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2019 Season Review: Daejeon Citizen

Daejeon Citizen finished second-from-bottom in the K League 2 table in 2019 after what turned out to be something of a season of 'what ifs'. However, after the Purples ended the campaign strongly under new manager Lee Heungsil, and following the takeover by Hana Financial Group, the Purple Arena faithful will have fresh hopes ahead of 2020. Daejeon Citizen columnist takes a look back at the Purples' 2019.

What Went Well

The Purples finished second bottom of the table so even a casual viewer would be able to deduce rather simply that not a great deal went all too well for the 1997-founded club. However, the end to the season under new manager Lee Heungsil saw Daejeon lose just once in 12 matches which allowed Citizen to end the campaign on a high. The run also included some positive results against the likes of FC Anyang and Gwangju FC, picking four points from six against two teams that have enjoyed successful campaigns.

Following the departure of Ko Jongsoo, the club appointed former Ansan Police and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors manager Lee Heungsil. The appointment of Coach Lee was a sensible one given his track record of guiding Ansan to the K League Challenge title in 2016. Although it took a while for Daejeon to get going under the former POSCO Atoms midfielder, the Purples finished the season strongly, avoiding the K League 2 'wooden spoon' for second time in three years which, psychologically, will have given fans and players alike a huge boost ahead of next season.

Such a strong finish was helped by some shrewd summer recruitment. After the initial farce surrounding the failed transfer of Matheus Alessandro and a leak to the press about the player's health records, Daejeon looked elsewhere for some extra firepower. Antonio (pictured above) in particular hit the ground running and made a big impact during his fleeting spell at Purple Arena, adding an extra dimension to Daejeon's otherwise rigid and cumbersome attack.

The 24 year-old, on loan from Fluminense in Brazil, finished the season as the Club's joint-top scorer with six goals despite starting just 10 matches with 15 overall appearances. Other summer recruits included left back Park Mingyu from FC Seoul on loan, centre back Lee Inkyu from Bucheon, and Brazilian striker Ramazotti on a free transfer, all of whom made telling contributions in the latter part of the campaign. Despite making just 10 appearances, Brazilian target man Ramazotti in particular looked to be a shrewd signing, adding a focal point to the attack as well as some much needed composure in the final third. The 31-year-old bagged three during those 10 appearances, six of which came from the start.

Since Daejeon's run of just one defeat in 12  run began on 26th August, the Purples conceded the fewest goals in the division with just nine, four less than promotion-winning Gwangju, and 22 less than Seoul E-Land who finished the season bottom of the league. Furthermore, Daejeon picked up the most cleansheets during this time with six, one more than Gwangju.

What Didn't Go Well

Daejeon's summer recruitment may have gone well but over the winter it proved to be something of an issue as key players from 2018 were not suitably replaced, Ko Myeongseok in particular. After a superb second full season as a professional having joined from Bucheon, Ko joined Suwon Bluewings, whilst his centre half partner Yun Jusung departed for Suwon FC. Quality replacements for Ko or Yun were found. Instead Lee Jisol, who had made just a handful of first appearances for Daejeon last term, was promoted to first choice. Whereas in 2018, when Daejeon had a very large squad, the Purples lacked real strength in depth this term and suffered from a lack of experience in key areas of the pitch. The result of which was, despite picking up seven points from their first three matches of the season, Daejeon going on a run of just one win in 19 matches and bowed out of the FA Cup to Dankook University which ultimately lead to the departure of Ko Jongsoo.

Daejeon also suffered from a lack of fire power, even during their best spell this term, the Purples only managed 14 goals, just two more than Ansan who had the worst goals-scored record during the same time. Throughout the entire season, Daejeon conceded 47 goals - the same amount as Jeonnam Dragons who finished in seventh. Daejeon's total that is fewer than FC Anyang in third, Bucheon FC 1995 in fourth, Asan Mugunghwa in seventh, and Suwon FC in eighth. Scoring goals has been the real issue for Citizen in 2019 having bagged a paltry 31 in 36 matches, the worst offensive record in the division. Daejeon ranked seventh for the number of shots taken throughout the season with 380 as well as seventh for the number of shots made per match with just 10.56. The Purples ranked second from bottom for the number of shots on target made with 162, only Jeonnam had less with 145, and were also second from bottom for the number of shots on target per 90 minutes with just 4.50.

