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2020 Season Preview: FC Seoul

2020 Season Preview: FC Seoul
Following on from last year's third-place finish, and a very productive winter transfer window, FC Seoul will be expected to kick on even further in 2020. The capital club have added further reinforcements in attack with the return of Adriano, as well as in midfield, and so will be looking to compete both in the league and on the continent this season.

Last Season

15W 11D 12L, 3rd

What Happened?

FC Seoul surpassed expectations in the first half of the 2019 campaign. Bright, early season form propelled Choi Yong-soo's side into the title race up until around Round 19. However, the team struggled against teams in the top half of the table and failed to really make an impact on the title race after the summer. Seoul picked up just a single point against Jeonbuk and Ulsan in four meetings against the two teams, and had even records against Pohang and Gangwon.

However, Choi Yong-soo's men did seem to have Daegu's number, their nearest rivals for the last AFC Champions League spot, with three wins and a draw. Seoul were the best of the rest, just about, despite a poor end of season run which saw them pick up just four wins following the June Super Match.

Overall though, especially after a disastrous 2018 campaign, Seoul announced their return to prominence and made great strides. The return of Osmar, something of a comeback season for Park Chu-young, and the emergence of Park Dong-jin as a makeshift centre forward, were highlights.

Notable Moves

Attacking midfielder Lee Myung-joo departed for Al Wahda in the UAE and former captain, 'the King of Sangam' Ha Dae-sung, retired due to injury and so Han Chan-hee was brought in from Jeonnam Dragons as well as Han Seung-gyu who arrived on loan from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to add further competition in central midfield. Elsewhere, versatile wing-back Kim Jin-ya arrived on a four-year deal from Incheon United to offer competition to the likes of Ko Kwang-min, Go Yo-han, and Yoon Jong-gyu in the wing-back areas.

Elsewhere, Adriano has returned to the club, arriving on a free transfer after departing Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors last term. The 32 year-old will add some much needed fire power and take the pressure of Park Chu-young, especially Aleksandar Pešić's 18-month loan deal not be extended beyond the summer.

Needs

With the signings of Han Seung-gyu, Adriano, Han Chan-hee and Kim Jin-ya, FC Seoul's squad looks well balanced. Choi Yong-soo has addressed the key areas of the team which needed strengthening, leaving his side better placed to compete on three fronts. In 2019, there was a heavy reliance on Ko Kwang-min at left wing-back, and Yoon Jong-gyu sometimes struggled for form during what was his breakout season, and so Kim Jin-ya from Incheon is a smart signing. In the centre of the park Han Chan-hee or Han Seung-gyu should slot straight in alongside Alibaev whilst the attacking quartet of Adriano, Aleksandar Pešić, Park Chu-young, and Park Dong-jin is as good as any in the division.

Key Player

Adriano
Adriano in action for Seoul against Melbourne Victory in February 2020.
Given Seoul's activity in the transfer market, the squad is shaping up to be one that looks like it could compete in the title race as well as on the continent. Having Ju Se-jong and Osmar for the whole season will be a huge bonus and, frankly, it would be a disservice to many within the squad to single out just one player. That said, the return of Adriano is what could turn Seoul a real force.

Signing the Brazilian is a bit of a gamble and it could go either way. If Adriano can hit the ground running he will be seen as the final piece of the puzzle, and given his goal record it is easy to understand why. The 32 year-old scored 45 goals in 61 appearances in a red and black shirt during his 18-month spell at Sangam the first time around, not to mention a K League 2 Golden Boot and MVP Award whilst with Daejeon Citizen in 2014 on account of his 27 goals in 32 appearances for the Purples.

However, there are concerns over his fitness as well as his reputation as a being something of 'problem child'. However, under Choi Yong-soo Adriano had his best years in K League and if any manager is going to reignite his career, it's 'Doksuri'. Adriano may be the wrong side of 30, and won't be expected to play off the shoulder like he did five or six years ago, but there's no doubting that the Brazilian knows where the back of the net is.

Eulji Lewis


Young Player to Watch

Kim Ju-sung

As a first year professional, 18-year-old centre back Kim Ju-sung slotted into the team and seldom put a foot wrong in 2019 when called upon last term. Due to injuries to Kim Won-kyun and Kim Nam-chun, Kim managed to feature 10 times, eight from the start, and perhaps would have played more but was also part of the Korea Republic squad which finished as runners up in the U20 FIFA World Cup in Poland.

Kim seems to be a bit of a character off the field; confident and is well-liked by his teammates. On the pitch, he is mature, calm and composed and at six-foot-one (186cm) has the physique of a centre half. Left-footed centre backs are hard to come by and with Kim in their ranks it means that Seoul's back three can maintain its balance should Osmar be required to play in midfield. He has started both of FC Seoul's ACL games, and even laid on an assist in the 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory.

Biggest Question

Can FC Seoul put last year's post-summer lethargy behind them? 

Seoul's excellent start to last season is well documented but fatigue set in and the team struggled for consistency. However, the squad is well-assembled and it has been reported that Choi Yong-soo has  been working on some tactical tweaks during pre-season. Seoul ran out of steam towards the end of last term but with the further midfield additions, not to mention a fit Pešić from the beginning, and the addition of Adriano, this shouldn't be a problem.

Reason to Watch

Seoul will have to juggle ACL as well as the league for the first time since 2017 and so it is going to be interesting to see how well Choi Yong-soo rotates his squad and which competition is given priority. Adriano is back, too, and should prove to be what Seoul have been missing ever since he left three years ago if fit and motivated. It is going to be interesting to see if Seoul can build on last season.

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