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scouting

Gwangju should take heart from Ulsan defeat

 

Kim Ho-young's Gwangju FC face a couple of tricky fixtures on paper in Hana 1 Q K League 1 this week, travelling to Daegu on Wednesday before hosting champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Saturday. Despite consecutive defeats in their opening two games, Peter Hampshire explains why their fans should retain some optimism.

Forced out of position

Partly due to injuries out of Kim Ho-young's hands and partly down to Gwangju's underwhelming transfer activity leading to a lack of depth up front, Gwangju were forced to play winger Eom Won-sang centrally in Felipe's continued absence. Kim Ju-gong took Eom's place on the right with manager Kim presumably trying to exploit Ulsan's centre-backs with the blistering pace of 22-year-old Eom. 

A natural left back, Lee Eu-ddeum was pushed forward to the wing for this one. Perhaps thinking defensively and a nod to Ulsan's incredible strength in midfield, Lee does possess a wicked left foot which unleashed a fierce strike on Jo Hyun-woo's goal in the 12th minute. Korean National Team keeper Jo was forced into other saves but Ulsan Hyundai took all three points thanks to Kim Min-jun's firm strike on 38 minutes.

Gwangju fell 1-0 to Kim Min-jun's first-half strike

To further compound the limitations of Gwangju's small squad, Yeo Bong-hun left the field moments before the interval to be replaced by winter signing from Suwon FC Lee Ji-hun. Yeo has looked one of Gwangju's most promising outlets at right back in the fledgling 2021 season and the Yellows' fans will hope the substitution was merely precautionary.

Statistical Improvement from the Opening Day

Considering there's currently no singing permitted in K League stadiums due to Covid19 measures, there was a decent atmosphere inside Gwangju's stadium against Ulsan. A series of 'wonder saves' at both ends got the crowd on their feet as the Yellows fired 12 shots at the Horangi's goal, compared to a timid two at the Big Bird in defeat to Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Delving deeper into the stats to compare the two performances, Gwangju's expected goals (xG) rose from 0.09 to 1.42, even with less possession. Losing the ball on 41 less occasions (134 MD1/93 MD2), Gwangju also won 11% more of their defensive duels (53% MD1/64% MD2) and increased their passing accuracy to the final third slightly. Gwangju also brought their PPDA index down slightly (12.24 MD1/11.48 MD2), which relates to the number of passes an opponent makes before Gwangju stopped their possession with a defensive action.

Felipe's Return

Felipe during Gwangju's 2021 pre-season training

Any team in K League would miss the presence of Felipe up front, finishing as the fifth highest scorer in 2020 with 12 goals in a side that only mustered 32 all season. Sitting out of the first two games this year all together with a calf injury, Brazilian striker Felipe is expected to be slowly reintroduced from the bench next week. This would not just benefit the Yellows in terms of goal threat, it would allow Eom Won-sang to return to his natural position on the right wing and give Gwangju someone to play the ball up to, win some free kicks as K League's fourth-most fouled player in 2020 and relieve pressure.

Where To Watch

Fans in the 34 countries with overseas broadcasting rights will be able to follow Gwangju's upcoming matches live on television. Full details and the list of providers can be found here.

Alternatively, there is the K League's newly launched OTT platform, K League TV, where live coverage will be available free of charge. Simply log in and enjoy!

FNR

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