At the opening media day in February, Gwangju FC head coach Lee Jung-hyo said, “Staying up is not the goal,” and that he would “show the fans what our football is like from the opening game.” Some people scoffed at the time, but with less than 10 games to go until the end of the league, everyone now recognizes his words.
As of April 4, Gwangju is in third place in the Hana OneQ K League 1 (First Division) 2023 with 12 wins, nine draws, and eight losses (45 points). It’s hard to believe that the team was promoted from the K League 2 (2nd Division) last season. The best finish in a promotion season since the promotion system was introduced was Gyeongnam FC in 2018, when they finished as league runners-up. At the time, Gyeongnam had an incredible ace in Malcung, who scored 26 goals.
But this year, Gwangju is different. No player on the team has scored more than 10 goals. Asani is the team’s top scorer with seven goals, but the team has so many different attacking routes that most players on the field have found the back of the net.
Before the season, expectations were not high for Gwangju. After a dominant performance in the K League 2 last season and promotion, the team did not make any significant off-season additions in the transfer market ahead of this season, except for a few foreign players. Many predicted that the team would struggle to be competitive in K League 1.
However, the predictions were spectacularly wrong. After winning their opening match, they lost to FC Seoul and Jeonbuk Hyundai in back-to-back games, but bounced back with a 5-0 thrashing of Incheon United in the fourth round. After going winless through May, Gwangju began to show signs of life in June.
Gaining momentum with three wins and a draw in their four league games in June, Gwangju went on a nine-match unbeaten streak (four wins and five draws) starting on July 7. On the last three days, they were especially impressive with a 2-0 away win against league leader Ulsan. This was despite being without four key players, including Heo Yul, Uhm Ji Sung, Asani, and Timo.
With their 12th win, Gwangju also set a new club record. They surpassed their previous record of 11 wins in 2016 during the K League Classic.
Gwangju’s success is due to its salty defense.
With 28 goals conceded in 29 games this season, Gwangju is second only to Jeonbuk Hyundai (25) in fewest goals allowed. Players such as Ahn Young-gyu, Doo Hyun-seok, and Aaron, who have conceded the fewest goals in the K League 2 (32), have been successful in the top flight.
Another key to Gwangju’s surge is the multiplayer of its players. They play a variety of positions without being restricted by their position, which helps Lee’s tactics. 온라인카지노
Lee Soon-min, who recently received his first call-up to the national team, is a prime example. Originally a defensive midfielder, Lee recently moved to center back when Timo was sidelined with an injury. Against Ulsan, he played as a defensive midfielder, center back, and wing back. Doo Hyun-seok, who emerged as one of the best fullbacks in the K League 2 last season, is also not limited to the flanks, but often moves through the center as an inverted fullback depending on the situation.
After the Ulsan game, Lee said, “Doo Hyun-seok and Lee Sun-min moved to the center.