Sunday, March 8, 2009

R1: Cerezo Osaka - Sagan Tosu 4-1

Cerezo kicked off their 2009-campaign by beating Sagan 4-1 at home in a one-sided contest home at Nagai Stadium. As usual, Sagan adopted a very defensive strategy, and had ten men behind the ball most of the time. For the opening 45 minutes, this was something Cerezo struggled with, as the chances were few despite having most of the possession.

Cerezo’s attacking trio of Shinji Kagawa, Takashi Inui ( both Japanese NT-players) and Brazilian Kaio looked much brighter in the 2nd half, and infact it took only Kaio three minutes to put his side in the lead. Inui did most of the work with an excellent run down the right-flank, and Kaio only had to poke the ball into the open net.

Inui got in the limelight once again when he found Kagawa with a tremendous back-heel, which Kagawa handled even more impressively, as he nutmegged his defender and took a quick shot that took Sagan’s GK Muro by surprise. He managed to save Kagawa’s shot, but had to give a rebound that fell straight into the wide-open Ishigami’s path.

2-0 up, Cerezo could lower their shoulders, but kept on attacking and got to many big chances. Kagawa alone hit the woodwork on three occasions, and also Inui and the Brazilian newcomer Martinez had big chances. Sagan on the other hand, didn’t create anything at all, and took out their only striker to replace him with a midfielder. An odd move being 0-2 down, especially considered they had the talented Taniguchi on the bench, who scored the winning goal against Cerezo last season.

On a rare visit inside Cerezo’s half, Sagan were rewarded a free-kick some 35 metres from goal. Substitute Takachi managed to get a head on the in-swinging cross, which took Cerezo’s goalie Kim by surprise. Sagan now had a life-line, but once Cerezo spotted the danger they were quick to respond.

It only took a minute after Saga’s goal before Cerezo were two goals up again, and this time it was Inui’s time to score. Kaio fired away something that looked like a misplaced shot, and luckily for the home-team it fell straight into Inui’s feets, whose first effort hit the post only to go straight back to Inui who then had an easy task scoring the 3-1 goal. 10 minutes later DF Ezoe did 4-1 for the home-team, which completed a very impressive performance by Cerezo.

Starting lineups:
Cerezo: 3-4-2-1: Kim - Thiago (Fujimoto), Ezoe , Maeda - Ishigami, Haneda, Martinez, Sakemoto - Kagawa - Inui - Kaio

Sagan: 4-4-2:Muro -Yanagisawa, Iio , Uchima, Isozaki (Yada) -Yamada - Shimada, Shimazaki (Takachi) ,Takahashi - Hirose, Tozin (Shimizu)

Shots: Cerezo 25 - Sagan 8
Attendance: 8,234

Friday, March 6, 2009

J2 2009 preview: Round-up

To sum up my J2-preview for the 2009-season, I've decided to put together a little table which shows how I think the season will end this year. However, with 51 matches to be played, it's hard to predict how many points each team will get.

J2 Table prediction 2009:
1. Cerezo Osaka 105p
2. Vegalta Sendai 100p
3. Consadole Sapporo 96p
4. Avispa Fukuoka 92p
5. Tokyo Verdy 87p
6. Shonan Bellmare 82p
7. Ventforet Kofu 77p
8. Sagan Tosu75p
9. Thespa Kusatsu 68p
10. Yokohama FC 62p
11. Roasso Kumamoto 59p
12. Mito Hollyhock 57p
13. Tokushima Vortis 51p
14. Tochigi SC 46p
15. Ehime FC 43p
16. Fagiano Okayama 40p
17. FC Gifu 39p
18. Kataller Toyama 27p
For detailed previews about each team check the menu on the right. Feel free to leave comments.