Young Player of the Year

Lee Jisol

Young central defender Lee Jisol was part of the Korea U20 squad which made it all the way to the U20 World Cup Final last summer during what has been a breakout year for the Suwon native. Lee made 23 appearances for Daejeon Citizen in 2019, all of which came from the start, scoring his only goal to date in a 3-1 away win over Jeonnam Dragons at the start of the campaign. No player aged 22 or younger made as many starts as Lee Jisol for Daejeon this term and although it may have largely been a turbulent campaign, the experience will have served Lee well. A former Suwon Bluewings academy youth product, Lee Jisol noticeably grew in confidence throughout the season and will be one to watch next term too.

In K League 2, amongst players no player under the age of 22, Lee ranked joint 10th for the number of appearances made with 23, fourth amongst fellow defenders with Suwon FC's Cho Yumin being the only centre back to make more appearances with 31. Lee missed a chunk of the season due to the aforementioned U20 World Cup and has also been unfortunate with injuries too. Furthermore, for players aged 22 or under, Lee Jisol ranks third in K League 2 this term for interceptions with 147 and has also made the second most amount of clearances 10, only Bucheon's Kim Jaewoo has more, and is fifth for the number of tackles made.

Team MVP

Park Juwon

Park Juwon returned to Daejeon at the tail-end of last season following the completion of his mandatory military service with Asan Mugunwha. Upon returning, Park was in direct competition with Park Junhyuk, who since left for Jeonnam Dragons, but has been the undisputed number one for Daejeon this term having played 29 of the 36 league matches. Despite Daejeon's relatively poor season overall, Park Juwon ranked second in K League 2 for the number of cleansheets made with nine, four behind Yun Pyeongguk of  Gwangju. Furthermore, Park is sixth for the least goals conceded per game with 1.2, but has played 29 matches, the fifth highest amongst his contemporaries as even Gwangju FC's Yun Pyeongguk featured in less matches in 2019 with 26 appearances.

Most Disappointing Player

Aurelian Chițu

A lot was expected of Romanian forward Aurelian Chițu after what the former Viitorul man, who has Europa League experience to his name, showed last season for Daejeon. However, injuries have blighted the 28 year-old's last 12 months at Purple Arena, limiting him to just 21 starts and six goals. In 2018, Chițu bagged 13 goals and that’s exactly how many points the Romanian’s goals have added to the Purples’ tally this term. His goals have been the difference in turning defeats into draws and draws into wins on no fewer than six occasions. Aurelian Chițu was named in the K League 2 Best XI, won the K League United New Comer of the Year Award.

However, this term it has been quite the contrast for both the player and the team. His 13 goals last term ranked in second in the division, this year with just six, Chițu is 20th. With 26 shots in 25 appearances, Chițu ranks 47th in the division and 74th for shots per match. Daejeon's number 27 had 18 shots on target in 2019, 30th in K League 2, and just 0.72 per match - 47th in K2. Build up-wise, Chițu failed to record a single assist and made just 10 key passes, ranking him 26th overall and 41st in terms of key passes per match with 0.4. In terms of passes that were deemed attacking, Chițu made 406, 34th in the division, and 52nd in terms of the number made per 90 minutes with just 16.24. Whether the versatile Romanian will be at Daejeon next season remains to be seen but regardless of whether he is or not, 2019 will be year which the 27 year-old won't want to look back on too fondly.

Most Important Decision of the Off-season

Daejeon's most importance decision for the winter will be about personnel, particularly in the dugout. As soon as the news was announced that the Club were to be taken over by Hana Finance Group, it was revealed that former Busan IPark, Pohang Steelers, and FC Seoul manager Hwang Sunhong will be named as new manager. It is still unclear as to whether that will be the case however, if that if it turns out to be trie then it certainly shows ambition and should give in indication as to what kind of players the club will be targeting over the winter. Recruitment has to be done right this year, finding a good balance of youth and experience and, most importantly, quality to take Daejeon back to the top tier.

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