This mid-week was quite interesting. All four K League representatives in the Asian Champions League either won or draw (against some tough opponents too!) while Baek Seung Ho and Lee Seung Woo helped Barcelona fight back 3-1 after finding themselves behind early on. Video highlights and notable takeaways to follow:
The first ACL match was Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. FC Tokyo, where Jeonbuk won 2-1. Jeonbuk played very well and the goals were quite legit – but the real star here was Kim Bo Kyung. Where the hell had he gone? He was doing literally everything, from linking up passes, tackling, attacking… man.
Seoul v. Buriram closely followed the Jeonbuk match, and it was all too easy as they cruised 6-0, Adriano scoring 4 of them, almost all of which came from beating the offsides trap. It’s too sad my boys Lim Min Hyeok and Kim Jung Hwan weren’t even called up 🙁
Earlier today (for you EST folks), Suwon Samsung drew a very tough opponent in Gamba Osaka. I thought Gamba would win this one, but Suwon actually came out super dominant and from highlights at least, certainly outplayed Gamba. Both teams, interestingly enough, hit the post. I was very happy to hear that the opponent manager singled out Kwon Chang Hoon as having played very well. I was even more happy after reading that Kim Gun Hee left a very strong impression on his Suwon debut. Stielike was present – will we see the Suk – Hwang – Hwang – Gunny striking quartet called up for the meaningless qualification matches upcoming in March? (Aside: I hope Stielike calls up a K League XI for those matches)
The other game earlier today was Pohang Steelers. Now Pohang are a strong team but I was certain they’d lose today because their opponent was none other than Guangzhou Evergrande. But they managed to draw!
Meanwhile, Baek SH and Lee SW made their UEFA Youth League debuts and they played very well:
Who played better, you may ask? Comparing the two is difficult. Some say that LSW was better as he produced some eye catching fast runs and scored the 2-1 goal in the 90th minute, but it is true that he made some errors and lost the ball at times. Meanwhile, Baek also made some good dribbles – he’s not as fast or as flashy as Lee – but he was very calm and hardly put in a wrong foot. After all they are different players – you can’t really say who outperformed the other.
Goddamn, that sheer determination and strength from Baek Seung Ho is amazing. Such coolness on the ball too. You can kind of tell that he hasn’t played competitively in a while because the way he dribbles sometimes seems non purposed and just a way to avoid tackles, in saying that, I’m very excited by the way he plays.
So much attention was on Jeonbuk as they’ve swept up major talents from within the K-League and adding to their already strong depth. There were expectations and questions as how the chemistry would play out. Moreover, concerns loomed as defender Kim Kihee was transferred to CSL few days before their opening match at the ACL.
I was delighted to see LB Park Won-jae playing well on the pitch again, after having recovered from thyroid cancer. RB Kim Chang-soo was a bit questionable for me, but it’s probably too early to judge. I do have to point out that he was badly positioned at the time of Abe’s goal. Hopefully the competition between him and Choi Chul-soon will have a positive impact. CB Lim Jong-eun is a good defender, who, theoretically should make a good combination with Kim Hyung-il. Kim is a tough defender with good man-to-man skills whereas Lim is more of a commander-type a bit like how Hong Myung-bo used to play. Lim didn’t seem at his best on the opener game, but hopefully he brings himself up to form and repeats the success he had at Seongnam FC.
Aussie DMF Erik Paartalu joined Jeonbuk a few weeks ago, and played fairly well for his first game in green. The DMF spot was a crucial position to fill during the transfer window. This is the “1” position in Jeonbuk’s 4-“1”-4-1 formation. He had nice passes, but showed lack of speed (not that that was expected of him). He will be a good attacking option in free kicks and corner kicks together with CB Kim Hyung-il and FW Kim Shin-wook. I wonder how well his backup Lee Ho will play this season, but hopefully we won’t have to find out.
Kim Bo-kyung showed class as mentioned in the post, so I won’t get into it. Lopes continued to show good form he impressed with when he was with Jeju last season. Lee Jae-sung was also good as anyone would’ve expected. Lee just returned from his 3-week military training, so had very short hair which didn’t suit him. The interesting player that caught my attention was Ko Moo-yeol, a former Steelers attacker who couldn’t blossom in Pohang. Besides scoring the opening goal, he showed promising movement and raised expectations, to the (probably) mixed feelings of Pohang fans. Its like seeing a girlfriend you dumped dating a really hot guy. (Pohang, of course, didn’t “dump” Ko, but I think it would be a similar feeling nonetheless. If you’ve seen him play for Pohang, you know what I mean.) Lee Jong-ho got some time off the bench. He is a good player who joined the team from Jeonnam. Ulsan was going to pay him slightly more than what Jeonbuk offered, but he wanted to play in the ACL so joined Jeonbuk.
Lee Dong-gook – composed as usual, spectacular goal. Kim Shin-wook adds a lot of class to Jeonbuk offense, which would otherwise be a bit questionable. Will he be able to re-join Stielike’s squad based on his performance while at Jeonbuk? He certainly hopes so, and probably has a fair chance at it. At least within Asia, it’s very difficult to defend against Kim’s height even if you’ve read his movements.
