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

J2 2009 preview: Kataller Toyama

Stadium: Toyama Athletic Recreation Park Stadium (28,494)
Average attendance 2008 : N/A
Last season's finish: 3rd (JFL)

2009 season's transfers:
MF Kang Hyun-Su (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
DF Sho Asuke (Transferred from Tokyo Verdy)
DF Tetsuya Funatsu (Drafted from Biwako Seikei Sport College)
DF Kazuhito Esaki (Drafted from Hosei University)
FW Masato Sakurai (Drafted from Hamamatsu University)

DF Keiichiro Hashimoto (Released)
DF Hideya Tanaka (Kamatamare Sanuki)
MF Satoshi Yoshioka (Retired)

My view on the transfers:
Toyama hasn't made any real changes to their team, and the only ones brought in are a few university-players plus two rookies from Kyoto and Verdy. None of the players that helped the team win promotion last season has gone as well, which means the squad is pretty much unchanged.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Nakagawa - Nishino, Hamano, Tsutsumi, Nakata - Kamizono, Kabayama / Nagayama, Watanabe, Asahi - Hasegawa, Ishida / Nagatomi

My view on the team:
Few of the players have an previous experience with J.League-football, and the most "merited" of them is infact Kamizono, who played a few seasons for Mito in J2 a few years ago. Untested at this level, Toyama is expected to struggle in their debut season, but looked pretty good last year so they might be able to upset a few teams. Both strikers Hasegawa and Ishida have scored lots of goals in JFL, and should be able to bag a few here as well. The defence doesn't look too strong though, and I think they will struggle against the big teams.

Player to watch: Mitsuru Hasegawa

Manager: Hiroshi Showa
Like his players, Showa is untested at this level, which makes it hard to file a description of him. A former assistant coach of Cerezo Osaka and Sagan Tosu means he have gone the grades, and probably picked up some good tricks along the way.

Toyama averaged just over 4000 last season, which is more than clubs like Ehime,Mito and Tokushima. At the most they had over 10 000 at one of their games, which means there's a vast interest for the club in their hometown.

Where they will finish:
Toyama looks on paper like the weakest team in the league, and I would be surprised if they managed to keep too many teams behind them when the season is finished. A very in-experienced squad, but good team-morale and determination and will enough to deliver might give them a few wins. Most likely they will end up close to the bottom though.

17th - 18th

J2 2009 preview: Ventforet Kofu

Stadium: Kose Sports Stadium (17,000)
Average attendance 2008: 10,354
Last season's finish: 7th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Kota Ogi (On loan from Vissel Kobe)
DF Daniel (On loan from Associação Desportiva São Caetano)
DF Yuki Toma (Drafted from Hamamatsu University)
MF Marcelo Labarthe
MF Naoki Hatada (Transferred from Kashiwa Reysol youth team)
MF Hiromu Karasawa (Promoted from youth team)
11 FW Maranhao (Transferred from Sertãozinho)
FW Kim Sin-Young (Transferred from Cerezo Osaka)
FW Masaru Matsuhashi (On loan from Oita Trinita)
FW Hiroshi Morita (Transferred from Omiya Ardija)
FW Yuki Koike (Drafted from Chuo University)

5 DF Yuki Inoue (Transferred to Tochigi S.C.)
6 MF Kazunari Hosaka (Transferred to Fagiano Okayama F.C.)
8 MF Daiki Tamori (Transferred to Ehime F.C.)
11 FW Jun Uruno (Transferred to Roasso Kumamoto)
14 FW Josimar (Transferred to Ehime F.C.)
15 FW Sales (Released)
17 MF Tomoyoshi Tsurumi (Retired)
18 FW Toshiaki Haji (Transferred to Tokushima Vortis)
20 FW Shota Kimura (Transferred to Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.)
22 GK Shigeru Sakurai (End of loan from Montedio Yamagata)
23 MF Kengo Ukai (Transferred to Fagiano Okayama F.C.)
26 DF Ken Yorii (Transferred to Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.)
28 MF Daisuke Kanzaki (Transferred to V-Varen Nagasaki)
35 DF Ryo Yamamoto (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Kofu has done some adjustments to their team since last season, mainly in attack where three new strikers has been brought in. Maranhao's loan-deal has been turned into a permanent move, and to aid him Kim from Cerezo, Morita from Omiya and Matsuhashi from Oita have joined the team. GK Ogi is on loan from Vissel, and most likely he will see some playing time this season. In defence, a couple of frequent starters are gone, and the only newcomer are Daniel from Brazil. Marcelo will surely add some skills to the midfield.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Abe / Ogi - Akimoto / Sugiyama, Yamamoto, Daniel, Ikehata / Wada - Mio, Fujita, Marcelo, Ishihara - Maranhao, Morita / Kim

