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Nagoya Grampus vs Gamba Osaka 27 August 2022 Match Preview

Nagoya Grampus vs Gamba Osaka
2022 J1 Season Round 27
Saturday 27 August 2022
Toyota Stadium
Kick Off: 18:00 (JST)


As the clock ticks ever closer to midnight on Gamba’s season they face the second of three away trips on the spin, this time at a Nagoya side who find themselves comfortably ensconced in mid-table. Could this be just the match Hiroshi Matsuda and his battered Nerazzurri troops are looking for, or does more heartbreak await at the Toyota Stadium? Gamba went down 5-2 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima last Saturday in a game that in some ways defies explanation and in others tells you everything you need to know about their 2022 campaign. Despite leading for half the contest, 4 goals in 16 breathtaking minutes from the Viola gave them an emphatic win that almost entirely erased the positive feeling built up during a dull, but largely effective opening 72 minutes from the Nerazzurri. That result leaves Gamba right where they started the matchday, 2nd bottom, only above Júbilo on goal difference and with just 9 fixtures remaining, including the next 3 within the space of 8 days, the blue and blacks have used up all of their lives and simply must start winning again following a barren run of 5 losses and 2 draws. Nagoya, coached by former Ao to Kuro treble-winning kantoku Kenta Hasegawa, have spent the bulk of the year floating just above the drop-zone without ever looking in serious danger and with last Friday night’s 1-0 victory over bottom side Júbilo Iwata safely in the bag they can surely begin planning for 2023 as they now find themselves almost equidistant, in terms of points, from the ACL places and the bottom 3. With that said, I’m sure the Grampus faithful will be expecting a professional display and a win, while Gamba, who will surely take a large following east to Aichi, know that victory at any cost is absolutely essential.

A quick reminder that I joined Sam on this week’s J-Talk Podcast where we discussed Gamba vs Sanfrecce and all the other games on the round 26 slate as well as looking ahead to the upcoming fixtures and commenting on developments in the Asian Champions League. Please check it out if you haven’t already, it’s available on all good podcast apps.

Tale of the Tape



There was absolutely nothing subtle or flashy about what Hiroshi Matsuda did tactics-wise against Hiroshima, 4-4-2, three banks of players set up to stifle Sanfrecce and their gegenpressing system, plus two ‘big men’ up-front with wingers on the flanks. Coming straight from the Sam Allardyce / Tony Pulis playbook as it did, one could argue for a club in Gamba’s predicament it was the most sensible option. Once Michael Skibbe and his coaching team saw the Nerazzurri lineup I’m sure there was little doubt in their minds how Gamba would play, yet still for the majority of the game, they struggled to deal with it. Rather prematurely I scribbled in my notes during the second-half drinks break, ‘2-1 Gamba, holding on quite comfortably.’ Famous last words though they were, I’m sure had you taken a sample poll of fans watching last Saturday’s tie then they’d likely have told you 2-2 or 3-1 Gamba were the most probable outcomes with 20 minutes to go. As I’m sure you’re well aware, Gamba didn’t return to Suita with the three points, instead they capitulated in the final 20 minutes. Well, I say capitulated, but in reality Sanfrecce won the game rather than Gamba losing it. While I can point the finger at Genta Miura for Nassim Ben Khalifa’s first or Gen Shoji’s weak effort at stopping Taishi Matsumoto’s fifth, Hiroshima players like Ben Khalifa, Gakuto Notsuda and Makoto Mitsuta stood up and produced the goods when it mattered and Gamba ultimately had no answer. Similar tactics likely await us going forward, even if Katanosaka-era signings such as Kwon Kyung-won, Dawhan and Musashi Suzuki do force their way into Matsuda’s plans over the coming weeks. The season low 113 completed passes and 29% possession (both marginally worse than Frontale away when it was 10 v 11 for 83 minutes) may owe something to weather conditions and the quality of the opposition, but are more likely harbingers of what’s to come. To combat this slight negativity on my part, Matsuda, or others, could rightly point out that while the Ao to Kuro were easier on the eye under Katanosaka compared to last year, that was fruitless as positive results didn’t follow. Additionally, Matsuda-ball did help Gamba engineer better chances than their more vaunted hosts on Saturday, generating an average of 0.092xG per attempt versus Sanfrecce’s 0.086xG. Small margins and clutching at straws, I know, I know, however, against a Grampus side that might not be quite as switched on, or as sharp as Hiroshima, it could, just could, make all the difference.



Although most associated with a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 setup, Kenta Hasegawa has shown that you can teach an old dog new tricks by, through a series of transitions, morphing Grampus into a 3-4-2-1 formation. Young Haruya Fujii has come to the fore this year, pouring scorn on claims that Hasegawa never gives youth a chance, playing in between the fit-again Yuichi Maruyama and Japan international Shinnosuke Nakatani, while another Samurai Blue, Yuki Soma, has found himself in the unfamiliar left wing-back role, ousting one of Massimo Ficcadenti’s favourites, Yutaka Yoshida, in the process. On the other flank, Ryoya Morishita has seen rather more action this season than he did under Hasegawa’s Italian predecessor and, in my book, Grampus are all the better for it. Further forward, Keiya Sento and Noriyoshi Sakai, who both joined from Sagan Tosu last winter, haven’t really lived up to expectations yet, meaning summer addition from Avispa Fukuoka, Takuya Shigehiro, has subsequently found himself in an unfamiliar attacking role and thus far become better known for head-scratchingly bad misses rather than good play (I’m sure that comment will come back to haunt me with Gamba’s record this year of everything that can possibly go wrong, going wrong).

Just two victories in their opening 12 league games had Nagoya and new kantoku Hasegawa under pressure earlier in the year, but a run of 6 wins, 4 draws and only 3 defeats over the subsequent 13 fixtures has steadied the ship. Defensively, naturally they’ve slipped back a touch from the halcyon days of Ficcadenti, but not as much as you might think. Grampus are still conceding at a clip of under a goal a game, 0.96 per 90 minutes this season compared with 0.79 in 2021 and 0.82 two years ago. Hasegawa’s greatest headache perhaps lies at the other end of the field. They’ve only hit the back of the net 8 times in their most recent 10 outings and Brazilian flyer Mateus has bagged 5 of those. The term ‘talisman’ feels like it doesn’t do him the justice he deserves, he’s not quite a one-man band, but he is so, so important to how the Giallorossi operate in the attacking third of the field. Grampus have scored 8.5 times fewer than we could reasonably expect based on their xG numbers and that under-performance is even more pronounced on home soil. Despite recording xG For totals of over 2 in 6 of their 12 matches at Toyota Stadium this season, that has only translated into 14 actual goals being scored, an under-performance of 4.84. With new attackers such as Kensuke Nagai, Leonardo and Shigehiro now on board, surely Nagoya will be aiming to reduce their reliance on Mateus while at the same time scoring more frequently in front of their own supporters.



First Match Recap

Gamba’s 3-1 triumph at home to Nagoya back in April was definitely one of the high points of their year and came at a vital time in the wake of a tame draw at Júbilo and a disappointing defeat to Fukuoka at Panasonic Stadium. After a slow-paced start the Nerazzurri picked up the momentum and in the aftermath of a Hiroto Yamami set-piece, Gen Shoji shot goalward and Patric was on hand to deflect in the opener after 26 minutes (just rewards after having a perfectly good effort ruled out against the same opposition at the back end of the 2021 season). Not long after, Australian ‘keeper Mitch Langerak denied the big Brazilian with a wonderful stop from point blank range, and then not a great deal of action took place up until the Ao to Kuro’s second, eight minutes into the second-half, and it was a tragic own-goal from a Grampus perspective. Yamami put in a speculative cross and right-back Kazuya Miyahara, who had a pretty grim afternoon all round, had the ball volleyed off him by team-mate Mateus, before it flew past the helpless Langerak in goal. Keisuke Kurokawa then sealed the deal with a fine run and shot, rewarding him with his first ever J1 goal. Three and easy for Gamba, well not quite, as with the game all but sewn up Shoji played a hospital pass to Ju Se-jong at the edge of his own area, Keiya Sento dispossessed the South Korean international and buried the ball past debutant Jun Ichimori for a late consolation. No more goals followed and Gamba saw out a comfortable 3-1 win which moved them up to 9th in the standings.



Gamba Osaka

* At a press conference held on the evening of 17 August, Gamba Osaka Chairman Mr. Ono confirmed that although Hiroshi Matsuda had taken over from Tomohiro Katanosaka in the hot-seat, this was only until the end of the current season. At present, who the coach will be in 2023 is ‘a blank slate,’ (that’s me trying to translate accurately) and there was also a vague reference to a more rigorous approach being taken to identifying the right candidate. If this helps avoid future episodes of, bringing in a kantoku, signing a bunch of players that suit their style of football and then firing them after lots of money has been spent, that would be much appreciated.

With all this in mind, I drew up the official @BlogGamba Managerial Shortlist;

* Kenta Kawai – Currently has cash-strapped Sagan Tosu sitting 7th in J1 playing an easy-on-the-eye brand of attacking football. Likely to be in such demand that he won’t countenance a move to Suita, especially not if the Nerazzurri are in J2 next year, but we can dream, right?

* Satoshi Yamaguchi – Club legend who remains a fan favourite from his time as a member of both the playing and coaching staff at Gamba. Moved to Shonan in 2021 having been assistant to Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and has overachieved on a shoestring there. However, as you may have noticed above, a lot of his background is similar to Katanosaka’s, possibly so much so that it’ll make the Gamba front office think twice about hiring him.

* Peter Cklamovski – As far as I can tell, Gamba haven’t had a decent foreign coach this side of the millennium, could the popular Australian be the man to alter that? Wasn’t given the resources to fully implement his methods at Shimizu in 2020 and currently meeting expectations, but little more at Yamagata. Is this a project that would appeal to him, and can Gamba sell themselves as a progressive enough outfit to attract such a coach?

* Takeshi Oki – Currently working wonders with Roasso Kumamoto. His revolutionary 3-3-1-3 Marcelo Bielsa-esque formation took Kumamoto up from J3 to J2 last year and now has them in playoff contention where they could end up bumping into Gamba. At 61, age isn’t on his side, but he knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. It would certainly be a fascinating experiment if he took over at the helm in Suita.

* Akira Ito – This one is more if the worst comes to the worst and Gamba are playing J2 football in year. Ito steered Ventforet Kofu to 5th, 4th and 3rd placed finishes in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively, working on a much smaller budget than many of their rivals. They’ve dropped right off the pace this term without him in charge and despite recently getting the axe at Iwata, I see that job as a poisoned chalice that most coaches would have struggled with.

It will be very interesting to see how Gamba’s managerial search turns out. Stay tuned for future developments.

* Speaking of the future, on Monday 22 August Gamba announced the signing of Hosei University left-back Ibuki Konno who will join on a full-time deal from 2024, but has inked a designated special player contract for the rest of this season. This news has sent jitters through the Ao to Kuro fanbase as Keisuke Kurokawa was absent without explanation for the trip to Hiroshima last weekend and has been the subject of rumours linking him with a move to Europe. We’ll see what happens with that, but young Konno seems to come with good pedigree having played for Mitsubishi Yowa SC during high school, the same club that helped develop Keito Nakamura, before heading to Hosei, who of course knocked Gamba out of the 2019 Emperor’s Cup and boast the likes of Ayase Ueda among their alumni.

* On the evening of Monday 22 August, Sports Hochi’s Gamba beat reporter Mr. Kanagawa once again held a Twitter Spaces event with Mr. Uchida, his counterpart in Kashima. Interesting information to come out of that meeting was that apparently while members of the Gamba squad were wanting and expecting to play the same type of football that Katanosaka had served up in Oita, the boss himself opted to alter things and this lead to confusion and disagreements. Also, regarding Juan Alano’s recent move from Ibaraki to Suita, the two reporters stated that the move was instigated by Kashima as they were looking to free up space for new Nigerian signing Blessing Eleke. I realise that these stories might not be particularly earth-shattering to regular followers of the J. League, but I thought it would be good to share them nonetheless.

Team News

**Note – The club announced one asymptomatic case of Coronavirus among the playing staff on Monday 22 August. As is customary, the player in question’s identity is being kept under wraps.**

Additionally, the following players are doubts for this fixture and / or have an important status announcement regarding their availability.

DF Keisuke Kurokawa – Not in the matchday squad for Hiroshima away last week, potentially the Covid case that was announced by the club on 19 August or could he be on his way overseas?

MF Yuya Fukuda – Underwent shoulder surgery in May, potentially back in early September

MF Kosuke Onose – Not in the matchday squad for Hiroshima away, potentially the Covid case that was announced by the club on 19 August or possibly dropped due to patchy form this term and last

MF Rihito Yamamoto – Small fracture in instep of foot, has started running again, should be back in early September

FW Leandro Pereira – Substituted at half-time in the loss at Hiroshima. Was seen grimacing during the water break as if he was feeling the effects of an earlier challenge. It’s equally possible he was replaced as Suzuki offered more pace on the counter.

FW Isa Sakamoto – Attended a Japan U-19 training camp alongside Jiro Nakamura and Rikuto Kuwahara last midweek which may have been behind his absence at Hiroshima, alternatively Matsuda’s style and penchant for experience may limit his playing time until the end of the year

FW Takashi Usami – Ruptured achilles tendon, likely out for the season, has started light sprinting in training as per a video posted on the club’s official Instagram on 19 August

FW Hiroto Yamami – Not in the squad for the past 2 matches, it’s unclear whether he is injured or has been left out possibly due to his bad miss late on against Kyoto

Dawhan, Shu Kurata and Kosuke Onose are all just a single yellow card away from the one game suspension threshold of 4

Predicted Lineups and Stats





Nagoya Grampus

Nagoya are clearly not satisfied with a season of comfortable mid-table football after feasting on 3rd and 5th placed finishes under Massimo Ficcadenti in 2020 and 2021, meaning Toyota Stadium has been the site of a bounty of ins and outs this summer. The headline signing has been the return of prodigal son Kensuke Nagai who bagged 42 goals in 161 J1 appearances for the club between 2011 and 2016. The former FC Tokyo speedster gives an extra option in attack, but in the twilight of his career at 33, he certainly won’t help to bring down the average age of the squad which is getting a tad problematic. In fairness, neither will any of the other recent acquisitions, Brazilian forward Leonardo (29) from Chengdu in China, veteran schemer Ryota Nagaki (34) on loan from Shonan and Takuya Shigehiro, the youngest of the crew at 27, who arrived from Avispa Fukuoka where he’d served as backup to Hiroyuki Mae and Shun Nakamura. The Giallorossi have managed to unload some of their more ageing attackers with Hiroyuki Abe going to Shonan, Mu Kanazaki linking up with former side Oita and Manabu Saito heading overseas to join Suwon Samsung Bluewings in South Korea. Mitch Langerak (34), Yuichi Maruyama (33) and Leo Silva (36) plus Tiago, Yoichiro Kakitani and Yutaka Yoshida (all 32) are still on-board, but honestly I’d expect at least a couple of them to head to fresh pastures this coming winter. The club have yet to show their hand transfer-wise for 2023 and it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Polish international Jakub Świerczok, currently serving a year-long suspension for a PED violation. It would also be fascinating to observe what someone like Kenta Kawai of Tosu could do if given the reigns at a side with the resources of Grampus, however, ultimately nothing dramatic enough to warrant a managerial change has really taken place this year therefore I don’t really rate it as likely in the up-coming off-season (granted I held a similar belief 12 months ago). All I can say for sure looking into the future is that Rissho University attacker Kyota Sakakibara, currently on a designated special player contract, will join full-time, though that won’t be until he graduates college in 2024. Sakakibara is a former Grampus Under-18 player where he was a team-mate of Kwansei Gakuin University’s Ken Masui, a talented youngster who has been linked with Gamba, but who could also choose to return to his nest. (another Japanese to English translation I love).

Team News

The following players are doubts for this fixture and / or have an important status announcement regarding their availability.

