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Two up or Two down? Ansan face crucial pair of fixtures.




Having stunned many sides early in the season, Ansan Greeners have undergone a change in form that has seen them slip down into seventh with hopes of a playoff berth becoming increasingly slim. Ansan columnist Mike Brandon explains why these next two matches could prove crucial in saving the Green Wolves season.


Ansan face two “cup finals”.

It is one of the most cliché lines in football, deducting an entire season’s endeavour into a finite number of matches. Yet here Ansan find themselves, with their fingers slipping from playoff contention. Gone is their earlier surprise package status, leading them to this: Two “cup finals” midway through the season.

From knocking on the door of the summit, the Green Wolves now find themselves in 7th, closer to the playoffs than the basement, yet dangerously close to reaching that tipping point of calling the season a write-off. The next two matches are critical, against 9th and then 10th. Victories could propel the Greeners back into the play-off question, with a trip to the Owls of Asan, the team that dumped the Green Wolves out of the FA Cup in April, first-up, followed by hosting bottom of the league Bucheon.

Ansan’s earlier success in the season was built on a solid defence, and the attacking conundrum remains unresolved. Manager Kim Gil-sik seems unable to settle on a forward line, typically starting with Kim Ryun-do (4 goals, 2 assists) but then trying to solve the puzzle with the other forward offerings, with Santiago, Sim Jae-min, Lim Jae-hyuk and Choi Geon-joo all making starts up front. Only Duarte, a frequent substitute with a relatively impressive strike rate of 1 goal per 168 minutes, has shown any promise of regularly contributing. This comes despite Ansan offering much to the goal of the season contenders; it seems like every forward has a bit of masterful play up their sleeve but it can only be used once.

Much is to be made of the absence of two of Ansan’s best players in Canhoto and Asnawi, the former with a long-term injury and the latter on international duty with Indonesia.  Both would offer a lot more to the Greeners’ attacking prowess but the solution cannot rest on these two alone. The team is trapped in a cycle of rotation, both in the aforementioned attack, but also now in defence. The now established Ansan tradition of keeper rotation is back with Lee Seung-bin and Kim Sun-woo alternating in the last five matches. The side have also alternated between three and four at the back with captain Yeom Jae-min changing partners or even being dropped in the 3-2 defeat against Busan. This lack of consistency may go some way to explaining how Ansan have managed to concede twice with the near last kick of the game in recent matches. 

Kim Gil-sik needs to find answers.

With this in mind, there is little reason for conservatism in these upcoming fixtures. Ansan have picked up just 3 points in the last six, with their last win coming against Anyang in a scintillating Line 4 derby. Since then Ansan have conceded on average 1.7 goals per game, putting their earlier in the season excellent defensive record to bed. Can Kim Gil-sik finally find a forward line that can click?

The omens for the Green Wolves however are good, having won the last two league encounters against Asan, including a 1-0 victory settled by a Duarte penalty earlier in March, and Bucheon in April, settled by Min Jun-yeong’s goal of the season contender. This is a decisive moment for the team, and manager Kim Gil-sik. Can he navigate the Greeners back into relevance, or is it time to start planning for 2022?

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