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scouting

Gwangju's young guns look to ruffle Jeonbuk feathers

Recording their first win in 172 days against Daegu FC on Wednesday night, Gwangju look to make it a six-point week against unbeaten Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Peter Hampshire details some reasons why the champions should be wary in the Honam derby.

Delight in Daegu

Felipe played his first minutes of the 2021 season
Gwangju's xG (Expected Goals) went up from 0.09 against Suwon Samsung Bluewings to 1.16 against Ulsan Hyundai. Despite losing both by a 1-0 score line, that improvement came to fruition as the Yellows took advantage of Daegu's shaky defence and poor start to the season. After the Sky Blues' Kim Jin-hyeok netted in his third consecutive game, Gwangju took control with Kim Ju-gong and Kim Jong-woo putting them ahead at the break. Lee Han-do's header and Eom Won-sang's tap-in put some gloss on the result in the final five minutes as Daegu pushed forward to equalise.

In pre-season, new Gwangju boss Kim Ho-young told the Namdo Ilbo: "Gwangju football has changed. Park Jin-sub's style and mine are different. My footballing philosophy is clear and the players are getting used to it." Perhaps it will take further time for the players to truly adapt to Kim's changes but there's no bigger test than a forward line of Gustavo, Stanislav Iljutcenko or Kim Seung-dae this coming Saturday. The latter two were preferred by Jeonbuk manager Kim Sang-sik in a 4-4-2 last time out as the Green Warriors fortuitously notched a 93rd-minute winner at home to Gangwon. In reality, Gwangju are getting by with their third and fourth choice centre backs from last season, although they are an experienced pairing in Lee Han-do and Han Hee-hoon.

                                    [LISTEN: KLU's Round 2 Recap Podcast]

2020 Classics

Gustavo levelled to make it 3-3 in Gwangju last season

06/2020: Jeonbuk 1-0 Gwangju
09/2020: Gwangju 3-3 Jeonbuk
10/2020: Jeonbuk 4-1 Gwangju

Jeonbuk's last journey south in this fixture showcased the best and the worst of 2020 Gwangju under Park Jin-sub. Eom Won-sang and Lim Min-hyeok were unplayable that day as a frantic first half saw the sides enter the interval two-a-piece. Eom's electric pace helped Gwangju go ahead but they were denied an infamous win by Gustavo's strike. Han Kyo-won scored in all three games between the two sides last season but fortunately for Gwangju it appears he will miss out this weekend due to a niggling injury.

After a couple of defensively-minded performances in Gwangju's opening two rounds, Kim Ho-young seemed to loosen the shackles against Daegu and reaped the rewards with four goals on the road. With Jeonbuk's weakest area in terms of depth being at full back again this season, it will be interesting to see whether Gwangju can again enjoy success down the flanks. The Yellows also received a boost in seeing Felipe come off the bench in his recovery from a calf injury to play 30 minutes. Incidentally, Jeonbuk were one of the few teams to stop the Brazilian finding the net in the Hana 1Q K League 1 last season.

Eom at the Double

Eom Ji-sung celebrating victory at Daegu
At 18-years-old, Eom Ji-sung still has a few years left in the tank as an U-22 option for Gwangju and his three cameo performances this season have so far suggested that he could come to emulate fellow winger Eom Won-sang's trajectory as a key player in the future. With the elder Eom entering his final season of U-22 eligibility, it seemed a bit of a coup for the Yellows to retain such a valuable and potent attacking option. Both combined for Gwangju's fourth on Wednesday night as Eom Ji-sung struck a fierce, dipping strike from the edge of the box, tipped onto the bar by Daegu keeper Choi Young-eun before Eom Won-sang bundled home from close range.
Looking at the new kid on the block in more detail, Eom Ji-sung has played just 57 minutes in his three substitute appearances this season, although has looked a threat in that limited time, especially when taking advantage of a rattled Daegu defence. Having scored in the U-17 World Cup for South Korea in 2019, his direct running at pace may draw comparisons to his namesake Eom Won-sang, but early performances show that he could possess more potency and calmness in front of goal. While only completing 13 minutes against Ulsan Hyundai in his last home outing, Eom had a 100% completion rate in his few passes and crosses. He is also the second-youngest player to appear in K League this season, behind FC Seoul's 17-year-old winger Kang Seong-jin.

FNR

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