DF Yutaka Yoshida – hasn’t played since being sent off after coming on as a sub at home to S-Pulse on 10 July, I suspect he’s just been dropped by Hasegawa

MF Hidemasa Koda – knee muscle injury, hasn’t played since 18 May, expected back soon

MF Kazuki Nagasawa – knee injury, hasn’t played since 20 April, no date yet given for his comeback

FW Noriyoshi Sakai – Last played 11 June, he may be injured, but it’s probably more likely he’s just been dropped due to underwhelming displays since his winter arrival from Tosu

FW Jakub Świerczok – Currently serving a suspension for an unspecified period of time due to testing positive for a banned substance during last year’s Asian Champions League campaign

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

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Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus 2 April 2022 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus
2022 J1 Season Round 6
Saturday 2 April 2022
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)


J1 is back after a successful international break for the Samurai Blue, and speaking of success, former Gamba treble-winning coach Kenta Hasegawa is in town as he leads his Nagoya side into Osaka to face off with former protégé Tomohiro Katanosaka’s troops. Both teams currently sit level on 5 points, though Grampus have played a game fewer owing to their round 2 clash with FC Tokyo being postponed. Nerazzurri kantoku Katanosaka doesn’t have his troubles to seek following a chastening 3-2 home loss to Fukuoka a fortnight back which bore all the hallmarks of the darkest days of the 2021 season. That was followed up by a second-half capitulation away at Kashima in the Levain Cup last Saturday and, as such, the pressure he’s under might have been turned up just a notch or so. Hasegawa has made a steady, if unspectacular, start to life in Aichi. The Giallorossi were perhaps a shade fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw against early season surprise package Kashiwa in their previous league outing, but bounced back to comfortably see off J2 promotion chasers Tokushima in the League Cup with Yoichiro Kakitani making a welcome return to the scoresheet. This will be the first of 3 J1 fixtures in the space of 8 days for both clubs so needless to say beginning that run with a positive result is of paramount importance to each side.

Tale of the Tape

I’ll try my best to stay upbeat and positive about Gamba in this section and I accept that might mean supporters of other teams think I’m being ever so slightly biased. The Nerazzurri’s 3-2 home loss at the hands of Avispa Fukuoka means they’re still without a home win this season in league or cup (D1L3, with a minimum of 2 goals conceded every game), however, it did mark their 2nd consecutive xG For over 1, possession % higher than 50 and completed passes above 400, if these kind of numbers continue then I’m reasonably confident better results are around the corner. April is shaping up as an important month for the Ao to Kuro with upcoming dates against Kyoto, Shimizu and Shonan likely to set the tone for the middle part of the campaign. With that in mind, the return of Hiroki Fujiharu in tandem with Kwon Kyung-won and Dawhan’s much anticipated entries into Japan couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, as that trio should be able to help stabilise the backline once they’re fully up to speed. I’m loathe to be overly critical at the moment due to several factors that have been against Katanosaka, inheriting a shambles, the pre-season Covid outbreak, a spate of injuries plus the aforementioned late arrival of two of the big winter signings. Overall things haven’t been great, though they certainly haven’t been terrible either, well up until the last week or so. It feels like the Nerazzurri’s season is balancing on something of a knife-edge at the moment and after the next run of games we’ll get a clearer picture of how things stand. If the men from Suita are going to take decisive steps in the right direction then the home form needs sorted out and that sorting needs to start this Saturday. The blue and blacks have struck first just once in four home outings this year, and did so only 5 times in 19 J1 games at Panasonic Stadium in 2021, that’s a statistic that Katanosaka simply must find a way to alter, and from this writer’s perspective it would be pleasing if Nagoya were the first team to bear the brunt of that change in fortunes. To finish this section on a positive note like I promised above, 8 fixtures have been fulfilled to date in all competitions and the Nerazzurri have found the net in each of them plus Pereira, Onose and Fukuda already have 2 league goals apiece so contributions are coming from different areas of the field, it’s now a matter of starting matches on the front foot, giving themselves a fighting chance of taking the lead (five of the seven goals Gamba have scored in J1 have come in the final 13 minutes plus additional time) and keeping the door bolted shut at the back, it all sounds so easy written down like that, doesn’t it?

Having been pipped to second spot by Gamba in 2020, Grampus finished a whopping 8 places and 22 points better off than the Nerazzurri last term. Just as in 2020, the foundation was set by kantoku Massimo Ficcadenti’s rock-solid catenaccio style defence. Nagoya’s 30 goals conceded was 2nd best in the league, only behind champions Kawasaki while Australian ‘keeper Mitch Langerak set a new divisional record of 21 clean sheets in a season (including an incredible 9 in-a-row in April/May), outdoing his own previous record from 12 months prior (17, albeit that campaign contained 4 fewer games). The Giallorossi also posted the 2nd best xG Against and Shots Against on Target numbers and were 3rd in the Shots Against rankings, on the other hand, and this might go some way to explaining why Massimo Ficcadenti is now their former kantoku, Grampus placed 16th out of 20 in both xG For and Shots For. That brings me on nicely to their new boss Kenta Hasegawa, and although he’s only been in charge for a grand total of 4 J1 and 3 Levain Cup games, there are a couple of small points I’d like to make about him and his new charges. Looking specifically at their league fixtures to date, a pretty tough run of games vs Kobe, Tosu, Kawasaki and Kashiwa, impressively they’ve outshot 3 of their 4 opponents so far and have also cleared 120km team distance covered in all but one outing (Kawasaki were the only team they didn’t achieve this against, while Gamba’s 118.9km versus Frontale at home is their current personal best). Conversely, Grampus are yet to enjoy the lion’s share of possession in any match, though the 48% recorded in the clash with Kashiwa just before the international break is their highest figure, so things may be starting to point in the right direction. Just as in the Gamba vs Fukuoka clash, the stats above suggest we are likely to see the Nerazzurri control possession and territory, and with my blue and black tinted sunglasses firmly secured, I hope this doesn’t once again lead to the type of counter attacking opportunities that allowed Avispa to bank their 2nd and 3rd goals and indeed provided the majority of Grampus’ chances in the head to head games between these two last season. In my previous preview I talked about Fukuoka being due a change in luck after having results that didn’t quite match their impressive stats, well check this out…in 2021 Nagoya scored 5 times in 2 games against Gamba from only 1.76xG For and 19 shots (12 on target). Put simply, almost 50% of their shots on target resulted in goals, a tally which stood at 100% for the 3-1 win at Panasonic Stadium in November, 3 shots on target, 3 goals, you can’t do much better than that, but minus their star Polish attacker is that run due to come to a shuddering halt?

Head to Head


Gamba’s 2021 nightmare can be traced back to March 3rd when, what would have been their second league match of the season versus Grampus at Toyota Stadium was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the squad. The rescheduled fixture, played on Thursday 22 April was one to forget for the men from Suita with Nagoya running out comfortable 2-0 victors. Goals either side of half-time from Ryogo Yamasaki and the impressive Yuki Soma were enough to see off a rather toothless visiting side as the Brazilian duo of Patric and Leandro Pereira didn’t really click in attack while having Onose and Fukuda as full-backs left Gamba’s defence exposed to the twin threats of Mateus and Soma down the flanks.

The return match came in round 36 and was the Ao to Kuro’s first outing since making themselves mathematically safe from relegation in their tightly fought 3-2 triumph at Oita a fortnight previously. Co-kantokus Masanobu Matsunami and Takashi Kiyama let the handbrake off just a touch, but it was enough to allow a clinical Nagoya to race into an unassailable lead thanks to a 3 goal barrage within the opening half hour. Polish hitman Jakub Świerczok was destroyer-in-chief, bagging a deadly double from two lethal finishes, and ex-Cerezo legend Yoichiro Kakitani also getting on the scoresheet, how he must have revelled in that experience. Gamba rallied strongly after the break with Patric giving them a glimmer of hope in the 53rd minute and, hot on the heels of his hat-trick in Kyushu 13 days prior, he should have bagged a brace here, but after having the ball in the net for a second time the referee ruled it out for reasons that still remain unclear and VAR failed to overturn the original decision, so it finished 3-1 Grampus (with VAR also not being used to rescind his red-card following his ‘scuffle’ with Yuma Suzuki in round 1 could the Brazilian be considered a runner up to Shonan’s Takuya Okamoto in the J1 VAR’s most disliked player rankings?)




Gamba Osaka

* System of a Down – To quote Tim Canterbury from the Office “I’m boring myself talking about it,” but unfortunately the ever changing Gamba formation requires another mention here. Listeners to last week’s marathon J-Talk Pod will be aware that I was able to guess Hajime Moriyasu’s starting eleven for the crunch game with Australia perfectly despite only putting in minimum effort to research my answer. However, with Gamba, even seasoned observers have no real idea of what formation will be served up on any given matchday. I thought Katanosaka’s appointment would put an end to 2021’s chicanery, but it appears not. Maybe with Kwon Kyung-won and Dawhan arriving as the final pieces of the puzzle, Katanosaka will settle on 3-4-2-1 as he did at Oita, however, that remains to be seen. I challenge anyone reading this to name a successful side that regularly switch(ed) between a back 3 and back 4, in fact this observation formed the bulk of my criticism of Vissel Kobe across the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and lo-and-behold, once they started playing with a back 4 week-in week-out their defensive performance improved markedly. Perhaps Katanosaka would be well advised to sit down for a chat with his former mentor Kenta Hasegawa after Saturday’s match or even get on the blower to another of his previous bosses, Hajime Moriyasu, for some words of wisdom.

* Higuchi Heartbreak – 4 Kashima goals last Saturday, 4 Yuta Higuchi assists, if any Gamba fans were in doubt over what we missed out on then those illusions were shattered at the Kashima Soccer Stadium. In all honesty with the trajectory Antlers and Gamba are headed in, it appears that Higuchi made the right choice career wise, even if the antics of Kashima’s Kento Misao in the lead up to Patric’s early opener served as a reminder of why they make so few friends outside the confines of Ibaraki.

* Player Focus 1 Jun Ichimori – Two injury blighted years after his arrival from Fagiano Okayama, Ichimori, yet another member of the Kwansei Gakuin Old Boys brigade at Gamba, finally made his first team debut in the Levain Cup tie with Kashima, and unfortunately it was largely a debut to forget. The Nerazzurri conceded 4 goals in the space of 38 second half minutes, 3 of them from corners and Ichimori appeared to be at least partially culpable for a couple of them. After failing to cover himself in glory on his comeback, I’d expect nominal 3rd choice Kei Ishikawa to keep his place on Saturday, however, Ichimori is better with the ball at his feet, has 120 games of J2 football under his belt with Yamaguchi and Okayama (Ishikawa, who’s only 1 year younger than Ichimori had made a mere 4 league appearances above J3 level prior to this season) and in the only real head-to-head comparison I have, turning out as over-age players for the now defunct Gamba U23, Ichimori looked by far the more competent of the two, so let’s describe this situation as being fluid for now.

Player Focus 2 Dawhan – His first appearance in a blue and black uniform may have come in rather inconspicuous circumstances, playing the final 10 minutes of the 4-1 drubbing at Kashima, but Gamba supporters will be hoping that was just the opening chapter in what will ultimately be a long and fruitful partnership. With 55 games to his name in Brazil’s Serie A, most latterly with Juventude, Dawhan describes his playing style as being similar to Paulinho (the former Spurs and Barcelona one, not the Matsumoto Yamaga midfielder…I hope) and Felipe Melo and says his strengths are his defensive prowess and also his heading (despite standing at 177cm). It seems that he’s a like-for-like replacement for Ideguchi and I, for one, can’t wait to see him in the engine room with Mitsuki Saito on a regular basis.

Team News

Thankfully I don’t have a whole lot to say in this section for once. Talisman Takashi Usami (achilles) is expected to miss the rest of the season while regular first choice keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi has also gone under the knife, having relatively minor knee surgery and he’s expected back by the end of May if everything proceeds smoothly. Kwon Kyung-won may sit this one out after being away on international duty with his country and I have no information as to why Wellington Silva has been out of the matchday squad in recent weeks, it’s presumed that he’s picked up a knock of some sort.

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Nagoya Grampus

Grampus have been round the houses in terms of management in recent seasons with the ultra-defensive Massimo Ficcadenti replacing the extremely attack-minded Yahiro Kazama towards the back end of 2019 as the Giallorossi flirted dangerously with a 2nd relegation in the space of 4 years. The Italian achieved excellent on-field results, 3rd and 5th in 2020 and 2021 respectively, however, his style of play was certainly not easy on the eye, though quite how entitled J.League fans are to demand exciting and successful football at the same time is a debate for another day. Kenta Hasegawa is something of a halfway house in that he gets results from a slightly more offensive setup than Ficcadenti, but don’t expect Nagoya to earn many plaudits for playing in an overly beautiful or dynamic way under his tutelage. Early on this season we’ve seen signs of greater openness at the back with Shinnosuke Nakatani and Mitch Langerak being stretched to their absolute limits in the Reysol match. In attack, the absence of Świerczok appears to have led to an over-reliance on wingers Soma and, in particular, Mateus and this has been exacerbated by the bedding in issues experienced by both Keiya Sento and Noriyoshi Sakai since their winter arrivals from Tosu. Hasegawa will not be the only Gamba treble winner in the Grampus ranks on Saturday with Hiroyuki Abe (ex-Kwansei Gakuin just like Ichimori, Takao, Yamamoto and Yamami) surely licking his lips at the prospect of following in the footsteps of Shun Nagasawa, Kotaro Omori and Tatsuya Tanaka in scoring against his former side this season. Indeed, I think Akihiro Ienaga is the only Old Boy who’s failed to hit the target against the Nerazzurri in 2022, though, in his defence he had a very positive influence in the attacking third during his brief second-half cameo in the recent Gamba vs Kawasaki match.

One thing that has interested me about Grampus over the past few years is the composition of their squad. Nagoya is the 4th biggest city in Japan and Aichi the country’s 4th largest prefecture, yet despite having a large pool of potential recruits slap-bang on their doorstep there is a distinct absence of youth graduates in the first team with full-back Shumpei Naruse and central defender Haruya Fujii the only ex-Nagoya U-18 players to earn league minutes in 2021 (Ryotaro Ishida was an unused sub). They also don’t tend to deal much with universities, Yuki Soma was the only player directly recruited from varsity football (Waseda University) to feature in J1 last term (Shunto Kodama was an unused replacement) and that is a trend that has continued into 2022 under Hasegawa. Rookie Hidemasa Koda has made a handful of sub appearances on the wing, Fujii has rotated with Tiago in Yuichi Maruyama’s extended leave of absence and Naruse appears to have dropped down the pecking order, but aside from that, there’s not a whole lot to report. For reference the 2022 Nagoya Grampus squad is made up of 30 players, 16 of whom were recruited from other J1 clubs, 4 from J2, 2 from overseas sides, 1 (Soma) from university and 7 from the youth team (of whom 3, Koda, Haruki Yoshida and Koki Toyoda were promoted last winter). Bringing in already developed J1 talents isn’t cheap and I’m curious about Grampus’ current financial situation. In the wake of Jô’s acrimonious departure there was essentially an 18 month gap before he was adequately replaced (by Świerczok who himself is now banned), suggesting that the club may have been awaiting the CAS’s decision on that matter before parting with more cash, and as Świerczok is now out of the picture indefinitely, will Hasegawa have to make do with what he has? Nagoya did announce the loan signing of versatile midfielder Takuya Uchida from Hasegawa’s previous charges FC Tokyo on Monday and he joined up with his new team-mates for training on Tuesday (29 March). It’s not an eye-catching acquisition by any stretch of the imagination, however, the Giallorossi still retain the backbone of the strong 2020 and 2021 sides and will deservedly start Saturday’s tie as favourites.

Team News

Covid seems to be the biggest concern for Grampus at the moment with 2 positive cases reported in the camp (1 on Monday 28/3, and 1 on Tuesday 29/3). Elsewhere Polish centre-forward Jakub Świerczok is still missing after being suspended due to a PED violation. In more positive news, long term casualty Yuichi Maruyama made his comeback in an Elite League game last Sunday while regular left-back Yutaka Yoshida was out of the squad completely for the 1-1 draw with Kashiwa then rode the pine for the Levain Cup win over Tokushima so is presumably good to go for Saturday. I hope Shinnosuke Nakatani did a good job organising the cones on the Samurai Blue training pitch as he certainly didn’t get anywhere near the starting eleven meaning he should slot back into his regular position here while Hidemasa Koda and Shumpei Naruse both featured in Japan U21’s impressive Dubai Cup campaign, but like Nakatani I’d imagine they will be ready to play against Gamba if called upon by Hasegawa.