J2 2009 preview: Cerezo Osaka

Stadium: Nagai Stadium ( 50,000)
Average Attendance 2008: 10,560
Last season's finish: 4th

2009 season's transfers:
1 GK Daisuke Tada (On loan from Ehime F.C.)
21 GK Kim Jin-Hyeon (Drafted from Dongguk University)
2 DF Kenji Haneda (Transferred from Kashima Antlers)
13 DF Takashi Hirajima (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
19 DF Naoya Ishigami (On loan from Kashima Antlers)
7 MF Takashi Inui (Transferred from Yokohama F. Marinos)
3 DF Thiago (Transferred fromn Cruzeiro Esporte Clube)
MF Martinez (Transferred from Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras)
- FW Akinori Nishizawa (Transferred from Shimizu S-Pulse)
29 FW Takuya Kokeguchi (Returned from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)

DFAkihiro Sakata (On loan to Shonan Bellmare)
MF Ale (End of loan from São Paulo Futebol Clube)
MF Hiroaki Morishima (Retired)
MF Tatsuya Furuhashi (Transferred to Montedio Yamagata)
MF Germano (Transferred to Santos Futebol Clube)
DF Masayuki Yanagisawa (Transferred to Sagan Tosu)
DF Gilton (Transferred to Albirex Niigata)
MF Ryuhei Niwa (End of loan from Vissel Kobe)
GK Hiromasa Yamamoto (Transferred to Ehime F.C.)
MF Jun Aoyama (End of loan from Nagoya Grampus)
FW Noboru Nakayama (Retired)
MF Takuya Miyamoto (Transferred to Montedio Yamagata)
FW Yasuhito Morishima (Transferred to Oita Trinita)
FW Kim Sin-Young (Transferred to Ventforet Kofu)

My view on the transfers:
Cerezo have managed to keep most of their players from last season, and also brought in a few reinforcements. GK Tada is brought back from Ehime, but the expectations are higher for Kim, who's one of the biggest goalkeeper-talents in Korea. Most likely it's Kim that will become Cerezo's new no.1. Yamamoto and Aizawa, who were the first-choices last season are both gone. The defence looks stronger, as Cerezo have kept all their top performers from 2008, as well as brought in a few new players. Thiago especially seems to be a solid signing, but also Ishigami will be of good use. However, wingbacks Yanagisawa and Gilton have both left the club but they still seem to got good cover at all positions. In midfield Germano has left for Brazil, which of course creates a big hole to fill. Ale is gone as well, and Hiroaki Morishima have hung up his boots. The only newcomer is Martinez from Palmeiras, and he is expected to take Germano's role. Inui, who were a sensation the last couple of months of the 2008-season for Cerezo have made his move permanent. Up front, Furuhashi has left for Montedio, while veteran-striker Nishizawa has been brought in as a replacement. Kokeguchi is back as well from a rather unsuccesful stint with JEF.

Preferrable starting lineup:
4-3-2-1 / 4-4-2: Kim - Thiago, Haneda / Fujimoto, Maeda, Hirajima/Ishigami - Hamada / Sakemoto, Martinez, Kagawa - Inui, Komatsu / Nishizawa- Kaio

My view on the team:
Cerezo probably have the most talented squad in J2, with especially a very impressive attacking line-up. Kaio seems like a top striker, and with help from the two dribbling-sensations Kagawa and Inui he will probably be able to score atleast 15 goals this year. Whether or not Cerezo opt for 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2 remains to be seen, but most likely Komatsu and Nishizawa will see the pitch alot as well. Cerezo also got the wonderkid Kakitani in the squad, as well as Shiratani and Kokeguchi, so the options are many. The midfield seems a bit weakened as Ale and Germano are gone, but Martinez is a solid reinforcement and should be able to bind things together along with Hamada in central-midfield. Thiago can be used several places in defence, but with few options on the right-back he will probably take that position. Maeda is the leader in central defence, and will see either Haneda or Fujimoto alongside him. The goalkeeper position is the biggest unknown, as neither of the four goalies in the squad has any real experience. Kim seems to be the first choice, with Tada as back-up.

Player to watch: Kaio

Manager: Levir Culpi
Culpi received some critisiscm after failing to take Cerezo to J1 last season, but nevertheless is a well-respected manager. Has a very attacking-oriented strategy, which means the defensive focus isn't always as strong as it should be. Seems to have a good connection with the players, but there were stories last season that Culpi left out Yasuhito Morishima on purpose even when Cerezo were short on fit strikers a period cause of personal reasons. Morishima were later shipped off to Oita.

Cerezo have one of the more colourful fans in J2, and averaged over 10 000 last season. In a 50 000 capacity stadium that's not too much though, but in the latter half of the 2008-season Cerezo had over 20 000 several times.

