Here are your much awaited responses from Jae, Jinseok and Tim for the Tavern Mailbag. Read on to discover our answers to YOUR questions about the K League, Uli Stielike’s managerial reign so far, the Olympic team’s prospects and more.
1) Who do you think will be relegated from this season’s K-League Classic?
Jae: It’s hard to look past Incheon who’s time in the top-flight may be finally coming to an end. They don’t look as defensively solid as in year’s past and the attack has really sputtered. Of course, a couple (?) years ago they didn’t win for like 13 matches in a row and then went on a mini-run and survived comfortably, so who knows? Before the season I said Gwangju and Sangju, both are on 8 points at the moment. I think they’re both still candidates, but at the moment I’d say Incheon and possibly Jeonnam to drop down.
Jinseok: We said in our previous podcasts that if Incheon could sustain their defensive form, they would be just below the 6-6 split. But this season their 늑대축구 is breaking down completely, both in attack and defense. It’s too early to call but I think Incheon will drop almost for sure, and for the other slot…. perhaps
Tim: Incheon are in torrid form and are really mediocre all around. They haven’t really been giving themselves a chance after losing a pair of key defensive players and aren’t grinding out the results they need to. Plus there’s the whole saga of unpaid wages as well as the shambolic Luong Xuan Truong situation (playing in the R-League, merchandise not selling as hoped and the manager not knowing terms of his contract guaranteeing him first team time). 9 games in I’d say Incheon are favorites to drop. I trust Jeonnam to recover, but only under new management, because they look completely incoherent at the moment… I’m still betting on Sangju to enter the playoff. Defensively they’re very, very poor.
2) How far do you think will the korean teams fare in this year’s ACL?
Jae: I think Seoul has a chance to go deep, possibly even to the final again depending on how well they adjust to the loss of Shin Jin-ho and if they can keep their players healthy. Dejan and Adriano have gelled together well and Park Chu-young is producing a bit from the bench. The defense is a bit ‘eh’ at times, but it’s solid enough to get them past most teams. Jeonbuk could go deep as well if Choi Kang-hee can get his defense straightened out (which admittedly seems unlikely at the moment). Suwon probably out round of 16 or so (assuming they get out of the group – EDIT: which they haven’t.)
Jinseok: I think almost everyone has been calling for Seoul to make a deep run considering their ridiculous goalscoring record so far. Yet what we saw in the Hiroshima game is that Seoul lacks depth. Admittedly, 10 players were changed and that brings a completely different set of challenges (i.e. chemistry), but still, Seoul have a very defined XI and a predictable set of subs (PJY, Lee Seok Hyun, etc). That being said if the XI keeps performing all season injury free Seoul honestly have a shot at winning the whole thing. For Jeonbuk, if CKH can manage to settle into a starting XI without rotating 2-4 players every game, Jeonbuk can also go far into the tournament. But I still think Seoul is more likely to win the ACL – more defensively solid and more offensively solid than Jeonbuk so far.
Tim: I think both teams can go deep. With Guangzhou Evergrande knocked out in the group stages, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will hoist the trophy come the fall. Seoul is performing well and their system is really working for them as both writers have mentioned above. Of course, there are questions about their ability to show something different and the Hiroshima game was a really half-assed attempt at that (CYS just rotating everyone for the hell of it). That being said, their consistency has worked for them so far and if they keep it up, I expect that they can make a deep run. Semi-finals is a bare minimum. For Jeonbuk, who squeaked in on the final round, it’s a bit difficult to say. CKH seems to finally have set out a best eleven and if he’s dreaming of an ACL victory, he needs to 1) ensure consistency and a system that works 2) then try out light rotation/formation switches. Their approach to the beginning of this season was all wrong but if they can sort it out then they have the potential to go far.
Joon Kim writes:
3) Do you think there was an underlying fear or resentment towards promising un-Europeans with that whole Barcelona ban. I still struggle to justify how punishing what a club did by banning young players from playing competitive sport is actually a proper punishment. Seems so strange that they even considered banning the 4 or 5 youth players….