Predicted Lineups and Stats



Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

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sport

J1 2022 Predicted Lineups

Happy New Year everyone! This is my first post of 2022 and following on from the previous two seasons I’ve decided to put together a J1 predicted lineups article to get the ball rolling. Hope you all enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Also a quick reminder that you can find the 2022 squad lists screenshotted below in this Excel document.

And, be sure to check out @Michael_Master on Twitter if you haven’t already, the one and only account you need to follow to keep up to date with J. League transfers.

The Guide

Teams are listed below in the order they finished the 2021 campaign and each club’s mini-section contains the following information.

Best Signing – This won’t necessarily be objectively the best player the team have signed over the winter, more the one I feel addresses the most pressing need in the squad, for example, spoiler alert, I selected Kim Min-tae over both Yuta Higuchi and Yuma Suzuki in this category at Kashima.

Biggest Loss – Basically the opposite of best signing.

One to Watch – Again it might not be the best player in the squad or the one most likely to join a European club in the summer, rather someone whose good, bad or up-and-down form will set the tone for his team’s entire campaign.

Doubtful – Players who due to either injuries carried over from 2021, immigration issues or, in the case of a certain Polish striker at Nagoya, potential doping violations, might not be available for selection in the opening months of 2022.

Notes – Me trying to work out what direction the team is heading in this year.

Predicted Lineups

A few caveats here,

* For simplicity’s sake I’ve assumed every contracted player to be fit and available for selection when choosing these best elevens.
* These are not meant to be seen as the predicted starting lineup for round 1, think of them more as the players who will feature most across the course of the year (obviously new signings will be made in the summer, but unfortunately I’m not in possession of a crystal ball to make forecasts that far in advance).
* In cases where numerous players may see significant minutes in a certain position I’ve listed alternatives below the main choice (players may appear as alternatives for more than one role, see Satoshi Tanaka or Takuro Kaneko for examples). I also hope this illustrates where certain clubs have perhaps overstocked in one area of the field while neglecting others. Where two alternatives are listed, the name on the left is the one I consider to be higher on the team’s depth chart.
* I think I said this last year, but I’ll repeat myself anyway, expect the lineups for teams that have kept the same coach and most of the same playing staff as 2021 (Kawasaki) to be more accurate than those that have seen multiple changes in management and on-field personnel (Tosu).
* I have done a great deal of research to get these lineups as accurate as I can to the best of my knowledge, but full disclosure, I’ve also acted on some hunches and taken a punt on some lesser known talents (I guess there wouldn’t be much point reading this article if I just stated the obvious). Players coming from university sides directly into professional starting elevens is one of the unique selling points of football in this part of the world versus, say Europe, and it can be immensely tricky trying to project how each year’s batch of fresh-faced graduates will do, especially when data about their positions and skill-sets is hard to come by and the little information you can find seems to show them playing in a position that doesn’t appear to exist at the club they are joining (for example a wide midfielder in a university side that plays 4-4-2 moving to a J1 team that operates a 3-4-2-1, will they be a wing-back or inside forward?). I’m guessing these are the kind of choices that might generate the greatest debate, so please cut me some slack, I like to use data, but several players below have made the grade based largely on gut instinct developed over a decade watching the J. League.

Well, with all that out the way let’s move on and take a look at each of the 2022 J1 sides one by one, shall we? Again I look forward to hearing feedback (good natured I hope) from fans of all teams, followers of the league in general or just casual passers by, you’re all welcome. While I’m confident you’ll agree with some of the points below, I’m also sure there will be many choices and opinions that people will disagree with, and that’s all fine, it’s why we love the beautiful game so much, right?

Kawasaki Frontale

Best Signing: Chanathip – Had plateaued a little up in Sapporo, but a move to the champions should work out well for him and Frontale.
Biggest Loss: Reo Hatate – Basically by default as he was the only top teamer to leave. Perhaps the most frightening thing for the rest of the league is the amount of depth Kawasaki still have in midfield despite losing Hatate, Mitoma, Morita and Tanaka in the last 12 months.
One to Watch: Leandro Damião – Imperious in 2021 and the deserved recipient of the league’s MVP award, could a slight slip back from those grandiose heights offer a glimmer of hope to the chasing pack?
Doubtful: Jesiel (injury)
Notes: It’s Toru Oniki’s 6th campaign at the helm and once again Frontale start as the team to beat. Assuming Jesiel’s injury or the ageing of the forward line doesn’t adversely affect them too much, they are extremely well placed to fight off challenges from Marinos, Kobe, Kashima and Urawa to three-peat for the first time in their history.




Yokohama F. Marinos

Best Signing: Katsuya Nagato – By no means the most glamorous transfer of the winter, but Nagato who, don’t forget, led the league for assists with Sendai back in 2019 looks like he could thrive in Marinos’ system and help their fans quickly get over the loss of Theerathon.
Biggest Loss: Daizen Maeda – Only joined Celtic on an initial six-month loan deal, I don’t really see this happening, but if things turn sour in Glasgow, a sharp return to Yokohama in the summer would do wonders for Marinos’ title aspirations.
One to Watch: Marcos Junior – Goals-wise he’s dropped year-on-year since coming into the league in 2019, but he still remains pivotal to Marinos’ hopes and how well he adapts to Muscat’s game plan will be of critical importance to the team’s chances this season.
Doubtful: Shinnosuke Hatanaka (injury)
Notes: It’s all about Muscat for me, his appointment struck me as slightly strange at the time and even more so now that I’ve had time to digest it. Was he the best person to carry on Ange-ball? No (that guy is coaching Yamagata at the moment). If a desire to carry on the Ange-ball system wasn’t a pre-requisite for getting the job was he the best available candidate? Again, probably not. Despite that, I’m open minded as to what he can achieve given the time and space to put his own mark on the team. I’d argue that this squad is slightly weaker than 12 months ago, however, there is still plenty of talent onboard and top 4 should be a minimum expectation.

Additional Note: Anderson Lopes has been heavily linked with a move to Marinos. I’m unsure about his visa status or who would win out in a duel between him and Léo Ceará to be the main centre-forward.




Vissel Kobe

Best Signing: Tomoaki Makino – Vissel need an experienced head at the back to guide Kikuchi and Kobayashi along and although I’m sure it’ll seem strange at first seeing him in a darker shade of red, he should prove valuable on and off the field in the port city.
Biggest Loss: Thomas Vermaelen – Played more than I expected him to across his 2 ½ years in the league and no doubt passed on a trick or three to his younger protégés.
One to Watch: Yoshinori Muto – Was the dominant partner as he and Yuya Osako amassed a combined 9 goals and 11 assists in 23 appearances at the back end of 2021. More of that this term and Vissel will very much be in the title conversation.
Doubtful: Bojan Krkić (injury)
Notes: Things have never looked better in Kobe, a balanced and settled squad, a competent manager and Hiroshi Mikitani largely leaving the football decisions to football people. We may see some tinkering with the midfield shape, but regardless of what system Miura adopts there’s no reason to suggest Vissel won’t be there or thereabouts at the business end of the year.




Kashima Antlers

Best Signing: Kim Min-tae – Three of last year’s back four have moved on and Kim’s star is burning brightly following an impressive spell filling in for the injured Yuichi Maruyama at Nagoya. His experience alongside the talented, but erratic, Ikuma Sekigawa will be invaluable.
Biggest Loss: Koki Machida – Perhaps not much of a shock as he’d been linked with European clubs in the previous 2-3 windows so Antlers should have planned his succession accordingly.
One to Watch: Diego Pituca – A shining light once he was finally allowed into the country last year, the box-to-box midfielder should be a genuine J1 Best Eleven contender this term.
Doubtful: Shintaro Nago (injury), Kantoku René Weiler (Visa)
Notes: New kantoku René Weiler has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in attack and must be relishing the prospect of moulding them into a cohesive unit once he eventually makes it to the land of the rising sun. At the back the situation is a little less rosy, but should the attack-minded Weiler get things to gel, the Ibaraki side are not hindered by ACL involvement like their rivals and this could set them on a course towards a first title since 2016.




Nagoya Grampus

Best Signing: Keiya Sento – Played in a role for Tosu that doesn’t really exist in the current Grampus set-up, but to me he projects as Naoki Maeda’s replacement and should prove to be a gem of a signing.
Biggest Loss: Takuji Yonemoto – One of the surprise moves of the winter in my book, he left FC Tokyo after one season of working with Kenta Hasegawa, did they have prior beef?
One to Watch: Mateus Castro – Those of a Grampus persuasion will hope that the enigmatic Brazilian has gotten over the slump in form he experienced in the second half of 2021, as well as those Kawasaki transfer rumours, and will bounce back ready to lead the charge towards an ACL place.
Doubtful: Jakub Świerczok (PED Violation)
Notes: If I was a Nagoya fan would I have wanted to wake up to the news that Kenta Hasegawa was replacing Massimo Ficcadenti? No, but I’ll add that he’s nowhere near as bad as some FC Tokyo fans might have you believe. After winning silverware in each of his first 3 years at Gamba, he took an FC Tokyo side that had only achieved a single top 6 J1 finish in the 8 years prior to his appointment to 3 consecutive top 6 placings. Granted, the wheels came off spectacularly in his final seasons at both clubs, but I still maintain he’s a reasonably safe pair of hands until the Grampus hierarchy decide which direction they want the club to take next.




Urawa Red Diamonds

Best Signing: David Moberg Karlsson – Possibly the only player in the history of football to represent both Kilmarnock and Urawa which means that everything inside me should want him to fail, but I actually think this could be quite an astute piece of business by Reds.
Biggest Loss: Tomoaki Makino – Kind of wins this by default as Urawa didn’t lose any real nailed-on 2021 starters in the off-season, only Yuruki and Tanaka ran him close for this award.
One to Watch: Kasper Junker – 7 goals in his first 6 J1 appearances and just 2 in 11 after that as injuries struck. If a full pre-season schedule gets him back up to speed then J1 look out.
Doubtful: Ayumu Ohata (injury), David Moberg Karlsson (Visa)
Notes: When I wrote my Scouting J1 and Scouting J2 articles last autumn I never envisaged that Urawa and Cerezo would be the 2 teams to sign the most players from those lists, but there you go, hats off to both clubs. Reds have added a dizzying array of stars to an already strong looking squad and if they can find a way to get everyone pulling in the same direction then they appear well set to challenge domestically and in Asia.




Sagan Tosu

Best Signing: Naoyuki Fujita – Still very much good enough to play for Cerezo, but probably rightly moved on due to the ageing issues at the club. A return to his first pro side seems a logical next step and he’ll have a big part to play assisting the development of the bountiful young talent on the books at Tosu.
Biggest Loss: Yuta Higuchi – Plenty of competition for this award, but I’m still drowning my sorrows over Higuchi rejecting Gamba for Kashima and have to nominate him here.
One to Watch: Yuki Kakita – Finished 2021 with something of a bang, netting 5 times in 8 outings for a Tokushima side that struggled to create clear-cut openings. Has his old Vortis team-mate Miyashiro with him too and looks to be the ideal replacement for Keita Yamashita.
Notes: Let’s focus on the positives, the goalkeeper, defence and wing-backs are basically unchanged from 2021 (Ayumu Ohata excluded) and in attack, if I can quote Moneyball, they’ve realised they can’t directly replace departed stars like Higuchi, Sento, Koyamatsu and Yamashita, but they can re-create them in the aggregate. If the injury-prone Yuji Ono, high school wizzkids turned pro-level letdowns Jun Nishikawa and Yuto Iwasaki or any of their 6 recruits from varsity football enjoy a standout year then a mid-table finish isn’t out of the question.




Avispa Fukuoka

Best Signing: Lukian – This deal came as something of a bolt from the blue to me and the addition of J2’s top scorer from 2021 adds real impetus to an Avispa attack that will be looking to move up through the gears this year.
Biggest Loss: Emil Salomonsson – Will be a big loss both on and off the field. He must have found it tough with basically 2/3 of his time in Japan falling during the Coronavirus pandemic so it’s hard to begrudge him a move back home.
One to Watch: Tatsuya Tanaka – Back in his native Kyushu, big things will be expected of the versatile wide-man. This was an area where Avispa needed an upgrade and it looks like they’ve found one in the former Gamba, Oita and Urawa speedster.
Notes: I like what they’ve done in the transfer window, I like it a lot. There’s not one signing they’ve made that I haven’t liked, keeping Hasebe and Mae on board is massive too. After all those niceties I will add the qualifier that although on paper this year’s squad looks stronger than last year’s by a bigger margin than last year’s did than 2020’s (still with me?), it might not necessarily translate into them finishing any higher up in the standings. Though I guess having spent so much of their recent history in J2, the Avispa faithful won’t complain about another upper mid-table placing in 2022.




FC Tokyo

Best Signing: Jakub Słowik – Most J1 transfers have some sort of doubt hanging over them, player stepping up a level, poor previous season, injury prone, might not fit the system etc…none of these apply to Słowik, a clear upgrade on what was there before and questions marks over his distribution should only form a minor concern given the quality of the rest of his game.
Biggest Loss: Joan Oumari – Despite apparently only re-signing to cover until Bruno Uvini could get into the country, the Lebanese international had a decent second year in the capital.
One to Watch: Leandro – He and Hasegawa didn’t see eye to eye, that much is clear, if he and Puig butt heads then I’m not sure he’ll have too many backers left in the FC Tokyo support. A brilliant match-winner on his day, we all know what he can be when it’s not, for FC Tokyo and the league’s sake let’s hope the former, not the latter version rocks up in 2022.
Doubtful: Kashif Bangnagande, Sodai Hasukawa, Akihiro Hayashi (injury)
Notes: Far more change off the field than on it with Mixi taking over as the majority shareholder and Albert Puig moving into the managerial hotseat following a 2-year spell with Niigata. From the outside it appears that any kind of on-field improvement will need to be driven by a kantoku who has a beautiful philosophy on how the game should be played, but never really managed to translate that into meaningful results at Albirex, save for a magical 13 game run at the start of last season. A transitional campaign, give the manager time, yikes I’m using up all the clichés I had saved for the Gamba section several entries below.




Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Best Signing: Gabriel Xavier – An unexpected, but potentially excellent ready-made replacement for Chanathip…as long as his performances don’t go on to show that Massimo Ficcadenti knows rather more about football management than all of us armchair pundits.
Biggest Loss: Chanathip – 2021 was another injury-hit campaign for the Thai superstar, though he did bow out on a high with 3 assists in his last 2 matches. Things had gone a touch stale for him in Sapporo, but he’ll surely be fondly remembered in those parts for years to come.
One to Watch: Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa – I’ll admit I’m highly sceptical of the €700,000 move to Hearts rumours, but the pacy forward has certainly caught the eye of national team coach Hajime Moriyasu and in his second year as a pro will be expected to shoulder a greater burden of Consadole’s attacking hopes.
Doubtful: Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa (injury)
Notes: The winds of change haven’t been blowing too strongly up in Sapporo with minimal transfer business being conducted. GX10 (will he change his name to GX18?) and Koroki are the only 2 senior signings, but given how they’ve worked the varsity market in recent years, I wouldn’t bet against Sora Igawa (Tsukuba Univ.) and Hiromu Tanaka (Rissho Univ.) turning out to be pretty handy.




Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Best Signing: Taishi Semba – The Ryutsu Keizai University graduate says he’s looked up to Toshihiro Aoyama for a number of years and if all goes according to plan he could well be the one to take over the legendary Sanfrecce midfield maestro’s spot in the not too distant future.
Biggest Loss: Kodai Dohi – Failed to build on a promising 2020 due to a succession of injuries, but a loan spell with Mito is absolutely the right move to resuscitate his career.
One to Watch: Junior Santos – If the 2020 Yokohama F. Marinos version of Junior Santos turns up this year then it’ll be as good as a new signing for the three arrows.
Doubtful: Tsukasa Morishima, Yoichi Naganuma, Douglas Vieira (injury), Kantoku Michael Skibbe (Visa)
Notes: After pleading poverty for much of last year, the additions of Tsukasa Shiotani and Michael Skibbe following spells in the Middle East indicate that there is money available if they choose to use it. Skibbe’s delayed arrival has thrown an unwelcome spanner in the works, though he is fortunate to have a settled squad at his disposal, albeit one that largely underperformed relative to their game-by-game stats in 2021.




