This was a busy news weekend for the KNT and unfortunately, not in a good way. The injury bug has well and truly hit our World Cup squad as Kwon Changhoon sustained an Achilles injury in the final match of the season against Angers. In addition, Lee Keunho was injured in a goalmouth scramble in his K League match with Gyeongnam FC. Here’s an MBC News report that shows clips of both injuries.
For Kwon, this injury is really unfortunate timing after such an impressive season but hopefully he can make a full recovery. The tackle is part of physical play and it seems more like the speed of the game and the ball/pitch caused him to have a really awful ankle twist that led to Achilles damage. He’s out for the foreseeable future but we’re all wishing him a speedy recovery here at the Tavern! Lee Keunho’s injury looks like something that he could recover from in time for the World Cup, but it’s hard to know how well his body will recover at 33 years-old. He’s been banged up this season so we’ll wait and keep you updated on his progress. Finally, Steve Han has an injury update on Shin’s timeline for Kim Jin-su. Will be a busy week for sure.
Korea will decide whether or not starting leftback Kim Jin-su, who hasn't played in nearly two months due to a knee injury, will go to the World Cup by this coming Thursday (local time) at the latest.
— Steve Han • 한만성 (@RealSteveScores) May 21, 2018
Shin Tae-yong has said in the past few days that the news of Kwon’s injury makes it feel like he is starting from scratch with the team’s tactics. Well, we here at the Tavern are here to help him! Every day this week we’ll be posting a Tavern writer’s take on the tactics we think will help the squad cope with Kwon’s absence. Here is my preferred line-up and formation taken from the current 27-man preliminary squad.
I’ll build up from the back and share how I came up with these selections and formation. In goal, Kim Seung-gyu is the consensus number one and most likely represents the safe choice at this moment. I am not his biggest fan because I think he has his flaws (namely, command of the box on set-pieces) but at the moment he is ahead of Cho Hyun-woo and Kim Jin-hyeon. In terms of who can take the gloves away from Kim Seung-gyu, I back Kim Jin-hyeon if he can impress in the upcoming friendlies.
For my back four, I attempted to construct the most solid backline with what we have available. Like I said on the Tavern podcast, it was encouraging to see Shin opt for defenders who were having strong showings for their clubs. Yes, there are players there that have been disappointing in the past, but at least I could find four defenders that offer the right balance of solidity at the back combined with the ability to get forward and aid the attack. If Kim Jin-su is ruled out on Thursday, I’m probably going to opt for Kim Min-woo from Sangju. In the heart of defense, I like the stingy CSL pairing of Kim Young-gwon and Kwon Kyung-won. Both are on form at the moment, playing weekly in CSL and ACL action, and offer a bit of aerial threat on set-pieces as well. At right back, I liked Tim’s point about the consistency of Lee Yong as well as his experience so I will opt for him. Hopefully, Jang Hyun-soo will stay on the bench and give those rousing team talks or whatever he does that Shin seems to like so much. Because on the field, all I have seen of Jang is timidity in crucial moments, poor decision-making, and ball-watching.
In midfield, I’m going for experience and chemistry. These three guys have played with each other a lot and I’m banking on their ability to stay calm and collected on the ball and build the attack seamlessly. Ki and Park can provide defensive cover when needed, win the ball back, and transition into attack better than anyone else on this roster. Koo is at his best when given the opportunity to roam the pitch and get into dangerous spaces. He has had a full season of playing throughout the midfield at Augsburg so he will be ready to be the engine room of this midfield.
In attack, I’ll go for a front three of Son, Lee Jae-sung, and Hwang Hee-chan. In my mind, Kwon Chang-hoon was originally going to be the right winger of this attack, but Hwang Hee-chan is the best replacement at the moment. Hwang offers the type of industry and workrate that Son will need in support. Hwang is just a pest and I want to watch him go hard into tackles and harass defenders into mistakes. On the other hand, Lee offers that creative spark and technical ability to craft a chance when there doesn’t seem to be one there. I want to see Lee drifting infield to support Koo and spotting the runs of Son and Hwang up-top. On the overlap, we’re going to hopefully see a lot of Kim Jin-su bombing forward to get a cross into the box.
What I do believe my line-up lacks is an in the box aerial threat on those crosses. However, I couldn’t bring myself to select Kim Shin-wook because in the box threat is really the only skill he brings to the table. Other than that, Kim Shin-wook is too overly clumsy to offer the kind of hold-up play that someone of his size should have. So I’ll bank on Kim Jin-su being smart about his crossing and keeping it low and fast for Son, Hwang, and Koo to run onto the finish. My first three off the bench will be Lee Seung-woo, Ju Se-jong, and Ko Yo-han. That could definitely change if someone catches my eye in the upcoming friendlies though. For me right now, these three will offer the type of pace injection (Lee Seung-woo) or defensive organization and hustle (Ju Se-jong and Ko Yo-han) that is needed towards the end of a match.
In terms of formation, I chose this look because it plays to the strengths of the players we have at our disposal. The Christmas tree formation leading up to the attack offers room to transition to attack while maintaining the right amount of defensive cover and shape to make sure there aren’t breakdowns that lead to unnecessary goals. I’m personally a fan of front threes because I like the amount of attacking options they provide and I think Sonny needs as much help as he can get right now.
Let me know your thoughts on this line-up and stay tuned for more Tavern line-ups this week!