My view on the team:
Not a bad squad, but not a particularly good either. There's no real leaders in the team that can guide them up to the next level, like Bare did earlier for them. There's no obvious weak points in the team either though, so I think they will be able to put up a fight with even the best teams in the league. Unlike last season, in which they struggled alot with scoring goals, the attack almost looks like the strongest part of the team this year. Maranhao is good for atleast 15 goals when he got a complete season to do it on, and altohugh Morita never blossomed in J1 he should be good enough to pose a threat to teams at this level. Kim were weighed too light for Cerezo, but looked good at times at Sagan last season, and Matsuhashi and Maeda are also players that can deliver at this stage.

Player to watch: Maranhao

Manager: Takayoshi Anma
Anma is a rather inexperienced coach, but didn't do a bad job last season in charge. Especially the 2nd hald of the 2008-season Kofu looked quite good, and Anma seems to have done alot of things right. He's got overall a better squad to work with this season than the last.

Kofu had one of the biggest average-crowds in J2 last season, and lost remarkably few fans after the relegation in 2007. Most teams experience a drastic decrease in the crowd after that, but that didn¨t happened with Kofu which shows how loyal their fans are.

Where they will finish:
Kofu should be able to do better this year than last season, in which they finished on a disappointing 7th. Whether or not they are good enough to aim for a top 3 finish remains to be seen, but with maximum luck such a place are within reach. However, they need one or two of the players to step forward if that is to happen, and the strikers needs to be consistent goalscorers as well. There's a good spirit within the team though, which will of course boost the team's performances.

4th - 8th

J2 2009 preview: Yokohama FC

Stadium: Mitsuzawa Stadium (15,064)
Average attendance 2008: 6,793
Last season's finish: 10th

2009 season's transfers:
4 DF Kenta Togawa (Signed from Tokyo Verdy)
DF Shosuke Katayama (Signed from Nagoya Grampus)
DF Terukazu Tanaka (On loan from Omiya Ardija)
DF Tomonobu Hayakawa (Loan Return from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)
DF Ryuji Ito (Drafted from Teikyo High School)
25 MF Yusuke Sudo (Signed from Nagoya Grampus)
MF Daishi Kato (Signed from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
MF Ken Hisatomi (Drafted from Tokai Univ. Daigo High School)
MF Yoo Hyo-Jin (Signed from Busan Kyotong)
FW Go Nishida (Signed from Hannan University)

5 MF Elizeu (Transferred to Vegalta Sendai)
6 DF Kosuke Ota (Transferred to Shimizu S-Pulse)
8 DF Yosuke Nakata (Transferred to Grulla Morioka)
9 FW Anderson (Released)
13 MF Kunihiko Takizawa (Transferred to Tokyo Verdy)
14 MF Cho Young-Cheol (Transferred to Albirex Niigata)
15 FW Taro Hasegawa (Released)
32 DF Takuya Yamada (Transferred to Sagan Tosu)
- DF Bae Seung-Jin (Transferred to Tokushima Vortis)
- MF Tomoya Uchida (Transferred to Omiya Ardija)

My view on the transfers:
Yokohama have lost a few regulars since last season, including their topscorer Anderson. DF's Ota,Yamada and Nakata are gone as well, all players that were used alot last season. Likewise in midfield, where Elizeu, Takizawa and the talented Cho are all gone. Three new defenders have been brought in to replace the departed ones, so that area of the field should be settled. In midfield Kato and Sudo are new, which in my opinion doesn't hold the same quality as the players gone. Up front Hasegawa is gone as well, which were a solid back-up player.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Koyama - Ono, Yatsuda, Togawa, Katayama - A.Miura, Kato,Sudo,Nejime - Ikemoto / K.Miura - Namba

My view on the team:
Yokohama looks pretty mediocre this season as well, with no players standing out as leaders. The defence doesn't look too bad, but few options in back-up means they can't afford too many injuries. The midfield doesn't exactly oozes quality either, and they might struggle against the better teams atleast. Up front Namba will be the main-man this season, with Ikemoto serving as his partner. Super-veteran Kazu Miura will probably receive some playing time as well, but in the last couple of years he's become more a liability than someone who adds strength to the team.