Cerezo Osaka

Best Signing: Jean Patric – I must admit I don’t know a whole lot about him, but he appears to have a decent pedigree and fills a spot that really needed an upgrade as a result of the person I’ll talk about below departing.
Biggest Loss: Tatsuhiro Sakamoto – A fine player who slightly lost his way in what was a disappointing 2021 campaign overall for the Cherry Blossoms. Still, as a result of his 2020 form and the performances he put in at the start of last year, he’s done more than enough to merit his move.
One to Watch: Takashi Inui – I wasn’t a big fan of his return when it was initially announced due to Cerezo having a plethora of 30-somethings already on their books, but given the way this year’s squad is shaping up I feel he’ll have a vital role to play as an impact sub and dressing room leader.
Doubtful: Takashi Inui, Hinata Kida, Adam Taggart, Đặng Văn Lâm (injury), Jean Patric (Visa)
Notes: I like their winter transfer work a whole lot more than I did last year (see what I said about them in the Urawa section above), especially the acquisition of Nagasaki’s jewel-in-the-crown Seiya Maikuma (sorry for telling everyone how good he was Daniel!) The permanent appointment of Akio Kogiku who, according to Transfermarkt, has been at the club in one capacity or another since 1998 could be a masterstroke as he’s surely amassed the clout that will allow him to tap a few shoulders and break the news to several veterans that they’re no longer the automatic choices they once were.

Additional Note: Croatian defender Matej Jonjić is rumoured to be returning in the coming days. If that move happens he’ll be the main centre-back upon his arrival in the country with Nishio and Shindo battling it out to partner him. He’d also overtake Jean Patric as my choice for ‘best signing.’




Gamba Osaka

Best Signing: Mitsuki Saito – Not a signing I really expected going into the transfer window, but a more than welcome addition to the Nerazzurri’s midfield ranks
Biggest Loss: Kim Young-gwon / Yosuke Ideguchi – Neither were at their best in 2021 (a comment which could pretty much be applied to the majority of the squad), but both will be missed dearly by the Ao to Kuro faithful.
One to Watch: Hiroto Yamami – I should probably have chosen him in the ‘best signing’ category, but thought he’d fit better here instead. Hopefully that worldy against Shimizu was just a taste of what’s to come as he’s set himself the target of scoring double digits this year.
Doubtful: Jun Ichimori, Leandro Pereira (injury), Dawhan, Kwon Kyung-won (Visa)
Notes: As close to a free-hit of a season as you’ll ever get as Gamba kantoku awaits Tomohiro Katanosaka, though that didn’t stop him heaping pressure on himself by setting 3rd as the target for this year. Gamba fans I’ve talked to say that top 8 is more realistic, especially with Kawasaki, Marinos, Kobe, Kashima and Urawa all looking particularly strong. To quote Celtic supporters, “trust the process,” Katanosaka is a man with a plan and that’s something that was sorely missing for the majority of 2021.




Shimizu S-Pulse

Best Signing: Takeru Kishimoto – A surprisingly difficult choice this one, as though regular readers will remember I picked out Kishimoto as someone to keep an eye on in my Scouting J1 article last autumn, I can’t help but feel there were more logical moves for both him and Shimizu to make. Granted the S-Pulse front office and I never appear to be on the same frequency when it comes to ideas on how to take the club forward.
Biggest Loss: Hideki Ishige – I know he was at Okayama on loan at the end of last season, but his departure sums up, for me at least, the malaise at the Nihondaira. A once mighty powerhouse born out of the cradle of Japanese football now reduced to letting long-serving youth academy graduates leave for rival clubs while the powers-that-be continue to blindly spin the roulette wheel, trying in hope, more than expectation to find the coaches and players necessary to bring back the glory days.
One to Watch: Yuito Suzuki – I’m sure you’ve all seen his wonder strike against Shonan, however, unfortunately that was one of only two goals he’s amassed in 63 J1 outings since turning pro in 2020. Imagine the heights regular contributions from him, in addition to Thiago Santana’s steady stream of goals, could take S-Pulse to.
Doubtful: Renato Augusto, Akira Ibayashi, Takumi Kato, Kenta Nishizawa (injury)
Notes: I realise I’ve been a bit harsh on S-Pulse above and it’s absolutely nothing personal as they’re an iconic and extremely likeable club, I just struggle to be overly positive when their front office keeps making baffling decisions. The Peter Cklamovski experiment was ditched in favour of the ultra-defensive Lotina brand of football and now they’ve opted for the man who came in to temporarily do a spot of firefighting at the end of both 2020 and 2021, the particularly tricky to say regardless if you go Japanese or western style, Hiroaki Hiraoka (or Hiraoka Hiroaki if you prefer). There’s loads of depth on the flanks, but any injury or departure down the central spine of the team (Gonda, Yoshinori Suzuki, Matsuoka and Thiago Santana) would sting badly.

Additional Notes: Reports out of South Korea suggest that S-Pulse have tabled a large bid for Ulsan Hyundai’s tall forward Oh Se-hun. On Paper the highly-rated 23 year old would be a quality addition, but it would also leave Shimizu with 7 foreign talents on their books. Do they never get the memo from the J. League about only being allowed 5 in your matchday squad?




Kashiwa Reysol

Best Signing: Tomoya Koyamatsu – Big shoes to fill in attack, he’s coming off the back of a decent couple of seasons with Tosu and should quickly become a fan favourite at the Hitachidai.
Biggest Loss: Cristiano – The now 35-year old club legend departs after 7 years with the Sunkings. Sure he may be past his prime, but having seen him perform in the flesh last year, he’s very much still got it and I’m certain he’ll tear up J2 with Nagasaki.
One to Watch: Douglas – With the fearsome foursome of Olunga, Cristiano, Esaka and Segawa all gone, the goalscoring burden falls on the previously prolific, but perhaps slightly over-the-hill Douglas. Is there still enough fire there for one final hurrah before he rides off into the sunset?
Notes: I believe it was Gabriele Anello who pointed out that 2021 saw the most managerial changes in J. League history, a good number of them appeared harsh when viewed from afar, but on the flip side of the coin, Kashiwa’s stubborn dedication to keeping Nelsinho in the hotseat continues to puzzle me. Of course the Brazilian is a legend in Kashiwa circles, however, he had 38 J1 games last season to work out his best eleven and formation, and never managed it. If he doesn’t know, then how am I supposed to? I’ve gone 4-2-3-1 below, but 3-4-2-1, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 are all possible. I’m not saying it’ll actually happen, but they’ll surely be a popular pick for big team who could go down this year.




Shonan Bellmare

Best Signing: Ryota Nagaki – The return of the prodigal son was an easy choice here, he’ll bring skill and more importantly a wealth of experience to help shepherd along Bellmare’s exciting crop of youngsters.
Biggest Loss: Mitsuki Saito – I know that selecting both Ishige and Saito as the biggest loss for their respective clubs may come across as extreme Gamba bias (especially given Saito was on loan at Rubin Kazan in 2021), but hear me out, how often do Shonan come through a winter transfer window with all their prized assets still in place? Hata, Tanaka and Hiraoka are still there, leaving me with the rare predicament of struggling to find a departed player Shonan will really miss this year.
One to Watch: Satoshi Tanaka – When I saw that Takuji Yonemoto had moved to Shonan on loan and Tanaka still hadn’t been confirmed as a Bellmare player for 2022, I felt sure we were less than 24 hours away from witnessing his unveiling at the Toyota Stadium, but alas it was not to be and he’ll continue developing down on the Shonan coast, for now at least, whether that’s as a holding midfielder or centre-back remains to be seen.
Notes: This is Satoshi Yamaguchi’s first full campaign at the helm and it’ll be interesting to observe what tactical alterations, if any, he makes. As you can see below, there are a number of players of similar abilities competing for spots across the field which can be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. I’ve tried my hardest to cram Tanaka, Nagaki and Yonemoto into the same lineup, Yamaguchi may have other ideas. They were the best defensive team in the bottom half last year and with the business they’ve done since should be even stronger now. My concerns are at the other end, they accrued a league high 16 draws last season and joint top scorers Wellington and Naoki Yamada only managed 5 apiece, there’s nothing to suggest they’ll be any more prolific in 2022.




Júbilo Iwata

Best Signing: Ricardo Graça – Again, hands up, I don’t know a whole lot about him, but the rest of Júbilo’s transfer business hasn’t been much to write home about and although Kentaro Oi has given the club years of good service, promotion back to J1 should very much be the signal to put him out to pasture, the capture of Graça allows the club to do just that.
Biggest Loss: Lukian – A huge blow to the side’s attack and also their collective psyche to lose such an important player to a team, in Fukuoka, that despite far out-performing Júbilo on the field in 2021, would have been viewed as a step-down for the majority of the clubs’ respective histories.
One to Watch: Yasuhito Endo – Gamba let Endo go in mid-2020 as despite his passing and vision still being top drawer, the veteran (who’s the same age as Steven Gerrard and Xavi, don’t forget) couldn’t get around the park like he used to. We’ll have an answer on how right or wrong that decision was very soon.
Doubtful: Dudu, Ricardo Graça (Visa)
Notes: An extremely impressive promotion campaign followed up by the appointment of highly-rated Kofu boss Akira Ito had things looking rather spritely for a time in Iwata. However, the club don’t really appear to have backed the new kantoku enough in the transfer market. Kenyu Sugimoto could work, but I wouldn’t bet on it, there are question marks surrounding when their 2 new marquee Brazilians can get into the country and long-standing issues related to a chronic lack of pace throughout the squad haven’t been sufficiently addressed over the winter.

Additional Note: Brazilian forward Vinícius Araújo, now a free agent after failing to agree terms on a new deal with Yamagata, is a possible addition before the season begins. He’d take over the centre-forward berth from Sugimoto should he decide to make the Yamaha Stadium his home for 2022.




Kyoto Sanga

Best Signing: Rikito Inoue – Despite the club making a number of winter signings, few of them are clearly better than the options already in place. Inoue, who’s moved east from Okayama with Dutchman Jordy Buijs travelling in the opposite direction, is the pick of the bunch for me. Readers of my Scouting J2 article will know I’m a big fan of his and with Shogo Asada still onboard, Sanga have two of the top centre-backs from J2 2021 in their ranks, albeit neither of them has a single minute of J1 action to their name.
Biggest Loss: Jordy Buijs – His departure came as something of a surprise and I’ve no doubt that he’ll continue to prove himself to be one of the best defenders in J2 with Fagiano this season.
One to Watch: Peter Utaka – 38 years young when the season kicks off, if he can keep banging them in then Kyoto could (could, not will – please remember) be this year’s Fukuoka.
Doubtful: Naoto Misawa, Tomoya Wakahara (injury), Michael Woud (injury/Visa)
Notes: Reasons to be cheerful; they’ve got a coach who knows what it takes to survive in J1 and a squad with a decent sprinkling of top tier experience, especially when compared with other recent newly promoted sides. Reasons to be fearful; the murky goalkeeping situation, a lack of J1 experience at centre-back and central midfield and a host of Hail Mary signings that could all fall flat. The rather unorthodox Genki Omae may be the most likely to deliver from a list of names which also includes Mendes, Hisashi Appiah Tawiah, Martinus, Ryogo Yamasaki and Yuta Toyokawa.




If you’ve made it this far, thank you and congratulations! I hope this guide has been useful for you, look out for plenty more posts from me throughout the year and enjoy the 2022 J1 season whoever you support!

Categories
sport

Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus 20 November 2021 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus
2021 J1 Season Round 36
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 20 November 2021
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)


Just 3 games remain in the 2021 edition of J1 and Gamba are finally mathematically safe following their come-from-behind 3-2 victory at Oita on November 7th. The Nerazzurri have rallied after being battered 5-1 at home by Sapporo last month, responding with 10 points from 4 games to plant themselves in amongst a train of teams battling for 10th. Saturday’s visitors Nagoya dropped the baton last time out, drawing 1-1 away at basement dwelling Sendai, a result that leaves them 5th in the standings, level with Kashima, but crucially 5 points worse off than 3rd placed Vissel Kobe, occupants of the final ACL spot. However, should Grampus accrue enough points from this clash and their two remaining outings against Cerezo (a) and Reds (h), it’s possible they could end up in 4th which, combined with Kawasaki lifting the Emperor’s Cup, would see them enter the 2022 Asian Champions League in the qualifying round.

If the Aichi-based outfit are to maintain their bid for only a second ACL appearance since 2012 then they’ll be hoping that in-form Gamba drop some of the intensity displayed in recent fixtures after securing their J1 status for next year. It will be interesting to see what route the Matsunami / Kiyama managerial partnership takes over the final 3 matches of the season. Matsunami will return to his role with the club’s academy from 2022 so it’s possible the likes of Jiro Nakamura and Isa Sakamoto could get a run out, while on the other hand Takashi Kiyama is auditioning for a full-time gig elsewhere and may seek to follow the blueprint from 2018 and 2019 where the Nerazzurri went on good runs at the end of the season which largely papered over some rather big cracks in the organisation. Either way, with Nagoya desperate to bag the 3 points and Gamba perhaps letting the handbrake off a little in terms of team selection and tactics, it’s sure to be an enthralling 90 minutes.

Tale of the Tape

Expect to hear Gamba supporters chanting the Japanese equivalent of ‘can we play Kyushu teams every week?’ sometime soon having seen their side take 16 points from 6 games against Fukuoka, Oita and Tosu in 2021. Trinita are the only club the Nerazzurri have defeated in J1 this year after conceding the opening goal, a feat they achieved in both home and away encounters with Tomohiro Katanosaka’s troops. Oita, in addition to Sagan Tosu are the only teams Gamba have done the double over in 2021 and Trinita are also the only outfit the Ao to Kuro have beaten in all 4 league clashes across the past 2 seasons.

Despite having the 4th weakest attack in J1 in terms of goals scored, Gamba’s xG For total is actually the 8th highest in the league. Nagoya’s defence, 2nd only to Kawasaki in terms of goals conceded will undoubtedly be tough to breach, but Nerazzurri supporters will be praying that someone from Grampus (h), Frontale (a) and Shonan (h) in the remaining 3 fixtures bears the brunt of the xG Gods evening things out. Gamba’s form in Suita remains a concern, as with just 2 games to go at Panasonic Stadium, 18 points from 17 matches is only good enough for 17th in the home league standings. Matsunami and Kiyama will surely be keen to give the Ao to Kuro faithful something to cheer about in the upcoming contests with Nagoya and Satoshi Yamaguchi’s Shonan.

At the back, Kiyama’s clearly defined defensive game-plan and the consistent selection of Yosuke Ideguchi and Yuki Yamamoto in central midfield has led to a much more solid looking Gamba over the past month (Yamamoto has also contributed offensively with 3 assists in his last 3 outings). However, despite that, the men from Suita are still the worst team in J1 in terms of shots against per game, 2nd weakest when considering shots against on target, and additionally they have the 3rd highest xG Against figure in the division. Again, I’m sure I speak for all supporters of a blue and black persuasion when I say, come on guys, let’s see some improvements in those numbers between now and the end of the year.

Defensive solidity has undoubtedly been the bedrock for Grampus’ strong showings over the past 2 seasons, a then league record 17 clean sheets in 2020 has since been surpassed by an astounding 20 in 35 this time round, and in keeping with their goals conceded numbers, they also trail only Kawasaki in xG against and shots against on target. Their clean sheet record this year, in particular, should be considered even more impressive considering the absence of captain Yuichi Maruyama since May. At the other end of the park, much to the frustration of Grampus supporters, their xG For number has only recently crept above 1 and they sit 15th in J1 for that particular statistic as well as shots for. Efforts from outside the area, especially from J1 Best Eleven contender Sho Inagaki have provided an invaluable source of goals to make up the shortfall caused by their inability to carve out clear cut openings.





