2015 K League Preview: Gwangju FC & Daejeon Citizen

Ok, so I merged these two articles together because there’s less to say on their history and I don’t want to go to in-depth for teams no one cares about. Except for Daejeon. Because they’re awesome. 

K LEAGUE PREVIEW: GWANGJU FC/DAEJEON CITIZEN by Tim Lee (@korfan12)

In the third edtion of K League Preview, I (Tim Lee) take a look at the two promoted sides from the K League Challenge to the K League Classic, defensive wall Gwangju FC and goal-scoring machine Daejeon Citizen.

CLUB NAME: GWANGJU FOOTBALL CLUB

City: Gwangju Metropolitan City
Stadium: Gwangju World Cup Stadium (44,118) (AKA Guus Hiddink Stadium)
Average 2014 Attendance: 1,344 (3rd in the 2nd tier)

Manager: Nam Ki-Il
Ownership: Gwangju Metropolitan City Government

Founded: 2011
K League Championships: 0
Korean FA Cups: 0

History
One of the newer sides in the K-League, Gwangju FC came to existence in the 2011 K-League season. Prior to this, the Sangmu (read: Army) team played its games in the city. After a relatively strong first season that saw them finish in 11th out of 16 teams, better than all but one city/province-owned teams, Gwangju were relegated in 2012 and, after a couple years of battle in the K League Challenge, the metropolitan city earned an opportune promotion after a chaotic end to the 2nd tier.

Gwangju’s youth academy (read: high school) is very storied as well. Their U-18 team tore up the U-18 League last season, finishing in first, and notable alumni from Geumho High School include Ulsan manager Yoon Jung-Hwan, Jeonbuk midfielder Lee Seung-Gi, and Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng.

Former Famous Players/Managers: Um no one who played in their first team

Guus Hiddink Stadium in Gwangju

2014 Season
2014 Result: 4th place in 2nd tier – Promotion/Relegation Playoff Win

While Daejeon were ripping up the second tier left and right, swatting away opposition like flies, Gwangju had a much slower start to their promotion campaign, and it was only a well-timed grandstand finish – 14 points in their last 6 games – that saw them earn the 4th place spot, enough for the promotion playoffs. There, their great form continued as they beat Gangwon and Ansan on the road and then K League Classic outfit Gyeongnam over two legs to earn promotion. Gwangju have developed somewhat of a reputation for being a defensive side – they conceded the lowest amount of the goals in the second tier last season, with 35, but were in the bottom half for goals scored.

Transfer Window
Gwangju have been very quiet in this transfer window for a team that needs to strengthen talent-wise to compete with the big boys. They have retained Brazilian Fabio Neves, who was their top scorer last season, and brought in forward Gilberto for outgoing Diego. Gwangju have made additions to their defense (arguably their strongest asset last season?!), signing key centre-back Jeong Jun-Yeon after he made 30 appearances for them on loan, Lee Eu-Ddeum, a leftback from Anyang to replace Lee Wan, and Ahn Young-Gyu, a versatile centre-back/defensive mid from Daejeon. But their achilles heal – scoring – hasn’t been dealt with, and the signings aren’t a step up talent-wise.

Players to Watch
FW Kim Ho-Nam was the playoff hero for Gwangju last season and without many reinforcements in attack (Gilberto’s signing is probably one-for-one to replace outgoing Diego), the 25-year-old winger will need to step things up. Gwangju will also hope from solid defensive performances from their back 4 as well as more creative play from 2014 top scorer Fabio Neves.

Playoff hero Kim Ho-Nam

Key to Success
TIDY DEFENDING, TIDY DEFENDING, TIDY DEFENDING: Not to get redundant here, but this was the only thing Gwangju excelled at last season. So naturally, this is their key to staying up – they must get fantastic defensive performances from a backline of of Lee Eu-Ddeum/Kim Young-Bin/Jeong Joon-Yeon/Lee Jong-Min. If they can get lucky on the counter or on a set piece, Gwangju could (not likely) pull off some upsets.

Prediction
Gwangju will need to be as good defensively as they were last season to stand a chance of staying up, and frankly, against difficult opposition, it could be a tricky task. Unless they add dangerous attacking reinforcements (which it doesn’t seem they really will), on loan or a foreign signing, I don’t see them being able to fight with the big boys until their youth players come to fruition on the professional level.

K LEAGUE RESULT: 12th (Auto Relegation)

Gwangju have possibly the meanest, most random schedule in the league. So many long stretches of home games or away games.
Gwangju have possibly the meanest, most random schedule in the league. So many long stretches of home games or away games. All times KST. Does not include R34-R38 of the K League Classic (after the split), promotion/relegation playoffs, Asian Champions League KO stages, KFA Cup games or the FIFA Club World Cup.

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TAVERN BREAK: Stielike ruffling some feathers

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“Uli Stielike, the head coach of South Korea’s national soccer team, has placed doubts on the Korean education system, suggesting that his team’s bland playing style during games may stem from the country’s rigid teaching model in childhood education.” (Source: KoreAm)

The full article by Steve Han here: http://iamkoream.com/uli-stielike-questions-korean-education-over-players-lack-of-creativity/

Back from the break? Made yourself a brew? Alright, let’s go. Part Two.