Where they will finish:
Cerezo looks without a doubt as one of the strongest packages in this year's J2, if not the strongest. Another failure to win promotion to J1 would be a disaster, and looking at the players Cerezo got they are almost too good to fail this year. The young-guns Kagawa,Inui and Kaio etc are one year older, and the rest of the players are still only in their 20's so they are still in their prime-years. The defence looks stronger, but there are question-marks over the goalkeepers. They had a similar problem last season, which cost them many points in the end. With a better defence it should be improved though. Cerezo are in my opinion favorites for the 1st place, but their ultimate goal is to finish within the top 3, which seems a realistic target.

1st - 3rd

J2 2009 preview: FC Gifu

Stadium: Nagaragawa Stadium ( 31,000)
Average attendance 2008: 3,560
Last season's finish: 13th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Toshiya Shigenari (Drafted from Sakai High School)
GK Kyohei Noda (Transferred from FC Ryukyu)
DF Hideyoshi Akita (Transferred from Gainare Tottori)
DF Shuto Tanaka (Drafted from Tsukuba University)
DF Yasutaka Nomoto (Drafted from Tsukuba University)
DF Shinji Tominari (Drafted from Fukuoka University)
MF Seo Kwan-Soo (Transferred from Suwon City)
MF Suguru Hashimoto (Transferred from Vejle Boldklub)
MF Kazuki Someya (Drafted from Nara Sangyo University)
MF Takuma Nagayoshi (Drafted from Tsukuba University)
FW Yudai Nishikawa (Drafted from Tsukuba University)
FW Park Joon-Kyung (Drafted from Kyushu Sangyo University)
FW Cha Dong-Hoon (Drafted from Shugakukan High School)

1 GK Naoto Kono (Retired)
2 DF Kota Fukatsu (Transferred to F.C. Machida Zelvia)
4 DF Takayuki Komine (Released)
6 MF Shinya Nasu (Released)
7 MF Ryuji Kitamura (Transferred to Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.)
9 FW Shinya Aikawa (End of loan from Consadole Sapporo)
17 MF Masamichi Yamada (Released)
18 MF Mitsunori Yabuta (Released)
19 DF Koji Yoshimura (Retired)
20 MF Hiromi Kojima (Released)
21 GK Suguru Hino (Transferred to Tokushima Vortis)
22 GK Nobunari Nishida (Released)
23 MF Masahiro Iwata (Released)
25 FW Hiromi Kojima (On loan to F.C. Kariya)
28 MF Satoshi Sato (Released)
29 FW Kang Hyo-Il (On loan to F.C. Kariya)
30 MF Yosuke Kawasaki (On loan to F.C. Kariya)
33 MF Takashi Umeda (End of loan from Oita Trinita)

My view on the transfers:
Gifu have signed a dozen of University-players, but only MF Hashimoto from Vejle in Denmark have any previous experience with top-flight football. Meanwhile, they've relased just as many, with several players that were used on a frequent basis last season are gone. That includes goalie Hino, who's gone to Tokushima, and in defence four members that received a fair amount of playing time last season are gone as well. They've made just as many changes to their midfield, while up front they have the same players as last year.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Mizutani / Noda - Nomoto, Kawashima, Tanaka / Akita, Ki.Kan / Tominari - Takagi / Seo, Ka.Kan, Shimada, Hashimoto / Nagayoshi - Katagiri, Katayama

my view on the team:
With so many inexperienced players and so many changes to their squad, i'ts hard to predict how Gifu will fare this season, but the team looks overall weaker than last season. Unless the new players get settled really soon, Gifu will be in for a tough season and probably be lurking near the bottom of the table. They got a decent attack though with Katayama and Katagiri, as well as Korean Park in back-up.

Player to watch: Atsushi Katagiri

Manager Hideki Matsunaga
An experienced coach, that has been in charge of Verdy,Vissel and Kofu in the past. A respected figure in japanese football, and is good at working with youngsters which is good with regards to all the young players at the club.

Gifu averaged just above 3 000 last season, and is one of the poorest supported team in the league. Got some passionate fans though, which despite the modest number manages to create a good atmosphere at the matches.

Where they will finish:
Gifu looks no stronger than newcomers Toyama and Fagiano this year, and I think they are one of the teams in the front-seat for the last-place and wooden-spoon award. With so many young and untested players they are in for a tough season, but they should be able to beat atleast one of the newly-promoted teams and finish above last place.