Head to Head

The original game scheduled for March 3rd at Toyota Stadium was, of course, cancelled at the last minute due to a Covid outbreak in the Gamba camp, an incident which was essentially the start of this season’s woes. 7 weeks later on April 22nd was when the tussle eventually took place and Grampus ran out comfortable 2-0 winners with Yuki Soma assuming the role of tormentor-in-chief, first setting up Ryogo Yamasaki for the opener before settling the tie with a cool run and finish 10 minutes into the second half. That result ended an incredible run of 10 league games stretching back to 2015 where Gamba had scored at least twice in every match against Nagoya. A 1-0 home defeat at the old Expo 70’ Commemorative Stadium, 1 of only 2 losses the Nerazzurri suffered in the second half of the season during their incredible march to the J1 title, was the last time Gamba had failed to bag at least two goals against the Giallorossi.

Last year the two sides drew 2-2 at Toyota Stadium shortly after the league’s re-start in July. Genta Miura gave Gamba an early lead from a corner only to see Brazilian duo Mateus and Gabriel Xavier turn the game on it’s head before half time. Gamba pressed and pressed in the second half and eventually got their reward when Kazuma Watanabe struck a fine half-volley, teed-up by a Patric knockdown, past Mitch Langerak in additional time. In September, Mu Kanazaki swept Grampus in front at Panasonic Stadium, but Yuki Yamamoto’s deflected free-kick and Takashi Usami’s late winner which came from an attack started by a sumptuous Yasuhito Endo pass sealed a valuable 3 points in the 2nd of what would turn out to be 6 successive victories that moved the Nerazzurri up from 9th to 4th in the standings.



Gamba Osaka


After starting out in the same 4-4-2 set-up they’d been using in previous games, Gamba switched to a 3-4-2-1 in the second half of the 3-2 win at Oita. From the outside it seems like Kiyama’s decision to bring on Gen Shoji at half-time to match Trinita’s formation was actually a pre-conceived plan rather than the more random personnel changes seen earlier in the year under Matsunami. With J1 survival now assured, it’ll be interesting to observe which shape the Nerazzurri adopt against the 4-2-3-1 of Massimo Ficcadenti’s Nagoya. It’s quite possible that Shunya Suganuma will start ahead of Ryu Takao which would shift the predicted lineup you see below into a 3-4-2-1.

Now, here’s a look at my personal checklist of things I’d like to see happen in the final 3 matches of 2021;

* Keep the Ideguchi and Yamamoto partnership in central midfield as they’ve generally been excellent across the last 4 games. Re-uniting last season’s partners-in-crime on a regular basis has given the team as a whole much more stability.

* Yota Sato to play the full 90 against Nagoya, Kawasaki and Shonan regardless of the fitness status of the other centre backs. He’s still raw, but has shown marked improvements next to Shunya Suganuma in Takashi Kiyama’s re-jigged defensive system. Ideally we’ll see him learn from Gen Shoji in the upcoming encounters with the ultimate goal being that the former Meiji University star develops into a bona-fide starting eleven contender for 2022.

* Kwansei Gakuin University have now sewn up the JUFA Kansai League title and if that means Gamba can get full access to Hiroto Yamami, I’ll be over the moon. After a season of agonisingly slow build-up play, I particularly enjoyed Yamami gliding past Oita’s defenders like a hot knife through butter in the lead up to Patric’s winning spot kick against Trinita and would love to see him test himself against the likes of Shinnosuke Nakatani and Shogo Taniguchi.

Finally, it seemed popular when I did it a few weeks back so I’ll have another go…Gamba transfer gossip. Just a quick disclaimer first as there are a few spam ‘in the know’ accounts springing up on Twitter these days. All of the following information is speculation at this stage, if any of it has been published in reputable outlets then I will say so.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen my post regarding Kim Young-gwon. Japanese media (Yahoo News and others) are reporting that the South Korean international defender was offered a 2-year deal to remain with Gamba and a 3-year one to return home with 2020 ACL Champions Ulsan Hyundai (an interesting development considering Kim is from Jeonju, home of their great rivals Jeonbuk!) With the Qatar 2022 World Cup looming on the horizon and Kim having to quarantine every time he returns from international duty, a move to the K League could lift a weight off his and his family’s shoulders. Further tidbits from the same article, released on the evening of 7 November, were apparent confirmation that Oita kantoku Tomohiro Katanosaka will almost certainly occupy the Gamba hot-seat in 2022 and hat-trick hero Patric (22 goals in 42 games in all competitions this year) will ink a new contract for next season.

Further to that original article, Sponichi Annex announced on November 14th that Kim to Ulsan was essentially a done deal as the call from South Korean legend and current Ulsan kantoku Hong Myung-bo, Kim’s coach at the 2012 London Olympics, was too much for the 85-times capped stopper to refuse. With that departure potentially opening up a spot for a left-footed foreign centre-back in next season’s squad, Gamba Twitter came up with Sagan Tosu skipper Eduardo and Oita Trinita’s Henrique Trevisan as possible replacements. Trevisan is presently playing under Katanosaka at Oita, though the fact he’s only on loan to Trinita from Estoril in Portugal could scupper any hypothetical transfer. Eduardo, a member of Ben, Sam and I’s team of the first half of the season on J-Talk Pod would be an outstanding capture from cash-strapped Tosu, though how many rival J1 clubs are also thinking the same thing? A couple of other names I’ve seen on supporters’ winter wish lists are Hokuto Shimoda and Yamato Machida from Oita, though with Ideguchi, Yamamoto and Okuno likely to stay next season, where would Shimoda fit in? Ditto Machida, who despite performing well this year doesn’t have age on his side. Former Valencia forward Vinicius Araújo of Montedio Yamagata who has 9 goals and 4 assists in 23 J2 games this season is another interesting shout from members of the Gamba fan community.

Finally, and I really do mean finally this time, a list of names headed for the Panasonic Stadium exit this winter has been doing the rounds. The source seems a little questionable, but the players on said list do largely match what the ordinary Gamba fan is thinking at the moment which is why I’ve included it here. Goalkeepers Taichi Kato (on loan from Ehime) and Mizuki Hayashi, midfielders Shinya Yajima and Yuji Ono, plus forward Tiago Alves will all join Kim Young-gwon in departing Suita this winter if you believe the local Osaka journalist who published this information. To drift slightly off topic (I know this isn’t Fagiano Okayama Blog in English), Shinya Yajima previously spent a couple of productive years with Fagiano Okayama in J2 and if, as they reportedly promised Mitch Duke upon his arrival, they will be bringing in players with the aim of gaining promotion next season then Yajima would fit the bill as a ‘statement signing.’

Team News

After the obscenely long section above, I’ll keep things mercifully brief in here. Pictorial evidence suggests that Genta Miura and Leandro Pereira are back in full-training, but whether they are match-fit or will even be risked in the remaining 3 games is questionable. Other than that, reserve ‘keeper Jun Ichimori (hamstring surgery) is done for the year, Kim Young-gwon wasn’t called up for the South Korea squad for their recent World Cup qualifiers after going off injured vs Sagan Tosu on 23rd October, Yuji Ono (hamstring) is doing rehabilitation work (he joined physical training with the rest of the squad on Tuesday, but sat out the mini game at the end), while Shinya Yajima and Dai Tsukamoto don’t appear to be training at the moment, however, no details have been released yet about either of them.

Predicted Lineups and Stats





Nagoya Grampus


Personally I enjoy doing predicted starting lineups for Massimo Ficcadenti’s teams because there’s always an extremely limited pool of players he chooses from. The Italian has proven to be a somewhat polarising figure at the Toyota Stadium, on the one hand establishing a side that was on the verge of a return to J2 when he took over, as a force to be reckoned with, but on the other facing criticism for his tactics and team selections. Grampus, one of the founding members of the J.League and the sole professional men’s team in Japan’s 4th most populous prefecture are a side with big resources at their fingertips, but after their most recent J1 title win back in 2010 under the guidance of club legend Dragan ‘Piksi’ Stojković they slid down the standings and were eventually relegated in 2016. Bouncing back via the playoffs at the first time of asking, the Giallorossi sank like a stone in both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns following promising starts. When a possible return to J2 began looming ominously on the horizon, the club made an abrupt U-turn, binning the attack-minded Yahiro Kazama in favour of the Catenaccio master Ficcadenti. Fast forward to 2021 and the Italian’s game-plan is now firmly entrenched in the club’s fabric and they have a Levain Cup title to show for it. What then for 2022? In theory, they should be gearing up for a title shot with defensive lynchpin Yuichi Maruyama back from injury and Polish hit-man Jakub Świerczok fully integrated into the set-up. Throw in the possibility of 1 or 2 high-quality winter additions and you have a recipe for success, right? I guess we’ll find out in due course. Personally I have my doubts as to whether Ficcadenti is the kantoku to bring the title back to Aichi for the first time in 12 years, but with Cerezo and Nagasaki both having horror stories to tell in the wake of canning coaches who’d achieved objectively good on-field results, don’t expect to see the former Verona and Torino midfielder necessarily making a hasty departure should Nagoya fail to live up to pre-season hype. Speaking of next year, to date Grampus have confirmed that they’ll promote 3 players from their youth system ahead of the new campaign, 2024 Olympic prospect Hidemasa Koda (MF), Koki Toyoda (FW) and Haruki Yoshida (CM/CB). There are also strong rumours that Brazilian playmaker Gabriel Xavier, someone Ficcadenti has never really had much time for, will head for fresh pastures, most likely in his homeland.

Team News

Knee injuries to a trio of key players form the backbone of Grampus’ injuries worries ahead of this clash. Captain Yuichi Maruyama is definitely out for the year after undergoing surgery, while it’s unlikely we’ll see holding midfielder Takuji Yonemoto or former Gamba treble-winner Hiroyuki Abe before the end of the season (as an aside I wouldn’t be against Abe returning to Suita as a Gamba player in the near future). South Korean centre-back Kim Min-tae, who seemed to have won out in the battle with Yasuki Kimoto to be Shinnosuke Nakatani’s partner in Maruyama’s absence, missed the draw at Sendai before the international break as did veteran forward Mu Kanazaki, I don’t have any further information on either player.

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

Categories
sport

J1 Predicted Lineups Post Transfer Window Update

The summer transfer window “slammed shut,” or closed gently as it tends to do here in Japan, last Friday (August 13), so I thought this would be a good time to have a look at the lineups we are likely to see J1 teams field from now until December.

A quick reminder that you can always check out my regularly updated J1 and J2 databases here,

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1j6HTKFF38A3cAz7sqw3jfZ4f6y8soAgOjfXqKR3fNCM/

Before I get into it, here is a rough guide to some of the parameters I’ve used.

* Teams are listed in the order they finished the 2020 season, ie the order you’ll find them in all the 2021 yearbooks.
* The lineups below are not necessarily the ones you’ll see next week, more an amalgamation of the players expected to feature most frequently between now and the end of the season.
* Where genuine competition exists for a starting spot, I’ve listed alternatives below the projected starter.
* The injured / unavailable list only includes players who I feel would have a genuine chance of starting if they were fit. Regular readers will know finding information about JLeague injuries can be a thankless task, so I’ve done my best, but can’t promise it’s 100% accurate.

Finally, if you don’t already, please give @Michael_Master a follow on Twitter. The use of the word ‘Master’ in his handle is by no means an overstatement, the man is truly the oracle when it comes to Japanese transfers and this blog post wouldn’t have been possible without his updates. Thanks man!

Kawasaki Frontale

Comments
Yes Mitoma and Tanaka are gone, and yes Kashiwa have just become the first team in 40 J1 games to keep them scoreless, but take a look at the lineup below and you’ll surely agree this is still the strongest side in the division. A settled back 6 and plenty of options in attack plus rivals either losing players or being engaged in the process of rebuilding, makes me believe they’ll overcome ACL distractions to lift a fourth title in five years.
Injured/Unavailable: 10 Ryota Oshima


Gamba Osaka


Comments
Long time readers of this blog will know the trouble I’ve had predicting Gamba starting lineups recently, though I should point out in my defence, I’m generally more accurate at it than DAZN! With Miura, Kim and Shoji fit, 3-4-2-1 seems like it’ll be the order of the day for most remaining games this season. From 2022, however, it’d be good to see 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 getting an outing, especially if Hiroto Yamami can replicate anything like the form he did against Shimizu on Friday.
Injured/Unavailable: 14 Yuya Fukuda, 15 Yosuke Ideguchi, 27 Ryu Takao, 28 Wellington Silva


Nagoya Grampus

Comments
The arrival of Polish international Jakub Świerczok is like manna from heaven for the Grampus support who have been starved of a genuine centre-forward since Jô’s acrimonious departure at the start of 2020. Captain Yuichi Maruyama is out for the year and the slight defensive wobble caused by his absence, in addition to an inability to create presentable openings for their attackers has seen Nagoya slip back from the highs of last year and the early part of this campaign. Still very much in the hunt for 3rd place, their new number 40 will have a big say in whether they equal last season’s final ranking or not.
Injured/Unavailable: 3 Yuichi Maruyama, 9 Ryogo Yamasaki, 44 Mu Kanazaki


Cerezo Osaka

Comments
The problem with a having a club legend in charge, as both Osaka clubs have found out this year, is that it’s not easy to sever ties with them when things head south. The further away Cerezo get from the defensive stability of the Lotina-era, the more vulnerable they look at the back, while at the other end of the field, a succession of niggling injuries to key personnel has set-back Culpi’s plans to revitalise their attack. The Cherry Blossoms don’t really do mid-table finishes and have only 1 win and 11 points from their last 15 league outings…they couldn’t….could they?
Injured/Unavailable: 3 Ryosuke Shindo


Kashima Antlers


Comments
Things have generally meandered along under Naoki Soma, just as they did under predecessors Zago and Oiwa and on the back of 3 straight wins, the Ibaraki giants are firmly in the picture for 2022 ACL qualification which is really a bare minimum for a club of this size and prestige. Box-to-box midfielder Pituca seems to be a ready-made long term replacement for Leo Silva, but the Antlers faithful must have concerns over how long they can keep hold of talented youngsters like, Araki, Machida and Tsunemoto. Key forward Everaldo has incredibly only scored once in J1 this season and seems to be dropping deep and into wider areas too often, though with Tomoya Inukai raking in goals as he did against Shonan last week, it doesn’t appear to be hindering the team too much.
Injured/Unavailable: 22 Rikuto Hirose


FC Tokyo

Comments
A very streaky team this year, and I’ll discuss them in greater detail during my preview of their upcoming clash with Gamba, Gasmen supporters have seen their side go on both 5 game winning and losing runs in the first half of the season. Boss Kenta Hasegawa and playmaker Leandro burying the hatchet, for now, has helped make them a much more potent force going forward which has somewhat papered over the widening cracks at the back.
Injured/Unavailable: 9 Diego Oliveira, 14 Takuya Uchida, 33 Akihiro Hayashi, 37 Hotaka Nakamura


Kashiwa Reysol

Comments
I’ve already gone pretty deep on the J Talk Podcast regarding my issues with the Reysol front office’s performance in recent years. That, plus the winter departure of Olunga has really set them back this campaign in my opinion. Their season stats and recent results indicate a push up the table might be on the cards during the second half of the year. A bloated squad, constant tinkering with the team’s shape and a never-ending succession of injuries suggest otherwise.
Injured/Unavailable: 7 Hidekazu Otani, 11 Matheus Savio, 33 Hayato Nakama, 39 Yuta Kamiya


Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Comments
Sanfre have reverted to the tried and trusted 3-4-2-1 after an ill-advised dabble with a back 4 at the beginning of the season. They appear to have a surplus of quality centre-backs, but there’s now a gaping Hayao Kawabe shaped hole in the middle of the park. More cutting edge is required up front, but with the new stadium project sucking in resources, they lack the funds to adequately replace Leandro Pereira and it looks like they’ll be left relying on youth team products, university graduates and promising J2 players in the coming years.


Yokohama F. Marinos

Comments
10 points from 4 games in quick-fire succession marks an excellent introduction to Japanese football for Kevin Muscat. The Australian head coach must have been delighted with Léo Ceará’s efforts in recent weeks, putting his hand up as the man to fill Ado Onaiwu’s big boots up front. They are now breathing right down the necks of Kanagawa rivals Kawasaki and we have a genuine title race on our hands. Their devastating attack is beyond reproach, but the old defensive frailties which held them back in 2018 and 2020 have been on display since returning from their summer break. Gamba and Oita, two of the weaker attacks in the division, let them off the hook, but I have a nagging doubt that they are going to give too many chances, to the wrong team, on the wrong day and that’s what’s ultimately going to cost them top spot.