Player to watch: Daishi Kato

Manager: Yasuhiro Higuchi
Higuchi took over the reigns ahead of this season, and will have a hard task producing good results with the club. With veterans like the two Miura's still in the club pulling strings off the pitch, Higuchi's influence might not be as big as he wants, as the hier-archy that is at Yokohama has caused upstirs with previous managers.

Got a nice group of hardcore-fans, but not the largest in numbers. After Yokohama Flugel's fall, most fans in Yokohama support Marinos instead which means Yokohama FC will only be the club for the hardcore fans, atleast until they are good enough to challenge their city-rivals again in J1.

Where they will finish:
Yokohama doesn't look any better than a midtable team this year as well, and will probably struggle to even make it to the upper half of the table. They got a decent starting lineup though, and will be able to steal some points from the big teams over the season.

9th - 13th

J2 2009 preview: Shonan Bellmare

Stadium: Hiratsuka Athletics Stadium (18,500)
Average attendance 2008: 5,994
Last season's finish: 5th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Yosuke Nozawa (Transferred from Albirex Niigata)
DF Akihiro Sakata (On loan from Cerezo Osaka)
DF Taisuke Muramatsu (Transferred from Honda F.C.)
DF Keisuke Takigawa (Drafted from Nihon University)
DF Kento Fukuda (Drafted from Joso Identy Youth)
MF Yoshito Terakawa (Teransferred from Albirex Niigata)
MF Yuki Igari (Returned from Sagawa Printing S.C.)
MF Yohei Maeda (Transferred from Shimizu S-Pulse youth team)
FW Jung Jung-Hyun (Drafted from Konkuk University)
FW Kohei Yamamoto (Drafted from Hosei University)

2 DF Toshihide Saito (End of loan from Shimizu S-Pulse)
4 DF Hikaru Mita (Transferred to Tokushima Vortis)
9 FW Naoya Umeda (Transferred to Gainare Tottori)
11 FW Naoki Ishihara (Transferred to Omiya Ardija)
14 MF Genki Nagasato (Transferred to Tokyo Verdy)
15 MF Yoshio Kitajima (Released)
17 MF Shunsuke Oyama (End of loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)
24 MF Nozomu Kato (Retired)
27 GK Yohei Hamasaki (Transferred to Sagawa Printing S.C.)
29 MF Satoru Hayashi (On loan to Gainare Tottori)
31 DF Yosuke Kawamata (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Shonan haven't made any real improvements on their team since last season, with only a couple of veterans from Albirex being brought in. GK Nozawa will probably receive some playing time, and might be getting the starting spot, while MF Terakawa, who's already 33, will most likely be used on a more frequent basis. They've lost quite a few players, with the biggest loss being FW Ishihara, who's moved to Omiya in J1. Two or three other players that received a fair amount of playing time last season have left as well.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Kim / Nozawa - Tamura, Jean, Yamaguchi / Suzuki, Usui - Sakamoto, Adiel, Nagata, Terakawa / Kikuchi - Tuto, Hara / Abe

My view on the team:
Alot of their players have turned 30 already, and Shonan aren't exactly a youthfilled and energetic team anymore. They still look to have a solid starting 11 though, but with many of the backup players last season gone, their squad looks thinner.The loss of Ishihara up front will be big, but Tuto, who scored 5 goals in 7 matches last season will do his best to fill his shoes. They got one of the best players in J2 in Adiel, who pull the strings in midfield.

Player to watch: Tuto

Manager: Yasuharu Sorimachi
Sorimachi were in charge of Japan U23 and their Olympic Team from 2006 to 2008, and although he never won any major trophies with them he made them into a solid team that played attractive football. Not the type who take uncalculated risks though, and often chooses the safe option over the risky one. That have on several occasions in the past proved to be the wrong choice, but nevertheless Sorimachi is a coach that knows his game. His experience with young players might result into some of Shonan's rookies getting some chances with the first-team.

Despite having been a solid J2 side for years now, Shonan still continues to draw a modest crowd. An average of just below 6,000 a game isn't good enough for a perennial promotion-chaser, especially considering Shonan ( or Bellmare Hiratsuka as they were called earlier) were a good J1 team back in the 90's. In other words not the most intimidating supporters around.

Where they will finish:
Shonan will be hoping for another shot at promotion this year, which might turn out to be a tougher task than they want. The team doesn't look any stronger than last year, and in Ishihara they lost a match-winner. However, the chance is there, and with only Vegalta and Cerezo to be considered as real favorites for a promotion-finish Shonan could with a little bit of luck finish 3rd.


