First off, Roy and I are in discussions on how to integrate my ‘Watching this Weekend’ and his ‘Weekend Roundup’ into one comprehensive article. It’s still a work in progress, so make sure to check back for updates and changes.
As mentioned in the preview, I took in two matches: Swansea City vs Arsenal and Busan IPark vs FC Seoul. The players being watched were Swansea’s Ki Sung-Yueng, Busan’s Lee Bum-Young (and Park Jong-Woo a bit), and Seoul’s Ha Dae-Sung.
Let’s start off with Swansea vs Arsenal. Arsenal won 2-0, with Nacho Monreal scoring the opener, and Gervinho adding a second with the last kick of the ball (practically). Ki Sung-Yueng started and played 65 minutes before being subbed off with Wayne Routledge coming in. It’s been interesting watching Ki’s growth and development over the years, look for a more detailed post on Ki later this week, and watching his performance from Saturday really showed how much he has changed. Ki was listed as the lead of a midfield three, but in reality he spent more time on the left hand side of the midfield with Leon Britton sitting deeper, and Jonathan De Guzman on the right. Ki’s role was something that resembled a Xavi-esque role. Sticking fairly close to where the ball was when possible, and serving as a outlet to receive passes and then spread the ball using short passes.
Something that we haven’t seen too much of Ki doing in recent years is playing the “killer ball”. In the past he’s been more aggressive with the ball in deeper positions, charging forward and shooting from distance, and hitting long diagonal balls from deep. I don’t recall seeing him do either against Arsenal. He did, as mentioned earlier, play two excellent through balls. One to Angel Rangel, who made things a bit more complicated then needed when he tried to shoot, and one to Michu, who was a hair offside. But it represented another tool that Ki has/is developing to his passing arsenal. If he can start playing that final through ball consistently, he would be almost, a complete passing midfielder.
Once Ki was subbed off, Swansea’s style of play changed quite a bit. Instead of their usual short-passing game that went up the middle, before going wide in the opposing third, their game went almost exclusively up the flanks. With Ben Davies and Pablo running the left side almost unopposed as Theo Wolcott was frequently drifting inside. While I haven’t watched all, or even a majority, of Swansea’s games it appears to me, that while Swansea can run their short-passing game without Ki, it does take hit as Leon Britton who usually fills that role, tends to be a more vertical player. Ki, similar to Xavi, helps keep the ball moving into safe areas where Swansea players can reset and re-establish their passing triangles, helping them retain possession.
Now the K League Classic action with Busan IPark vs FC Seoul. There were two called players in this match. Busan’s Lee Bum-Young (the national team’s third-string goalkeeper) and Seoul’s Ha Dae-Sung (a possible starter). Also present was one of my favorite younger players, Park Jong-Woo (of “독도 우리 땅!” fame). Park Jong-Woo was called (and started) the match against Iran, but hasn’t been called since. Something I wish Choi Kang-Hee would do, but anyway . . .
This match was low on footballing quality and high on physicality. Despite being defending champions, Seoul is playing like anything but, and had a lonely point to show from their first two matches. Busan likewise. Lee Bum-Young was in goal (duh), and Busan coach Yoon Sung-Hyo made one tactical change from his first two matches, sliding Williams and Park Jong-Woo higher up from before, making the formation a normal 4-4-2, rather than the 4-1-4-1 he had used in the first two matches. Seoul seemed to be playing something that resembled a 4-5-1 when defending, and a 4-3-3 when attacking with Molina and Escudero dropping deeper when Busan had the ball. Ha Dae-Sung was playing on the right side of the central midfield trio.
Lee Bum-Young had an excellent game, and showed why he had made the Olympic squad. A few wonderful reflex saves, confident aerial ability to punch corners out of the danger area, and a well-timed charge to smother the ball at Escudero’s feet when the Seoul forward was through on goal. Lee Bum-Young looked a bit shaky at times in his first two matches, but the team defended better as well, not leaving him as exposed as he was several times against Gyeongnam last week. If Lee Bum-Young can continue to have a steady season, I think he will easily eclipse Kim Young-Gwang as the number 2 keeper for the national team.
Ha Dae-Sung had an average game. He didn’t do much wrong, but didn’t do much right either, if that makes sense. In short, he did what he should do, as a central midfielder, without doing anything special. There were no penetrating runs from deep, no crucial through balls, no last-ditch tackles. Yes, he ran, he broke up some attacks around the center of the park, he went forward (but not too far), he was involved, but the times when he was most notable, to me at least, was when his passes went wayward. I feel that Ha Dae-Sung can be summed up nicely as a decent K League player, but one who is probably a bit out of his depth at the international level.
I won’t comment much on Park Jong-Woo, since he was not called up, but I was very pleased with his performance and hope that Choi Kang-Hee took notice. Park brought a ton of energy to the team, and certainly (along with Lee Bum-Young) showed the most quality for Busan. His passing was solid, and he put in a high work rate both on offense and defense. Perhaps it’s time for another Park Jong-Woo article. Hmmm, something to consider.
In any event, Busan eventually came out 1-0 winners, with the Brazilian William scoring after the Seoul keeper blocked a free kick straight into his path. It was a decent outing for Busan, who seem to reverting back to their defensive roots learned under Ahn Ik-Soo. Seoul is still searching for their first win of the season. Surprising struggles by the holders.
Watching this Weekend will take a break next week due to the international break. All the major European leagues, and the K League Classic, are off. WtW will enjoy watching the international matches, and will return the following weekend. Also, I will of course be preparing for Korea’s qualifier against Qatar next week.
As always, if there are players you would like to see covered in ‘Watching this Weekend’ leave a message in the comments section!