Urawa Red Diamonds


Comments
The plethora of new talent in the arrivals lounge has made Reds one of the most talked about J1 sides during the summer months. The shape I’ve set out below was not the one used by Ricardo Rodriguez on Saturday night, however, I feel he may lean towards it later in the year. Although Kobe seem to act as a bit of lightning rod for online criticism about big spending, dress it up any way you like, Reds summer spree is a naked attempt at fixing problems using cold, hard cash. The Saitama outfit mean business, they may not reach the summit this year, but, they’ll definitely be a team to keep your eye on in the coming years.
**Please note – on August 15 Reds announced Kasper Junker had undergone surgery on a cheekbone injury, I expect to see him back wearing some Tsuneyasu Miyamoto-style facial protection in the next couple of weeks so kept him in the lineup below.**


Oita Trinita

Comments
After a decent run in the top flight since 2019, it seems like the curtain is coming down on their J1 journey, for now. Trinita possess the weakest attack in the division, scoring an anaemic 0.63 goals per game, see misses in the 15th and 48th minutes of their eventual 5-1 drubbing at Marinos on Sunday for clear evidence of where the issues lie. Former Gamba assistant Tomohiro Katanosaka, now in his 6th year in charge, has recently looked at alternatives to his favoured 3-4-2-1, including starting with a back 4 vs Marinos, but I feel like he will return to type soon as the squad is built to play with 3 centre-backs. Goya and Masuyama have come in to bolster the attack, but they still lack a proven source of goals. Onaiwu, Fujimoto and Tanaka have all previously departed for brighter lights elsewhere and it costs money to replace that kind of talent, money, that sadly, Trinita just don’t have.
Injured/Unavailable: 15 Yuta Koide


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo


Comments
Petrovic’s 100mph attacking football style is locked and loaded at the Sapporo Dome and at the moment it seems to be bearing fruit. As I write this, Consadole have just seen off FC Tokyo in impressive fashion, having dispatched Urawa with even greater ease the week before. Not the richest, or flashiest of J1 outfits, but their in-depth scouting of Japan’s varsity competitions, allied with solid youth development has proven crucial in steering them in an upwards trajectory over the past few months.


Sagan Tosu

Comments
With severe financial difficulties, a manager who’s just returned from a 3 week suspension while an internal power harassment investigation was conducted and 2 of their brightest talents freshly headed out the door, it’s amazing how settled things still appear at Tosu. Matsuoka and Hayashi are now yesterday’s men, but replacements Shirasaki and Koizumi from Kashima are thoroughbred pros who will help steady the ship. ACL qualification may be just beyond them this year, and that’s a real shame as the vultures will surely be circling the likes of Higuchi, Yamashita, Sento and Eduardo in the winter, making a repeat of this season’s heroics all the tougher.
Injured/Unavailable: 23 Fuchi Honda


Vissel Kobe

Comments
It’s worth remembering that Kobe have never finished higher than 7th in J1, so assuming they can get big-name summer recruits Muto and Osako integrated quickly then they’ll be well on their way to achieving a first ever ACL qualification through league performance. Bojan is a bit of an unknown quantity these days, but J1 coach of the month for July Miura has built a solid foundation and crucially has gotten, the high profile stars, the undercard, and the youngsters all pulling together in the same direction, hats off to him for that.
Injured/Unavailable: 1 Daiya Maekawa, 29 Lincoln


Yokohama FC


Comments
A mass recruitment process over the summer has given them a glimmer of hope, and they are now unbeaten in their last 4 games, but is it all a bit too little, too late? Getting my old EPL 40 points to avoid relegation calculator out, Yokohama FC still require 25 points from their 16 remaining fixtures to reach that mythical milestone. Yusuke Matsuo is in the side once more and a defence that was conceding at a rate of 2.32 goals per match has now kept back-to-back clean sheets thanks to the arrival of Brazilian defender Gabriel. If his compatriots, Felipe Vizeu and Saulo Mineiro, can have a similar impact at the other end of the pitch, then maybe, just maybe they could be on for the greatest of great escapes.
Injured/Unavailable: 8 Kosuke Saito, 23 Yota Maejima, 30 Kohei Tezuka


Shimizu S-Pulse

Comments
Their summer transfer business looks good, but I said that about their winter recruitment and it’s not really moved them very far up the standings. Similar to post-Ferguson/pre-Solskjær Manchester United, a hard-hitting critique might say that constantly flip-flopping between managers, players and playing styles is hindering the club as it seeks to move forward. Relying on goals from set-pieces and the physicality of Thiago Santana might bring some degree of success, but it feels like had they given Cklamovski this group of players, then he could have achieved much more.
Injured/Unavailable: 10 Carlinhos Junior, 18 Elsinho, 20 Keita Nakamura, 22 Renato Augusto, 50 Yoshinori Suzuki


Vegalta Sendai


Comments
Sendai are currently competing in their 12th consecutive J1 campaign, for context that’s a better run than, Gamba, Cerezo, Kobe, Nagoya, FC Tokyo or Kashiwa have had, but it appears likely that this era of relative success is drawing to a close and they may have to regroup and rebuild in J2 next year. 18 goals in 24 games while conceding double that figure tells its own story and though there have been bright sparks in the shape of university rookies Mase and Kato down the right, Foguinho in the middle and some recent substitute cameos from Oti and Felippe Cardoso, in the cold light of day, is it really inaccurate to suggest that the lineup I’ve set out below looks more like a team sitting 5th or 6th in J2 rather than one built to survive in the rarefied air of J1?
Injured/Unavailable: 8 Yoshiki Matsushita


Shonan Bellmare

Comments
After finishing bottom in 2020 with no relegation in place, Bin Ukishima deserves a bit of credit for improving things this year, making his side much more resolute and hard to beat. That said, despite gaining credible draws with the likes of Kawasaki, Marinos and Kobe as well as upsetting Reds in Saitama, they are currently on an ominous slide and it looks as though it’s between them and Tokushima, who they faced in the 2019 promotion/relegation playoff, to see who fills the uppermost spot in the drop zone. They experimented with a double-volante system against Nagoya, and that’s something we may see more of going forward, although I have them lined up in their tried and tested shape below. Sugioka looks to be a good addition, while keeping wide-man Taiga Hata fit so he can supply the bombs for Wellington may be the difference between J1 and J2 football for Bellmare next year.
Injured/Unavailable: 30 Sosuke Shibata


Tokushima Vortis


Comments
Tokushima’s victory at home to Gamba gave them the blueprint for how to attack the second half of the year. No messing around with the ball at the back, no possession for possession’s sake, quick counters culminating in dynamic running and interchanges between then front 4 topped off with more shots on goal and hopefully more points on the board. Kawasaki-loanee Taisei Miyashiro has certainly enhanced his reputation with a series of strong performances in a variety of positions along the front line, while right-back Takeru Kishimoto and number 10 Masaki Watai will draw many an admiring glance from rival teams’ scouting departments should they keep up their recent form. Keep your eyes peeled for young forward Taiyo Nishino also, he’s just starting to break into the team in his first year out of Kyoto Tachibana High School.
Injured/Unavailable: Kohei Uchida


Avispa Fukuoka


Comments
An excellent start to the season has them sitting in a place of relative comfort few predicted at the beginning of the year. Goalkeeper Masaaki Murakami has won over early doubters (myself included) with a string of good performances, the abrasive Douglas Grolli has been an excellent defensive lynchpin while the quality of deliveries from Jordy Croux and, in particular, irrepressible Swede Emil Salomonsson, have been second to none. In contrast to Kyushu cousins Oita, who came into J1 with a bang and were then looted of their best talent, the average age and playing style of most of Avispa’s squad suggests that they may not have to fend off too many suitors in upcoming transfer windows. One exception is team captain Hiroyuki Mae, and it will be interesting to see how his partnership with new recruit Shun Nakamura develops.
Injured/Unavailable: Bruno Mendes

Categories
sport

J1 2021 Appearance Data and Statistics

Thanks again everyone for supporting my recent articles. As I posted on Twitter a few weeks back, currently other areas in my life have to take priority over my blog writing, and for 2021, at least, my Gamba match previews will need to stay on the backburner. In some ways I feel like I took them as far as I could last season and at the beginning of this year, I felt like I was rehashing old material, please let me know if you agree or disagree.

With all that out of the way, my latest post provides a rundown of all 20 J1 teams’ matchday selections for every league match so far in 2021, presented in an (hopefully) easy to understand, at a glance style. I’ve also tagged on some additional comments and basic team stats correct to 18 April 2021.

A big shout out to everyone who has gotten in touch with me recently across various mediums. Actually I never envisaged my blog would get so many comments and my Twitter notifications are not really built to handle the traffic I’ve been getting. I recently noticed some people had left me comments weeks ago and I’d missed them, I genuinely try to reply to everyone who asks clean questions, so if I haven’t responded to your question / comment, I’m truly sorry.

Finally, some people have asked where I get my data, so here are a few of the resources I use…
https://www.football-lab.jp/
https://sporteria.jp/
https://us.soccerway.com/national/japan/j1-league/2021/regular-season/r61498/
https://www.flashscore.com/
https://www.transfermarkt.com/j1-league/startseite/wettbewerb/JAP1
https://www.jleague.jp/sp/en/
And of course my trusty Soccer Digest Yearbook…
https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/NEOBK-2586671



Kawasaki Frontale

Comment: The juggernaut has continued steamrollering opponents just as it did last season. Surely the best side in the history of the JLeague.



Gamba Osaka

Comment: How to fix a problem like Gamba? A Nagoya-esque defence, but can’t buy a goal at the other end. What’s to blame, the Covid cluster, overperforming xG last year, an overly defensive mindset they can’t shake off? Answers on a postcard to Tsuneyasu Miyamoto please.



Nagoya Grampus

Comment: You thought they couldn’t defend any better than last season, you thought wrong. If I were a gambler I’d have plenty on Mitch Langerak and co. to beat their clean sheet record set last year. How much will missing out on Kasper Junker to Urawa haunt them with their current paucity of centre-forward options seemingly denying us a genuine tussle for the title between Grampus and Frontale.



Cerezo Osaka

Comments: They’ve surprised many by performing at a similar level to 2020. With Taggart and Tiago almost ready to play and Sakamoto and Harakawa due back soon, a push for the top 4 isn’t out of the question.



Kashima Antlers

Comments: Although an Antlers legend, the way Naoki Soma’s spell in charge of Machida ended up poses some serious questions about how adept he’ll be at replacing Zago in the Kashima hotseat. Goals from Everaldo and instant impacts from Pituca and Caike are badly needed.



FC Tokyo

Comments: Injuries, rumoured dressing room discontent and a series of patchy results don’t make for happy start to the campaign for the capital side. Bruno Uvini is the great hope to steady things at the back, but it should be remembered he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger in over 6 months.



Kashiwa Reysol

Comments: They seem to have course corrected slightly with hard fought 1-0s in their past 2 games and the Brazilian cavalry is due to arrive soon. Quite how they keep their 9 overseas players happy, and what effect their second Covid cluster in under a year will have on them is yet to be seen.



Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Comments: Look set to hover around upper mid-table just as they did last time round. Morishima and Kawabe have started the season well, but they lack top quality support in attack. Defensively, Yuta Imazu has been a decent find, though they still need to find themselves a pair of genuine full-backs.



Yokohama F.Marinos


Comments: Haven’t lost since the opening day, but a rather kind run of fixtures since round 3 means question marks remain over whether they are genuine ACL contenders of not.


Urawa Red Diamonds


Comments: Two poundings in the space of three games at the hands of Kanagawa heavyweights Frontale and Marinos threatened to scuttle the Rodriguez project before it had the chance to take off, but they’ve bounced back well. We may come to look on Reds’ 2021 the same way Marinos supporters think of Ange Postecoglou’s debut campaign in 2018.



Oita Trinita

Comments: Six defeats in a row with just a single goal scored in the process, I’m sure there’s a joke about a famous Tom Petty song here somewhere. They need to hope they’ve hit the jackpot with their two soon-to-arrive Brazilians.



Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Comments: Houston, we may have a problem. Dropping points like confetti and with 4 teams going down this year they’re rapidly finding themselves being drawn into a relegation dogfight.


Sagan Tosu

Comments: Prior to Sunday’s win at Grampus, some of the gloss was starting to come off their excellent start to the year with 4 failures to score in 5 outings. Kim Myung-hwi’s side are made of sterner stuff though, and while it’s likely they’ll regress a touch over the course of the season, a top ten finish remains a distinct possibility.



Vissel Kobe


Comments: A genuine ACL contender based on early season form. How they mesh the returning Iniesta and newly arrived duo of Lincoln and Masika with their current high performing starters will be key.



Yokohama FC

Comments: They tick all the boxes for a side about to take the drop, poor attack, woeful defence, no idea of best lineup, symbolic change of head-coach. I’m not usually so blunt, but take this to the bank, they’ll be in J2 next season.



Shimizu S-Pulse

Comments: Some had tipped them to finish in the top half this year, but as things stand it looks like the 3-1 win at Kashima on the opening day was something of a mirage. Thiago Santana has disappointed and Lotina has run into the same problem as a number of his predecessors, a complete lack of consistency amongst the players at his disposal.



Vegalta Sendai


Comments: Still haven’t won a home game since 2019 and that’s a stat they’ll have to alter fast if they want to avoid a return to J2 for the first time in 12 years.



Shonan Bellmare

Comments: Going under the radar a touch, but considering they finished bottom last year, their performances to date in 2021 have shown marked improvement. No defeats and 4 clean sheets in a tough looking run of 5 fixtures up to last weekend suggest they mean business and could defy the odds to remain in J1 next term.



Tokushima Vortis

Comments: The project looks to be running under budget and ahead of schedule. New head-coach Poyatos is now in the country and working with the players face-to-face and at present they appear set for a decent year. Having, The Alan Parsons Project’s Sirius and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on their pre-match playlist makes me enjoy their games that little bit more.



Avispa Fukuoka


Comments: The support inside the Best Denki Stadium is the thing that’s caught my eye most about Fukuoka this year. Their seems to be a genuine feel-good factor around the place which is helping to bring out performances that many, including myself, doubted they were capable of.




Categories
sport

J1 Lineups Updated Version end of round 6

Thanks again to everyone who read, liked, shared and commented on my J1 and J2 Predicted Lineups posts that I put out about a month before the 2021 season started. The response to them was truly phenomenal and frankly blew me away, so much in fact, that I’ve been re-thinking how I should structure my blog (I’m always open to new ideas, so please tell me what you want!)

The J1 Predicted Lineups post is still getting a fair bit of traffic even though it is a bit out of date, so I thought I’d do some more research and update things a little. Included in this post is a short comment on teams’ performances in the opening month of the season, a list of currently unavailable players (as of 28 March 2021) and a full rundown of the lineups and formations used by each J1 side over their past 5 league fixtures.

A few qualifiers, the team comments don’t take into consideration this weekend’s Levain Cup games as personally I don’t think a whole lot can be read into them, for example if Tosu and Sapporo start to show the form they displayed yesterday in J1 matches, then I’ll revise my opinion of both sides. Secondly, regarding injuries, some of the players I’ve named as unavailable haven’t been officially confirmed as being injured. In certain instances I’ve assumed they are out due to being absent from the matchday squad for a prolonged period of time or being subbed off early in a game and missing subsequent fixtures.

Thanks again for your support and please enjoy!

