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2021 Gyeongnam FC Season Preview

Gyeongnam FC came within a kick of making an instant return into K League 1 last campaign. Seol Ki-hyeon's men will be looking to put the heartache of that behind them. With some excellent business done in the off-season, Seol will be hoping that his squad learned from last season and can go that one step further. That step is a return to K League 1.

Last Season

10 W- 9 D- 8 L (3rd)

What Happened?

The Reds endured a rather indifferent start to their 2020 campaign drawing their first two matches against Jeonnam Dragons and Seoul E-Land respectively.  Led by the evergreen Hwang Il-soo and experienced winger Baek Sung-dong, they got their first win in the third game away against FC Anyang.  The Changwon based outfit's joy was short-lived as they were comprehensively beaten by Suwon FC in the fourth round of fixtures.  This defeat seemed to dent the confidence of the players resulting in them only winning two games in their next nine competitive fixtures thereafter.  

Manager Seol Ki-hyeon could see the squad needed a boost and the gaffer made some very shrewd loan signings in picking up Jung Hyuk from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Choi Jun came from Ulsan Hyundai and Han Ji-ho came from neighbors Busan IPark.  All three players played a vital role in the upturn of fortunes for Gyeongnam.  The team went on an unbeaten streak during the latter part of July and throughout August drawing two and winning four games in succession.  

Gyeongnam were hampered by injuries throughout the season to key players, especially in defensive areas.  The team couldn't build any momentum and the 37 goals conceded from 27 games played highlighted this problem (the third-worst in the division).  However, they had enough about them to reach the playoffs and after scraping past Daejeon Hana Citizen in the first playoff contest they eventually came unstuck to Suwon FC in the final.  A last gasp An Byong-jun spot-kick with the last kick of the game meant they stayed in K League 2 for another year.

Notable Moves

Manager Seol Ki-hyeon rarely used the foreigner contingent at the club, namely Australian center back Nick Ansell, Serbian striker Uros Deric and Brazilian winger Negueba.  In the off season Seol was quoted as saying he is keen to bolster in this department but he would only be looking at foreign players who have prior K League experience.  He quickly saw about this and signed 26-year-old Brazilian winger Willyan from K League 1 outfit Gwangju FC.  He further bolstered the ranks and picked up 21-year-old Brazilian midfielder Hernades from fellow K League 2 club Jeonnam Dragons.  

Lee Jeong-hyeop will be hoping to hit the ground running for his new club

Domestic player-wise the major signing for Gyeongnam would have to be the coup of getting Lee Jeong-hyeop from arch-rivals Busan IPark.  The former national team center forward joined the club on a free transfer.  He is lethal in and around the box and has a real eye for goal, Lee will be a major asset for the club this campaign spearheading the attack.  Towering center-half Kim Young-chan came in from Bucheon FC 1995.  Known for his no-nonsense defending, Kim will be hoping to establish himself in the back four and aid the Reds by stopping leaking the number of goals they did last season.  Another position the Seol wanted filling was a box to box midfielder and he deems 23-year-old Lim Min-hyeok from Gwangju FC to fit the bill.  He will add much-needed bite in the center of the park and will win tackles and give the ball to the more attack-minded players to make things happen.  To round up the major signings in the off-season Gyeongnam further improved their attacking options with the signing of 30-year-old Yoon Ju-tae from FC Seoul.  He will be hoping to form a good relationship with Lee Jeong-hyeop from the start of the 2021 campaign.  Yoon recently played in the Asian Champions League and bagged himself three goals in five games for the capital-based outfit.

Key Player 

Baek Sung-dong

29-year-old diminutive winger Baek Sung-dong has been made vice-captain this season and he would be the first name on Seol Ki-hyeon's team sheet.  Simply put, he tries to make things happen every time he has the ball at his feet.  The former Suwon FC man scored nine goals last campaign and assisted twice.  He is very rarely injured and he is at the heart of everything Gyeongnam FC does well.  He is now coming into the prime of his career and he will be hoping to kick on from here on in.  It's clear to witness Baek helping the youngsters in the team on match days before and during the games.  He more than anyone will be hoping to get a crack at playing in K League 1 before age catches up with him and it's too late.  

Young Player to Watch

Kim Hyeong-won

Versatile midfielder Kim started the 2020 season in the first team playing in an unfamiliar role of right wing-back.  He played extremely well and kept his place until the rigours of the professional game caught up with him.  Kim showed extreme promise during his time on the pitch.  His marauding runs up and down the flank were rewarded with a goal in the away win at FC Anyang.  He was replaced in that position by on loan Choi Jun for the remainder of the campaign.  The 21-year-old's. tall, athletic build and willingness to learn will hold Kim in great stead moving forward.  Kim has been heavily involved in pre-season and will be looking to establish himself as a first-team regular sooner rather than later.  

Biggest Question 

Can the Reds be more resolute in defense this campaign?

Gyeongnam conceded 37 goals last season, the third-worst in K League 2, only 9th placed FC Anyang and 10th placed Chungnam Asan let in more.  It's an area that manager Seol Ki-hyeon will be looking at strongly to get right.  Regular center-backs in Lee Kwang-seon and Bae Seung-jin will be looking over their shoulder with the off season signing of Kim Young-chan from Bucheon FC 1995 chomping at the bit to make his mark in the side.  

On loan right wing-back Choi Jun has returned to Ulsan Hyundai after his loan deal wasn't extended.  The right and left-back positions are vital in the modern game and one that Seol had been actively pursuing to fill in the off-season.  Right-back Kim Myung-jun joined from Busan I-Park, Left-back Kim Dong-jin came aboard from K League 1 side Daegu FC and it's likely that Gangwon FC have let defender Chae Gwang-hoon move south to sign with Gyeongnam.  

Reason to Watch 

Gyeongnam managed to keep the spine of the team intact following the disappointment of narrowly missing out on promotion last season.  The players at the club are buying into Seol Ki-hyeons training ideas and methods.  He demands a high intensity, fast-flowing style of football from his players.  Influential winger Hwang Il-soo was heavily tipped to leave in the off-season, but Seol made him captain and he will be leading the team into the 2021 campaign.  With the exciting signings of Willyan and fellow countryman, Hernades to get bums off seats, going forward the Reds will be a high-scoring unit capable of beating any team in the division on any given day.  If they tighten up at the back and keep the majority of the squad fit, Gyeongnam should be up in around the business end of the league come November. 

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