J2 2009 preview: Tokyo Verdy

Stadium: Ajinomoto Stadium (50,000)
Average attendance 2008: 14,837
Last season's finish: 17th (J1)

2009 season's transfers:
DF Kazuya Iwakura (Transferred from New Wave Kitakyushu)
DF Takuya Wada (Promoted from youth team)
MF Takahiro Kawamura (Transferred from Júbilo Iwata)
MF Genki Nagasato (Transferred from Shonan Bellmare)
MF Kunihiko Takizawa (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
MF Kento Tsurumaki (Returned from Mito HollyHock)
MF Yu Tomidokoro (Promoted from youth team)
FW Leonardo (Returned from Sagan Tosu)

3 DF Shigenori Hagimura (Retired)
4 DF Takumi Wada (End of loan from Shimizu S-Pulse)
5 DF Daisuke Nasu (Transferred to Júbilo Iwata)
10 MF Diego (Transferred to Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
11 MF Harutaka Ono (Released)
18 DF Kojiro Kaimoto (Released)
20 MF Nozomi Hiroyama (Transferred to Thespa Kusatsu)
23 MF Takashi Fukunishi (Retired)
24 MF Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (Released)
28 DF Sho Asuke (Transferred to Kataller Toyama)
29 DF Sho Miyasaka (Released)
32 FW Osama Elsamni (Transferred to FK Teplice)
- DF Yugo Ichiyanagi (Transferred to Vegalta Sendai)
- DF Kenta Togawa (Transferred to Yokohama FC)
- DF Seiji Sonoda (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Verdy has lost 3-4 defenders since last season, with the main departures being Nasu and Wada. Obviously players they would have good use of this season as well, but the biggest loss lies in midfield, where Diego has moved to Kyoto. Also Ono, Hiroyama and Fukunishi are gone, which leaves alot of holes to fill. No defenders have been brought in as replacements, whereas in midfield Kawamura and Leonardo are the biggest signings. Leonardo returns from Sagan where he has spent the last two seasons on loan, while Kawamura comes from Jubilo, where he played 11 matches last season. In one way it's a good thing that they have trimmed the squad, as they've had far too many average players in the team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Doi - Fukuda, Tomisawa, Tsuchiya, Hattori - Kawano / Shibasaki, Sugiwara, Takizawa, Leonardo - Oguro, Leandro / Hiramoto

My view on the team:
Verdy doesnt look as strong as they did in 2007, much to the case that their two stars up front Diego and Hulk are no longer within the team. It's an aging team, and whether or not they will manage to keep it up for the entire season is doubtful. The defence isn't too bad, but against the more quick-attacking teams they will struggle I think. They lack a leader in midfield as well, but got some promising players at the flanks. Kawano will probably receive more playing-time this year, and Leonardo proved he has what it takes at Sagan as well. Oguro has good opportunity to revive his career this season, as he should be able to score a few goals in J2. Leandro didn't quite got it together last season, but will see some playing time this year, and if he can find back to the form he showed in Brazil earlier Verdy might do well. They also got the aging Hiramoto and Funakoshi to choose from, but neither can be called super-strikers, even at this level.

Player to watch: Hiroki Kawano

Manager: Takuya Takagi
Takagi were promoted from coach to manager ahead of this season, as he took over from Hashiratani. Takagi enjoyed enourmous success with Yokohama FC in 2006, winning promotion with them and breaking several records along the way. That was his first year in charge of a club, but 2007 proved tougher as Yokohama failed to make an impact in J1. Surely a manager with alot of potential, and the capability to do great things with Verdy.

Verdy were once the biggest team in Japan, but after some rough years where they among other things moved away from their current location the fan-base have become smaller every year. Situated in the middle of Tokyo, they haven't really managed to grow a proper fanbase in the local community, as most of the fans in Tokyo cheer for either FC Tokyo or one of the surrounding clubs. Still manages to attract a reasonable crowd at their home-matches though.

Where they will finish:
Verdy will be hoping to bounce straight back into J1 this season, but in my opinion they seem to lack the quality to do so. If key players like Oguro manages to find back to the form they showed earlier they have the potential for a top 3 finish though, but most likely they will have to settle for a finish just below.

