ACL preview: Victory v Suwon Bluewings

Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden has your complete Suwon dossier ahead of Tuesday night’s ACL group clash in Melbourne against Victory.

Suwon may be bottom of Group F with a point following a draw against Gamba Osaka and a 2-1 loss at Shanghai SIPG but the performances deserved better. 

They dominated against Gamba and should have taken something in China. The situation leaves Suwon needing to take something from the visit to Victory. 

It won’t be easy. 

For a Tuesday night game in Australia, the K-League would usually allow the team to play on Friday but this was the start of the season – another defeat, this time at the hands of Seongnam – and it was played on Saturday. 

Suwon has been cutting back in expenditure and big stars such as goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryeong has gone as has Seo Jung-jin and Jong Tae Se, who impressed against Brisbane last season.

The focus is now on youth with 14 of the 23 strong roster coming through the youth ranks. 

Suwon Bluewings pose for a team photo prior to their ACL clash with Gamba Osaka.

There is a feeling at the club that there is not the experience or the consistency necessary to challenge for the K-League title, but a tilt at Asia could be possible but the opening two results have dented that ambition. 

And there are concerns about how a young team will handle the poor start to the season.

There could be some changes for the long trip to Australia and some players rested.

So far this season, Suwon have employed a 4-1-4-1 formation. The holding midfielder is, when fit, Park Hyun-beom, an athletic player who rarely goes forward for anything other than set pieces. His focus is on protecting a shaky defence. 

The backline lacks experience though former international Lee Jung-soo has returned to add experience and a goal threat from set pieces. 

Unfortunately, the centre-back has not been registered for the Champions League. It means that Suwon lacks a leader at the back.

Where Suwon look good is further up the pitch. Yeom Ki-hun is the veteran on the left, a former international who won the 2006 title with Jeonbuk Motors, he has one of the sweetest left feet in the whole of Asia. 

Yeom Ki-hun

His crossing is second to none and his set pieces are pretty good too. Much of Suwon’s attacks come down that side and the club has two excellent left-backs in Hong Chul and Yang Samg-min and both like to get forward.

The reason that there is just one defensive midfielder in the team, though it is possible there may be two in Australia, is that it enables the coach to play Santos and Kwon Chang-hoon in central attacking midfield roles. And it is easy to see why this is desirable.

Kwon is on his way to becoming a major star and it is hard to think of a better young player in the whole of Asia. 

Gamba Osaka coach Kenta Hasegawa was raving about the 22 year-old who was the standout at January’s AFC Under-23 Championships. He scores goals, has a great eye for a pass, keeps running all day and has excellent awareness. 

Kwon Chang Hoon.

The issue for Suwon is that the club won’t be able to keep him and it is likely he will be in the Bundesliga for the start of the next European season.

Brazilian attacker Santos (the Little Giant) drifts around next to Kwon and has more of a free role to try and make things happen. He’s inconsistent but can be very dangerous around the edge of the area.

The main striker may be Cho Dong-keun, powerful and good in the air but a player who has never quite fulfilled his early promise, but 21 year-old Kim Gun-hee –with quick feet and quick mind – has more potential and could get the nod.

Watch out for: Yeom Ki-hun. Suwon is not as reliant on its captain creatively as in the past thanks to the emergence of Kwon but if the veteran is given time and space then he will create chance after chance and his free-kicks have to be carefully defended against.

Strengths and weaknesses: Lots of youthful energy and team spirit. With so many players coming through the youth ranks, there is a genuine desire to keep going until the end for the fans and they will not stop running, although the tight turnaround and travel may limit that somewhat. 

Suwon Bluewings.

Suwon is better going forward than defending and have the creative players to make chances but have already been guilty this season of not being able to get the goals the play has deserved. 

The centre of the defence is a weak point. A lack of experience and authority has cost the team points already this season. Individual mistakes have been too common.

And against a Victory side desperate to atone after their eyebrow-raising 5-0 loss to Brisbane Roar on Saturday in the A-League, they’ll need to keep mistakes to a minimum in Melbourne.