J2 2009 preview: Roasso Kumamoto

Stadium: KKWing Stadium (32,000) and Kumamoto Suizenzi Stadium (15 000)
Average attendance 2008: 5,279
Last season's finish: 12th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Masaki Kinoshita (On loan from Gamba Osaka)
DF Kunihiro Yamashita (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
MF Nozomi Osako (Draft from Kagoshima Josei High School)
7 MF Yasunobu Matsuoka (Transferred from Gamba Osaka)
MF Toshiya Fujita (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
MF Toshiya Ishii (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
MF Hironori Nishi (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
9 FW Satoshi Nakayama (Transferred from Gamba Osaka)
FW Jun Uruno (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
FW William Yoshikawa (Drafted from Akatsuki High School)
FW Shotaro Ihata (Drafted from Shizuoka Sangyo University)


4 DF Yusuke Suzuki (Transferred to AC Nagano Parceiro)
9 FW Yoshio Kitagawa (Retired)
10 MF Kiyoshi Saito (Released)
11 FW Yutaka Takahashi (Transferred to Avispa Fukuoka)
13 FW Tamon Machida (Transferred to Sony Sendai F.C.)
14 DF Kenichi Kawano (Transferred to MIO Biwako Kusatsu)
17 MF Masahiko Kumagai (Released)
19 DF Kenichi Uemura (Retired)
20 MF Mitsuhiro Seki (Transferred to New Wave Kitakyushu)
23 DF Koji Arimura (Retired)
29 FW Yosuke Kobayashi (Transferred to Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.)
31 GK Yoichi Futori (Transferred to Gamba Osaka)
34 MF Kwon Seok-Geun (Released)
35 MF Oh Min-Seok (Released)
36 FW Park Sang-Tae (Released)

My view on the transfers:
The only big loss for Roasso in the transfermarket this year is FW Takahashi ,who have moved to Avispa. A revelation last season with all his goals, he was the by far best player for Roasso. Uruno, a fringe-player from Kofu, is the only replacement brought in,so they look weaker than before up front. In midfield veterans Fujita and Ishii makes nice additions, and will without a doubt be important members of the team this year.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Yoshida / Kobayashi - Yano, Ichimura, Cha, Kawabata / Fukuo - Komorida, Ishii, Fujita, Kina, Nakayama, Kijima

My view on the team:
Even without Takahashi, Roasso looks a better side this year, due to the two newcomers in midfield mainly. The defence isn't the best though,and they will probably concede alot of goals this year as well. Fujita and Ishii will propel the team forward and be good inspirators in tough times, while Nakayama and Kijima will probably be preferred up front.

Player to watch: Ji Ho Cha

Manager:Makoto Kitano
Formerly a youth and assistant coach of Kyoto Sanga, Kitano has been in charge of Roasso since 2007 with decent results under his belt. Not one that are likely to do wonders with Roasso though, but not the worst in the league.

Where they will finish:
Roasso's 2nd season in J2 will probably be a bit more enjoyable than the first, and they should be able to upset a few teams this season. They got a horrendous start to the 2008-campaign, but looked much stronger in the latter half of the season. If they can continue from that they should be able to finish reasonably high on the table. Somewhere around last year's 12th seems a good bet, as there are three new teams to compete against.


J2 2009 preview: Sagan Tosu

Stadium: Tosu Stadium (25,000)
Average attendance 2008: 7,261
Last season's finish: 6th

2009 season's transfers:
DF Keita Isozaki (Transferred from Vegalta Sendai)
DF Masayuki Yanagisawa (Transferred from Cerezo Osaka)
DF Takuya Yamada (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
DF Masaki Watanabe (Drafted from Kyoto Sangyo University)
MF Yusuke Shimada (On loan from Omiya Ardija)
MF Samuel (Drafted from Chukyo High School)
MF Yuto Takeoka (Drafted from Kokushikan University)
FW Hiroshi Ichihara (On loan from Oita Trinita)
FW Josue (Returned from F.C. Machida Zelvia)
FW Kei Ikeda (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)

2 DF Yuichi Shibakoya (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
4 DF Park Jung-Hae (Transferred to Daejeon Citizen)
9 FW Kim Sin-Young (End of loan from Cerezo Osaka)
11 MF Leonardo (End of loan from Tokyo Verdy)
14 MF Keisuke Funatani (End of loan from Júbilo Iwata)
15 DF Hiroshi Tetsuto (Released)
19 MF Junya Yamashiro (Transferred to V-Varen Nagasaki)
22 FW Hiroyuki Ishida (Released)
25 FW Yoshihito Fujita (Transferred to Omiya Ardija)
26 MF Toyoki Hasegawa (Released)
29 MF Takashi Soejima (Released)
- DF Hidenori Kato (Transferred to Gainare Tottori)

