When Stielike released his call up list for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against China and Syria, it was widely met with derision. Familiar faces and underperformers for the most part. The three forwards called were Kim Shin-wook, Hwang Hee-chan, and Lee Jeong-hyeop. Kim Shin-wook, while a mess of long legs and feet, is a plan B of sorts. Hwang Hee-chan has explosive pace and looks to be one off the bench and for the future. Then there’s Lee Jeong-hyeop. A player who tends to divide opinion on whether he deserves a spot or not. Technically-deficient, underwhelming finishing ability, but work rate in spades (plus a Stielike favorite). More than the other two, Lee’s inclusion has once again raised the question of whether another controversial forward should have been called in his place – Park Chu-young.
Jae Makes the Case Against
First off, let’s be clear. I like Park Chu-young. In the 15 or so years I have been closely following the KNT, Park Chu-young is my favorite player. More than the likes of Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Ahn Jung-hwan, Lee Chung-yong, Ki Sung-yueng, Son Heung-min, and on and on. That being said, there is no reason to bring him back into the fold at the moment. I will also fully agree with the problems with Lee Jeong-hyeop, but Park Chu-young does not offer an improvement overall. Why? Glad you asked.
- Work rate = 0. When FC Seoul came down to Seogwipo late last season, and when I was at the Supermatch opening day, I paid close attention to Park Chu-young for long stretches of the match, hoping to see something that resembled the Park Chu-young of yesteryear. To say he was disappointing off the ball is an understatement. He barely moves. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Hwang Sun-hong has often shunted him over to the right wing, but Park barely runs without the ball. Most of the time he simply drifted/strolled around the right flank waiting for the ball to come to him.
- Pace is down. One of Park’s strengths was his ability to stretch opposing defenses with his vertical running and pace. Park isn’t a slow player at this point, but he isn’t likely to burst past younger, fitter defenders often. Plus from a “big picture” perspective, both China and Syria are unlikely to press us high up the field and leave big spaces behind to exploit through explosive running.
- Old memories die hard. The fervor over Park’s residency certificate scandal has died down a lot (and was, of course, rendered moot by the Olympic bronze medal), but that and his poor 2014 World Cup showings still linger in many minds. Unfair perhaps (and the same came be said for Jung Sung-ryong), but Park is one of the strong reminders of Hong Myung-bo’s struggling side
- Club form is poor. His return to FC Seoul, while certainly better than his latter years in Europe, has not exactly seen a return to form for Park. Even with Adriano off to China, Dejan clearly remains the preferred center forward for Hwang Sun-hong. Park isn’t even the preferred wide forward for Hwang, as he had to wait until late in the second half to come on versus Suwon in the Supermatch.
While, it seems like many are debating a Lee Jeong-hyeop x Park Chu-young switch, I think that’s probably the wrong debate. Lee and Park are very different players in what they (potentially) bring to the team. Lee is very much a worker who can bring others into attacking moves through movement. Park has always been a pure scorer who was never much of a creator. If people really want to debate Lee and Park, I believe the debate should be whether Stielike should have brought in an out of form Suk Hyun-jun (in place of Lee Jeong-hyeop), or whether Park’s experience is preferable over the raw abilities of Hwang Hee-chan. And in those debates, I think Stielike actually probably does come out in the “right” side – with Lee and Hwang getting the nod over Suk and Park.
Tim Makes the Case For
Sure, Park Chu-young isn’t as prolific as he used to be. I’m not wearing rose-tinted glasses here, and neither are those who support his return to the Gukdae. But there are still strong, compelling arguments for Park’s inclusion in a KNT that is dwindling and devoid of a star factor.
- He’s a natural goalscorer. If you look at things from a purely numerical level, Park has maintained (more or less) the same strike-rate that saw him become a star at FC Seoul in 2005. In his first four pro years at the club, he scored 23 goals in 69 league appearances (0.33 goals/app). 12 years later, he’s scored 17 goals in 57 league appearances (0.30 goals/app). Park makes up for the mobility he has lost with goal-scoring ability that is infinitely better than any of the players in the KNT forward mix – full stop.
- He’s a national team veteran. Only two players called up to the national team in the last 12 months have as much national team expertise as Park – Ki Sung-yueng and Lee Chung-yong. Had Park been called-up this March, he would have also had the best strike rate and the most goals scored historically in a KNT shirt compared to any player on the squad. Park also brings experience of 3 World Cups and a veteran presence in a squad that doesn’t have many experienced options. He knows the core of the current players very well, which is beneficial to a team lacking one, and he also knows the coaching staff very well (having played in the 2006 World Cup with Seol Ki-hyeon and Lee Chun-soo). This can only help mend any locker room divides that exist.
- He’s a set piece menace. Did you guys see his free kick against Urawa?! We can’t score from set-pieces for sh*t. Park’s been doing this for years and it’s one part of his game that has not eroded. I’d take Park on a set piece over Son’s comical Ronaldo-esque misses any day of the week, wouldn’t you?
- He’s still got some shine. The title-winning goal for FC Seoul last season proved that though Park has his off-days, there are moments when he can score incredible goals and change the dynamic of an entire game. He can be a clutch player who is cool under pressure and only needs one opportunity to make something happen.
There are many issues with the Korean national team, and the striker position is one of them – and has been for quite a while. Ultimately, it boils down to the kind of Korean national team you want to see. I generally agree with Jae that the comparison between Lee Jeong-hyeop and Park Chu-young isn’t the most correct one to make, and it is of course being made because both those players represent a forward slot. But I’d argue they also both represent a style of play. The KNT may be able to come back against teams like Uzbekistan and Qatar, but their slow, tedious, uncreative, simplistic approach isn’t going to get them anywhere in the World Cup without a more proactive style with players who can find the back of the net. Park Chu-young fits that mould. Stielike needs to give him a shot, because what he’s doing right now just ain’t working.
What do you think about Park Chu-young? Should we shut up and stop talking about him? Or does he deserve a return to the national team? Let us know in the comments below.