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2020 Season Preview: Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Returning to the Asian Champions League after a one-year absence, Suwon Samsung Bluewings fans endured a difficult period for their club under Lee Lim-saeng last season. Gaining just one point from 'Super Matches' with rivals FC Seoul in the KLeague 1, Lee's side finished in a disappointing eighth position but did earn FA Cup silverware.

Last Season

W-12, D- 12, L-14 (8th place)

What Happened?

An underwhelming campaign saw the Bluewings finish lower mid-table in KLeague 1 despite boasting one of the league's hot properties in Australian international striker Adam Taggart up front. Netting 20 goals in 33 appearances Taggart almost single-handedly dragged Suwon away from relegation troubles as the club secured continental football through an unusual FA Cup triumph. Suwon only beat one fellow K1 side on their route to lifting the trophy but that did ensure they were in a better position this term to attract better players. Finishing in the bottom half of the table was down in large part to inconsistency and lack of direction from an under pressure manager. Starting with three consecutive defeats undoubtedly made things uneasy from the off and boss Lee Lim-saeng suffered a fraught relationship with the fans throughout the season. The Bluewings picked up through April and even enjoyed four consecutive wins on the road in July but a run of two wins in 10 from then saw them slip into obscurity before the split.

[LISTEN: KLU Pod ㅣ 2020 K1 Season Preview]

Notable Moves

IN - Doneil Henry: The 26-year-old centre back arrives with good pedigree from Vancouver Whitecaps. Finally fulfilling the promise shown earlier in his career in Canada, Henry looked a commanding presence in Suwon's opening ACL game against Vissel Kobe, while also seeming very adept with his feet.

IN - Sulejman Krpic: As difficult to pronounce as he is to mark, Krpic bagged 12 goals in just 18 goals for Zeljeznicar in the Bosnian Premier League last season. Enjoying a journeyman existence around peripheral European leagues, the forward had a failed spell in Iran and arrives as an unknown quantity having only really tasted success on the goal scoring front in his native Bosnia.

IN - Kim Min-woo: Many expected the striker to sign elsewhere upon return from his military service with Sangju Sangmu. With Dejan Damjanovic and Jeon Se-jin's exits leaving holes up top, Kim looks set to be first choice alongside Taggart. While always looking a force going forward, the former Sagan Tosu man needs to add more goals to his game having never reached double figures in his career.

OUT - Ku Ja-ryoung: Many at the Big Bird stadium felt that Suwon's unstable season may have been even more chaotic were it not for the dependable figure of Ku in defence. An ever-present last season and heading towards a testimonial-length spell with the club, the 27-year-old moves to Jeonbuk Hyundai in the prime of his career.

OUT - Jeon Se-jin: Often labelled as Suwon's brightest emerging talent, Jeon will ply his trade for military outfit Sangju Sangmu under Kim Tae-wan's leadership next term. Reaching 20 appearances for Suwon in 2019, the young forward is certainly one to watch for anyone interested in the next generation of Korean talent and will no doubt be hoping to make Kim Hak-beom's Olympic squad.

Key Player - Adam Taggart

Should Taggart be able to replicate the form of last season, the former Brisbane Roar striker will be instrumental to Lee Lim-saeng's success this term. Developing a good understanding with fellow countryman Terry Antonis will be key, with two new strike partners to develop a relationship with in Krpic and Kim Min-woo. Taggart seemed frustrated towards the end of last season, particularly when substituted early in the side's triumphant FA Cup run at Daejeon Korail. Keeping hold of the prolific marksmen may also prove difficult, especially over the summer transfer window should he remain in good goal scoring form. Adept at running off the shoulder of the last defender, Taggart's good form saw him gain more international recognition netting three goals for Australia in qualification for Qatar 2022.

Young Player to Watch - Oh Hyeon-gu

Manager Lee Lim-saeng does not seem to favour handing his young talent too much responsibility in the first team, however, young striker Oh has been rewarded with a professional contract over the winter transfer window. Time will tell how much game time the 18-year-old is afforded, with fellow under-22 players Park Sang-hyuk and Song Jin-kyu only given a handful of appearances in midfield in 2019.

[LISTEN: An interview with national team star Hwang In-beom

Biggest Question 

Will Lee Lim-saeng win over the Suwon Bluewings faithful?

Even the most positive of Suwon fans were questioning the tactical decisions of Lee last season with the Big Bird crowd showing an unprecedented level of discontent rarely season in the KLeague towards a manager. Understandable at times with odd team selections a feature of their season, manager Lee put even more pressure upon his own shoulders saying that he would resign should they fail to lift the FA Cup. Whether the actions of a desperate man or a clever act of management to defer attention away from his struggling team, Lee remains in charge and was allowed to oversee a vast change in personnel at the club over the winter. There are glimmers of hope as the Bluewings competed well with a much-fancied Vissel Kobe side in the Champions League, but you get the feeling that another bad run of results could spell a premature end to his campaign.

Reason to Watch 

Suwon's fans are some of the most vocal and boisterous in the league with a range of chants that vary from other clubs in the league. The Bluewings travel in particularly good numbers away from home and the season opener away in Jeonju this season should be a great spectacle should the Covid-19 virus not interfere too much with proceedings. Despite enduring a tepid season of football on the pitch, a trip to the football-specific Big Bird stadium is never a wasted one. With the changeover in the squad this winter and Lee Lim-saeng's unpredictability, they represent somewhat of an unknown force and could finish higher than many expect.

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