My view on the transfers:
Sagan have brought in three new defenders that will probably go straight into the team, or atleast be considered valuable members. Yanagisawa is a top J2 right-back, and Isozaki and Yamada are solid additions as well. Shibakoya is gone though, but overall that part looks better this year.In midfield Leonardo is gone, who were a valuable member last season, and he is to be replaced by Shimada from Omiya. Shimada did a solid job for Thespa last season. Up front their star-striker Fujita have left for Omiya, as well as Korean Kim. That leaves only three inexperienced strikers in the early 20
s left to score goals, which in my opinion sounds very alarming.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Akahoshi / Muro -Yanagisawa, Iio /Takachi, Hidaka, Isozaki / Yamada - Hirose /Nozaki, Eto, Shimada / Shimizu, Takahashi - Josue/Taniguchi, Ichihara

My view on the team:
Defensively Sagan looks as strong as ever, and the opposition will probably have a hard time scoring on them this year as well. Up front however, the options are few, and only three inpexerienced and young strikers are to choose from. Ichihara from Oita might make a good addition, but neither Josue or Tanigichi have showed anything before that suggests they should be able to score many goals at this level.

Player to watch: Yu Eto

Manager: Yasuyuki Kishino
Kishino has been in charge since 2007, and is a very defensive-oriented coach that doesn't let the team take any risks. It means they score few goals, but also manages most of the time to keep the conceded goals at a minimum.

Sagan averaged over 7 000 last season,which isn't too bad. They have some nice fans, that are passionate about their team and even travels in relatively large numbers to away matches as well.

Where they will finish:
Without any goalscoring-machines in the squad, I don't think Sagan will be able to challenge for a top 3 finish this year. Fujita made the difference in the previous seasons, but with him gone and no real replacement being brought in it doesn't look too good this year. An upper half finish seems more realistic, and if Sagan can avoid defeats they could even surprise by finishing higher as well.


J2 2009 preview: Avispa Fukuoka

Stadium: Level Five stadium (22,563)
Average attendance 2008: 10,079
Last season's finish: 8th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Eita Kasagawa (Promoted from youth team)
DF Makoto Tanaka (Transferred from Júbilo Iwata)
DF Kazuki Yamaguchi (Drafted from Fukuoka University)
MF Wellington (Transferred from América Futebol Clube (MG))
MF Yuji Miyahara (Transferred from Ehime F.C.)
19 FW Tetsuya Okubo (Transferred from Kashiwa Reysol)
FW Alex Henrique Jose (On loan from Batatais Futebol Clube)
FW Yutaka Takahashi (Transferred from Roasso Kumamoto)
FW Hideya Okamoto (On loan from Gamba Osaka)

4 DF Mark Rudan (Transferred to FC Vaduz)
6 MF Takanori Nunobe (Retired)
8 MF Ufuk Talay (Transferred to North Queensland Fury FC)
14 MF Hokuto Nakamura (Transferred to F.C. Tokyo)
20 FW Mike Havenaar (End of loan from Yokohama F. Marinos)
26 MF Shingo Honda (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Avispa have strengthened their team since last season, with improvements in every area of the pitch. Tanaka from Jubilo will be a great asset to a fledgling defence, while Wellington and Miyahara are improvements to the midfield. Okubo, who were the team's topscorer last season, has completed his transfer from Reysol, partnering up with Takahashi from Roasso, who took J2 by storm last season. Alex is an improvement as well, which means they are much better covered up front than last yar. Havenaar have left for Marinos, but the tall youngster weren't a huge success. The biggest loss is MF Nakamura, who were regarded as one of the better players in the team. Talay is gone as well, but Wellington and Miyahara should be able to replace them.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Yoshida - Yamagata, Niwa,Tanaka, Nakajima - Suzuki / Miyahara, Wellington, Jogo/Kudo, Hisanaga - Okubo, Takahashi / Alex

My view on the team:
Avispa looks a more complete team this season, with a stronger defence and deadlier strikers. There are some question marks about the midfield though, and much relies on whether or not Wellington will be a success. Okubo and Takahashi together along with Alex in backup should be able to score alot more goals than last season.

