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Lee Kang-in: What If He Moves On? (Part 2)

In part one of this series, guest writer Azri Firman touched on Lee Kang-in’s current situation at Valencia and named a few big clubs where the young star could likely shine. In part two, Azri explores a league where Kang-in should make a move along with the clubs that can either be strengthened by his talent or where he can thrive. 
(image via the-afc.com)

The Sensible Options

In Germany, the league standard urges players to be a collective unit, hardworking, and efficient on and off-the-ball. Take nothing away from La Liga, it's a great league that can showcase the creativity of South Korean international Lee Kang-in. That said, the environment surrounding the Bundesliga (especially when it comes to youth talent) will help further elevate his traits.

In addition to developing youth, the Bundesliga has housed many Asian players past and present. After all, that’s where Son Heung-min made a stamp with Bayer Leverkusen before moving to Tottenham. Speaking of Leverkusen, with Kai Havertz set to join Chelsea, Kang-in could be an ideal replacement for the German attacking midfielder. Both play similarly on the ball, though Havertz is better at being a presence inside the opponent’s box with his towering figure.

Borussia Monchengladbach is another team where Lee could thrive. Lars Stindl occupies the attacking midfield slot with Swiss international centre-forward Breel Embolo and other players deputising. Despite having a capable player like Stindl, head coach Marco Rose seems to have a penchant to rotate his starting XI, which could play in Kang-in’s favor. Hypothetically, if Lee joined up with Monchengladbach, he would get game time in his favored position and in turn could show what he has. It is worth mentioning that Rose's emphasis on pressing is key in his tactics, and I’ll admit I haven’t seen how Kang-in would play a pressing game. Even so, the way they are quick attacking in transition, especially when carrying the ball is something Kang-in can enjoy. Also the way Alassane Plea, Patrick Hermann, and Marcus Thuram interchange their positions to create chaos would give Kang-in the ability to be a creator and play killer passes to one of them.

Going Lower A Bit

Mainz 05 is a team that loves to play down the middle. In fact, they are first (according to WhoScored) with 30% of their attacks going down the middle, something Kang-in can benefit from. However, Mainz is third lowest in both possession (44.8%), and passing accuracy (75.3%) in the league last season, only bettering Union Berlin and Augsburg. With Kang-in’s perseverance to keep the ball even in tight situations along with his ability to pick out pinpoint passes when playing direct, Mainz would improve in both departments with someone like him on board.

As briefly touched on before, Union Berlin is 17th in possession, and their deep passing connection (DC) towards their opponents’ box is the second worst with only 119 passes. That could be connected with Union's 17th worst passing success average of just 70.5%. They do, however, have one key strong point: Aerial duels.

Union has won 27.2 offensive aerial duels per game, the most out of anyone. Kang-in’s ability on set-pieces and long balls would help tremendously in further boosting this stat. After all, Union is the 4th highest team to score from set-pieces at 15. But their number of open play goals is a concern with only 13. So with all that said, Kang-in can offer more penetration from open play, especially from the middle, and his deliveries could benefit Union’s towering presence, particularly for Swedish striker Sebestian Andersson standing at 190 cm tall.

Staying in the capital, Hertha Berlin also problems with possession, maintaining the ball just 46.5% of the time. Despite the fact Hertha has a respectable 77.5% passing success, they have the worst shots-per-game ratio at only 10.6, and are second worst when it comes to key passes with only eight per game. Considering Hertha are in the middle of the pitch 47% of the time, Kang-in’s attacking prowess down the middle could help remedy the problems at hand and help Berlin get the ball going in the opponent’s box with his persistence to keep the ball.


Last Season’s Top Trinity

Dortmund sets up in a 3-4-2-1, and loves to play down the wings. That would require Lee to play down the half-spaces or flanks much more often where he could contribute to Dortmund’s swift counter-attacks thanks to his quick ability to launch a pass.

As for RB Leipzig, it’s difficult to see where he would fit into his natural position with Julian Nagelsmann’s preference for a 3-4-3 formation despite them playing attractive attacking football that Kang-in would love to be a part of.

Saving the best for last, what about Bayern Munich? Bayern is known for their aggressive pressing and as mentioned in the Monchengladbach section, it's yet to be seen whether Kang-in can do the pressing job or not. However, the way Bayern operates its 4-2-3-1 requires the team to push up and find players who can attack any empty space. That’s why Thomas Muller’s role as a Ramdeuter is so pivotal to how they attack. He intelligently moves into space to support Lewandowski or any of the wingers while looking to receive passes coming from the centre midfielders pushing up. Keep in mind Lee is more of a creator compared to Muller’s excellent off-the-ball movement. However, there could be a case where Kang-in fits in as an advanced playmaker given his passing and ball carrying abilities along with Thiago Alcantara’s imminent departure. In that case, Lee would need to be just as capable of defending to cover for Leon Goretzka as he and Thiago would take turns going up and the other dropping back to cover.

So could Kang-in fit in Bavaria? When it comes to the formation, yes. When it comes to the style, I don’t see it. Given that and the current need to limit travel, perhaps Lee Kang-in can take his talents to another Spanish club. Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series!

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