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2021 Bucheon FC 1995 Season Preview

In 2019 Bucheon FC 1995 started poorly but built up momentum at the end of the campaign to finish fourth. In 2020 Bucheon started well but then collapsed, stuttering to eighth in the table. After a winter of massive change, what kind of season will this be for the club? George Slade previews Bucheon ahead of the 2021 season.

Last Season

7W-5D-15L-19GF-36GA-26P, 8th

What Happened?

Bucheon started the season well with four wins in their first five matches, giving fans hope of a push for promotion. However, it soon became clear that maybe the opening fixtures were just being kind to them, as Bucheon's form soon took a turn for the worse. They only gathered 14 more points from their remaining 22 fixtures, and in the summer they embarked on a shocking 10 match winless run, including seven consecutive defeats (eight in total) and eight matches in which they failed to score.

Their attack was the key part of their downfall. While the number of goals conceded was similar to teams in contention for the playoffs, their goals scored tally was so much worse. Bucheon ended the season with the second lowest goal tally in the K League 2, only beating Ansan Greeners by one goal. At the back and in midfield Bucheon had players nominated for player of the season and capped by South Korean youth teams, while up front they were a side devoid of firepower and creativity, able to keep possession but not do much with it. Their May FA Cup defeat to then-K4 League side Ulsan Citizen proved to be good example of the club's failings for the whole season. Failing to break down opposition that they should defeat, and succumbing to a single goal loss late on.

Notable Moves

William Barbio's departure means that currently Bucheon have been left without any foreign players and they have lost an attacking spark. The Brazilian forward was not prolific but he played in almost every game of the season and was one the few consistent threats Bucheon had going forward. He has now moved to divisional rivals Seoul E-Land, a club that challenged for promotion last season and will potentially give him more support offensively.

Bucheon have also failed to renew the contract of last year's captain Kim Young-nam, a central midfielder who is Bucheon's fifth most capped player of all time. A player that gave his all for the club, he helped inject some much needed passion and unity last season at a club that looked lost and aimless in most matches. Although Bucheon have retained the services of several experienced players, the large amount of turnover could mean that they will surely miss his leadership skills.

Bucheon will be hoping a new source of leadership has been found in the form of left-winger Han Ji-ho, who instantly became the club's oldest player upon signing for them. A true legend of Busan Ipark, Han spent a decade at the club, only playing for other teams for his national service at Asan Mugunghwa and on loan at Gyeongnam last year. Busan fans are understandably devastated at the news of him not being offered a new contract and Bucheon have taken full advantage. With Han, Bucheon have gained someone who provides attacking options down on the wing with good crossing and passing abilities, while also being able to take on more defensive roles.

While Bucheon have also bolstered their defense and midfielders with the signings of high quality players such as Park Joon-heui, Kim Jeong-ho, and Park Chang-jun, with Bucheon's attacking problems last season eyes with be drawn to centre-forward Chu Jung-ho who has signed from Jeonnam Dragons. A young player, Chu has featured in 30 matches over the last two seasons, scoring just once and assisting four times. Can he link up well enough with his teammates to produce the season of his career? Time will tell, though it is a little worrying that Bucheon have not invested much in the area of the pitch that was their biggest problem last season.

Key Player 

[Kim Kang-san]

Last year's main U22 player was somewhat of a surprise package in 2020, moving from university level to his first professional contract with ease. The 1998-born central defender was not used simply for quota filling as he became a genuinely integral part of the defence. His performances earned him call-ups to the South Korea U23 team and he took part in their pre-season training camp this winter, meaning that there is an outside chance of him earning a place in the Olympic team this summer, and possible national service exemption. His place at Bucheon is not completely assured as the club have signed a lot of experienced defenders, but with key central defender Kim Young-chan moving to Gyeongnam there is still a clear spot available to him in the starting eleven. Kim can truly become one of Bucheon's star players over the course of this season if he continues to put in the hard work.

Young Player to Watch

[An Jae-jun]

Bucheon only have four players eligible of meeting this season's U22 requirement of being born after 1st January 1999, so all four of them are in with with a good chance of playing in multiple matches this season. The pick of the bunch might just be left-winger An Jae-jun, who turns 20 years old in April and was announced by the club in early February. He has been signed from Ulsan Hyundai, and was the 2019 K League Junior U18 Player of the Year. An has been capped three times and scored once for the South Korea U18 side and spent last year on loan in the Czech Republic to third tier clubs FK Mlada Boleslav B and FK Dukla Prague B, playing a total of nine matches and scoring once combined for both clubs.

Biggest Question 

[How will Bucheon perform with their new manager?]

Bucheon were managed by Song Sun-ho for four out of the previous six seasons, including their best ever performance in 2016 when Bucheon finished third in the league and reached the FA Cup semifinals. The two most recent seasons without him, 2017 and 2018, saw the club finish in fifth and eighth place respectively, meaning that even though Bucheon performed poorly last season, Song is arguably the greatest manager in the club's history and he will be a tough act to follow. Ex-FC Anyang and Ansan Greeners manager Lee Young-min has stepped up to the role, two years since his last job in management, a brief interim stint at the Green Wolves. Prior to that, he had an 18 month spell at FC Anyang where he lead the club to sixth place in 2015 and ninth in 2016. It is a bit of a gamble, but with there being only a small pool of South Korean managers with prior K League 2 experience, there are not many alternatives to Lee. Many Bucheon fans will be curious about the club's style of play and it's aims for the season.

Reason to Watch 

If fans are allowed back in the stands then Bucheon is one of the most accessible grounds in the Seoul Capital Area, and with temp stands in place the atmosphere should be impressive. There really is no excuse for neutral Korea-based fans to not check out a Bucheon game when they are in the area. Aside from that, everyone should hold a genuine curiosity as to how they will do this season. Historically one of the most unpredictable sides in the league, they have experiences massive squad turnover this winter, have a new manager, and currently no foreign players. Nobody has any idea how they will perform this season, and that is terrifying and exciting in equal measure for Bucheon fans. They have also been given a somehwat favourable draw in the FA Cup this season, meaning that they could end up becoming a neutrals favourite in the latter stages of the competition.

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