Player to watch: Tatsunori Hisanaga

Manager: Yoshiyuki Shinoda
Shinoda took over after Pierre Littbarski in July last season, and did a pretty good job as the team improved alot afterwards. Shinoda have coached U-15 and U-18 teams for Avispa earlier, as well as being assistant-coach for the first team, but this is his first major manager-job.

Avispa have a large fan-base, and have some of the most loyal fans in J2. Despite being relegated, they still have over 10 000 in average, which means there's a good support within the city of Fukuoka.

Where they will finish:
Avispa looks a stronger outfit this year, and is a dark horse for promotion. IF Vegalta and Cerezo are favorites for the two first positions, Avispa will probably have to fight against Shonan,Kofu and Consadole for the 3rd place, and they surely have the potential to do so. Decent back-up players and a better defence suggest that, as well as a much more feared attack.

3rd - 6th

J2 2009 preview: Ehime FC

Stadium: Ehime Prefectural General Athletics Park (20,000)
Average attendance 2008: 3,704
Last season's finish: 14th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Hiromasa Yamamoto (Transferred from Cerezo Osaka)
DF Yuichi Shibakoya (On loan from Oita Trinita)
DF Kenta Yoshikawa (Drafted from Hannan University)
MF Daiki Tamori (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
MF Shunsuke Oyama (Transferred from Urawa Red Diamonds)
MF Ryosuke Ochi (Transferred from Oita Trinita youth team)
FW Yoshihiro Uchimura (Transferred from Oita Trinita)
FW Josimar (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)

DF Yuzo Minami (Transferred to V-Varen Nagasaki)
DF Shingo Hoshino (Released)
MF Hideto Inoue (Retired)
FW Ryota Miki (End of loan from Gamba Osaka)
MF Yuji Miyahara (Transferred to Avispa Fukuoka)
MF Kim Tae-Yeon (End of loan from Vissel Kobe)
FW Ryosuke Sasagaki (Released)
GK Daisuke Tada (On loan to Cerezo Osaka)
MF Yoichi Kamimaru (Released)
FW Takuya Yokoyama (Released)
DF Hirotada Ito (End of loan from Gamba Osaka)
DF Akio Fukami (Released)
FW Manabu Wakabayashi (End of loan from Omiya Ardija)
GK Masaharu Kawahara (End of loan from Oita Trinita)

My view on the transfers:
Ehime has gotten rid of several players since last season, and seem to have trimmed their squad drastically. No real key players have left though, and instead they've released some of their more average players. Two regulars last season are gone, both in midfield, as Miyahara has been sold to Avispa and Kim returned to Kobe. Only Oyama of any quality has been brought in, which means that part is weakened. They got a new GK in Yamamoto, who were the first choice for Cerezo last season. DF Shibakoya is a good addition as well, which means the defence looks stronger. Up front Josimar have returned to the club, and will be the teams leading striker this season. Uchimura, who comes from Oita, will probably partner him.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Yamamoto - Takasugi, Kanamori, Shibakoya, Mikami - Akai / Chishima, Ego, Oyama / Aono, Yokotani - Josimar, Uchimura / Tanaka

My view on the team:
Ehime's starting eleven looks stronger, but lack some decent options if players get injured. The defence should be strengthened with Yamamoto and Shibakoya, while they will probably struggle to take control of the midfield, atleast against the better teams. Josimar is probably good enough for 15 goals a season, which is a huge improvement from last year, where none of the strikers managed to get a big goal-tally. Unlike last seasons, Ehime will probably try to stick with the same players more than before, which means the regulars should get a better chance to play themselves into good form. That was a problem last season, atleast with the strikers, with the coach constantly changing between 5-6 strikers.

Player to watch: Josimar

Manager: Kazuhito Mochizuki
Been in charge of Ehime since 2005, without never really managing to take them up to the next level. A pleasant guy, but hasn't showed anything in the past that suggests he is a top-manager.

Ehime got one of the smallers fanbases in the league, and dont enjoy too much back-up in the local community. They come from a place with literally no football-culture whatsoever, which explains their poor number of fans.

