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Three Reasons Gwangju FC Can Stay Up This Season

Gwangju FC sit bottom of Hana 1Q K League 1 heading into Round 20 and have shuffled the pack slightly heading into a glut of key fixtures. Gangwon come to town on Wednesday and victory could see the Yellows leapfrog them in the table. With Kim Ho-young stressing in the early season that he would adopt a different style to last year that saw Gwangju finished sixth, the 51-year-old needs points on the board to justify his approach.

1 - Favourable Home Fixtures 

Before the end of August Gwangju will host Gangwon, Incheon United, Jeju United and Seongnam twice. This run includes five fixtures in which they will not face a team currently ranked higher than sixth and hosting the Magpies on two occasions, who many in Jeollanamdo feel are the ones to catch. While Gwangju have only won two of their nine home games this season (both coming within three days of each other in April), the Yellows have only lost a game at home by more than a one-goal margin to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Coming out on the wrong side of a seven-goal thriller with Suwon Samsung Bluewings was sandwiched by two spirited draws against Jeju United and FC Seoul in their last three home outings.

Up next are Gangwon, who Gwangju last tasted victory against in Chuncheon thanks to Lee Han-do’s late header. Reis demonstrated his crossing quality here, a trait which extends throughout the team with Gwangju ranking second in K1 for cross accuracy. Just three points behind the Bears, leapfrogging them in the table and coming off the bottom could provide a huge psychological boost to Kim Ho-young’s squad.

2 - Jump Start Johnathan

Johnathan celebrating a goal against Gwangju in 2017 

While they will be without electric winger Um Won-sang for the next few weeks due to Olympic involvement, Johnathan’s arrival is a coup that could lift the fans around their shiny new stadium. Netting 27 in all competitions for Suwon Samsung Bluewings in 2017, Johnathan has plenty of suitors on the peninsula since his arrival at Daegu and prolific two seasons from 2014. 

Kim Ho-young really needs his new goal threat to start firing from the off. Johnathan should settle into Jeolla life quickly being used to how the K League operates and linking up with former Bluewings teammates Kwak Kwang-sun and Kim Jong-woo. A record of 25 goals in 34 K League 1 games is up there with the best. While not seeing much pitch time last year in the Chinese Super League, he did enjoy good form in 2019. The 31-year-old is also set to visit both of his old stomping grounds before the split in Round A/B and would likely receive a warm welcome from both should fans be in attendance. 

3 - A Change in Style Imminent?

The statistics suggest that failing to freshen things up from Gwangju’s tendency to hit balls long to a number nine would see Gwangju relegated without a whimper. The departure of Felipe also gives Kim Ho-young little choice than to change tact. With a K League record like Johnathan's, it would be foolish not to play to his strengths. Some stats show promise from Gwangju's 2021 season so far, ranking first for interceptions and second for shots blocked. However, first for aerial duels is not as noteworthy with Gwangju 11th for success in those duels. They have also given the ball away more than any other K League 1 side this season.

Manager Kim has found a settled midfield three but perhaps needs to loosen the reins slightly. Kim Won-sik and Han Hee-hoon especially have been good signings for the yellows but neither are the most natural passers of the ball and tend to increase the turnover rate in midfield, preferring to get involved in the physical side of the game rather than putting their foot on the ball. It’s ok trying to get the ball to Gwangju’s young attacking talent as soon as possible for them to create, but an average age of 21 across the front line before Johnathan’s arrival is bound to be inconsistent. It's clear to see that there is a lot resting on the Brazilian's shoulders.

 FNR

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