4th - 7th

J2 2009 preview: Thespa Kusatsu

Stadium: Shikishima Stadium (10,050)
Average attendance 2008: 4,215
Last season's finish: 9th

2009 season's transfers:

16 DF Daisuke Fujii (Transferred from Albirex Niigata)
DF Keiichi Misawa (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
DF Tatsuya Kawahara (On loan from Omiya Ardija)
MF Nozomi Hiroyama (Transferred from Tokyo Verdy)
MF Jun Tamano (Transferred from Tokushima Vortis)
MF Minori Sato (Drafted from Maebashi Ikuei High School)
27 FW Ken Tokura (Transferred from Kawasaki Frontale)
FW Junki Koike (On loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)

6 MF Nobuhito Toriizuka (Retired)
10 MF Yusuke Shimada (End of loan from Omiya Ardija)
17 MF Tadahiro Akiba (Transferred to S.C. Sagamihara)
18 FW Shota Iwata (Released)
23 DF Akira Ishigame (End of loan from Omiya Ardija)
24 MF Jin Kanaoya (Transferred to Fukushima United F.C.)
27 DF Bae Seung-Jin (End of loan from Yokohama FC)
38 MF Reiichi Ikegami (End of loan from F.C. Tokyo)

My view on the transfers:
Thespa have released MF's Toriizuka and Shimada, who both were regular members of the team last season. Toriizuka have retired, while Shimada, one of the pillars of last season's team, have ended his loan-spell. The other released players are only fringe members of the team, so they've managed to kept most of the players from last season. Some reinforcements have been brought in as well, with FW Koike looking the most promising one. The Urawa Reds-striker is a very talented player, that were never given enough chances at Urawa to shine. J2 seems a more appropriate venue for him at this stage of his career, so he should be able to make an impact on Thespa. Hiroyama is new from Tokyo Verdy, and will make a nice addition to the midfield. There's a couple of other newcomers as well, but none of which will go straight into the first-team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Honda - Fujii / Terada, Tanaka, Omoto / Kita, Choi - Hiroyama, Kumabayashi, Matsushita, Yamazaki - Takada, Koike

My view on the team:
Thespa has kept most of their top-performers from last season, and with the arrival of Hiroyama and Koike they look overall strengthened. The defence looks tight, and will probably prove a tough team to score at this season as well. The midfield likewise, but if one or two members are missing the team's quality will fall drastically as there are no solid players in back-up. Takada is a very good J2-level striker, and along with Koike they should be able to score some goals this season. Lack of depth seems to be biggest problem though, which might mean we're in for a similar season like last year, where Thespa fell apart in the last 3rd of the season.

Player to watch: Junki Koike

Manager: Toru Sano
Sano has been the coach of Kyoto Sanga in the past, as well as Yokohama Flugels ( now Yokohama F Marinos), and is an experienced fellow. He doesn't have the best results to show for though, but nonetheless a respected coach that were appointed ahead of this season. His predecessor Ueki achieved good results with the team, and Sano's goal is to match those.

Your average japanese fans, that sings and dances throughout the entire match. Thespa doesn't have the biggest fanbase though,and they're not among the better ones in the league.

Where they will finish:
Thespa looks overall just as strong as last season, and should be able to come up with some good results this year as well. A tough team to score on, and with Takada and Koike up front they should be able to bag a few goals themselves as well. Sano's tactics is a bit more loose than Ueki's though, so they will probably adapt a more offensive strategy this year. I think a mid-table finish is what Thespa's fans have to hope for.

8th - 12th

J2 2009 preview: Tochigi SC

Stadium:Tochigi Green Stadium (16,000)
Average attendance 2008: N/A
Last season's finish: 2nd (JFL)

2009 season's transfers:

22 DF Masataka Tamura (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
DF Atsushi Yoneyama (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
DF Norihiro Kawakami (Transferred from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)
DF Yuki Inoue (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
DF Yuki Okubo (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
MF Keisuke Kurihara (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
MF Takumi Motohashi (Transferred from Montedio Yamagata)
MF Atsushi Ito (Transferred from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)
FW Manabu Wakabayashi (Transferred from Omiya Ardija)
FW Kazuhisa Kawahara (On loan from Albirex Niigata)