Where they will finish:
I don't think Ehime will be able to do any major progression since last year, but they should be good enough to keep 2-3 teams behind them atleast. A relatively small squad means they might struggle at the latter half of the season, as the regulars will experience alot of fatigue and such.


J2 2009 preview: Tokushima Vortis

Stadium: Naruto Athletic Stadium (20,000)
Average attendance 2008: 3,862
Last season's finish: 15th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Suguru Hino (Transferred from F.C. Gifu)
GK Hideaki Ueno (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
GK Daijiro Takakuwa (Transferred from Yokohama F. Marinos)
GK Kazuki Abe (Promoted from Amateur Team)
DF Kentoku Noborio (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
DF Bae Seung-Jin (Transferred from Yokohama F.C.)
DF Takashi Miki (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
DF Kazuto Tsuyuki (On loan from Nagoya Grampus)
DF Hikaru Mita (Transferred from Shonan Bellmare)
DF Takahiro Ohara (Drafted from Tokai University)
DF Hiroaki Ando (Drafted from Kanagawa University)
DF Masahiro Ishikawa (Drafted from Naruto High School)
MF Wataru Inoue (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
MF Jun Aoyama (On loan from Nagoya Grampus)
MF Takaaki Tokushige (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
FW Fábio (On loan from Villa Rio Esporte Clube)
FW Toshiaki Haji (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
FW Akihiro Sato (Drafted from Tokai University)

GK Torashi Shimazu (Released)
DF Jungo Kono (Retired)
DF Yuji Ishikawa (Released)
DF Naoya Shibamura (Transferred to Gainare Tottori)
MF Da Silva (End of loan from Madureira Esporte Clube)
DF Shogo Nishikawa (End of loan from Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
FW Souza (End of loan from Marília Atlético Clube)
MF Andrezinho (End of loan from Roma Esporte Apucarana)
FW Yutaro Abe (Transferred to Gainare Tottori)
MF Taketo Shiokawa (Released)
MF Kenji Takahashi (Released)
DF Kazuma Irifune (Retired)
MF Jun Tamano (Transferred to Thespa Kusatsu)
GK Yasutaka Homma (Retired)
GK Taiji Furuta (Released)
FW Hideo Okamoto (Transferred to Kamatamare Sanuki)
MF Takuto Koyama (Released)
DF Takatoshi Matsumoto (Released)
MF Taku Ishihara (End of loan from Yokohama F. Marinos)
DF Yushi Ito (Transferred to Grulla Morioka)

My view on the transfers:
Tokushima have released all their goalkeepers, and brought in four new ones. The first choice will most likely be Hino, who stood for Gifu last season. Likewise in defence, 3-4 players that received playing time last season is gone, while there are five new names on the block. Nishikawa has gone back to Sanfrecce, and is the biggest loss, but with a couple of reinforcements from Nagoya as well as Mita from Shonan they look better covered this year. Actually there are two new additions in midfield as well form Nagoya, with Jun Aoyama as the biggest signing. Aoyama were on loan to Cerezo last season, where he played 14 matches, and should be able to improve Tokushima's midfield this season. Tokushige, a long-time server of both Kyoto and Cerezo in the past, is also new and will be a good player to have with all his experience. Da Silva, Shiokawa and Andrezinho las left though, with only Da Silva to counted as a big loss. Andrezinho never managed to break in to the team, and is back in Brazil now. Likewise, his compatriot Souza has left as well, as the FW only managed two goals in 17 appearances last season. Instead of him Tokushima have gone for a 21-year old Brazilian called Fabio, who have played for several clubs already, including a brief spell with Botafogo. He seems a much better deal, and should be able to do better than Souza atleast. Haji from Kofu is new as well.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Hino - Miki, Fujita / Bae, Mita, Noborio / Meta - Kuranuki, Hikichi / Kataoka, Aoyama, Oshima - Fabio, Haji / Sugawara

My view on the team:
Tokushima look much better this season than in previous years, and should for once be able to finish higher up than in last place. The midfield in particular looks strong, with Kuranuki being the best of the lot. Aoyama should be able to do some good things for them as well, and the gifted Oshima is always a threat going forward. Up front Fabio will take one of the starting roles, either with Haji, Sugawara or Ishida alongside him. The defence looks stronger as well, but they're likely to conceded a fair amount of goals this year as well.

