Following the free agent arrival of Ki Sung-Yueng, we reached out to a Swansea fan to get an insight into the South Korean international who we’ll see playing at St James’ Park this season.
After playing in the Premier League for several seasons now, many of you may be fairly clued up as to what kind of player the 29-year-old midfielder is, but the thoughts here of Swansea season-ticket holder, Seab, say more than watching him a handful of times could.
Here’s what he’s had to say about Ki in responses to our question below:
1) What are your thoughts on Ki as a player? What do you deem to be his strengths and weaknesses?
‘I’ve always really liked Ki since he’s been with us. He brought a particular level of class to the midfield that we were kind of missing. He had a bit of a dip in form after winning the cup and went on loan to your neighbours (awkward!).
‘The season away seemed to do him good, I think we even tried to call him back in January but we didn’t – probably because of money then the next season he had a blinder. He’s got a great eye for a goal too. I remember putting on social media that he’s bag 10 goals for us that season. Close – he had 8. Which is a great return from a midfield. But I think as the seasons wore on, he became more and more of a luxury player as the relegation scraps started to bite.
‘The changing managers didn’t seem to want to play him regularly. But when he did get in the team, he did play well.
‘Downsides? Doesn’t tend to get ‘stuck in’ all too often – but when he does he can be a liability for a booking. He’s also not best suited playing deep. He’s better played further forward – being creative and getting shots off on goal. When he’s playing deep – he just wasn’t physical enough to protect the back four.
‘When we played three central midfielders he did a little better, but still I think given a more attacking role he can flourish.’
2) Rafa Benitez is big on work rate, discipline and a good attitude. Do you think he has these three traits to fit into this NUFC squad that prides itself on hard work and unity?
‘Now these are three things Ki would get berated for on social media and Swans forums. If his head wasn’t up for it, his performances could suffer. Especially when the relegation battle heated up, sometimes there was that feeling of he wasn’t up for a fight. But then he’d turn around and have a blinder and prove a lot of people wrong.
‘Discipline – I touched on this in Q1 and he can tend to be a yellow card waiting to happen if you’re relying on him to track back and defend. Keeping further forward and it seemed less of an issue.
‘Given that he’s now got a fresh start and under a fantastic manager in Rafa, if he keeps his head up and therefore his attitude in the right headspace, he could really get on and do well. But if things are looking a bit tough and hard going – you might find his work rate suffer.
‘I don’t suppose all of our manager changes helped, as he often took a while to get back in the team after a new boss came in.’
3) A few NUFC fans are a bit concerned that he didn’t get a new deal at Swansea, making it look as if his performances may have declined in recent seasons. How has he been during your recent struggles? One of your better players or has he endured a dip in form?
‘I’m disappointed that Ki left, but in his defence, he kept his options open. I feel that if we stayed up, he might have signed on for another season. I believe Ki, unfairly, got a large amount of slating from Swans fans (we can be a fickle bunch) and regularly there were calls for him to be left out etc.
‘As I alluded to earlier, Ki was subject to an occasional dip in form, usually when the going got rough or a new manager came in. But – given the right team environment, he’s a really, really great player. And considering how many seasons he’s had at UK too flight football, he’s still only 29.
‘I guess one way to sum it up would be – When things were going well, Ki played really well. If you consider he spent 5 full seasons with us, he averaged only 27/28 games a season. He was rarely injured, but still missed a number of games for various reasons. If you guys can keep him engaged and positive I reckon he’s going to be a great signing for you.’
4) He will know Jonjo Shelvey well after the two played together at Swansea a few years ago. What were they like together? Could this be a partnership that blossoms under Benitez?
‘Ah, Jonjo. A great player, but if only he could keep his head cool. It’ll be a great help to Ki for him settling in. I think they did get on well and it’s always great to have a familiar face.
‘I’m not sure what sort of formation you folks will be utilising next season, but from what I’ve seen from the pair of them in the past – neither do well in that defensive midfielder role. Ki wasn’t physical enough. Jonjo was probably the opposite and both were bookings waiting to happen.
‘Jonjo was best suited in that ‘in the hole’ or that ‘Gylfi’ role when he was with us. Obviously that role was filled – so when he was shoehorned deeper, it didn’t always work. Apart from his Hollywood passes. Ki isn’t dissimilar, he’s better a it further forward. I’d be really excited to see him play that ‘Number 10’ role and see how he gets on there. He is always up for a goal and can take a set piece (but I’d probably go with JJS ahead of him).
‘If you guys play something like a 433, both could play well in the middle, but not too deep. Or even in a 442 diamond if you’re playing narrow, they could do well on the same pitch together. If not, Ki will definitely offer you something different from the bench, and given he captains South Korea, he’s got leadership abilities too.
‘If Rafa can keep Ki’s head in the right place and play him regularly – you guys have done really well and got yourself a really class player. But if he’s regularly left out in the cold or played too deep – it might work out differently.’
Some VERY interesting stuff here.
He clearly rates him highly, but the idea that he goes off the boil and lets his head drop when the going gets tough is a worry – which also makes me question whether he can play alongside Shelvey? We’ll see for ourselves I suppose!
What do you make of this folks?