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Posts Tagged ‘Premier League’

What can Arsenal expect from Park Chu-young?

Posted by Seamus Walsh on September 2, 2011

For him to be known as Park Ju-young from now on, for a start. Romanisation of Korean is confusing and overall not very good. His name hasn’t changed, just the way he writes it in Roman letters. The Korean spelling remains 박주영, but as the player himself has requested to be known as Park Ju-young then that’s how he will be known on this blog, too.

It seems to me that most Arsenal fans are wishing Park well whilst not expecting too much from him. This will probably suit him. There’s going to be much more pressure on, say, Mikel Arteta or Per Mertesacker, than there will be on Park to come in and perform from the off. (Adding hyperlinks not working, sorry. Here are the links that should be in this section: http://arseblog.com/2011/08/three-in-more-to-come/ http://gunnerblog.com/2011/09/01/transfer-frenzy-5-signings-in-2-days/ http://adamsummerton.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/dont-blame-park-chu-young/

The best way to measure what Park can bring to Arsenal is to first look at what their objectives are. First and foremost they need to finish in the top four in the league. The teams ahead of them have arguably strengthened, but Arsenal should be more concerned with the teams who finished last season just below them this time round in order to maintain their top four status. Tottenham don’t have anough, in my opinion, to oust the Gunners. In some people’s minds Liverpool are top four material, perhaps even title challengers. You’ll find none of that sort of talk here, though. I predict a 5th place finish for Liverpool, owing to the signings Arsenal have brought in.

So of those signings, what does Park himself bring? Experience, talent, commitment in abundance – we’re nott alking about the sort of player who would stand for implosion at the end of last season. He’s a tough guy mentally and has had problems and made mistakes in the past that he’s very clearly learned from. He’s the captain of his national side for a reason. Korean culture places a great emphasis on age and hierarchy. At 30, Park Ji-sung was the older brother of the team – the most experienced and succesful player not just of his generation, not just that the country had ever produced but of all players ever to come out of the largest and most populous continent on earth. Upon his retirement, the fact that this role was passed to Park Ju-young is very telling. Park Ju-young was not immature or inexperienced before he became captain, but I get the sense that he will now be demanding even more from himself now. He is already becoming the leader and inspiration for a very talented group of young Korean players (Lee Chung-yong, Ki Sung-yong, Son Heung-min, Koo Ja-Cheol, Nam Tae-hee, Ji Dong-won, Jung Sung-ryong, Lee Seung-ryeol etc etc). He has always tried to set an example with his performances and his behaviour, and now is clearly becoming more vocal and driven.

This should be looking good for Arsenal fans. That’s the sort of player they need, and the situation at Arsenal is in that respect similar to the current South Korean national setup. South Korea is a fairly small country with a fairly small population, and yet one that is mad about football. They have always produced good technical players with the right attitude, who work hard and play attractive, passing, attacking football. They are ambitious but have sometimes found it hard to match results to their ambition, competing against the comparative financial muscle of the Japanese domestic game and the vastly larger populations of their neighbouring countries. Despite that, however, the current group of South Korean elite in the roughly 18-23 years old age range is arguably the best ever. Unfortunately, the same could also be said of Japan. So much of this corresponds loosely to Arsenal’s current situation, and the fact that Park has been involved with this on a national level and has maintained high performances and become a leader bodes well.

Some have criticised his goalscoring record. Personally I wouldn’t say it’s worthy of criticism, but neither is it spectacular. His last season with Monaco was very good, despite the fact that the team as a whole was abismal, getting relegated. Park scored a third of Monaco’s goals last season, notching 12 in 33 league games for a relegated club. RVP scored a quarter of Arsenal’s league goals last season.

Undoubtedly RVP will be relied upon again to provide the main goalscoring threat this season, but Park provides an interesting addition. Let’s say they were to play in the same team. RVP would obviously be leading the line, giving Park a bit more freedom to use his pace and deceptive movement off the ball around the edge of the area, bringing in other players, moving the defence around and allowing van Persie to do his thing. It’s safe to assume that he’ll grab a few goals himself in the process. That would mean an essentially 4-4-2 formation (although perhaps more like a 4-4-1-1), most likely with Gervinho on the left of the midfield and Walcott on the right. Arteta is capable of providing exactly the sort of subtle, clever passes that Park thrives on from the middle of the pitch. I can’t see Wenger deploying this sort of formation if they were to come up against the likes of Barcelona again, though, meaning Park would probably drop to the bench.

