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2021 Ansan Greeners Season Preview



2020 may have been seen as something of a write-off for the Greeners, but a final league position of 7th suggests some eventual progress under manager Kim Gil-sik. Some smart moves in the transfer window have given the Green Wolves a more solid platform in 2021, and they will be hunting for a repeat of 2019's play-off challenge. 

Last Season

7 W- 7 D - 13L, 7th

What Happened?

2020 will be looked on by many as a year to forget, and for Ansan fans, this was a season that at first glance can be simply consigned to the history books. Yet an unremarkable 7th place finish masks solid progress for a club completing only its fourth season as a professional outfit.

Marquee Victories

The Green Wolves were on the receiving end of many pumellings during the season, including 4-0 defeats to Suwon and Jeonnam. However there were a few results to make Greeners fans smile, the highlight being a 2-1 come-back victory away at then league leaders Suwon with goals from Felipe and Kim Tae-hyun either side of half time. It was a rare show of teamwork that followed a run of six games without a win, and preceeded another five games lacking a victory. An opening day win over Line 4 Derby rivals Anyang was another highlight that looked to salve the fears over the squad break-up over the winter, with Lee Rae-jun the goalscorer. Ansan would go on to win two of the three matches against their rivals (and fellow strugglers!), at least claiming the kings of the Line 4 Derby crown for 2021!

Emerging Talent

Hwang Tae-hyun's departure to Daegu was a bit of a blow for Ansan fans who had, for a time, been able to have one of Korea's hottest properties in their starting line-up. However it set down a marker that even players turning out in the green of Ansan can go far and with the club struggling to attract major talent, it may need a strong core of youth coming through. Choi Geon-joo was the most impressive of the breakout talents, making 20 appearances and bagging three goals.

Long-term Improvement

2019 has been the standout year for the club, finishing 5th and just a point outside of the playoff places, so a seventh-placed finish, 11 shy of 4th placed Daejeon looks at first to be a regression. But since the club came into being, after the departure of the police team to Asan (after bagging the 2016 K League Challenge title for Ansan), they have finished: 9th; 9th; 5th; 7th. Given the amount of key players that departed during the winter, including the sources of almost all of Ansan's goals, a 7th placed finish instead represents an established project and one with possibilities to launch a surprise run on the playoffs in the future should all of the pieces come together.

Notable Moves

That great Ansan side, the best since the Mugunghwa era, was utterly dismantled last winter, and perhaps the best remaining player of that crop, captain Lee In-jae departing to Seoul E-land means that the curtain has essentially being lowered on that team. There has been something of the usual rotation of players with a host of new players from other K League sides coming in and others heading out, which always give the sides at the lower reaches of the K2 something of a random factor. Lee In-jae moving to Seoul E-land, and Kim Tae-hyun heading to Jeonnam are the main departures, with some of the international players also departing. Soony Sadd who arrived with much expectation having played in the MLS never seemed to get a chance to have a run in the team and leaves the club with fans feeling disappointed they did not get to see more of the Lebanese and from US U20 international. Brazilian Felipe departs, but fellow countryman, Anderson Canhoto remains after some strong performances in the tail-end of last season. A few players within the squad stepped up last season, including AFSC player of the season Choi Gong-ju, and Kim Ryun-do who both remain on the books. Of the new signings, Go Iwase will be expected to make as much a mark as compatriot Masatoshi Ishida did in 2019, coming in from J2 side Thespakusatsu Gunma. Lee Sang-min also joins the midfield from Suwon Bluewings, and will have a point to prove after failing to cement a place in the K1 side.

An Indonesian Superstar : Asnawi Mangkualam

The 21-year old Indonesian international joined the Green Wolves from Liga 1 side PSM Makassar. Despite his age, he quickly established himself in a competitive side that had lifted the title in 2018, and a domestic cup in 2019. The versatile defender’s preferred position is at full-back but he can also play in the midfield. He is expected to be Kim Tae-hyun's direct replacement after one of the stronger performers in Ansan's 2020 season departed to Jeonnam. His signing caused quite a stir with Ansan’s sizable Indonesian community taking note, and saw Ansan rising to the top of the K League 2 Instagram rankings. In terms of marketability, Asnawi offers a fantastic opportunity for the club and the league in general and Ansan fans will be looking for him to make just as big an impact on the pitch as he has on social media.

Key Player 

Kim Ryun-do



With five goals last season, Kim was Ansan's top scorer, and he will be expected to kick on this season and lead Ansan's line with more goals. Detractors might point to his return rate, but despite having a career total of 20 goals in over 180 appearances, this is a fairly decent K2 record. By comparison, league champions Jeju United's main striker Kong Min-hyun scored 9 goals last season for a career record of 40 goals in over 220 appearances. Kim's tireless running and combative style helped Ansan get onto the front foot in many games even in games he did not score in. Ansan will be looking for him to combine well with Canhoto to create a real handful for opposition backlines to deal with this season.

Young Player to Watch

Choi Geon-joo



Last year's Ansan Foreign Supporters' player of the season, the 21-year-old had something of a breakout season, bagging three goals and being a lively feature of the Ansan attack. In his second full professional season, if he can kick on he might prove to be something very special.

Biggest Question 

Establish the goalkeeper position



For the past two seasons both Kim Gil-sik and predecessor, Lim Wan-sup have rotated the goalkeeper almost equally. In 2019 Lee Seung-bin, formerly Lee Hee-seong (name change), rotated with Hwang In-jae 50-50, and last season Lee rotated often with Kim Sun-woo, although Lee played more of the games. Perhaps telling is that Seung-bin started the last two games of the season, and that might give an indication that Lee will be first choice. With the only signing in that position being a young 20-year-old, it appears that the goalkeeper position has not been addressed as a priority. A steady number one is a key to any defence, and Ansan fans will be hoping that Lee, who captained the side in 2019, will be able to finally find some consistency. 

Prediction 

It is always difficult when there is so much change in a side. However, what felt like a poor season from an Ansan perspective actually turned into something of an achievement last year with a 7th placed finish. Replacing Lee Wan-sup was always going to be difficult for Kim Gil-sik, a manager lacking experience as a professional first-team coach and there were some set-ups last year that did raise questions. However memorable wins against, demonstrated a degree of tactical evolution and with a year under his belt, this is a chance to kick-on. It can be argued that Ansan have now managed to establish themselves in the K2, with an average finish of around 8th position. It may not set any pulses racing, but Ansan are not the whipping boys of the league and sit in a position similar to Anyang and Bucheon, established but unremarkable, and after the exploits of Seoul E-land last season providing inspiration for the lower end of the K2, there is potential for Ansan to improve on last season’s finish. The realist though calls for pause, and another 7th placed finish would not be the worst way this season could go. Prediction: A mid-table finish, with a possible playoff challenge if these new players click.

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