What Hearts would be getting in South Korean forward Lee Seung-woo

Even after the signings of Lawrence Shankland and Alan Forrest, Hearts have remained keen on bolstering their front line for the 2022/23 season.

By Craig Fowler
Monday, 1st August 2022, 3:10 pm
Updated Monday, 1st August 2022, 3:11 pm

If we can think of Shankland as a replacement for Ellis Simms and Forrest as another option following the expiration of Ben Woodburn’s loan, then these new additions make up the numbers lost over the summer from last year’s squad. But with eight games in European football, not to mention two cup competitions and the importance of maintaining recent success in the league, the club need more options at the top end of the field.

Fans are keen for the arrival of another striker to push both Shankland and last season’s top goalscorer Liam Boyce, and will be buoyed by the news Hearts have offered a three-year contract to South Korean forward Lee Seung-woo. The former Barcelona youth player has been tearing it up in the K League so far in 2022, scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances for his club Suwon. But goalscoring is about all the 24-year-old has in common with Shankland or Boyce.

Seung-woo is quite a short and slight player. His game is about avoiding opposition defenders rather than engaging with them. He plays with speed, which he uses to dart between deeper positions, where he links play with midfielders, or go beyond the front-line and attack the space in behind.

Lee Seung-woo in action for South Korea during an international friendly match against Costa Rica in 2018. Picture: SNS

It’s hard to imagine him playing too often as the lone central striker in Robbie Neilson’s preferred 3-4-3 system. This season especially Seung-woo has played from the left wing or the supporting attacker in a three-man forward line. He could act as the No.9 on rare occasions, such as in tough away fixtures where there’s more space to exploit, but his lack of physicality makes it rather unlikely we see him leading the line, playing with his back to goal, absorbing the bumps at a claustrophobic Tynecastle against opponents looking to sit in.

He’s similar to Forrest in that he’s right footed, plays on the left and looks to attack the penalty area rather than getting to the byline to whip in a cross. He only attempts a cross 1.5 times every 90 minutes, which is very low for someone who spends as much time as he does on the flank. Though he certainly favours his right, he undoubtedly has confidence in his weaker foot. While nine of his ten goals in 2022 thus far have been scored on his right, his lone left-footed finish saw him execute a cool-as-you-like dink over the onrushing goalkeeper.

There’s a modicum of concern that he’s another option who prefers to play from the left. Hearts already have three players in Forrest, Barrie McKay and Gary Mackay-Steven who like to operate from that flank. But Neilson has shown a bit of evolution with regards to his favourite formation, moving Boyce alongside Shankland in the Stoke friendly with McKay taking up residence as the No.10. We also saw this at points against County with Forrest joining Shankland.

The thought of someone like Seung-woo playing alongside Boyce or Shankland, with the pair capable of occupying defenders, dragging them out of position and exploiting space for the South Korean to run into, is certainly an exciting prospect.

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