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2023 Season Review: Ansan Greeners


The Green Wolves had a terrible season yet somehow managed to end on a bizarre high. It masks however some major dark clouds on the horizon.

Winners in Defeat: Ansan's Bitter 2023 Triumph

The final day of the 2023 K2 season threw up an exciting finale as Busan IPark looked set to return to the K1 as league champions. Despite Gimcheon winning at home to Seoul E-Land, Busan were leading one - nil going into the final moments, until Jorge Luiz equalised in the 90th minute for Chungju. It was a bitter end to a fantastic season (later exacerbated by their extra-time play-off loss to Suwon FC). 

Two hours earlier in Seongnam, Ansan Greeners fans turned up at the Tancheon to see their team one more time in the worst season of any Ansan professional club on record. It looked to be an afternoon to cap a torrid season of off-field controversy and on-field disappointment with the Magpies already inflicting two defeats on the Green Wolves in 2023. What would unfold would provide a bizarre contrast to events in Busan, and highlights just why fans stick with their team through the highs and lows, or lows and slightly less lows in Ansan's case.

Yun Ju-tae would be one of the few stand-out players for Ansan in 2023.

12th is the New First

The Green Wolves started the final match day rock bottom, three points adrift of K2 newbies Cheonan, with a worse goal difference. Cheonan were at Ansan's Line 4 Derby rivals, whose own campaign had faded out with the play-offs out of reach. The Greeners looked set to gain a new ignominious record... the first K2 side to finish 13th. However, What unfolded in Seongnam showed why football throws up such thrilling scenarios in the most unlikely places. 

Seongnam threw everything at the game, with former Greener Gabriel putting in a lively and passionate performance. Ansan however took an unexpected lead 10 minutes in threw industrious midfielder Choi Han-sol. Seongnam proceeded to pepper Lee Seung-bin's goal, the keeper producing a YouTube real of world-class saves to keep the Greeners in front. A slow walkoff by Jeong Ji-young as part of a multi-substitution saw Seongnam's Sun Yu attempt to 'speed-up' their exit with a sharp shove to one of the Greeners' in the back, and subsequently receive a booking. Despite this, Yun Ju-tae produced a fine goal from a breakaway, launching an unstoppable distance shot past veteran keeper Kim Young-kwang. Yun subsequently raced to the bench to grab a phone and snap a selfie with the away fans in a celebration more akin to scoring the winner in a cup final than potentially avoiding finishing bottom of the league. With Anyang doing Ansan a favour by beating Cheonan 2-1, the Greeners climbed off the foot of the table, by virtue of more goals scored across the season. 

It cannot gloss over a disastrous season at the Wa, however, the celebrations by the players and the fans post game provided one of those moments that football uniquely throws up. All the long journeys across the country, the heavy defeats, and general misery of following the Greeners this season all seemed to be washed away in the euphoria of simply finishing 12th. Busan's fantastic season ended in despair, while Ansan's disastrous season ended in joy. Relativity is everything in following football, and there are few better examples than this bizarre juxtaposition.

Lim Kwan-sik could not turn Ansan's fortunes around after his appointment mid-season.

 Managerial Merry-go-round

In what has become a repeat theme at the Wa Stadium, Ansan replaced their manager mid-season, after a brief period with an interim. This time however, off-field controversy involving manager Lim Jeong-heon led to his eventual resignation in June. Lim Kwan-sik was eventually appointed in August, however fortunes did not change. With Lim Jeong-heon's departure not necessarily being related to on-field performance the poor performances of the team under both regimes do not bode well for the side next season.


P

W

D

L

F

A

Pts

GD

PPG

Lim J. H.

15

2

4

9

14

27

10

-13

0.666667

Interim

9

2

1

6

8

17

7

-9

0.777778

Lim K. S.

12

2

2

8

18

28

8

-10

0.666667

As can be seen in the table, both managers emerged with the same point per game rate, in fact, the team performed marginally better in the interim period. However, a more expansive set-up did result in the Green Wolves scoring more goals, albeit also conceding a lot in some quite epic games, including a last gasp 4-3 victory at Seoul E-Land, and a disastrous 3-7 defeat at home to Gimcheon. In the six games from late September to early November, Ansan scored 14 goals, yet managed to also ship 21 in the process. 

Gabriel after scoring on the opening day against Seongnam, the club he would later join mid-season.

All Out

While 2022 was not a season to remember, there were still some stand-out performers for the Green Wolves, but almost all of these departed in the close season. This included the departure of high-profile imports Asnawi and Duarte, who were reportedly part of Ansan's long-term plans before being moved on in an apparent budget reduction. Kim Min-ho departed and formed part of a fantastic Gimpo team, while Choi Geon-joo, a player Ansan fans had watched break into the team departed. Most of Ansan's defensive line, and also their goals were gone and as evidenced by the outcome of the season, not replaced. In a further show of off-field issues, Brazilian import Gabriel, who was one of the stars of the early season departed mid-season to Seongnam. Ansan lost much of their identity, both through play style and also as a team fielding the most foreign players. The foreign player identity was partially a powerful narrative for a city with a large non-Korean population, and the team itself seemed well set-up for this with Thiago commenting in an interview earlier in the season: that the communication barrier was huge but on tactical drilling in training and the coaching staff set-up allowed the foreign players to overcome this. Thiago also cited his relationship with the club for carrying on into a second season, so his phasing out mid-season highlight even more the identity discord at the club. If the team is to avoid further drifting, they need to readdress what the team is, and reforge and identity in order to move forward. 

Thiago in action against Seoul E-land. He would vanish from the match-day squad later in the season.

Korea's Number One

One player who was reatined was Lee Seung-bin who once again proved himself the top goalkeeper in the K League 2. Ansan's poor defence left Seung-bin with the highest number of saves per game in the K2 this season, while also having an average of 2 goals conceded. Game after game however he proved to be the sides standout player, and it will remain a point of discussion just how far he could have gone in the game had he accepted a move to the K1. Several others managed to stand-out, with Yun Ju-tae coming to the fore later in the season with 9 goals (10th most in the league), Choi Han-sol proving to be an effective force in the midfield, Kim Yeong-nam being a cool head in a similar position, and also Kim Beom-su providing some excitement with his attacking energy.

Lee Seung-bin after denying former Greener Duarte from the penalty spot in March.

The Defanging

The off-field managerial controversies cast a cloud over the club, and ultimately resulted in a hefty fine by the K League for mismanagement. Alleged budget issues resulting in the departure of so many of the highest profile players earlier in the year looks set to be repeated as the city is set to reduce the budget by approximately 31% ahead of 2024. Having finished on level points with the bottom club, and the preparation to introduce relegation in future seasons, Ansan's future looks very bleak.







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