Player to watch: Fabio

Manager: Naohiko Minobe
Minobe were in charge of Kyoto for 1 year from 2006 to 2007, but were fired 2 months before the season ended in 2007 as Kyoto seemed to miss out on promotion that year. As it turned out, Kyoto managed to get promoted with a new coach on board, and Minobe were blamed for failing to do the same with such a talented bunch of players Kyoto had at that time. Hasn't really done wonders with Tokushima either, and is among the more poor coaches in the league.

Situated on Shikoku, Tokushima is far away from the football-frenzy parts of Japan, but nevertheless have they managed to build a small and very loyal fanbase in their hometown.
They also have a small gropu of hard-core fans that follows the team at every away-match.

Where they will finish:
Tokushima looks stronger than ever before, and they seemed to have done some smart shopping in the off-season. They should be able to beat the newly-promoted teams as well as teams like Ehime and Gifu, and with that climb a few places on the table.


J2 2009 preview: Fagiano Okayama

Stadium: Momotaro Stadium
Average attendance 2008: N/A
Last season's finish: 4th (JFL)

2009 season's transfers:
GK Hidenori Mago (Transferred from Sagawa Shiga F.C.
GK Kazuma Shiina (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
DF Kazuya Sakamoto (Transferred from Urawa Red Diamonds)
DF Masahiko Sawaguchi (Transferred from F.C. Ryukyu)
DF Takashi Nishihara (Drafted from Ehime University)
DF Ryujiro Ueda (Transferred from Gamba Osaka)
DF Yutaka Baba (Drafted from Osaka Gakuin University)
DF Yuichi Morimoto (Drafted from Komazawa University)
MF Kazunari Hosaka (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
MF Kengo Ukai (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
MF Yuki Kotera (Drafted from Hannan University)
MF Ryohei Kamon (Drafted from Momoyama Gakuin University)
MF Yuji Makihara (Drafted from Kobe International University)a
FW Kohei Nishino (On loan from Oita Trinita)
FW Tsuyoshi Shinchu (Drafted from Biwako Seikei Sport College)
FW Takuro Yoshioka (Drafted from Shizuoka Sangyo University)
FW Shotaro Dei (Drafted from Kochi University)
FW Takuya Yamamoto (Drafted from International Pacific University)

GK Takaya Tsutsumi (Released)
DF Takuya Ito (Transferred to New Wave Kitakyushu)
FW Yusaku Asahina (Transferred to Kamatamare Sanuki)
MF Hideyuki Nakagawa (Released)
DF Takaki Shigemitsu (Transferred to New Wave Kitakyushu)
DF Hideaki Ikematsu (Transferred to FC Târgovi?te)
FW Sho Kamogawa (Released)
MF Takamichi Seki (Transferred to Okinawa Kariyushi F.C.)

My view on the transfers:
Fagiano have brought in a few reinforcements to adjust to life in J2, but noe of which can really be called quality-players. Two rookie defenders from Urawa and Gamba respectively will boost the defence, while two midfielders from Kofu is set to strengthen that part of the field. The biggest signing is FW Nishino from Oita, who played for Mito the last couple of season. A decent forward, but isn't exactly a goalgetter.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Lee - Ozaki, Sawaguchi, Nomoto, Ueda / Ukai - Tamabayashi, Kawahara, Senoh / Hosaka, Ono - Nishino, Kobayashi / Kiyama

My view on the team:
Fagiano doesn't look any particularly strengthened since last season, and like Kataller they will probably struggle to make much of an impact. They finished 4th in JFL last season, behind both Tochigi and Kataller. There are several players with experience from J2 earlier in the team, which might be a good thing as they then know what to expect. The players brought in doesn't look any particular better than the ones already at the team, but will surely make use of themselves even as back-up. The defence looks the weakest part, with rather inexperienced players.

Player to watch: Shugo Kawahara

Manager: Satoshi Tezuka
Tezuka's been in charge of Fagiano since 2007, and have done a pretty good job with the club. Before that he was the manager of Thespa Kusatsu. A former Japanese international, Tezuka is an experienced figure in japanaese football.

Fagiano averaged around 3,500 last season, but those figures are expected to rise a little this season. At most they had over 11,000, so the interest is there.

Where they will finish:
Like Kataller, I think Fagiano will be one of the bottom-dwellers this season. They haven't done anything to strengthen their team since last year, and I doubt those players are good enough to bring them success in J2.

16th -18th