‘Irrelevant’ became ‘real’. Jeonbuk Hyundai lost the FA Cup final. Having already lost the league title to arch-rivals Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk failed to win the FA Cup and ended the season empty-handed for the first time in a decade. Jeonbuk, which boasts the most titles in the K League (nine), lifted at least one trophy every year from 2014 to last year.
From 2014 to 2021, they won the league title seven times. In 2020, they completed the double with the FA Cup. Jeonbuk also won the Asian Champions League in 2016, the only year they didn’t win the league title due to a referee-buying scandal that resulted in a points deduction. Last season, the club lost the league title to Ulsan, but won the FA Cup to salvage some pride.
However, this season was different. After twists and turns, they made it to the FA Cup final, but couldn’t get over the final hurdle. They took the lead twice, but couldn’t hold on to it and suffered an upset loss. Jeonbuk’s vaunted “winning DNA” has come to life. Jeonbuk was a team that would take any game it could get its hands on. It was the first time Jeonbuk had lost a final since the 2013 FA Cup. Coincidentally, their opponent was the Pohang Steelers.
Of course, the season isn’t over yet, but Jeonbuk’s season is a clear failure. We’re not just talking about results. Every team has its ups and downs. The aura of “absolute number one” that surrounded Jeonbuk is gone. Now, Jeonbuk has become a team that no one wants to play against. Jeonbuk has lost a whopping 12 games this season. They are behind only 12th-ranked Suwon Samsung (21 losses), 10th-ranked Suwon FC (19 losses), 9th-ranked Jeju United, and 11th-ranked Gangwon FC (over 16 losses).
Let’s face it. Fans are still chanting ‘shut up and attack’, but the reality is different. Of course, Jeonbuk is still a big name. They have a lot of world-class players. Jeonbuk sent a whopping five players to the Hangzhou Asian Games. But it’s no longer enough to rely on the strength of its players, and that’s what Moojin has taught Jeonbuk this season. Simply signing good players is not a plus for the team.
A major transformation is needed. Jeonbuk is no longer a champion. The K League is changing. The buildup and offense are becoming more detailed. Gwangju FC’s surge is a good example. Jeonbuk needs to keep up with this trend. If we focus on recruiting players because we failed this season, we are likely to fail again. It’s not about results, it’s about good soccer. Not only scouting, but also strategy and tactics must be changed to survive. Only then can the Jeonbuk era unfold again. 무지개토토