Player evaluations for Korea’s EPL exports
The English Premier League season wrapped up in dramatic fashion on Sunday as Manchester City won its first title in 44 years after two breathtaking goals in stoppage time. But for the Korean quintet in the EPL, not one could smile after the final whistle. The following are season evaluations of each Korean player in the EPL:
This was the first season the 31-year-old finished with no trophies since joining United in the summer of 2005.
Including European club campaigns and cup competitions, Park played total of 28 matches (17 for the league) and scored three goals with six assists this season. Although Park is not the type of player whose contributions are fairly represented in statistics, his goal tally for this year was five short of last year’s total.
Park did have some shining moments in February. He reached his 200th appearance for the Red Devils during the match against Chelsea and became the first Asian player to start a match with the captain’s armband for United when they played against Ajax Amsterdam in the Europa League.
However, it was an overall rough time for the Korean veteran this season. Park had a difficult time securing his position on the pitch against the likes of Luis Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young.
While sometimes playing center midfield, he missed seven consecutive matches after the Europa League match against Athletic Bilbao on March 15.
The former PSV Eindhoven player came back in time for the derby against City on April 30, but United fell 1-0, which turned out to be his last match of the season.
With media reports coming out that manager Sir Alex Ferguson is eyeing new players in the midfield including Japanese stalwart Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund, Park is likely to have a tough time with United next season and should expect even less playing time.
Next season will be Park’s final run with United unless his contract is extended. Although I suspect Park moving to another club is unlikely since he has previously expressed that he wants to stay with United, Korean fans should not expect too much from the Korean star next year.
For Lee, this will be a season he’ll want to forget. The 24-year-old winger arrived in the EPL in 2009 and was out for almost the entire season after breaking his leg during a preseason match against Newport County in July.
After 10 months, he finally came back to the Bolton squad, but it was too late and too short to save his team from the relegation.
Lee played only 25 minutes this season after coming on as a second-half substitute in the team’s final two matches against West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City.
Now that Bolton will go down to the second division, the question is whether he will attempt to make a move to another club. Lee is currently contracted with Bolton until next season, but since he receives a high salary with the team, the club might want to make money out of his sale. He should be one of the interesting rumor makers in this offseason’s transfer market.
Arsenal striker Park Chu-young had the worst season among Koreans - not just in the EPL, but in all of Europe.
Park was the center of attention when he signed with Arsenal last summer, leaving French side AS Monaco. With the EPL’s top scorer Robin van Persie playing up top with the London club, I was hoping that the former Korean national team captain would at least be a solid substitute for the Dutch striker, but it turned out that Park failed to impress manager Arsene Wenger.
Throughout the season, Park only played six matches for Arsenal - two in the UEFA Champions League, three in the Carling Cup and one in the EPL. His sole goal came against Bolton on Oct. 26 in the Carling Cup, while his only and last league appearance was against Manchester United on Jan. 24, a match in which he played for only seven minutes.
Since then, the 27-year-old even failed to be listed in the game roster and was featured only in some reserve matches. It also affected his status with the national team along with the controversy over his delay of mandatory military service.
This was likely his first and last season with the Gunners. With German international Lukas Podolski joining Arsenal next season, it will be best for Park to find another club this offseason.
Ji became youngest Korean to play in the EPL when he signed with Sunderland last summer from the Chunnam Dragons. With hopes and worries, the 21-year-old striker wrapped up his debut season with an average performance.
Ji featured in a total of 20 matches (including one Carling Cup appearance) and scored a pair of goals with two assists. Fortunately, his strikes came from matches against big clubs, with his debut goal coming against Chelsea last September and his last a game-winner against Manchester City in January.
However, in his 19 EPL appearance this season, Ji came on as a substitute 17 times, meaning he still needs to work hard to gain more playing time next season.
In fact, since manager Steve Bruce, who brought Ji to the club, left Sunderland in the middle of the season due to the club’s poor performance and Martin O’Neill came in as the new manager, Ji has to prove his talents more clearly both on and off the pitch. This season’s experience was a good stepping stone for the future career of this promising star.