Jae: Never say never, but I don’t see any evidence or hints that’s the case. We actually did a podcast on this, but it never made air (my fault). There are many reasons to hate FIFA, but the rules concerning the transfer of minors is not, in my opinion of course, one of them. While La Masia is a solid and upstanding institution, many academies around the world are not. And selling and trading young promising players from Africa, Asia, and South America to various clubs around the world is a very real issue. Rules regarding those moves are needed. In this case Barcelona was clearly in violation of those rules. FIFA did not ban the players from playing competitive sport, they were banned from playing for the club that illegally signed them and for any other team that would violate the rules. The example would be Japanese youngster Kubo Takefusa who is playing now despite the “on-going ban”. It’s just he is playing in Japan for FC Tokyo. The Korean kids could have signed with Korean teams, but they opted not to. Now, there certainly is an argument that the rules need modification or that the enforcement needs to be executed more evenly, but that’s another post in itself.
Jinseok: FIFA’s rule is absolutely justifiable. FIFA specifically punishing Barcelona and namely the three Korean kids, however, is unacceptable in my opinion. Though of course I am biased because our most promising youngsters suffered a setback in their development. Jae referenced the podcast that never aired – in that one, we answered this bias question. I said if it was the reverse situation, such as three teenage Japanese players getting the ban and a Korean 10 year old having to go back to Korea, I wouldn’t care at all, though behind my potential schadenfreude, I would still argue that singling out Barcelona is still unfair.
The mountain writes
4) why don’t you do your k league predictions anymore?
Jinseok: I’m not sure, but we will be sure to bring that back!
Tim: Because I’m f*cking awful at predicting things and it was getting embarrassing. Though as more time opens up for us you can expect predictions and proper previews posts to come back.
Eli Kim writes
5) At which point should Korea start giving young players like Kwon Chang Hoon, Hwang hee Chan, and Moon Chang Jin more international caps?
Jinseok: This is a super hard question to answer that different coaches around the world answer differently. Korea definitely leans on the conservative side of sticking with established players, but it’s true that the liberal side (Norway with Odegaard, USA with Freddy Adu and now with Pulisic) has its downsides too – check out Jae’s fantastic article “Should Lee Seung Wo be Fast-Tracked.” I personally think that with young players you should only give them an international cap if they’ve shown good form playing against adults – only if they’re really ready. There are too many cases of super promising talents fizzling out because they were introduced into the limelight way too early. Easing them in is good.
Now regarding the players you mentioned, I personally think those guys aren’t getting international caps for a reason – HHC has SHJ to compete with and MCJ has the on-fire KJC and the established LCY to compete with. Personally, I don’t think either are ready for the national team either, as much as they shine for the U23 team. A couple years ago I would’ve boldly said play all the promising young kids, but the truth is, the international A match level (not counting teams like Laos/Myanmar), the K League level, and the U23 level are completely different. Moon Chang Jin has been injury prone and hasn’t gotten an extended run with Pohang, wihle Hwang Hee Chan hasn’t scored for RB Salzburg yet. Kwon, arguably Suwon’s best player, is getting his NT chances precisely because he’s doing so well with Suwon. The other two are not on Kwon’s level of form yet.
6) Is stielike doing a good, bad or average job as the NT manager? and how far do you think our U-23 team will go in the 2016 olympics?
Jinseok: Stielike has been doing somewhere between average and good. I don’t know why he sticks to Lee Jeong Hyup for example, and he makes some weird subs at times, but his dedication to improving Korean football, his motivational skills, and his results so far (very few goals conceded, 2nd place in AC) have been impressive. It’s certainly an improvement from the Dark Ages. As for the U23 team, this may seem pretty obvious, but everything rides on whether we can get out of that damn group. If we can survive the likes of Mexico and Germany I can bet you the confidence alone would be a big boost. However, it’s very preferable that we top the group because if we get second we would likely run into Argentina, and you know how bad we are against South American teams in general.
Tim: Stielike is doing a good job. We haven’t had a major fuckup moment in early qualifying like previous campaigns have, so that’s a start. He’s saying a lot of the right things and showing a real commitment to our program. We’re getting the results we need, and defensively things seem to be improving. His call-ups are mostly agreeable and he’s given, for the most part, a fair shot to all players, though he does have a weird addictiveness with some (JHS, LJH). The major test will lie in the upcoming months, but so far, so good. In terms of the Olympic team, there’s a lot of unknowns. How will Son fit in to the lineup? Can Shin Taeyong’s other defensive overage selections (it sounds like he’s generally happy with the offensive core as it is) prevent breakdowns and sloppy mistakes? It’s also important to note that the talent in this batch of players is inferior to the 2012 team, and as such expectations should be tempered. And of course Jinseok is right to say – everything rides on the Mexico match.