Kawasaki Frontale

Comments: Have started the season in ominous form, only dropping points at much-improved Kobe. What’s more, Oshima and Noborizato are still to return and strengthen them while João Schmidt almost doesn’t feel like a new signing, he’s bedded in so quickly.
Unavailable: Kyohei Noborizato, Ryota Oshima (injured)


Gamba Osaka

Comments: Only one league match played so not much to discuss. Re-scheduling six fixtures later in the year may see the return of the more defensive 4-4-2 set-up used last season and hopefully the end of the Onose at right-back experiment with Takao returning to take his rightful place.
Unavailable: Jun Ichimori, Haruto Shirai, Yuji Ono (injured), Wellington Silva (Visa/quarantine)


Nagoya Grampus

Comments: Their defensive strength means they are Kawasaki’s closest challengers despite having no real goal-scorer. Yamasaki has done alright, but shouldn’t be starting for a title contender and Kakitani has shown nothing so far. Inagaki looks like an early MVP contender, Soma has improved, however Morishita seems to be 3rd choice right back at the moment, perhaps he’s too attack-minded for Ficcadenti, imagine how good Tosu would be if he was still there!
Unavilable: Mu Kanazaki (injured)


Cerezo Osaka

Comments: Higher up the league than many would have expected, but the fixture list has been pretty kind to them so far. Okubo’s goals have been a Godsend in the absence of Taggart while Nishio has slotted in well alongside Seko at the back. Recent injuries to Harakawa, Sakamoto and Takagi will really test their squad depth.
Unavailable: Riki Harakawa, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, Ryuji Sawakami, Toshiyuki Takagi, Hirotaka Tameda, Koji Toriumi (injured), Adam Taggart (Visa/quarantine), Đặng Văn Lâm, Tiago (Visa/contract status unclear)


Kashima Antlers

Comments: The Ibaraki side have made their traditional slow start and will be desperate to get Brazilian midfield duo, Diego Pituca and Arthur Caike on the field as soon as possible. It’s at the back where most of the problems seem to lie, the full-back berths are still up for grabs and none of the centre-backs have covered themselves in glory.
Unavailable: Shoma Doi, Ryuji Izumi (injured), Arthur Caike, Diego Pituca (Visa/quarantine)


FC Tokyo

Comments: A roller-coaster start to the season from the capital club with, injuries, rotation and Covid-protocol violations preventing them from getting into any sort of groove. They’ve got points on the board early, but a chunk of them came in unimpressive home wins over last season’s bottom 2, Sendai and Shonan. They’ll need to hope Bruno Uvini is the man to shore up a rather leaky rearguard.
Unavailable: Akihiro Hayashi, Kazuya Konno, Manato Shinada (injured), Bruno Uvini (Visa/quarantine)


Kashiwa Reysol

Comments: Olunga, Olunga, where art thou Olunga? A very poor start to the season from Kashiwa and they desperately need the soon-to-arrive Brazilian quartet of, Emerson Santos, Dodi, Angelotti and Pedro Raúl to hit the ground running or the nightmares of 2018 could be lurking just around the corner.
Unavailable: Yuji Takahashi, Sachiro Toshima (injured), Angelotti, Dodi, Pedro Raúl, Emerson Santos (Visa/quarantine)

Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Comments: A solid start, made all the more impressive by the fact they are still figuring out their new back four system and how best to set-up their attack. Junior Santos continues to cause intrigue as it appears he’s fighting young Shun Ayukawa to be Douglas Vieira’s backup rather than being the main man himself. Hayao Kawabe could partner former team-mate Sho Inagaki in the J1 Best Eleven if he keeps up his current form.
Unavailable: Akira Ibayashi, Rhayner (injured)


Yokohama F.Marinos

Comments: A rather harsh take on them might say that they’ve swatted aside bottom half teams while failing to take the three points against stiffer opposition, exactly as they did in 2020. That said, from what I’ve seen there is a bit more steel about them this time round. I’m re-evaluating Daizen Maeda now that he’s finally added goals to his game and though Élber seems to lack the attacking x-factor of Erik, having more solid, hard-workers than mercurial artists may suit them better in 2021.
Unavailable: Theerathon Bunmathan, Daizen Maeda (injured), Léo Ceará (Visa/quarantine)


Urawa Red Diamonds

Comments: Ricardo Rodriguez seems like a lovely bloke, so I’ll spare him any blame for now, but real questions must be getting asked about the financial situation at the club. I started to wonder when Brazilians, Mauricio and Fabricio weren’t replaced last season and now with Leonardo gone, Deng injured and Yuki Abe making a Lazarus like return from the retirement home, a sojourn to J2 next year isn’t entirely out of the reckoning.
Unavailable: Thomas Deng, Yudai Fujiwara (injured)


Oita Trinita

Comments: I picked them to fill the final relegation spot in pre-season and I haven’t seen anything yet to make me completely alter my opinion. The number of changes at the back made in the off-season has definitely unsettled them and Katanosaka is still searching for the right combinations in a number of places.
Unavailable: Naoki Nomura (injured), Matheus Pereira, Henrique Trevisan (Visa/quarantine)


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Comments: I’m considering starting my own Patreon account so Sapporo fans can pay me to not watch them live. Last week’s horror show at home to Kobe was their 8th defeat on the spin with me tuning in on DAZN. Second year pros Kaneko and Tanaka have been solid (Tanaka’s assist for Furuhashi last week aside) and young Ogashiwa and Nakashima have looked bright in flashes. Failure to change their slightly archaic game-plan could result in an unwelcome flirtation with the relegation trapdoor.
Unavailable: Takuma Arano, Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa, Douglas Oliveira (injured), Jay Bothroyd, Gabriel Okechukwu (Visa/quarantine)


Sagan Tosu

Comments: An outstanding youth system and kantoku have their fans dreaming of ACL football next year. Didn’t score in their opening 4 J1 fixtures in 2020, haven’t conceded in their first 6 games this time round, it’s been quite the reversal of fortunes. How long can they sustain it? Will their new foreign strikers propel them to even greater heights? Will the vultures descend to brutally devour this team in a similar manner to what happened to fellow Kyushu-ites Giravanz last winter?
Unavailable: Ismael Dunga, Chico Ofoedu (Visa/quarantine)


Vissel Kobe

Comments: I saw them referred to as ‘Galacticos’ the other day, but that’s not really what they are anymore. They have a healthy crop of youngsters, many of whom have been raised in their academy, developing alongside a few seasoned heads, most notably Hotaru Yamaguchi, who’s been in sparkling form so far this season. There seems to be a real determination to make amends for 2020’s pitiful league performance and 3rd place doesn’t look impossible judging by their early showings.
Unavailable: Andrés Iniesta, Junya Tanaka (injured), Lincoln, Ayub Masika (Visa/quarantine)


Yokohama FC

Comments: Things seem to have completely fallen apart over the winter at Mitsuzawa. In my season preview I predicted goals at both ends, unfortunately that has only proven to be half correct and their veteran forwards haven’t hit it off as of yet. Talented midfielders Matsuo, Seko and Tezuka are struggling against the tide, but receiving little support and, although it’s early days, I think many already see them lining up in J2 next year.
Unavailable: Calvin Jong-a-Pin, Haruki Saruta, Hideto Takahashi, Eijiro Takeda (injured)


Shimizu S-Pulse

Comments: They’ve had just the kind of solid, unspectacular start many would have expected under Lotina. After conceding an avalanche of goals over the past 2 years, letting in just 7 in 6 games must have come as welcome relief to long suffering supporters in their picturesque stadium. Lotina’s reluctance to use assist kingpin Kenta Nishizawa may have rivals sending out the feelers regarding his future availability.
Unavailable: Hideki Ishige, Eiichi Katayama, Ibrahim Junior Kuribara (injured), William Matheus (Visa/quarantine)


Vegalta Sendai

Comments: Collectively this is one of the 4 weakest squads in the division. That doesn’t necessarily need to condemn them to relegation, but to stave off the drop, they will need to find a way to play to more than the sum of their parts. Passing the ball from their centre-backs to wing-backs, pushing the midfield forward to join the attack, then losing the ball and getting countered constantly, isn’t the way to achieve that.
Unavailable: Isaac Cuenca, Kunimitsu Sekiguchi (injured), Foguinho, Emmanuel Oti, Nedeljko Stojišić (Visa/quarantine)


Shonan Bellmare

Comments: I was sure they’d used up their nine lives last year, but they look a bit better than 2020, at least if the early rounds are anything to go by. Impressive youngster Taiga Hata still hasn’t featured, but playing on the left-wing for Shonan seems to bring out the best in players and Ryo Takahashi has been in fantastic form down that flank. They really need Wellington and Welinton Júnior to bring their shooting boots over from Brazil as a lack of firepower would be the most likely cause of a relegation this year.
Unavailable: Tarik Elyounoussi, Taiga Hata, Shun Nakamura, Tsukasa Umesaki (injured), Wellington, Welinton Júnior (Visa/quarantine)


Tokushima Vortis

Comments: They’ve probably done as well as could have been expected given that the squad haven’t met their new Spanish kantoku face-to-face yet and most of the players lack top tier experience. Poyatos (I assume he is choosing the team) has made a number of interesting selections with Abe, Fuke, Fujiwara and Kawakami all featuring regularly despite being out in the cold during the Rodriguez era.
Unavailable: Dušan Cvetinović, Kazuki Nishiya, Koki Sugimori, Kohei Uchida (injured), Cristian Battocchio, Cacá (Visa/quarantine)


Avispa Fukuoka

Comments: A decent start has them sitting comfortably in mid-table. Word of warning though, other newly promoted sides, namely Matsumoto and Nagasaki, have also begun top-flight campaigns reasonably well before fading away badly. Avispa need new foreign talents, Jordy Croux and, particularly, Biblically-named forward John Mary to deliver in order to maintain their top-flight status.
Unavailable: Juanma Delgado, Bruno Mendes, Taro Sugimoto (injured), Douglas Grolli (1 match suspension vs Sapporo 3 April), Jordy Croux, John Mary (Visa/quarantine)

Categories
sport

Nagoya Grampus vs Gamba Osaka J1 League 3 March 2021

2021 J1 League Round 11
Nagoya Grampus vs Gamba Osaka
Wednesday 3rd March 2021, 19:00 (JST)
Toyota Stadium


Gamba and Grampus face a turnaround reminiscent of 2020 in this matchday 11 clash which has been re-scheduled due to both sides’ participation in the Asian Champions League. Just a quick update, the game will go ahead at it’s originally scheduled time of 19:00 (JST) as the state of emergency has been lifted in Aichi ahead of Nagoya’s home opener.

Also, before I get into things fully, a gentle reminder that I was on last week’s J-Talk Podcast and Ben, Sam and I looked at both Nagoya and Gamba in detail (I’d say our comments on Yoichiro Kakitani were pretty accurate given his debut on Sunday lol). If you haven’t already, please have a listen. It’s actually available on Spotify now which gives you even less excuse to miss out!

Owing to my work / Gamba’s schedule, I’ll probably be on Twitter less in the early part of this season, HOWEVER, I encourage you to give @GawainStifyns, @JsoccerMagazine, @lionelpiguet and @90thMinuteSub a follow for more opinions on Gamba and the other Kansai clubs. Also for our opponents, please check out GRAMFRECCE (@J_LEAGUE_ULTRA) for the Nagoya take on things, I know he’s looking to connect with more Grampus fans from around the globe, so don’t be shy.

Last Time Out

Gamba made a disappointing start to their 2021 campaign, going down 1-0 away at Vissel Kobe. Kyogo Furuhashi’s lob from Hotaru Yamaguchi’s through ball consigned the Nerazzurri to yet another opening day defeat, meaning last season’s 2-1 victory at Yokohama F.Marinos is their only round one win since 2011. Vissel began the brighter of the two and Gamba were left chasing shadows for the opening half hour or so, however, they began to take a grip on proceedings in the middle third of the game and Kobe had to be thankful to the quick reflexes of ‘keeper Daiya Maekawa on several occasions. The match shifted in the home side’s favour during the second-half water-break when the withdrawal of Patric and Usami disrupted the visitors momentum. Furuhashi sent a warning shot across the bows by rattling the Gamba crossbar shortly before opening his account for the year 11 minutes from time. This was Gamba’s first loss in a league match in Hyogo since 2016 and kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto has work to do ahead of the upcoming encounter with Nagoya.

Nagoya came through a physical, and at times heated clash with J1 newboys Avispa Fukuoka, running out 2-1 winners in the end. Star winger Mateus scored near the start of both halves to leave Grampus in cruise control before left-back Yutaka Yoshida unfortunately lobbed the ball over his own ‘keeper Mitch Langerak under pressure from Avispa sub Takeshi Kanamori.

Tactical Notes

Gamba

Saturday was my first look at the new 4-3-3 formation and although it’s early days yet, put me down as a sceptic. It seems like we’ve moved some ornaments around on the mantelpiece, but have fundamentally been left with the same pieces performing the same function in slightly different positions. It’s one thing to adopt Kawasaki’s formation, but quite another to acquire their mindset. Miyamoto appeared to send Gamba out to win 1-0 at Kobe, essentially the same strategy as last season. However, as I’m going to outline below, 4-3-3 is not the best option, in my book, to achieve results while maintaining a defensive frame of mind.
Issue 1 – lack of cover for the fullbacks – Takashi Usami (right wing) and Shuhei Kawasaki (left) are not naturally defensive players so a lot of responsibility falls on the midfield trio to protect the back 4. Due to the movement of Kobe’s attacking midfielders, they were able to work space down Gamba’s flanks and cause problems. The fact that impressive J1 debutant Shion Inoue and Samurai Blue international Gotoku Sakai found themselves up against newly converted right-back (more on that later) Kosuke Onose, merely exacerbated the problem. Second half sub Asahi Masuyama hugged the right touchline after coming on and found plenty of space to roam in that unguarded area.
Issue 2 – Space between the midfield and defensive lines – This was one of the reasons that 3-5-2 got canned midway through 2020. Yuki Yamamoto in the midfield anchor/quarterback position was arguably Gamba’s best player against Kobe, however, on a couple of occasions he stepped up to try and win possession, but didn’t succeed and neither Ideguchi nor Yajima moved back to cover, leaving a gaping hole in front of Miura and Shoji. Last year with the double volante system and Ideguchi playing alongside one of Yamamoto or Yajima, better protection was afforded to Gamba’s centre backs. Granted Ideguchi still looks a little rusty after his injury layoff and increased energy levels from him will also help in a 4-3-3.
Issue 3 – Usami on the wing – Whenever I see FC Tokyo play Diego Oliveira on the right flank, as an opposing fan I’m always relieved because a proven J1 goalscorer and penalty box threat is being moved away from his natural habitat. Ditto Usami, he can play wing for a few games or so, but I don’t want to see him stuck there for a whole season. It gives him defensive responsibilities he’s not good at and takes him away from the second striker position in the central attacking area where he thrives.

To round up this mini-rant up, I don’t feel either Onose or Yajima did enough last season to find themselves shoehorned into the side this time round. If there are fitness or other off-field concerns about Ryu Takao then I take this back, but he was one of the best right-backs in J1 last year, so why has he been replaced by a right winger? Still, at least by changing to 4-4-2 in the second half against Kawasaki and 4-2-3-1 near the end of the Kobe game, Miyamoto is showing a willingness to consider alternatives.

Briefly, to end this section on something of a high note, I have Vissel finishing 7th this year, and Gamba actually lost 3-0 to Kashiwa Reysol (7th in J1 2020) last season, so this may be a step in the right direction (clutching at straws?? lol) I also genuinely think the Nerazzurri put on a better overall performance on Saturday than they did in their 2-0 win at the same venue last summer, but hey, that’s football.

Nagoya

It seems like there won’t be many changes in terms of tactics or personnel for Nagoya Grampus this season. After taking the underachievers up from 13th in 2019 to 3rd last year, Italian kantoku Massimo Ficcadenti clearly has the backing of the power brokers at Toyota Stadium. Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo) was the only new face in the starting lineup against Fukuoka on Sunday. For those of you new to JLeague, Ficcadenti will set his side out in a defensively minded 4-2-3-1 formation with the key players at the back being Australian international ‘keeper Mitch Langerak (17 clean sheets in 2020), centre-backs, Yuichi Maruyama and Shinnosuke Nakatani and holding midfielder Sho Inagaki. Of that quartet, only Inagaki (missed 24 minutes) didn’t play every minute of every game last season, a quite phenomenal achievement all round.

Of course, as J1’s top ranked defence in 2020 (conceding just 0.82 goals per game), it is that part of the team that gets most of the headlines, but that’s not to say there’s no attacking flair on display. Brazilian right-winger Mateus, who scored against Gamba in this fixture last season, topped both Grampus’ goalscoring and assist rankings in 2020 with 9 and 8 respectively. His brace against newly-promoted Fukuoka on the opening day has already signalled his intentions. Look for him drifting all over the attacking third, he’ll also take most of Nagoya’s set plays.