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CLUB NAME: DAEJEON CITIZEN FOOTBALL CLUB

DC! FC! DC! FC! DC! FC! 

City: Daejeon Metropolitan City
Stadium: Daejeon World Cup Stadium (40,535) (AKA Purple Arena)
Average 2014 Attendance: 3,197 (1st in the 2nd tier)

Manager: Cho Jin-Ho
Captain: Yoon Won-Il
Ownership: Daejeon Metropolitan City Government

Founded: 1997
K League Championships: 0*
Korean FA Cups: 1 (2001)
*2014 K League Challenge (2nd tier) Champions

The Purple Arena. Ahhh, the feels…

History
Daejeon Citizen are famous for being the first ever club to be owned not by a conglomerate but by the local government, with shares also being bought by fans. (How awesome is that?) They were founded in 1997 and finished 7th out of 10 teams in that season. Because of their small budget compared to the other company-owned teams, Daejeon has struggled mightily, often finishing around the basement of the table. There are exceptions, however, like the 2001 KFA Cup win, the 2003 top half finish and the 2007 championship playoff qualification. After relegation in 2013, Daejeon handily won the 2014 K-League Challenge (2nd tier) to earn promotion to the K-League Classic.

2014 Season
2014 Result: 1st place in 2nd tier – Automatic Promotion

Last season was fun for Daejeon fans (me!). Very fun. Granted, the Citizen were in the 2nd tier, but automatic promotion wasn’t a guarantee, and after a painful 4-1 loss to Suwon FC (the other Suwon team, not the Bluewings) in the opening game of the season, the Purple Crew went on extended undefeated streaks thanks to the excellence of Brazilian striker Adriano. The clinical finisher scored 27 goals in 32 games, single-handedly guiding Daejeon to the K-League Challenge title and automatic promotion.

WE WON SOMETHING!

Transfer Window
Daejeon have done relatively well (but this is me talking) in the transfer market this winter considering that they are a smaller-budget team. Losing defender Lee Ho (not to be confused with the other Lee Ho, signed with Jeonbuk) and midfielder Jeon Seok-Min was no fun, coupled with Asian Games hero Im Chang-Woo’s loan coming to an end. (Before publishing, I see they’ve also lost Ahn Young-Kyu, another important defender, to Gwangju.) However, they have managed to hang on to Adriano, extending him for one more season, as well as signing a number one keeper in Kim Da-Sol, the back-up at Pohang. They’ve also managed a couple good loans, that of Cho Won-Deuk from Suwon Bluewings, and youth prospect Lee Gwang-Hoon. Add another foreign player or two to the mix and this squad is well-balanced. There is perhaps a weakness in midfield, but Daejeon plays very directly anyways.

Former Famous Players/Managers: Kim Eun-Jung, Choi Eun-Seong, Kim Chang-Soo, Yoo Sang-Chul (as Manager)

Player to Watch
Erm, Adriano. He gave defenders a nightmare all season long in the second tier. His pace, excellent, smart runs, preciseness on one-on-ones, his confidence to just run at the centre-backs and ask the question “can you stop me?”, and oddly enough, his competitiveness in the air (for someone who’s 5ft 6!) give him all the attributes of the ideal K-League striker. Often, the Citizen would just hit long balls to the Brazilian import and the (usually taller) striker beside him, often Kim Chan-Hee, a very successful formula.

You know what, I’ll just stop explaining all his wizardry to you. Here’s a video.

Other Key Players: GK Kim Da-Sol (from Pohang), DF Yoon Shin-Young (from Jiangsu Sainty), MF Seo Myung-Won (Korea U-20’s)

Key to Success
ADRIANO – STAY IN FORM, K? ‘Nuff said. I might be giving such high praise for this player but it is fully deserved.

Prediction
I’m not under any illusions. The Purple Crew won’t be going on ridiculously long winning streaks like they were last season. But if Adriano can keep the same form as last season, and the defense shores up with a new centre-back pairing, Daejeon Citizen should be able to avoid relegation and live to fight another season in the top tier.

2015 DAEJEON CITIZEN SCHEDULE
All times KST. Does not include R34-R38 of the K League Classic (after the split), promotion/relegation playoffs, Asian Champions League KO stages, KFA Cup games or the FIFA Club World Cup.

K LEAGUE RESULT: 9th (Bias and waaaay too optimistic.)

Why is Daejeon staying up and not Gwangju?
Because Daejeon are awesome

I’m sorry I couldn’t make this post bias free, but I’ll try really hard in this section. Simply put, Gwangju’s overall squad quality is weaker than Daejeon’s, and it showed last year. Daejeon hit the ground running and the playing style was successful. Adriano clearly showed that he was heads and shoulders above the rest of the league. Gwangju, however, didn’t have anyone step it up. It was largely average all season long until the last few matchdays, where they snuck into 4th and won the playoffs. Also, if they had trouble scoring last year, I strongly doubt that this year is the one for them.

In the next edition of K League Preview, I take a look at the south eastern rivals, Ulsan Hyundai Tigers and Pohang Steelers (and the post will be shorter, I promise).

About Tim Lee 262 Articles

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

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