FF Community’s Andy Park ranked fourth in South Korean with his 2020/21 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) side (overall rank: 9,673). Here, he gives an insight into Hwang Hee-Chan, the Wolves forward who scored twice against Newcastle United in Gameweek 7.
In the 2018 Asian Games Finals, a 2-1 win over Japan secured a critical two-year military exemption for Heung-min Son (£10.1m). As a fan of Sonny, I was relieved. South Korea’s footballing treasure was at the peak of his powers and would soon help his Tottenham team to a surprise appearance in the 2019 Champions League final.
But who scored that winning goal against Japan? Hwang Hee-Chan (£5.6m).
Our whole nation was elated, as Hwang celebrated his goal with an iconic Ji-Sung Park ‘jogging’ celebration. Yet the then 22-year-old was getting unnecessary hate because of his overwhelming confidence.
Personally, I loved it. In FPL that’s exactly what we want: hard working, fast, direct, no-nonsense and a hunger for goals. As a forward, confidence is key. You could see the self-belief in Hwang and there was something special about him, mentally.
THE RB YEARS
In the 2019/20 Champions League, he would be part of the RB Salzburg’s fantastic Haaland-Minamino-Hwang trio and was involved in eight of the competition’s goals. He was energetic and solid on the ball but it was his off-the-ball movement that caught the eye for many.
His season was amazing, ending with 16 goals and 22 assists from 40 appearances. Naturally, Hwang then moved to parent club RB Leipzig in Germany. Yet his year in the more competitive Bundesliga was a season to forget: no goals from 18 league matches, only scoring in the cup.
In defence of Hwang – as I really believe this – sometimes it is not about the quality of the footballer but the tactics of the team he plays for. You see this a lot. Hwang’s strengths are apparent in his nickname – he is physically a bull and as direct as can be, with marvellous off-ball movement that reminds me of, dare I say it, Luis Suarez.
Unlike Son and new team mate Adama Traore (£6.0m), Hwang’s weakness is taking on defenders one-on-one which, unfortunately, became problematic under a coach in Julian Nagelsmann who is famed for pressing tactics that emphasise link-up play.
After returning from having Covid, Hwang simply could not get into Nagelsmann’s plans and, despite the latter moving on to Bayern Munich, a loan deal was agreed with Wolves in late August.
STRONG START AT WOLVES
On the flip side, Bruno Lage is a coach who can perfectly fit Hwang into his tactics. At Benfica, Lage played a 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 formation with a dominating physical presence up top such as Haris Seferovic, plus players with great ability on the ball like Joao Felix playing just behind.
Unlike Nagelsmann’s more complicated build-up tactics, Lage is a simple coach that reaps the benefits of a ‘big and small’ forward duo.
Upon arrival at Wolves, Lage inherited a 3-4-3 system from Nuno Espirito Santo and, with the players being so used to this, the new manager didn’t immediately revert to his Benfica ways. Furthermore, their two centre back combination is not quite strong enough to handle the quality of Premier League forwards, in my opinion.
Yet Lage still implemented his ‘big and small’ tactics when trying to deploy Traore on the left zone to pair with Raul Jimenez (£7.5m). Early on, Traore was fantastic at creating big chances and getting into those key positions with direct runs but he still has one critical flaw: finishing.
Step in Hwang Hee-Chan. A perfect complement to the proven quality of Jimenez, clinical Hwang’s stats already speak for themselves: three goals in four appearances (just 249 minutes) and an expected goals (xG) tally of 1.37.
His two goals against Newcastle were a prime example of Lage’s two strikers combining effectively. As seen below, Jimenez held up the ball well and slotted in quickly-timed, precise passes for Hwang to finish.
Does this remind you of a special partnership? Involving a South Korean star alongside one of the league’s best strikers?
I’m excited at the real prospect of the Hwang-Jimenez partnership booming. Shortly before moving to Wolves, he essentially burned bridges with RB Leipzig by saying he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t playing – another example of his self-confidence.
My only concern is the plethora of attacking options that Wolves possess and the potential benching this could bring. But, after getting some insight from Wolves fans, there is an overwhelming sense that he will continue to start.
Especially if the goals keep flowing. Spurs’ tactics revolve around the Kane-Son combination and, if Jimenez-Hwang continues to fire, surely there is no way Lage would be willing to bench either. Perhaps this is the Diogo Jota (£7.6m) replacement that Wolves fans have been waiting for.
“He has adapted to the Premier League, he fits our way of playing because we need a player like him. Top players can enjoy our game and he is a top player.” – Bruno Lage
While I’m certainly hyped, I would definitely urge FPL managers to proceed with caution. Hwang struggled with his finishing during last week’s World Cup qualifier against Syria, missing several big chances.
Perhaps the time zone difference, long flight, climate changes and wet pitch were all factors here. The important thing was that his off-ball movement at least got him into those key positions and he ended up with an assist.
To conclude, at such a bargain price, Hwang could certainly be a player worth considering. He has high upside and could become an enabler for premium assets, just like Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m), Conor Gallagher (£5.7m) and Emile Smith Rowe (£5.4m).
In FPL, you have to make your own calculated and free decisions. I’m on Wildcard this week and I’m 100% set on having both Hwang and Son, barring injury.
I hope this was helpful in giving some context to Hwang’s fantastic start at Molineux.