As we approach the half way point before the league splits, Daejeon have had an interesting start to the campaign. Predicated by many to struggle this season, and potentially take the one available relegation spot, Daejeon find themselves currently sitting 15th in the K-League, one spot off bottom. This masks what has been an exciting, enthralling, frustrating and at times infuriating season so far.
As it stands Daejeon have played 14 games, winning 3, drawing 2 and losing the remaining 9. In the process the Citizens have conceded 22 goals whilst scoring only 9 in reply. While this sounds like the form of relegation fodder, there is reason for the Purple Army to have hope.
By losing the first 6 fixtures and only managing to score 1 goal, Daejeon seemed to be living up to everyone's expectations, and found them self sitting on the bottom of the table. It wasn't just the defeats that gave Citizen fans reason for concern but the manner in which their side was losing. The team looked poorly organised, lacking in quality and and a long way behind any team they came up against.
The first three points of the season were collected away to Sangju when Daejeon managed to score from 2 set pieces and hold onto their lead to eventually win 2-1, but this was swiftly followed by 3 more defeats.
|Kevin seals his place in Citizen folklore|
Daejeon started the season looking like a team lacking in ideas going forward, and a complete inability to keep a clean sheet. (Even with the current turn around in form the team have only managed to keep 1 clean sheet in total so far this season). Defensive organisation was completely non existent and the team were unable to retain the ball to build any meaning full attacks, and consistently just booted the ball clear in the vague direction of a lone, isolated striker.
|Chung Kyung Ho|
As the early rounds passed by Yoo managed to implement some defensive resolve to the team and though victories still weren't forth coming, games were much tighter. The decision to move Chung, an experienced striker, into a libero role shuffling between being the 5th man in defense or midfield meant the team begun to look much more solid.
Whoever found themselves played as the lone striker has found themselves to be extremely isolated and lacking in any consistent reliable service. It wasn't until the Suwon game that Daejeon seemed intent on taking a game to the opposition rather than sitting painfully deep and hoping to steal a point from games. Since then the side seem to be gradually finding a better balance between attack and defence, scoring 7 in the last 5, and conceding only 4.
At the start of the season I picked out 4 players who would be key in determining the success of the Citizens season. The performances of Leo, Kevin, Baba and Kim Tae-Yeon would shape the fortunes of the team and have so far reflected the mixed nature of Daejeons' season.
Kevins addition to the squad was hailed as a great coup for Daejeon Citizen and a lot was expected of a player who has consistently scored goals wherever he has played. Early in the season he suffered with a lack of support and service, along with a few small injuries hampering him settling in with the side. Over the last few weeks Kevin has overcome the niggling injuries and built an understanding with the players around him, seeing him score three goals in the last 5 games.
Brazilian winger Leo has found it harder to adapt to the K-league, and though he has shown great attacking intent he has yet to provide a meaningful threat or the support that Kevin needs from out wide. Still only 23 years old, Leo is far from the finished article but he has pace and impressive dribbling abilities, if he can add a greater sense of positioning to his game he will be a valuable asset for the team.
Kim Tae-Yeon has found himself in and out of the side this season, and playing in a new role when he has been in the team. Originally a midfielder Kim has been deployed as one of three centre backs. Calm under pressure and excellent on the ball, the Citizens attempt to play a lot more football with him in the side and pass their way out from the back rather than boot long balls back to the opposition. However, Kim must be careful as he has at times attempted to overplay and found himself caught in possession or giving the ball away in dangerous areas. Once he grows into the role of a defender rather than a midfielder, Daejeon could have an excellent player on their hands.
The player of the season so far has been 19. Chung Kyung-Ho. Something of a journeyman striker around the K-league he has played as a striker throughout his career without ever really being prolific, whilst collecting 41 international caps. Daejeon manager Yoo asked Chung to take up a new role using his experience to play between defence and midfield and try to add some resolve to what was a weak and unorganised side. Chung has thrived in this role and continues to improve with each performance, helping turn Daejeons poor form around.
One player of concern is Brazilian defender Alessandro. Though his performances have not been much below that of his team mates, he occupies one of the three vital foreign player positions within the team. The team have performed equally well with him in and out of the side, and in a league where the selection of 1 or 2 more talented imports can change the fortunes of an entire team, he may be a costly player to have in the side. He has also shown a tendency to give away sloppy free kicks and has been slow adjusting to the low levels of physical contact allowed in the K-league.
|Manager Yoo playing for the Korean|
Early on in this campaign it looked as if Yoo had already exhausted his ideas and had no way of turning the side around. A times the team seemed to be playing with the aim of simply keeping the score down.
However, the redeployment of Chung and the return to peak fitness of both Baba and Kevin has seen Yoo manage to start collecting points and field a team that looks like it has a game plan.
Daejeon fans should still be concerned that so far there has one been only style of play, and if the team were to suffer injuries to one or two key players Yoo would need to quickly develop some alternate tactics to avoid a repeat of early performances.
Yoo must also act shrewdly in the transfer market as there will be little in the way of funds available. He must make the most of draft players and scour the N-league for any players who may have been missed by K-league sides. Another important factor will be his choice of imported players to use, as three cleverly selected foreign players can turn a K-league side around.
To continue the recent improvement in form and see Daejeon move away from the relegation zone it will be important that they address 2 issues within the current team. First of all, the side must begin to make more of their set pieces. In Kevin and Alessandro they posses two players who are very capable in the air as well as carrying a significant height advantage yet the Citizens rarely look like scoring from corners or free kicks. In fact, it is not uncommon to see set pieces wasted without even producing an attempt on goal. More must be done to organise attacking set pieces and capitalise on any chances Daejeon may have.
|Former D.C.F.C. goalkeeper and|
club legend Choi Eun-Sung
As well as working with the current players and system, bringing in a new central midfielder could quickly see the Daejeon side improve. Baba has shown he has the quality to play there but his partner 10. Lee has a tendency to drift out of games, and fails to provide much going forward. If Daejeon could acquire an athletic, strong defensive midfielder who could break up opposing attacks and pick simple quick passes the team could see a great partnership develop in the centre of the park, freeing up Baba and helping Daejeon move up the table.
Yoo must also look to address the issues regarding the wide players. At the moment Leo and Kim Hyeung-Bum seem to be the first choice wingers. Neither have provided consistent quality service up to Kevin so far this season. Kim is currently on loan from Jeonbuk Motors and may not be the long term answer to Daejeons lack of support from wide areas.
Daejeon fans have all ready experienced quite a roller coaster of a season, from dismal early performances to historic wins over arch rivals. Though the team are far from clear of danger they have begun to show the fight along with the ability to battle their way through the K-league season. They have dragged themselves back into contact with several teams in the league with their strong recent form, and can now have reason to believe they are not doomed to suffer the humiliation of being the first team relegated from the K-league. If they can avoid injuries to key players and address a few areas of weakness, a lot of teams will begin to look over the shoulders nervously and Daejeon may surprise a lot of people by avoiding the drop.