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K League 1 August Power Rankings

July was an interesting month in the K League 1, as we saw managerial changes, marquee signings, strong form from title contenders and - finally - spectators in the stands. Todd Wilde reviews the performance of each side throughout July and early August.

1. Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan look in imperious form, as they won their four K League games in July by a cumulative score of 13-3. One small hope for the teams below them is that they have shown signs of cracks against weaker teams at the start of August, as they made hard work of defeating Busan IPark before failing to score against a conservative Suwon side. Perhaps this doesn't matter though, as the Horangi have destroyed more adventurous sides closer to the them in the league table, pulling apart the likes of Sangju (5-1) and Gangwon (3-0) as they have made teams pay through their dominance in central midfield. It would take a brave individual to bet against Ulsan winning the league at this stage of the season.
⬆️  LAST MONTH: 2 | HIGH: 1 | LOW:2


2. Sangju Sangmu

Somewhat under the radar, Sangju's core of young and hungry players have had great success in recent weeks. Their stylish attacking play has been underlined by the development of Kim Bo-sub and Gang Sang-woo, two players that coach Kim Tae-wan has had full confidence in since the very start of the season. Add to the mix their fantastic organisation in defence, well drilled interplay in midfield, and the individual brilliance of Moon Seon-min, and it is perhaps no surprise that the military side sit pretty in third place.

⬆️  LAST MONTH: 3 | HIGH: 2 | LOW: 3

3. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Jeonbuk have slowly been building a head of steam despite a disjointed start to the season. After a dodgy start to July, with a loss to Sangju and unconvincing draw against Seongnam, the side appears to have been boosted by the re-introduction of fans into stadiums and two significant summer signings. Whilst Modou Barrow brings star power from his time in the EPL, it is the signing of Gustavo that appears to be an inspired one, as the Brazilian provides a focal point up front that has been lacking so far this season. Jose Morais - much maligned by many - perhaps deserves credit for smart rotation within the squad, one which is keeping the team fresh as Jeonbuk close in on league leaders Ulsan.

⬆️  LAST MONTH: 5 | HIGH: 3 | LOW: 5

4. Pohang Steelers

Pohang have had an inconsistent month of July, scoring plenty against the likes of Seongnam but incapable of defeating strugglers like Incheon and Suwon. Whilst Song Min-kyu and Manuel Palacios have both stepped up and taken their share of the creative load with the absence of Alexsandar Palocevic, it is the return of the Serbian which has excited Pohang's supporters, as the playmaker adds another dynamic to the team's fluid offensive play.

--  LAST MONTH: 4 | HIGH: 4 | LOW:6

5. Seongnam FC

Seongnam have undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent weeks, as the Magpies have finally added some offensive options after they had appeared to run out of ideas merely six weeks ago. The capture of Korean international Na Sang-ho has turned out to be a season defining moment, with the youngster employed largely in a more central attacking role after being used primarily as a winger for FC Tokyo and the National Team. This shift has made the side a more fluid attacking outfit, with Croatian Timoslav Kiš showing promise as an outlet up top.

⬆️  LAST MONTH: 11 | HIGH: 1 | LOW: 11

6. Daegu FC

An inconsistent few weeks for Daegu have seen the citizen club easily see off less talented sides lower down the table, as they swept aside poor Busan and Suwon sides, yet incapable of taking points amongst their rivals in the top five. It will be a concern to supporters that Daeju have so far taken just two points from six games against other sides in the top five, with the side possibly needing a top four finish to attain AFC Champions League Qualification. Whilst there are undoubted positives with the return to form for league veteran Dejan Damjanovic and the continued development of Kim Tae-won, there are concerns that the side is over reliant on Cesinha, injured for their most recent loss to Jeonbuk.

⬇️  LAST MONTH: 1 | HIGH: 1 | LOW: 8

7. FC Seoul

This would be a very different power ranking if it wasn't for the departure of Choi Yong-soo, one of three high profile managerial departures from the league in the last six weeks. Three straight league defeats, followed up by an embarrasing 5-1 home loss in the FA Cup to Pohang, led to Choi's departure by "mutual consent" from the club. Remarkably, this has led to an immediate turn around, as the side have exploded in confidence with two impressive wins in as many weeks.  Yun Ju-tae, preferred to Park Chu-young up front, is leading the line with confidence, grabbing two goals and an assist since the change in management.

⬆️  LAST MONTH: 10 | HIGH: 7 | LOW: 10

8. Gangwon FC

Without doubt the most exciting team in the league. Wonderfully inconsistent, Gangwon is perhaps the only side in the league capable of outplaying Sangju one week then losing to Seoul the next. This side will not come close to relegation and provides great value for supporters, however it will frustrate supporters that they are more than capable of a top half finish, yet appear driven to let the opportunity slip, as their midfield fails to efficiently protect their defensive line.

--  LAST MONTH: 8 | HIGH: 5 | LOW: 8

9. Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Another team to have lost their manager, as Lee Lim-saeng stepped down in mid July after months of pressure. Whilst this move should have been the catalyst for change and a more exciting brand of football, in reality Suwon's fortunes have remained unchanged as they slide closer to the bottom of the table. This side is turgid to watch, with the team scoring just once in 412 minutes of league football, underlined by a lack of goals from last season's Golden Boot winning talisman Adam Taggart.

--  LAST MONTH: 9 | HIGH: 9 | LOW: 10

10. Gwangju FC

Whilst there are obvious questions with team off the field despite opening a shiny new stadium in July, Gwangju are showing they are doing barely enough on it to stay up. Eom Won-sang's performances are catching the eye, the 21 year old one of several young wingers on the radar of National Team coach Paulo Bento, whilst Felipe has been wickledly efficient as an outlet up front. Yet, the team looks lightweight in the central of the park, struggling to cope with sides that use direct and counter attacking techniques to progress the ball up the field, such as Daegu and Gangwon.

⬇️  LAST MONTH: 7 | HIGH: 7 | LOW: 12

11. Busan IPark

Busan appear to be getting worse by the week, with four straight defeats in all competitions. Busan must snap out of their current form or risk allowing themselves to be a catchable target for Incheon. Astoundingly poor management on the pitch from unpopular coach Cho Duk-jae has led to questions of whether he is the right man to keep the team in the division in future seasons. with questions of the club's commitment off it. Predictable hoof-ball tactics are not getting the best out of the team's more technically proficient players like Lee Dong-jun and Romulo, whom appear to be performing in spite of their manager rather than because of him. This should not be the case given that minus Kim Jin-kyu, the team currently has their best eleven players available.

⬇️  LAST MONTH: 6 | HIGH: 6 | LOW: 11

(A very distant) 12. Incheon United

Utterly awful. Lim Wan-seop might be gone but the team's monkey on their back is not,as they remarkably cannot buy a win (or more than a one goal lead). The shortened season may well put pay to their chances of another late season surge, and it is possible that the team will be relegated before the split, now nine points adrift with the likes of Gwangju and Seoul picking up form. The team's biggest problem (like Daegu) is losing to the teams around them - draws against Sangju, Pohang and Jeonbuk are all in vain when you lose to Seoul and Seongnam. There are positive signs with the capture of Elias Aguilar, as the side is playing with more adventure and creativity going forward, but the team needs wins and quickly.

--  LAST MONTH: 12 | HIGH: 12 | LOW: 12


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