  With the additions of the Ulsan duo in Kim Seung-jun and Lee Yong-jae in midfield, this will add competition for places, yet hopefully, the youngster steps up to the challenge and also learn from their experience to help him through games.

Biggest Question

Do Gyeongnam have a big enough squad to cope with being in three competitions?

Everyone saw what happened to Suwon Bluewings last season.  They put all their eggs into the ACL Basket and came unstuck against eventual champions Kashmina Antlers. Thereafter, their league form went downhill and they ended up finishing sixth.

Gyeongnam have strengthened in numbers in the offseason.  Bringing in six defenders.  Of note, towering centre back Lee Kwang-seon joined from Jeju United and will be a regular starter.  Experienced centre back Kwak Tae-hwi at 37 will bring some nous and knowledge to the quite inexperienced back line.  The Reds have strengthened in attacking areas too with strikers Park Gi-dong and Ko Kyung-min joining from Suwon Bluewings and Busan IPark respectively.  Park has played in the ACL last season with the Bluewings so his experience will be vital in how the Reds cope in that competition.  The squad have to be patient in the games they are chosen to play in.  Every player will get their chance as the games from March will be coming thick and fast.  If they want to be successful on all fronts the coaching staff have to manage the workloads of the squad otherwise injuries and setbacks in tactics will occur as a result.

Reason To Watch

Gyeongnam FC know no other way but to play an attractive brand of attacking football. I can't see that changing anytime soon either under manager Kim Jung-boo. The players that have come into the club in the offseason are of that nature as well.  It bodes well for another entertaining season on and off the pitch.  The Reds are entering into unknown territory playing in the Asian Champions League.  With Japanese outfit Kashmina Antlers, Chinese side Shandong Luneng and Malaysians Johor Darul Ta'zim coming to Changwon in their group.  With two exciting overseas signings in Mutch and Castaignos joining the club, watching them adapt and stamp their mark on the K league will be a fun thing to be in the stands to view.

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