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2023 Preview: Can Suwon FC Make It Back Into The Top Six?

Suwon FC matches in K League 1 in 2022 produced more goals than any other with 119 in total. But, despite scoring the same number of goals as Jeonbuk, and just one fewer than champions Ulsan, Kim Do-kyun's side finished in the bottom half of the table. The question facing the Castle Park side for the 2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 campaign is whether can they fix their defensive issues and get back into Final A?

What happened last season?

Suwon FC finished top of Final B last term, ending their second season in K League 1 in seventh and two points ahead of Daegu FC and FC Seoul. They won just as many games as fourth-place Incheon United did with 13 but lost 16 and the problem was that Kim Do-kyun's men conceded too many goals. In act, only Seongnam FC conceded more (70) than Suwon's 63. In 2021, Lars Veldwijk was in the hunt for the golden boot and scored 18 goals but the Dutch-born South African international only managed eight last term. Instead, it was Lee Seung-woo who topped the team's goalscoring charts with 14 for the campaign.

Suwon's best run was from mid-June to mid-July when they went on a run of six unbeaten with five wins, this ended with a dramatic 4-3 win over FC Seoul at home. The game summed up Suwon as a team and their season. The pendulum swung back and forth several times and at one point, Suwon were 2-0 down but a second-half fightback saw them 3-2 up heading into the dying embers. Seoul scored again in the 90th but, undeterred, Suwon went up the other end just a minute later to find a winner.

After that Suwon went on a three-match winless run and picked up just three wins in 10, putting their Final A hopes into serious doubt. It was an uninspiring end to the campaign as Kim Do-kyun's men managed to pick up just one win from their last six matches, losing four of them

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What transfer business has been done over winter?

With such a leaky defence, Suwon FC have brought in a number of experienced defenders. Centre backs Park Byung-hyun, Lee Jae-sung, and Kim Hyun-hun have arrived from Daegu, Chungnam Asan, and Gwangju respectively. There's also extra competition in the goalkeeping department with the arrival of Noh Dong-geon from crosstown neighbours Suwon Bluewings.


In midfield, there's more creativity with the arrival of Yoon Bit-garam from Jeju United, Lee Gwang-hyeok from Pohang Steelers, and Oh In-pyo on loan from Ulsan Hyundai. Overall, it's been a decent window for Suwon FC who will be happy with the business done so far, particularly in keeping Lee Seung-woo.

There have been some notable departures, though, as left back Park Min-gyu and young winger Lee Young-jun have joined Gimcheon Sangmu for military service, Kim Geon-ung has joined Jeonbuk, and Lee Gi-hyeok has signed for Jeju United. In fact, in Kim Geon-ung and Park Min-kyu, Suwon have lost the two players with the most appearances for them last season. Kwak Yun-ho, who made 29 appearances at centre back, has left for military service with K4 side Goeje Citizen.

Existing squad and key players

The attacking trio of Lars Veldwijk, Lee Seung-woo, and Murilo is most likely to be Kim Do-kyun's first-choice forward line in a 3-4-3 formation. Park Joo-ho will likely anchor the midfield while Lachlan Jackson will be hoping to reclaim his place in the back line. 

In terms of some of Suwon's other core players from last year, defender Shin Se-gye made 27 appearances (25 starts), midfielder Jeong Jae-yong 34 appearances (18 starts), and striker Kim Hyun - often an option off the bench - made 31 appearances but only 14 starts. 

The goalkeeper situation will be interesting with Noh Dong-geon coming in to replace Yoo Hyun but competing with last year's number one Park Bae-jong as well as the experienced Lee Bum-young who has barely played for Suwon since joining the club a year ago.

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Style of play, strengths and weaknesses

Suwon FC play some exciting and expansive football and have proved to be a very entertaining team to watch. They're attacking and possess great pace on the counter to really hurt teams. The drawback, at least for Suwon fans, is that this can leave them exposed at the back and so they concede too many goals. 

Realistic 2023 target

This is Suwon FC's third season in K League 1. When the club won promotion in 2015, Suwon went straight back down again so securing a third year in the top flight is far beyond what has been achieved before. But because Kim Do-kyun guided the team into Final A in his first season in the top division, anything less will be seen as a step backwards. A season of mid-table safety would be a solid achievement but Final A will be the target again this year. 

There is, of course, a lot of competition with Suwon Bluewings, FC Seoul, and Daegu FC also feeling as though they belong in the top six. Then there's Daejeon Hana Citizen who, with the backing of Hana Financial Group, won't be in K League 1 just to make up the numbers. What will be key for Suwon is if the defensive reinforcements are enough to plug the leaks at the back. They already have the firepower.

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