Hwang Inbeom: K-League’s Teenage Magician

Daejeon Citizen, for all its flaws, has been able to crank out and be the home of talented young players over the years. Think of Rim Changwoo coming to life in Daejeon while on loan and playing a vital part in the 2014 Asian Games winning U-23 side. Seo Myeongwon, the “Super Rookie”, who with Adriano was vital to Daejeon’s promotion in 2014, earning him a transfer this year to Ulsan Hyundai (though he languishes in reserves without a loan…). But the latest sensation is 19 year-old Hwang Inbeom, who with his vision, skill and passing ability has won the heart of Daejeon fans and is without a doubt the most talented teenager in the K League.

Where did he come from?
Hwang Inbeom is Daejeon born and bred, a real success story for Daejeon Citizen’s middle and high school affiliates. Spotted for his talent at an early age, he attended Yuseong Middle School before joining Daejeon’s U-18’s at Chungnam Mechanical Technical High School. As captain of that High School’s team, he made the 2014 Adidas K League Junior Season Best 11 before signing officially for Daejeon’s senior squad in 2015.

2015 Season
Although Hwang made his senior debut in Daejeon’s 5-0 loss against Jeju on March 21st, he wasn’t given many opportunities until the club was hit by a flurry of injuries and fell into managerial crisis. On May 30th, caretaker boss Michael Kim handed Hwang his second start against the Pohang Steelers in the attacking midfield position. He controlled the midfield well and was impressing already before opened his goal scoring account:

With that strike, Hwang became Daejeon’s youngest goal scorer in its history at 18 years, 253 days old. He settled in really nicely under new manager Choi Moonsik, scoring again against Seoul, Seongnam and Jeonbuk during that summer before his breakout season came to a crashing halt against Jeonnam on July 12th when he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

2016 Season
This season, Hwang took a few games to get going, probably because of Daejeon’s early woes as well as him just keeping to get himself back into the zone after a long time away from competitive matches. He’s started 14 of Daejeon’s 17 matches this year and has not disappointed. He announced his return with a wonderful dribbling goal against Anyang on May 5th:

Although in Daejeon’s 4-3-3 system he’s expected to create as opposed to scoring himself, and his transition away from a purely central role (Kim Byeongseok playing as central DM for a more physical midfield) might have taken a small edge off of the influence of his creativity. He’s also in less goal scoring positions than before, with wider players expected to cut in from the final third almost all the time in lieu of letting Hwang constantly attempt the through ball. That being said, Hwang has adapted well, playing dangerous diagonal balls from deep to stretch opposition defenses both diagonally and laterally as well as providing Daejeon with the unpredictable, ball-retaining midfield spark they need. The result is visible in points as well. Daejeon have lost six times this season, but they have only lost once when Hwang starts.

Obviously the most important thing Hwang will get out of this season is consistent playing time, and we all know how vital that is to young players’ success. If he can go all year injury-free then he will have a strong case to make for signing with a better club, though a part of me wants Hwang to stay at Daejeon and become the “franchise player” some media have dubbed him to be. So really, how good is he?

Attributes
Hwang’s most obvious attribute is his sublime first touch and unworldly ability to use skill to get out of situations in which he’s closed down to open up the midfield. If you give Hwang more than an inch of space in tight areas he will use it to his advantage. For 19 years old, Hwang plays with incredible swagger and confidence when attempting skill.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

When employed deeper, Hwang Inbeom is smart at spotting runners in space and this season he’s being asked to play more of a deep lying playmaker role for Daejeon. His long range passing is excellent and can only get better. You also don’t want to take a heavy touch around him as he will clean up the loose ball, pull players to him, effortlessly dribble past them and get the ball into space. Hwang’s also the first man you want on the ball on a counter attack, because he will make something happen.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

When employed higher up the pitch, Hwang Inbeom’s sublime dribbling – the ball seems glued to his feet at times – can terrorize opposition defenses. He’s also got an eye for a throughball and pinpoint precision in that respect as well. Obviously. He’s not even human.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

Weaknesses
Well, Hwang is still 19 years old, and obviously any player at that stage in their career still has some developing to do. If there’s one aspect of his game he needs to work on, it’s physicality. Hwang will turn nothing into something but if he’s ever engaged in a physical battle where he’s properly closed down, he will cough up the ball. There’s not too many parallels in his game with Kim Bokyung, but he reminds me of a Kimbo being shoved around in the Championship and Premier League at times.

That being said, Hwang is very talented for a simple 19 year old and you can only hope he continues to ameliorate his game in all aspects. He’s certainly got great potential. I mean you don’t just do this to Jeonbuk if you haven’t.

Somehow, this talented trickster has gone pretty much unnoticed by the Korean national team youth set-up, but with preparations of the 2017 Asian Games soon to commence (following the Olympics), the most talented teenager in the K League will undoubtedly feature in a dynamite midfield set-up alongside Han Chanhee, Paik Seungho (who can both play in this slightly older age group) and others. For more Hwang Inbeom, check out these links:

What a f*cking talent. And y’all have Daejeon to thank for it. ūüėČ

Note: remember, in a few hours, Shin Taeyong will name his 18-man roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics! The Tavern will have full coverage beginning at 9pm EST, 10am KST.

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The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?