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Gwangju FC 2021 Season Preview

Heading into a first full season at their new home, Gwangju also boast new leadership on and off the pitch with a hefty amount of changes in the dressing room as they look to emulate their sixth-place K League 1 finish in 2020 under new boss Kim Ho-young.


Last Season

6 W- 7 D -14 L, (6th)

What Happened?

Outbound manager Park Jin-sub surpassed all expectations as his Gwangju side finished in the top six and entered Final Round A. While they suffered five defeats in post-split fixtures, there was much to admire about the way the Yellows gung-ho philosophy last season regardless of their opponent. Such tactics ensured entertaining spectacles such as their 3-3 home draw with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and 6-4 victory away to Daegu FC. 

Gwangju's forward line celebrate at Daegu last season

U-22 player Eom Won-sang enjoyed a breakthrough season on the right while Rustam Ashurmatov and Hong Jun-ho created a stable partnership in the centre of defence. Crashing out of the FA Cup at home to Gangwon should not besmirch a comfortable first season back in K League 1, with players such as Kim Chang-soo and Park Jeong-soo being dependable despite playing in their twilight years as Felipe struck 12 K League goals up front. 

                    [READ: Gwangju FC 2020 Season Review]

Notable Moves

OUT: Yeo Reum to Jeju United: The biggest departure from Gwangju this winter is undoubtedly a club legend, synonymous with the club and still with plenty to offer a K1 midfield as he moves to newly-promoted Jeju. With Gwangju since 2012, Gwangju-born Yeo Reum captained the side once more last season, making 25 appearances.

Yeo Reum reached 200 Gwangju games against Busan IPark in June

OUT: Park Jin-sub (manager) and Hong Jun-ho to FC Seoul: Manager Park Jin-sub led Gwangju to promotion in 2019 and has coaxed Hong Jun-ho north with him, with both key in the Yellows success over the past two seasons. Gwangju will miss their dependable centre back partnership this term with Rustam Ashurmatov also leaving for Gangwon FC. 

IN: Kim Jong-woo from Suwon Samsung Bluewings: Having only seen 68 minutes game time in K League 1 at the Bluewings last season, Kim has opted for a fresh start at Gwangju. The deep lying midfielder was key for Suwon up to 2019 and should slot in nicely with Yeo Reum departing. Kim Ho-young also moved to sign Lee Han-saem, Park Jun-kang and Kim Won-sik this winter.

                  [READ: Kim Ho-young appointed new Gwangju boss]

Key Player 

Felipe

With speculation over whether he will remain at the club as those around him depart including fellow Brazilian Willyan to Gyeongnam FC, Gwangju talisman Felipe will be a prize asset should he remain. A first name on the team sheet for Park Jin-sub in 2020, Felipe acclimatized to K League 1 with ease as the league's fifth highest goal scorer with five goals while ranking fourth for both touches in the opposition area and most fouls suffered, winning free kicks in and around the box.

Young Player to Watch

Eom Won-sang

Eom Won-sang could easily be nominated as the standout key player for the coming season despite his age. Fortunately for Kim Ho-young's side, Eom's January 6 birthday sees him fall just one week within the deadline for U-22 player eligibility. Enjoying a breakthrough season in 2020. Eom added end product to his raw pace and athleticism to bag seven goals from the right wing. With Willyan departing for Gyeongnam, more onus will be placed upon Eom's shoulders in terms of creativity.

Eom Won-sang, having scored against Jeonbuk in September 

Biggest Question 

How high should Gwangju be aiming?

While flirting with Asian Champions League qualification last term, key players exiting means Yellows fans may be content with a season of consolidation and finishing in any position outside of the bottom two. The transition from long-term and influential boss Park Jin-sub, who arguably overachieved with the players at his disposal finishing above sides with larger budgets, may be a tough one. Anything above the bottom two should be seen as a successful season for Kim Ho-young.

                                       [READ: Kim Ho-young appointed Gwangju boss]

Reason to Watch 

The great unknown. Last year Gwangju upset the applecart in K1 with resilient performances against the likes of Jeonbuk, Ulsan and Pohang. With experienced players such as Yeo Reum and right back Kim Chang-soo departing however, they may not be as sturdy this term. There's also questions over how new boss Kim will set up and whether he will fill the three current vacant foreigner spaces in Gwangju's squad. The new stadium also gives a unique vantage point, being able to see the World Cup stadium behind one goal. 


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