For areas Gamba could look to attack, although Inagaki and Yonemoto cover acres of ground in the middle of the park, they do have the potential issue of a lack of cover for both full-backs with neither Mateus nor whoever plays on the left, Yuki Soma or Manabu Saito, being particularly adept at defensive support. Set plays will also play a key role with 2 of Gamba’s 4 goals against Grampus in 2020 coming from dead ball situations. Nagoya dealt well with the aerial attack from Emil Salomonsson’s crosses at the weekend, but Yamamoto and Usami will look to pose different problems on Wednesday night.


Head to Head

Grampus may have had the league’s strongest defence in 2020, but Gamba had no problems breaching it, notching 4 goals across their home and away games. Indeed they’ve scored exactly twice in each of their six league encounters with Nagoya since the Aichi side’s promotion back to J1 in 2018. Incredibly, you have to go back to August 14th 2014, a 1-0 home loss, for the last time the Nerazzurri netted less than two goals in a single match in this fixture.


Team News

Gamba Osaka

Wingers Yuji Ono and Haruto Shirai (both recovering from knee surgery) are definitely out for Gamba. Kim Young-gwon and Yuya Fukuda have been absent from the matchday squad for both the Japanese Super Cup and last weekend’s defeat at Kobe. I believe Kim isn’t fully ready after missing a large part of the pre-season training camp in Okinawa and I haven’t heard anything regarding Fukuda. Central midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi will make his 100th Gamba and J1 appearance in this game. Fukuda will take his tally to 50 Gamba/J1 matches, should he play.

Nagoya Grampus

Ex-Japan international forward Mu Kanazaki is a long-term absentee after undergoing knee surgery towards the end of 2020. Neither, rampaging right-back Ryoya Morishita or former Gamba treble-winner Hiroyuki Abe were in the Grampus squad for the trip to Kyushu at the weekend, I haven’t heard any word as to whether that was down to injury/illness or just non selection.

Predicted Line Ups

Despite my reservations outlined above, it seems like 4-3-3 will remain in vogue for a while yet. With so many games in such a short space of time it’s inevitable some rotation will take place. I’ve selected Onose at right-back in the hope that if I put him there then Miyamoto may see sense and choose Takao instead. Other alternatives to the team below could be, Kawasaki and Patric keeping their places at left-wing and centre-forward respectively, and Ju Se-jong coming in for Shinya Yajima in the centre of the park (this would probably see him in the midfield anchor role with Ideguchi (right) and Yamamoto (left) just ahead of him). Should Kim Young-gwon or Yuya Fukuda regain full fitness then both would definitely make the matchday squad.



He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for blog writers like me Massimo Ficcadenti is a breath of fresh air with his lack of rotation and predictable starting elevens. I’ve gone for the same side that saw off Fukuoka on Sunday. However, if the Italian is feeling a bit racy then he may tweak his attack with Gabriel Xavier, Naoki Maeda or Manabu Saito coming in, while further back Yasuki Kimoto could be an option as it appeared Takuji Yonemoto took a bit of a knock against Avispa.



Match Prediction

Two teams with reasonably strong defences, so it may seem a little counter-intuitive to predict goals, but looking at the history of this fixture and considering the possibility of errors resulting from a mixture of rustiness and fatigue, I’ll go for 2-2.

Categories
sport

J1 2021 Predicted Lineups

**Important Update**Important Update**Important Update**

If you’re still coming here in 2020, please click this link for the 2022 version…

https://gambaosakaenglish.blog/2022/01/23/j1-2022-predicted-lineups/

Please check out the link above to see who has been playing and who hasn’t in J1 2021. I’ll update it regularly.
Data keys are below…




Also for those of you using the https://sporteria.jp/ website, here is a simple English translation of the data displayed there…




I’m sure everyone would join me in thanking @Michael_Master and @bmtps_k for their wonderful coverage of all the off-season transfer activity in Japan. The purpose of this article is to see how those winter moves affect the matchday lineups of J1 sides one month out from the start of the new campaign. I hope you enjoy!

First up, some housekeeping notices;
* The lineups below are not necessarily intended to be the ones on the opening day, but more the players most likely to fill those positions on a regular basis throughout the year.
* Players currently recovering from serious and long-term injuries haven’t been included. Some examples are Andres Iniesta (Kobe), Takuma Arano (Sapporo), Mu Kanazaki (Nagoya), Yuji Ono (Gamba), Akihiro Hayashi (FC Tokyo) and Sachiro Toshima and Yuji Takahashi (both Kashiwa).
* As this is a Gamba blog, lineups and formations for other teams are based on a mixture of evidence and guesswork. For instance, teams who performed well in 2020, kept the same manager and the bulk of their playing staff (Kawasaki) are easier to read than those who played poorly last year, changed coaches and brought in a host of new players (Shimizu).
* Ages given are correct to 27 February 2021, the opening Saturday of the J1 season, (Y) donates youth team product and teams are listed in order of 2020 league position.

Here we go…

Kawasaki Frontale

Brief Notes: Way better than everyone else last season and with just Morita departing they’ll be the team to beat once more. Only Mitoma and Tanaka leaving in the summer and the ACL schedule getting moved around again can really threaten their dynasty.


Gamba Osaka

Brief Notes: Leandro Pereira and Ju Se-jong both address areas of need and although it will be difficult to get 2nd again, this group of players shouldn’t finish lower than 5th / 6th even with ACL distractions taken into account.


Nagoya Grampus

Brief Notes: Morishita and Kimoto look like great buys, and I was surprised to see Manabu Saito is only 30! Will be strong defensively again, but look a genuine centre-forward short of really challenging at the top.


Cerezo Osaka

Brief Notes: Have made some puzzling moves over the winter, but they still have the nucleus of a very good team. How quickly they adjust to Culpi’s brand of football and whether or not Taggart has brought his shooting boots with him from Korea will go a long way to determining their fate this year.


Kashima Antlers

Brief Notes: Assuming their two new Brazilian midfielders settle in well, they should be Kawasaki’s closest rivals. This may not please Gamba supporters like me, but should lead to some tasty @frontalerabbit blog posts.


FC Tokyo

Brief Notes: They will probably improve merely by not being involved in the ACL this year. That said, the squad looks very unbalanced, with loads of options in central midfield and attack, but significantly less depth further back.


Kashiwa Reysol

Brief Notes: Shiihashi, Dodi and Kamijima will help to fix their soft underbelly, but there is still a huge Olunga shaped hole in attack. Will Angelotti or rumoured new signing from Botafogo, Pedro Raúl, be able to fill it.


Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Brief Notes: Junior Santos appears to be an excellent capture, but money is tight and there’s a real lack of depth. Any injury down the central spine of the team could be painful and prevent them from kicking on from last year.


Yokohama F.Marinos

Brief Notes: This year’s squad looks leaner and more settled than last time. A lot will depend on how their new Brazilian attackers do and also how much of 2020’s poor display was down to their overcrowded schedule and how much of it was teams working out how to play against them.


Urawa Red Diamonds

Brief Notes: Given time, I’ve no doubt the Rodriguez project will bear fruit in Saitama, but it may not be as quick a turnaround as the Reds faithful would like. Defence and central midfield could be issues and they appear to be overloaded with attacking midfielders. Having worked with a similar style of player in Yuki Kakita, can Rodriguez turn around Kenyu Sugimoto’s career?


Oita Trinita

Brief Notes: Should have enough to escape the relegation dog-fight and have made some intriguing signings from J2 down the flanks. Goalkeeper and central defence look like weak areas at the moment. If Shun Nagasawa’s inevitable winner against Gamba could be confined to the Levain Cup I’d greatly appreciate it.


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Brief Notes: A lot riding on the shoulders of last year’s three university rookies, Tanaka, Takamine and Kaneko. If newbies Nakano and Ogashiwa can have a similar impact they could do ok, but they are my tip to be a dark horse relegation candidate.


Sagan Tosu

Brief Notes: Look better placed than at this point last year and I have no difficulty seeing them survive. Being able to keep hold of Matsuoka was a big surprise for me and I’m really interested to see how new African forwards, Chico (Nigeria) and Dunga (Kenya), get on. I know I’m in the minority here, but I genuinely dig their new kit.


Vissel Kobe

Brief Notes: I think they could surprise a few people this year, not by finishing top 4 or anything, but outside of Hyogo there is almost zero expectation and their exciting youngsters may start to come to the fore a little more.


Yokohama FC

Brief Notes: Should be exciting to watch as it appears there will be plenty of goals at both ends. I don’t see them going down and if Matsuo and Seko continue to play well neither will be at the Mitsuzawa in 2022.


Shimizu S-Pulse

Brief Notes: As a fan of the league, I’d have preferred Cklamovski’s style to succeed, but more realistically Lotina’s defensive brand of football is more likely to guide them to less troubled waters. How high they go is dependent on how quickly the new parts fit together and how fast Lotina can mend their dreadful defence (139 J1 goals conceded 2019-2020).


Vegalta Sendai

Brief Notes: If they’re going to avoid the drop the improvement will need to come from the coaching department, with Teguramori replacing Kiyama. The squad on paper looks weaker than last season with the exception of the wide midfield areas.


Shonan Bellmare

Brief Notes: Ditto what I said about Sendai, they finished in the relegation slots last year and look likely to do so again. The heart has been ripped out of the team with Kaneko, Saito and Matsuda all going and their most exciting players, Tani, Tanaka and Hata are too young to carry this side on their back.


Tokushima Vortis

Brief Notes: Perhaps benefiting from Coronavirus, they managed to keep all of last season’s title winners and even added rising star Joel Chima Fujita. There’s a glaring lack of J1 experience and I can see things like, having 80% possession at home to Shimizu and still losing 1-0, happening a bit too often.


Avispa Fukuoka

Brief Notes: My main concern is that a chunk of last season’s starting eleven were on loan and have now returned to their parent clubs. They have more players with top flight experience than Tokushima and have made some decent buys, but they are short on depth and haven’t replaced Serantes in goal yet.

Categories
sport

Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus 23/09/2020 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus
J1 2020 Round 18
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Wednesday 23 September 19:00 (JST)


We’re officially into the second half of the 2020 campaign after squeezing in 16 rounds in under 3 months! If this season’s schedule is taking a heavy toll on you, don’t worry you’re not alone. Hopefully this preview can give you all the information you need ahead of this battle between two of J1’s perennial heavyweights.

The Lowdown

The current J1 standings show Nagoya in 4th spot after taking 30 points from 16 matches, Gamba are 5 places and 4 points worse off than their visitors, but crucially both sides have a number of games in hand over most of their rivals so are in with a real shout of securing ACL football next year. Grampus’ impressive form under the previously much-maligned Italian Massimo Ficcadenti has been one of the surprises of the year and Gamba’s 2-2 draw in Aichi in round 3 looks better and better with each passing week.

After announcing themselves as creditable contenders with a 1-0 win over runaway leaders Kawasaki back on August 23rd (to date they are still the only team to beat Frontale this year), Nagoya have suffered a dip in form with 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats in their next 5 league matches as well as being dumped out of the Levain Cup, 3-0 at the hands of FC Tokyo. They’ve picked up a respectable 14 points on the road this year, just 3 shy of Gamba’s total with both sides having played 8 away games. With that said though, their only road win at top half opposition was on their last trip to Osaka when they upset Cerezo 2-0 at Nagai Stadium a mere 4 days after their 2-2 draw at home to Gamba.

Gamba will be desperate to put their home woes behind them having now lost 4 in a row on their own turf. As I seem to say every week on this blog, getting the first goal will be crucial, Gamba are unbeaten in 2020 when they’ve led at any time in a game. However, Nagoya are one of only two teams to have come from behind to earn a point against Gamba this year, Kashima being the other.

With this being a three matchday week, rotation is to be expect, although these two sides have perhaps switched things up less than many other teams. It’ll be interesting to see if Grampus’ summer signing from Gamba, Oh Jae-suk makes an appearance, while the popular Hiroyuki Abe will surely get a pleasant reception if he takes the field. The two goal-scorers for Nagoya in the 2-2 draw back in July, Mateus and Gabriel Xavier should again pose the greatest threat to Gamba’s rearguard, though both Naoki Maeda and Mu Kanazaki must be kept an eye on too. Gamba supporters would love to see Takashi Usami return to goalscoring form, he’s found the back of the net just once in his last 9 outings. Usami’s good friend Yosuke Ideguchi has been in excellent form in midfield, but I can’t be the only one fretting over his fitness as with Yajima and Ono already out, the loss of the Japan international would be catastrophic for the Nerazzurri.

Head to Head

This is the second clash between these two this season with the first taking place just over two months ago on July 8th at Toyota Stadium. Genta Miura gave Gamba an early lead, but this was quickly cancelled out after strikes from Mateus and Gabriel Xavier, before Kazuma Watanabe earned the men from Suita a share of the spoils with an equaliser in additional time at the end of the game.

As you can see in the table below, Grampus have an excellent recent record in this fixture, winning 3-2 in both of their previous two trips to Suita. We have to go back to 2016, the year Nagoya were relegated to J2, to find Gamba’s last triumph.

I’ve never actually seen a Gamba vs Nagoya game live at the stadium, so my strongest memory is Nagoya’s 1-0 win at Expo 70’ Memorial Stadium back in August 2014 which was the only home defeat Gamba suffered in the second half of that memorable year. Leandro Domingues got the winner late on and since then I’ve always had it in my head that Grampus are a real bogey team for Gamba.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

The big concern for Gamba is captain Genta Miura limping off in the second half of Saturday’s game with Sapporo with what looked like a leg muscle injury. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out for, but at least there is a lot of cover in his position. Yuji Ono (knee) is done for the year and Shinya Yajima (ankle) has missed the past 4 matches, no date has been set for his return. If Gamba continue to use the 4-4-2 formation, we could see Keisuke Kurokawa promoted from the U23s to compete for a slot at left-back while Yuya Fukuda will become a viable option on the left wing or in central midfield. Kantoku Miyamoto has said that we can expect to see Shoji Toyama in the top team at some point this year, but it’ll probably be next month at the earliest.

Nagoya Grampus

Attacking midfielder Aria Jasour Hasegawa is a long term absentee with a broken leg. Right-back Kazuya Miyahara should be over his bout of COVID-19, but after being first choice in 2019, he’s been completely out of the picture this time out. Versatile midfielder Ryota Aoki missed the whole of last campaign and briefly returned this year, but has now disappeared from the matchday squad, I can’t find any confirmation of whether he’s injured again or just out of favour.

Predicted Line Ups

I’m going with the assumption that Miyamoto will stick with 4-4-2, especially if, as seems likely, Miura won’t be fit enough to play. Should he opt for 3-5-2 then we should see Takao slot in alongside Shoji and Kim at centre-back, Onose and either Fujiharu, Fukuda or Kurokawa will take up the wing back spots. In central-midfield Yuki Yamamoto will again be the anchor with Ideguchi and Kurata ahead of him and Usami will be partnered in attack by either (in order of likelihood), Ademilson, Watanabe or Patric.


Kantoku Massimo Ficcadenti favours a 4-2-3-1 formation and has shown little desire to rotate his troops any more than necessary. It’s possible that left-back Yutaka Yoshida could switch to the right to accommodate ex-Tokyo man Kosuke Ota on the left. In midfield Sho Inagaki, probably one of the best transfers of winter 2019/20, has been an ever present, but Brazilian Joao Schmidt may partner him instead of Takuji Yonemoto. The attacking midfield roles have decent depth and dangerous former-Gamba title winner Hiroyuki Abe is an option just off Kanazaki while Yuki Soma may be selected on the left-wing, both Mateus and Gabriel Xavier can play on the right if any re-shuffle is required.


Match Prediction

It’s a tough one to call with so many factors up in the air in this unique COVID affected year. Nagoya are always a tough nut for Gamba to crack and it’ll be tougher than ever now that they seem to have pulled their socks up under Ficcadenti. Don’t be surprised to see Grampus leave Suita with all 3 points, but I’ll be positive and opt for a competitive 1-1 draw.