He is also capable of playing anywhere across a front 3, of which the same can be said of Gervinho and arguably Walcott, so Wenger has options, including Chamack, who is a more traditional centre forward.

As to how he will fit into the squad, he’s a bright personality, positive, highly intelliegent in a traditional and footballing sense, very dedicated to his football and deeply religious. He’s also obviously spent a while in France, which makes him perfectly suited to this Arsenal squad considering its makeup and the background of the players – and manager.

All in all, a solid signing. Expect a couple of missed sitters, a decent haul of goals (but not enough to outdo RVP) and an overall good contribution to the team. And excellent value at that price, even if he does have to do military service after the Olympics.*

 

*Korean players are excused form military service if they medal at the London Olympics. Park is a fairly safe bet as an overage player, and Korea do have a good crop of players in th right age range at the moment.

Posted in Arsenal, European football, Park Chu-young | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Trouble for Ki Sung-yeung?

Posted by Seamus Walsh on April 13, 2010

Today Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic played out a 2-1 win against Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League at Celtic Park. In many ways it was an insignificant game. Celtic have first faltered and then essentially collapsed this season. New manager Tony Mobray was deemed a failure, and has since been replaced by former Celtic legendary player Neil Lennon. Celtic are 10 points behind fierce rivals Rangers in the league, and on Saturday they embarrassingly lost to Ross County in the cup.

These developments are even worse for South Korean player Ki Sung-yeung. He hasn’t played a single game for caretaker manager Lennon, not even featuring on the substitutes bench for the last three games. I’ve written before about what I think it will take for him to become successful in European football, especially in British football. Mostly, he needs to adjust to living in Scotland, then adjust to the style of football, the number of games played in the Scottish league (a lot more than in the K-League) and he needs to improve physically – he needs to get stronger and quicker. He has the talent, but it seems that Neil Lennon doesn’t think he’s ready or capable of helping Celtic improve on their poor season just yet.

Ki Sung-yeung needs to show Lennon what he's capable of

Lennon has also threatened a complete overhaul of the squad in the summer if performances don’t improve. What could this mean for Ki? With only a few games left, it’s hard to see him making much more of an impact this season as Lennon doesn’t seem to want to pick him at all. Mowbray was definitely a fan of the young midfielder, and gave him the responsibility of taking corners and some free kicks, as well as simply giving him game time. Ki is also not the first Korean player Mowbray had signed, as he also bought Kim Do-heon when he was manager of West Bromwich Albion.

So, with Ki’s ally and perhaps mentor Tony Mowbray gone, how does he fit into Neil Lennon’s plans for the future, if Lennon stays as Celtic manager for next season, which hasn’t been decided yet. I think it’s very hard to say. If Lennon appreciates Ki’s talents, maybe he just doesn’t think he’s ready to play every match just yet. On the other hand, it’s possible he’s just not a fan of Ki and will want to sell him on.

Ki Sung-yeung in action

I said before that the Scottish League would certainly help Ki improve his game so he could compete in one of Europe’s bigger leagues – most likely the English Premier League, as this seems to be his preferred choice. I hope he keeps working hard to constantly improve, and to fight for the team. He’s talented enough to be starting in the Celtic midfield but it needs more than just talent at this level. If Celtic do decide to sell him in the summer, I desperately hope he doesn’t go back to Korea. He needs to play regularly in a European team. If, for example, a team from the English Championship wanted to sign him I think he should jump at the chance. Playing for a team in the Championship means there’s slightly less pressure than the Premiership, which means he can focus on his game without worrying that any mistake he makes could have huge consequences. It also means he will have more chances to play regularly. This is what he needs more than anything. I hope he gets given the chance soon.

One thing is for sure, though, if he doesn’t play every game for Celtic before the end of the season, he will be less tired than a lot of players when the World Cup starts in June, which can only be good for Korea.

Posted in European football, Ki Sung-yeung | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

What do Korean players need to succeed in Europe?

Posted by Seamus Walsh on March 8, 2010

This is obviously a pressing issue for Korean football, and one which it looks like they’re getting closer to solving, with a number of players now having played in Europe. The first thing to note is that Korea has as much chance as any other country of producing top quality players. The reasons there have been so few are fairly obvious:

  • The domestic league has only been running for less than thirty years. The leagues in England and Italy are over a century old, with those in France, Spain and other countries approaching that.
  • The league only has 15 teams. Less teams means less players. Less players means less top quality players.
  • Education Fever. It’s well documented how important education is to building a future for kids in Korea. I worry that with so much pressure on them to study every hour of the day and night, less kids are getting a chance to play sport, or to follow their passion if the opportunity arises.

