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2023 Preview: Can Suwon Samsung Bluewings Climb From the Bottom of the Mountain?


Suwon Samsung Bluewings will brush off the dust from their 2022 K League 1 campaign and will look forward to a new, clean slate. Suwon managed to survive in the K League 1 by the closest of margins, thanks to a 120th-minute Oh Hyeon-gyu goal in the second leg of the promotion/ relegation game against FC Anyang. The goal saved them from penalties and potentially a season in the K League 2. 

However, that was then and this is now and with the 2023 season just around the corner, have Suwon turned a corner and prepared themselves for this season? Michael Redmond looks at what has changed over the winter and what to expect from The Cheong-Baek-Jeok (The Blue, White, and Reds) in this anticipated season. 

Big Changes at the Blue Bird 

The biggest news that has come out of Suwon in the offseason was the departure of Oh Hyeon-gyu to Scottish champions Celtic. The five-year deal sees the 21-year-old leave Suwon after seven years with the club. It all started in 2014 in the youth system for the forward which included 18 months in the army side Sangju/Gimcheon Sangmu. 

The loss of Hyeon-gyu is a major blow for Bluewings. He was their top goal scorer with 13 goals last season and really came into form during the post-split Final B. As stated before, it was his 120th-minute goal which saved Suwon from the embarrassment of relegation. 

Suwon also let go of a number of players including Elvis Saric, Manabu Saito, and Sebastian Grönning to name a few. 

Oh Hyeon-gyu scores for Suwon Samsung Bluewings to keep them in the K League 1

With that being said, Suwon have been busy replacing these departures. Maxwell Acosty, the man who scored against Suwon in that game with FC Anyang, makes the move to the Big Bird. Acosty spent three seasons with FC Anyang and scored 20 goals in 73 games for them. A forward with a keen eye for goal, understands the K League and is looking for a step up from K League 2 football. 

Other changes see Kim Bo-kyung move from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to Suwon. The veteran player has won all there is to win in Korea with Jeonbuk and has had run-outs with Ulsan Hyundai, Kashiwa Reysol and was even promoted with Cardiff City in the 2012/2013 season. Kim was a big part of the Jeonbuk set-up last year and Suwon fans will hope to see him recreate his form in a blue shirt. 

Outside of Korea, Suwon brought in Rodrigo Bassani from Figueirense FC who ply their trade in the third tier of the Brazilian football pyramid, Série C. The attacking midfielder managed two goals in 29 games for the side last season and is an outside-of-the-box signing for Suwon. 

It Has To Get Better Than This, Right?

It was only back in 2019 that Suwon Bluewings were lifting the FA Cup on a cold November day. Since then, Suwon have managed to finish in the bottom half of the league in two out of the last three seasons. It was last year when they went to the wire and were almost relegated. In a country which has many shocks in the ACL, K League, and FA Cup, relegation for Suwon would have been the biggest one in history. 

This is a team that in the past were challenging for the K League year in and year out. They have won the ACL two times, the K League four times, and the FA Cup five times, joined with Jeonbuk with the most wins ever. This is a side that fans believe should not be hanging on in the K League 1 year in and year out. 
Can Maxwell Acosty make an impact in a Suwon Samsung Bluewing's shirt?

Their fanbase is one of the best followed in the country with away tickets being sold out for multiple games. They wish for the return of their Asian competition playing Bluewings. With this being said, 2023 is going to be so important for the team. They will need to bounce back from their poor 2022 if they are to restore belief to their fans. 

Suwon Bluewings were once giants of the K League and they have become a side that other teams do not fear anymore. The side needs to bring back a fear of playing them when they roll into town or when teams visit the Big Bird.

Lee Byung-keun's Team

Once a player for Suwon Bluewings from 1996-2006. Lee Byung-keun took over from Park Kun-ha in April of last year. Park managed only one win in the first nine games in the 2022 season and was released of his duties. This is Lee's second stint as manager at the club as he was the assistant from 2013-2018 and was the caretaker manager for two months between August and October 2018. 

Lee Byung-keun will manage Suwon Samsung Bluewings again for the 2023 K League 1 season.

Byung-keun's record last season saw him manage 34 Suwon games, with 13 wins, 8 draws, and 13 losses. This record has to improve if he is to really revive this team. With that being said, the 2023 season will be his team and he will be able to apply his style of football and bring in players who he wants to wear the famous blue shirt. 


FNR


Is Final A Too Much to Ask?

Looking at this Suwon squad this year. They lost their top goal scorer and have not really brought in too many signings to turn heads. Kim Bo-kyung is a great addition to the side and Acosty will fit well into the team. However, the question will be asked of Suwon if they are able to compete with the teams around them who are investing heavily in their squads.

Suwon were lucky to survive the drop last season and sometimes lightning doesn't strike twice. They will need to bring it back to basics and play for the badge if they are to have any chance of not ending in Final B for the split come October. 

As stated before, Suwon Bluewings are a giant team in the K League with a rich history. Fans expect better from this side and they hope that this new year will bring new hope. 

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