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2020 Season Review: Bucheon FC 1995

A season that started brightly with four wins in the first five matches quickly descended into an incredibly frustrating and disappointing season for Bucheon FC 1995. Unlike in 2019 Bucheon could not rally towards the end of the campaign, and instead tumbled down to an eighth placed finish. Bucheon columnist George Slade takes a look at the highs and lows in this season review, and will determine how Bucheon can turn 2021 into more of a success story.

What Went Well

The beginning of the season gave Bucheon fans a lot of hope and joy as they breifly topped the table, and even though they declined Bucheon continued to show glimpses of competitiveness. For example, they were one of only two teams to beat second place Suwon FC this season, the other club being champions Jeju United. Bucheon's defence was not great, but it was not awful by anyone's standards. The 36 goals they conceded was the fourth worst in the league, but it was one goal better than Gyeongnam and one worse than Daejeon Hana Citizen, two clubs that reached the playoffs. 

Bucheon did not score a lot of goals, but when they did some of them were truly glorious, such as long range strikes from Cho Soo-chul and Kim Young-nam, and the full length of the pitch solo dribbling effort from William Barbio. Also, while their finishing and chance creation was bad, Bucheon impressed with their buildup play and ball retention. It was just the final third of the pitch that was the problem.

What Didn't Go Well

Simply put, the attack. As previously mentioned they conceded goals at similar rates to playoff teams, but they fell way behind upfront. With 19 goals scored Bucheon had the second lowest goals tally in the league, only one ahead of seventh placed Ansan Greeners. If you compare it to Gyeongnam and Daejeon, who scored 40 and 36 goals respectively, it's simply not good enough. It was always going to be a difficult year as Bucheon lost their top scorers from last season (Nilson Junior and Marlon de Jesus), but the fact that those two players got 10 goals each, meaning the pair of them scored more than the whole Bucheon squad combined this year, is shocking. 

Even factoring in the shortened season, it is simply not good enough. In 2019 when Bucheon finished fourth they scored 49 goals in 36 games, the joint fourth highest in the league and equivalent to 1.361 goals per game. If they kept the same rate in this season's 27 games, Bucheon would have scored approximately 37 goals this season. That means Bucheon have a deficit of 18 goals in 2020, and that's what cost them the season. For example, let's put an extra Bucheon goal per game in their last 18 matches of the season. In reality, Bucheon only earned 13 of their 26 points over this period, which included a club record seven match losing streak inside a 10 match winless run. 

If the extra goal is added in each of those 18 games, an extra 13 points are gained, which brings Bucheon up to 39 points and a place in the playoffs (as they would have taken points off of their promotion rivals in the process). In all fairness the coach did try to experiment with different players leading the line, but the firepower and creativity was not in the squad to begin with. Failing to suitably replace a player like Marlon was the main reason for this season's failure, as well as losing a creative midfielder like Ahn Tae-hyun to Sangju Sangmu.

Young Player of the Year

A true success story for Bucheon was the discovery of 22 year old centre-back Kim Gang-san. Playing in his first ever professional season, Kim went from being an unknown university player to a member of the South Korea U23 squad in just six months. While for a lot of clubs the U22 rule is a source of annoyance and a test on how to best to get around it, there was no problem for Bucheon this season, as Kim played almost the full 90 minutes in 20 matches this season. 

He was part of a defence that helped compensate for Bucheon's lack of attacking firepower, keeping them competitive in matches in the hopes that Bucheon scrape a goal. There have been some learning curves for Kim, such as when he received his first ever professional red card this season, but those experiences will make him a much better player next season. If Bucheon can keep hold of him, then they will have a strong base for them to build a much better squad for next season.

Team MVP

Most of the team disappointed in some regards this year, with almost everyone playing below the level that they are capable of. However, there were a few bright sparks in this campaign and one of them is Team MVP, William Barbio. The 28 year old Brazilian is not the winner purely for being a foreigner, though the fact that he played consistently well in his first ever season abroad does award him some bonus points. The forward played in all but two league matches, bringing him the joint third highest appearances and most minutes played of any Bucheon player. He started every single one of his appearances, not being on the bench once. 

His three goals made him the joint second top scorer for the club and he is also credited with one assist. That might not seem like a lot but considering Bucheon only scored 19 goals in the whole season, Barbio was involved in over one-fifth of his team's goals. He was also quite a clean player, only receiving two yellow cards in 2020. Barbio's pace was a continuous problem for K League defenders, and it will be interesting to see if he stays in Korea with Bucheon or a stronger side, if he can improve his stats when surrounded by a more lethal attack. Bucheon should try everything they can to hold onto him, but Barbio has every reason to try to seek pastures new.

Most Disappointing Player

Bucheon's other foreign player, Jefferson Baiano, is the recipient of the Most Disappointing Player award. That is not to say that he genuinely played the worst, but imstead it means he fell the most short of expectations. With a proven track record of scoring in Japan, there was a lot of fanfare when Baiano moved to Korea after a brief spell in Saudi Arabia. The 25 year old striker was supposed to fill the hole that was left by Marlon de Jesus, Bucheon's joint top scorer in 2019. However, while Barbio was signed in January and clearly part of the manager's plans from the very beginning, Baiano's March move just before deadline day makes it clear that he was somewhat of an impulse purchase. 

Baiano's time at the club was interrupted by injuries that kept him out od the side for weeks at a time, and this is reflected in him only playing in 11 matches, starting in nine, and being subbed off eight times. He only scored once this season, a penalty in a 1-0 win over Daejeon Hana Citizen, his lowest ever tally for a calendar year since he was a teenager. Baiano did, however, assist twice, making him the joint assist leader for Bucheon. He clearly is not a bad player, but he did not quite fit into Bucheon's style of play and injuries meant he could not get a regular groove going. When it became clear that Bucheon would not reach the playoffs his contract was terminated early, which was probably the best move for both the player and the club. Hopefully he can bounce back and prove that 2020 was just a blip.


Most Important Decision of the Off-Season

One important decision has already been taken and that is a managerial change. Song Sun-ho has left the club after only two seasons in his second spell at the club. While he clearly carried some good faith with him throughout this campaign due to Bucheon's successes last season, but the poor ending to the year meant that his time at the club had run its course. In a squad lacking depth Song appeared to have run out of ideas once clubs figured out his gameplan early in the season.

He has now been replaced by former FC Anyang manager Lee Young-min, who lead the club to sixth and ninth placed finishes in 2015 and 2016 respectively. There are of course some minor decisions to be made, such as with the goalkeeper. Bucheon signed  Choi Bong-jin on loan last season, because their number one goalie Choi Chul-won moved to Sangju Sangmu. With Choi Chul-won returning halfway throughnext season, will Lee trust Bucheon's reserve goalkeepers or will he sign someone else to hold the fort until Choi returns.  

Of course, the biggest decision that Lee must make is to invest upfront. If Bucheon can keep hold of thee majority of their defence and midfield then they have the basis for an impressive team, so long as they can get a proper goalscorer or two. This is always difficult as if the player is from abroad it is completely unknown if they will adapt or not, so Lee as to put all his energy in properly scouting players that can fit his system and play at the required level. The fate of Bucheon rests on the success of the transfer window.

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