Empty seats for the K-League’s biggest team, FC Seoul

These are big issues, and solving them is beyond the scope of this blog, although I would like to quickly stress that with time the situation will inevitably improve, and I don’t think it will take a century before Korea is also producing players of the quality of those produced by the top footballing nations in Europe and South America. Having quite a small population inevitably means there will be less great players than there are coming from somewhere like Brazil, but the important thing is to raise the overall quality of all Korean players. In my view, a youth system like that in France would be best suited to the South Korean football climate. This would involve talented young players attending a footballing institute which also functions as a school, meaning they would receive both standard and footballing education, while also allowing them to be attached to the academy of a professional club. I’ll deal with this issue in more detail in a later post, however.

As for Korean players in Europe, one stands above all the rest in the contemporary game: Park Ji-sung. He’s achieved phenomenal success, perhaps most notably being the first Asian player to win the Premier League, to play in the Champions League final, and to win a Champions League winners medal, and the first (and only) Asian player to play in four Champions League semi-finals.

Park Ji-sung, Korea’s leading light in Europe

So what’s been the secret to his success? Well, the first reason was Guus Hiddink, his coach for the national team and then PSV Eindhoven. Hiddink obviously saw the potential Park had, and luckily he was in a position to offer him the opportunity to come to Europe. Unfortunately, not many Korean players have that sort of relationship with successful European coaches who can ensure they make it to Europe.

After moving, however, I think Park simply played his natural game, and let his talent show through. He works very hard in every aspect of his game, and that’s something you can really see in his performances – he never stops running, never gives up, and that’s always been the case with him. Two prime examples are the winning goal he scored against Portugal aged only 21 in the 2002 World Cup, and the equalizer against France late on in their group encounter in the 2006 World Cup.

This is an attitude that players such as Ki Sung-yeung, Lee Chung-yong and Park Chu-young, who have recently moved to Europe, need to have if they are to really succeed. They need to show dedication, to play to their best under any circumstances, and to understand that there is always more they can do – never be satisfied with what you’ve already achieved. It’s not simply enough to get to Europe, you need to perform once you’re there as well.

Park Chu-young scores for Monaco

On top of that I think it’s sensible to note the differences in the style of football between Europe and Asia, and also the standard level. Park Chu-young probably has the easiest transition in terms of the style of football in France, because they encourage a quick passing game, much like he will be used to playing in Korea. What he will have to do is keep working on his pace and power, which are superior in the French game to the Korean one. For Ki Sung-yeung and Lee Chung-yong, however, their period of adaption will inevitably be longer and more difficult. The British game is a lot more physical, a lot tougher than the style of football played just about everywhere else in the world. Of course there are smaller, skillful players, but even they have to get used to the harder tackles.

In this way, Park has adapted himself brilliantly. If you compare photos of him from the 2002 World Cup, or when he first moved to PSV with photos of him now, he had a much slighter frame than he currently does, and he’s clearly put a lot of effort in to improving his power and strength, as well as speed and stamina and his all round game.

Park in the 2002 World Cup

Park has improved his physical presence since moving to Europe

Lee’s pace will be an asset in the Premier League, but he will have to overcome the fact that he will be put under a lot more physical pressure in England than he’s used to, and also the fact that on average players in the Premier League will be faster than in the K-League. In my opinion, Ki will have the toughest time of all. He’s a central midfielder in a very physical, tough league. In fact, his natural technical ability – which is excellent – may actually make him more of a target for tough tackles in Scotland. Although he’s quite tall, he’s still young and has yet to completely fill out, I would say. He’ll definitely get physically stronger playing in Scotland, and the higher level of competition should mean his game improves overall as well.

There was interest in him from Manchester United a while back, although in the end nothing came of it, which I think is probably for the best, as he wasn’t ready at that time. I think he needs at least a couple of seasons playing in Scotland to try and adapt to the lifestyle, and the style of football, as well as to play more, improve his game and get stronger. This will take at least two or three seasons, and I don’t think it would be a good idea for him to move to the Premiership before then. But don’t get me wrong, he absolutely has the talent, and I think he can potentially exceed even what’s been achieved by Park. Time will tell, but for now he knows what needs to be done.

Posted in European football, Ki Sung-yeung, Manchester United, Park Ji-sung, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »