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Winter signings so far

In this article I’ll review the 7 players who are already confirmed to be joining Gamba’s first team for 2020. I’ve categorised them by on-field position.

Goalkeepers

Name: Jun Ichimori
Born: 2 July 1991, Izumisano, Osaka (28 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 182/77
Foot: right
Youth Clubs: Cerezo Osaka Youth, Kwansei Gakuin University
Pro Club History: 2014-2016 Renofa Yamaguchi FC (94 apps), 2017-2019 Fagiano Okayama (89 apps)

After moving east from Yamaguchi to Okayama in 2017, Ichimori has now returned back to his hometown of Osaka after 6 years playing J2 and J3 football in western Honshu. He was previously a member of Cerezo Osaka’s youth setup before spending 4 years studying at Kwansei Gakuin University. When he first moved to Yamaguchi in 2014, they were still in the JFL, but they achieved back to back promotions in his time there to become an established J2 side. He turned out 30 times in his final year with Renofa in 2016 before his impressive displays brought him to the attention of Fagiano. After being the undisputed number one in his first year with the Pheasants, he faced a fierce battle with former Nagasaki and Sapporo ‘keeper Junki Kanayama through 2018 and 2019. His quality eventually prevailed and he made 34 league appearances in 2019 to help an injury depleted Okayama finish in 9th place in the final J2 standings.
He was rated as one of the top stoppers in J2 this year, but he’ll likely find it hard to dislodge Gamba’s number one Masaaki Higashiguchi. He will, however, be a fine backup, who will likely get some game time in the cups. His arrival is also likely to mean Mizuki Hayashi will go out on loan, while young Kosei Tani is being courted by Shonan Bellmare.

Defenders

Name: Keisuke Kurokawa
Born: 13 April 1997, Hyogo (22 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 173/70
Foot: unknown
Youth Clubs: FC Rios Jr, Vissel Kobe Itami U15, Osaka Toin High School, Kansai University
Pro Club History: 2019 Gamba Osaka [designated special player] (1 appearance)

Kurokawa is a left-back / left wing-back who will likely challenge Hiroki Fujiharu for a starting berth next year and his arrival is also likely to see Yuya Fukuda feature more on his favoured right side of the field. He was brought in to train with Gamba’s first team squad this year as one of JLeague’s designated special players (I translate this more as an apprenticeship or on job training) so he should be able to get up to speed quickly. He’s already made one J1 appearance for Gamba, as a 71st minute replacement for Oh Jae-suk, in the 3-1 defeat away to Tosu back in May. Additionally he played the full 90 minutes in the comprehensive league cup group stage wins at home to S-Pulse and Jubilo.

Name: Shin Won-ho
Born: 19 May 2001, South Korea (18 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 176/67
Foot: left
Youth Clubs: Muwon Elementary School, Gunpo Junior High School, Boin High School
Pro Club History: N/A

South Korea U18 and U19 representative Shin Won-ho joins Gamba from Boin High School in Seoul, from where Bae Soo-yong (currently on loan at Kamatamare Sanuki) also hails. He is a left sided player who seems likely to fit in at left wing-back in Gamba’s 352 formation. I’ve no doubt the presence of South Korean international veteran Kim Young-gwon was instrumental in attracting him to Suita. According to his Youtube highlights package ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Miq4UHtr1X4 ), he likes to get forward and has a good cross on him. Gamba have a good record with Korean signings (Lee Keun-ho, Oh Jae-suk, Hwang Ui-jo, Kim Young-gwon), so I’m hopeful this one can work out well too.

Midfielders

Name: Yuki Yamamoto
Born: 6 November 1997, Shiga (22 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 173/64
Foot: right
Youth Clubs: Yasu JFC, Sagawa Shiga FC, FC Koto, Kusatsu Higashi Senior High School, Kwansei Gakuin University
Pro Club History: 2019 Gamba Osaka [designated special player]

A former university team mate of current Gamba defender Ryu Takao, Yamamoto (then a 3rd year student) also played in Kwansei Gakuin’s shock 2-1 Emperor’s Cup win over Levir Culpi’s Gamba back in June 2018. His performance that day clearly put him on Gamba’s radar and his signing for 2020 was confirmed in June of this year with him taking up a designated special player slot for the rest of the year. He didn’t see any first team action in 2019, but I expect to see him challenge for an attacking midfield role in this coming campaign.

Forwards

Name: Shuhei Kawasaki
Born: 28 April 2001, Kishiwada, Osaka (18 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 168/66
Foot: right
Youth Clubs: Edith Kishiwada SC, Hokuto SC, SS Create, Gamba Osaka Junior Youth, Gamba Osaka Youth
Pro Club History: 2019 Gamba Osaka [Type 2 – amateur contract] (24 appearances, 2 goals, 9 assists with Gamba U23 in J3)

Gamba U23’s assist king in J3 this year with a highly impressive 9 in 24 games. He did only manage 2 goals in that time, playing mainly as a left-winger of second striker, so that will need to be improved, but training with full-time professionals will help, especially the likes of Usami, Kurata and Ademilson who will really assist him in developing his game.

Name: Shoji Toyama
Born: 21 September 2002, Toyonaka, Osaka (17 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 178/65
Foot: right
Youth Clubs: Gamba Osaka Junior, Gamba Osaka Junior Youth, Gamba Osaka Youth
Pro Club History: 2019 Gamba Osaka [Type 2 – amateur contract] (9 appearances, 8 goals with Gamba U23 in J3)

Probably the most exciting of the latest crop of Gamba Youth products, Toyama, who represented Japan in this year’s Under 17 World Cup, netted at a rate of almost a goal a game in J3 this year. His composure in front of goal belies his tender years and I highly recommend you check out his hat-trick in the 6-0 rout of Fukushima United in September if you can find it on Youtube. He’s only in his second year of high school this year, yet he already stands at 178cm, when his body fully develops he’ll surely be a handful for J1 defences. Like Kawasaki, he’ll benefit hugely from training alongside seasoned pros every day…having the nous of someone like Patric or Kazuma Watanabe to lean on will be great for him.

Name: Dai Tsukamoto
Born: 23 June 2001, Izumi City, Osaka (18 years old)
Height (cm) / Weight (kg): 178/72
Foot: right
Youth Clubs: Izumi City FC, SS Create, Gamba Osaka Junior Youth, Gamba Osaka Youth
Pro Club History: 2019 Gamba Osaka [Type 2 – amateur contract] (21 appearances, 5 goals, 3 assists with Gamba U23 in J3)

Can play either as a left-winger or a striker in the same vein as Shuhei Kawasaki, though when both are on the field together it’s generally Tsukamoto on the left and Kawasaki playing off the main attacker. He struck 5 goals in 21 J3 games in 2019 (8 starts, 13 sub appearances) and bagged a hat-trick in the 3-1 home win over Gainare Tottori on his 18th birthday. From what I’ve seen of him, I’d rate Toyama and Kawasaki as better prospects, but similar to what I’ve said above, let’s see where he is after 2-3 years of full time training.

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