We’re back with another tactical look at a K League game. This time we’re looking at Suwon FC’s first home K League Classic match as they took on Seongnam FC. For the second week in a row, Seongnam took on a Suwon side (they beat Suwon Samsung 2-0 last week), and there was a little something on the line for this one as city mayors Lee Jae-myung (Seongnam) and Yeom Tae-young (Suwon) had made a friendly wager prior to the match – the losing side had to fly their rival city’s flag atop their stadium. Who came out on top? And why?
(more after the jump)
Starting Formations and Players
Both sides made a couple minor changes from the teams that started their opening day match last week.
Suwon FC had Lee Jae-an up top with Kim Jae-woong on the left and Lee Seung-hyun on the right. Yoon Tae-soo and Lee Kwang-jin were in midfield ahead of Kim Keun-hwan who acted as the holding midfielder. Park Han-won and Lee Jun-ho were the fullbacks with the foreign duo of Vladan and Adrian Leijer in central defense. Park Hyung-soon was in goal.
Hwang Ui-jo was the lone center forward for Seongnam. Tiago and Park Yong-ji were on the wings with Pitu operating as a nominal 10. Ahn Sang-hyun was the holding midfielder with Kim Do-heon playing a sort of deep-lying playmaker role next to him. Jang Hak-young and Lee Tae-hee were the fullbacks with Kim Tae-yoon and Yun Young-sun the centerbacks. Kim Dong-jun was the goalkeeper.
Suwon FC = Aggressive
The single most striking thing about this match was the aggressiveness of Suwon FC. Admittedly I didn’t see a whole lot of them last season in the Challenge (other than the two-legs against Busan in the playoffs), but it seems like they’ve taken their pressing and aggressiveness to another level early on this year. The forwards and midfield were relentless in their pressing of Seongnam’s midfield and defense throughout the game. The tactic was highly effective and caused Seongnam a lot of problems.
Not only were the aggressive on defense, but they were also very aggressive in attack. When they got the ball, they rarely passed it around sideways or backwards and often went straight forward. They were not a route 1 direct attacking side, as the passes went through the midfield to the wide attackers to the forward, but they didn’t hesitate to push forward whenever they got the ball.
A simple way to explain Suwon FC may be to describe them as the anti-FC Seoul. Seoul tends to play a very organized, low press defense and a slow, patient attack. Suwon presses high and hard, and the attack is fast and direct.
Seongnam struggles against the press
Faced with a press that denied the ball carrier time and passing options, Seongnam really struggled to string passes together. In the end they often just humped it up to Hwang Ui-jo and hoped that he could make something happen. Unfortunately for Seongnam, Hwang Ui-jo definitely had an off day, and he often lost it or the ball was passed into a non-threatening area.
Similar to the analysis last week of Jeonbuk-Seoul, Seongnam failed to adjust to the press through more ball support (as Seoul did as well). Instead, as mentioned earlier, they simply went route 1 which ultimately didn’t work.
Suwon’s fluid midfield
The other notable thing about Suwon was how much positional interchanging there was in their four midfielders (Kim Jae-woong, Yoon Tae-soo, Lee Kwang-jin, and Lee Seung-hyun). The first three in particular were constantly interchanging positions in order to press and receive the ball. Lee Seung-hyun switched positions less often as he was primarily responsible for supporting Lee Jae-an in attack. Also once Yoon Tae-soo was replaced by Kim Byung-oh late in the first-half there was less switching as Kim Byung-oh stayed high and wide to stretch the Seongnam defense.
Speaking of the substitute, Kim Byung-oh was probably the key change in the game. Before his introduction, Suwon had been decent, but they really hadn’t created many notable chances. Real chances were still rare after his introduction, but he offered something different for Suwon. A wide player who was willing and capable of stretching the Seongnam defense with pace and running. His first-time finish for Suwon’s equalizing goal was also rather nice.
Final thoughts on Suwon FC
It was interesting to watch Suwon FC in an non-emotional role for a change. Their base tactics and ideas are quite different from the majority of K League teams in terms of their pressing and aggressiveness. Given that most teams will struggle against the Suwon press, it’s not impossible to see them surviving this season. However, it was also apparent that Suwon’s individual technical level was not that high. Suwon will certainly need Jaime Galivan and Marvin Ogunjimi to get their acts together and integrated into the team if they want to survive. Suwon is full of hard-workers and runners, but as we saw a couple years back with Sangju, draws aren’t enough to keep you in the Classic.
Final thoughts on Seongnam
A disappointing match for Seongnam, and really it’s hard to draw any positives from it. Hwang Ui-jo was invisible, Tiago’s goal was extremely fortunate, and Kim Do-heon wasn’t able to really create anything. The only positive is that they got a point from the game. While Kim Hak-beom has done an admirable job at Tancheon, these kind of matches seem to show his (and the team’s) limits. At half-time changes in how the team played and dealt with the press should have been made, yet Seongnam seemed to do nothing different. Hwang Ui-jo was also extremely disappointing as his touch was poor and he offered virtually nothing in terms of movement or fight. Perhaps though credit should be given to Vladan and Leijer who seemed to firmly have him in their pocket.
Final thoughts on the match
Another match decided by the defensive tactics of a team. Suwon’s press thoroughly disrupted Seongnam’s attacking rhythm while their high-paced attack disrupted their own chances. Seongnam seemed far too reliant on individual moments from Hwang Ui-jo or Tiago (and to a lesser extent Kim Do-heon or Park Yong-ji) to make the difference while Suwon seemed to lack an individual who had the quality to make a difference. The result was the draw and it was a fair result on the balance of play.