Bench – I don’t expect Luiz to stay around much longer, one-year at most if not half that. I suspect GM Lee Chul-gun has plans to transfer Leonardo if a right price is offered. It may turn out to be a tough season for the side attacker Han Kyo-won as his playing time will most likely be greatly reduced. What’s more? Come September, Shin Hyung-min and Lee Seung-ki are returning to Jeonbuk after having served their duties.
What can concern Jeonbuk with so much depth? The lack of depth in U23 players. K League regulations rule that you need to have one U23 starting and one on the bench. Or else, you can only use 2 substitutions. Manager Choi Kang-hee already revealed that, for high-stake games, he will only use 2 substitutions. Among the handful of U23 players that are on the roster, playing time will only go to a select few like DF Kim Young-chan, MFs Lee Han-do and Jang Yoon-ho. Several players have aspirations to go to Europe after (or during) the season, so some change in squad is expected after season-end. Eduardo was rumored to replace Luiz in the summer, but we’ll see if it realizes.
There were some questions raised as to why in the world Manager Choi Kang-hee would replace Lim Jong-eun with Leonardo in the last minutes of the game with only a 1-goal lead. I think this will be a repeated style of managing the game throughout the season, and more so at home. It’s a valid tactic to double up on what you do best instead of trying to enforce your weakness, especially if there are questions as to how well you can enforce your weakness. If Kim Hyung-il & Lim Jong-eun combo don’t improve, Choi Kang-hee will have to find answers. The defense line will be tested hard as Jeonbuk progresses through the ACL. Perhaps Choi Chul-soon can play in the DMF spot as he did in last year’s ACL and test out Paartalu in the CB position. As a LAST resort, Kim Shin-wook can be played as CB. (He was at one point in his career in the DMF role.) Many options in the offense, but much to think about in the defense.
Aha someone else who watched!
I agree pretty much with everything. DF raised some questions, KBK was amazing as was generally all the attacking players. Now Erik Paartalu.. I feel he could’ve done better. Maybe it was that ridiculous lack of speed that made me a little underwhelmed by his debut but often times I didn’t see him really tackle/win balls back..
As for lineup I was kinda surprised Leonardo was dropped but I guess CKH wanted to see how the new boys like KMY and Lopes do lol
Yup the U23 rule is going to be a bit of a headache for Jeonbuk since LJS will turn 24 soon…
FC Seoul…a.k.a FC GS a.k.a Bukpae (I’m going to make this one short…er…)
…is the only team expected to rival Jeonbuk in this season. Their depth don’t fall behind Jeonbuk much, if at all. Let’s reverse the order and start from the top. Adriano was to transfer to CSL before the season began, but things didn’t go well and the move was cancelled just before signing. Dejan – need I say more? Park Chu-young – everything he does seems to be extra-controversial, but let’s admit, he’s got some mad football senses. Yun Ju-tae didn’t even play the opener game, but remember he is the one that scored 4 goals at the most recent Super Match with Suwon Bluewings. (I guess we need to now always add Bluewings to differentiate with Suwon FC, which is also an interesting team!) The point is, you’ve got enough fire power on the offense.
Shin Jin-Ho and Takahagi are good players and their backups Yoon Il-rok and Lee Seok-hyun both have potential to be equally as good. Ju Se-jong, the former Busan CM, is a great addition to already talent-filled CM position. In Korea’s U23 squad, Gwangju’s Lee Chan-dong was the CM before he got injured and made way for Park Yong-woo, an FC Seoul U23 player. Kim Won-shik played as CB in the opening game, but he also belongs to the CM competition. Kim was one of the key players at Incheon last year. Recall that Incheon had an impressive season much to everyone’s surprise. Kim was a loaner from Seoul to Incheon. Incheon manager Kim Do-hoon wanted to keep Kim Won-shik, but Seoul manager Choi yong-su insisted he return.
The two wing positions should go deep when facing weaker teams, but will stay low when facing stronger ones. Kim Chi-woo is aging and will share the LW role with the U23 star Sim Sang-min. Go Yo-han can play on both sides and Ko Kwang-min will probably stay on the right side of things.
The big question for Seoul is defense, more specifically, the lack of speed in defense. Spaniard Osmar is Seoul’s new captain (after Park Chu-young denied Choi Yong-su’s appointment as the captain) and will be a good leader in defense. He played in all of Seoul’s games last season. (I think he played all minutes as well.) The question is how Choi will make up for the loss of Lee Woong-hee who left to Sangju to serve his military duty. Recall that Lee Woong-hee in 2015 was the replacement for Kim Ju-young in 2014. (Kim left to CSL after ’14.) Both are speedy players who make up for comparatively slower defenders. Seoul did add defenders to the squad (Jung In-hwan, Shim Woo-yeon, …) but I don’t think any of the new defenders can replace Lee Woong-hee’s role.
In the opener game with Buriram, the Seoul defense gave lots of chances away to Kaio. These scenes would’ve been avoided if one of the defenders were playing the role of Lee Woong-hee or Kim Ju-young. I know these misses all got buried as Kaio could not convert any of them to goals and eventually Seoul came out as 6-0 victors. But this problem may haunt Seoul when they face J1 CSL and other Classic teams.