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3 Reasons why Peres faces Busan breaking point


Heading into the season’s final stages, Busan IPark are in their worst form in the year. 2021 began with quiet optimism after the appointment of Ricardo Peres, but the Portuguese manager is coming under increasing pressure as Busan drift further from the playoff spots and edge closer to the foot of the table. Tomas Marcantonio takes a look at what’s gone wrong in recent weeks.


Summer Signings

On paper, Peres’ summer transfer business appeared shrewd. A right winger and a central midfielder were necessary additions, and experienced campaigners Renato Santos and Ryan Edwards seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Releasing veteran trio Kim Dong-woo, Kang Min-soo and Kim Byong-oh (the latter two having failed to appear for the club in 2021) also appeared to make sense. Unfortunately those decisions haven’t proved successful on the pitch. 

Ryan Edwards has been a bustling, energetic addition to the midfield, but his role in the side is not yet clearly defined. Against Gimcheon, he only completed nine passes in an hour before being replaced. Renato Santos, meanwhile, is full of neat touches, but he often struggles to get involved and very rarely looks like creating chances. 

Kim Jung-min signed from Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes.

The signing of 21 year-old midfielder Kim Jung-min, meanwhile, seems puzzling. After Edwards’ signing and Park Jong-woo’s return from injury, Busan looked well stocked in central midfield. With Kim Jin-kyu and Lee Sang-heon available as more advanced, creative midfielders, it remains unclear as to what Kim Jung-min might be expected to bring to the team. While he has undoubted potential (he made his full international debut a few days after turning 19), at the moment he looks exactly what he is – a young, developing midfielder who has hardly played football in the past two years. 

The decision to invest in another midfielder instead of a defender was a questionable one. After letting Kim Dong-woo and Kang Min-soo move to Suwon FC and Incheon United respectively, Peres was left with Valentinos Sielis as his only senior centre back. Valentinos’ potential defensive partners are now Hwang Jun-ho (23), Park Ho-young (22), and Kim Seung-woo (23), who between them only had 15 league starts before this season. While all have impressed in spells, particularly Hwang, all have also made errors leading directly to goals on more than one occasion. Peres’ faith in his young charges is admirable, but relying on so many fledgling players in one position seems naïve, especially with Busan’s poor defensive record in the first half of the season. 

Overall, the sad truth is that despite the pedigree of Peres’ new signings, Busan have looked a worse team since they’ve come into the side. Some will argue that new signings need time to bed in and shouldn’t be judged too rashly, but when players arrive with only a third of the season remaining, immediate impacts are essential.

Playing Style

At the start of the season, Ricardo Peres stated that he would implement the kind of football that Busan fans wanted to see. While Busan’s goalscoring record is solid, Peres’ brand of football simply isn’t all that entertaining to watch. 

In the final third, Busan often look slick. An Byong-jun’s link-up play with the likes of Park Jeong-in, Kim Jin-kyu, and Lee Sang-heon, all one-twos and clever movement, is Busan’s greatest asset. Unfortunately Busan rarely get the ball to the front three. 

Busan usually edge possession in matches, but that possession is largely confined to the centre backs and goalkeeper, who frequently exchange passes repeatedly before looking for a long ball out to the flanks. In the last match against Chungnam Asan, for example, keeper Ahn Joon-soo made more passes (34) than any of Busan’s midfield of Kim Jin-kyu (33), Edwards (26), and Park Jong-woo (31). In fact, the Busan keepers average twice as many passes per game than any other goalkeeper in the division: Choi Pil-su’s average is 29.4 while Ahn’s is 31.8, far higher than the 13-19 passes per game averaged by the league’s other keepers. 

Keeper Ahn Joon-soo signed from Japanese side Cerezo Osaka.

Build-up from the back is, to put it mildly, patient. 

Peres is a former goalkeeping coach, and he seems eager to bring innovation to the goalkeeping role. Almost every time Busan win possession, the ball finds its way back to the custodian, who is tasked with organising the formation of the team and then starting the move. It’s a slow process, and often frustrating to watch – especially when the ball gets recycled across the back line for long periods before invariably going straight out into touch.

Game Management

Busan IPark have the worst defence in the K League 2. They have especially struggled this year with late goals. In the last five games alone, they have conceded seven goals in the last 20 minutes of matches. This could come down to the mentality of the players; it is also due in part to the manager’s tactics. 

In last weekend’s game with Asan, Busan led 2-1 at half time. They played well in the first half, with Park Jong-woo’s tenacity and experience in midfield helping Busan to control the game, while Kim Jin-kyu was outstanding in an attacking midfield role, scoring the opening goal and looking lively and dangerous throughout. In the second half, Peres changed tactics. 

Park dropped deeper to form a back three, while Kim was shifted out wide. Suddenly Busan’s midfield was overwhelmed. Park’s move into defence granted Asan freer reign of possession in the final third, while Kim’s move to the wing stripped Busan of their key creative force. Soon it was one-way traffic.

Kim Jin-kyu's positional change made life easy for Asan.

Sitting back to defend a lead can be effective, but only if the defending team are set up for counter attacking. Busan were not. They offered virtually zero threat on the counter, and it seemed only a matter of time before Asan forced the equaliser. 

As the second half wore on, Peres withdrew Busan’s two best defenders: Valentinos Sielis and Park Jong-woo. Both have recently recovered from injuries, so the substitutions may have been necessary. Unfortunately, after the duo left the field, Asan scored twice to turn the game around and condemn Busan to their fourth defeat in five games. 

This wasn’t the first time Peres’ decisions and tactics have been questioned. Gimcheon’s resounding 6-0 win over Busan two weeks ago was no fluke – it was a tactical masterclass from Kim Tae-wan that left Peres looking simply out of his depth.

Conclusions

At the time of writing, Busan sit six points off the bottom of the table and sixteen points off top spot. Unless there is a drastic turnaround, Busan look on course for their lowest ever league finish (their previous lowest placing was in 2016, when they finished 5th in the second division). 

After last season’s relegation and an exodus of star talent like Kim Moon-hwan, Lee Dong-jun, and Romulo, this year was always going to be one of rebuilding. Peres’ investment in youth is a breath of fresh air in a league in which managers regularly start youngsters only to replace them after 25 minutes. He is charming, passionate, and meticulous. This is a long-term project, and these are the early days – but if results don’t change, how patient can the Busan board afford to be? 

Domagoj Drozdek has failed to score from 46 shots - including a missed penalty against Gimcheon.

While Peres has made some shrewd signings (An Byong-jun, Park Jeong-in, Choi Jun, Park Min-gyu), too many have flattered to deceive (Domagoj Drozdek, Ahn Joon-soo, Jung Hoon-sung, Kim Seung-woo). Of course it was expected that the opening weeks of the season would be trying as the team underwent significant change, and that over the course of the year results and performances would gradually improve. Unfortunately, both results and performances have gone backwards, and on current form Busan look more likely to finish bottom of the table than make the playoffs. 

There are still ten games of the season to play, and with a dearth of quality managerial options available in Korea at the moment, most fans would likely back Peres to see out his project at least until the end of the season. Unless there are sure signs of progress in the season’s final weeks, however, it’s unlikely that Busan supporters will support the Portuguese manager into the new year.

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