3 DF Atsushi Terui (Transferred to FC Ganju Iwate)
4 DF Masakazu Washida (Transferred to F.C. Ryukyu)
8 MF Masamitsu Kobayashi (Retired)
9 FW Yusaku Ueno (Retired)
10 FW Satoshi Yokoyama (Released)
13 DF Toru Yamazaki (Transferred to Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.)
15 MF Isao Kubota (Transferred to New Wave Kitakyushu)
17 MF Koji Fukasawa (Transferred to Fukushima United F.C.)
22 GK Tatsumi Iida (Released)
23 DF Ryosuke Kawanabe (Released)
26 FW Yuichi Sakamoto (Released)
27 MF Daisuke Hoshi (Released)
30 DF Chon Ryungpop (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Tochigi have done a complete make-over since last season, and brought in 10 players from different clubs in J1. A few players have been released as well, including FW Yokoyama, who scored over 20 goals for them the last two seasons. The defence has been beefed up with Yoneyama and Okubo as the two biggest signings, both players who received a fair amount of playing time in J1 last season. MF Kurihara, who played 29 matches for Kobe last season, will take command of the midfield, and the veteran will be joined by former Montedio-player Motohashi. Motohashi only played a handful of matches last season, much due to injuries, but is still regarded as a very strong player. Ito from JEF is the 3rd newcomer, but he's not nearly as renowned as the two others. Up front Kawahara from Albirex and Wakabayashi from Omiya will surely make good additions to the team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Shibasaki - Tamura / Okada , Kawakami / Irie, Yoneyama, Okubo - Sato, Motoyama, Kurihara, Takayasu - Kawahara, Matsuda / Wakabayashi

My view on the team:
Alot of unknown players, but they got a good group of core-players that should be able to carry the team forward. The midfield is without a doubt the strongest department, with the experienced Kurihara pulling the strings. Sato is a real threat going forward, and we should expect alot of goals from him. Motoyama and Takayasu are good players as well. The defence doesn't look the same though, and Tochigi will probably suffer some heavy defeats as they doesn't seem to have enough quality in their side to do anything about the bigger teams. Yoneyama is an experienced player though, and against the smaller teams Tochigi should be able to do well. Up front Kawahara is the main threat, but he's never been the type of player that bags 15-20 goals a season. Wakabayashi likewise, and Tochigi might have to rely on Matsuda for goals. Most likely Kawahara and Matsuda will be the starting members.

Player to watch: Yukihiko Sato

Manager: Hiroshi Matsuda
Tochigi got a good coach in Matsuda, who's been in charge of both Avispa and Vissel in the past. Not a defensive-oriented coach, so expect a Tochigi-side that won't be afraid of going forward.

Tochigi enjoy's a good back-up among the local fans, but doesn't have the biggest fanbase.The fans are as passionate as others though, but I doubt the Tochigi Green Stadium will be sold out at any time this season.

Where they will finish:
Tochigi is the newly-promoted team that looks the strongest on paper, with their numerous additions to the team. A nice 2nd place finish in last year's JFL isn't too bad either, so clearly it's a team that got some quality. I think they will be able to win a few matches, but more likely they will suffer the same "destiny" as Gifu did last year, not being quite able to perform consistently over the full season.


J2 2009 preview: Mito Hollyhock

Stadium: Kasamatsu Stadium ( 22,022)
Average attendance 2008: 3,074
Last season's finish:11th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Kohei Doi (On loan from Vissel Kobe)
DF Sunao Hozaki (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
DF Hiroki Kato (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
MF Kim Tae-Yeon (On loan from Vissel Kobe)
MF Shunichi Nakajima (Transferred from F.C. Ryukyu)
MF Kota Morimura (On loan from F.C. Tokyo)
MF Yuki Shimada (Drafted from Komazawa University)
MF Taiki Tsuruno (Transferred from Consadole Sapporo youth team)
FW Kota Yoshihara (Transferred to Omiya Ardija)
FW Hiroyuki Takasaki (On loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)

3 DF Daishi Hiramatsu (Transferred to F.C. Tokyo)
5 DF Bruno (Released)
11 FW Shogo Shiozawa (Transferred to Sagawa Printing S.C.)
13 MF Takuya Shiihara (Released)
14 DF Yoichi Akiba (Retired)
15 MF Naoya Ohashi (Transferred to Fukushima United F.C.)
16 MF Park Joo-Ho (Transferred to Kashima Antlers)
18 MF Takafumi Akahoshi (End of loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)
19 FW K?hei Nishino (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
20 DF Takashi Kuramoto (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
24 FW Masahiro Takahashi (Released)
25 MF Yoshikazu Suzuki (Released)
26 MF Biju (Transferred to Zweigen Kanazawa)
29 MF Kazuhiko Shingyoji (Released)
33 MF Kento Tsurumaki (End of loan from Tokyo Verdy)
37 MF Park Jong-Jin (End of loan from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)

My view on the transfers:
Mito have made several changes to their team since last season, especially in midfield where they've lost perhaps their two best members in Park (sold to Antlers) and Akahoshi ( returned to Urawa). Several other players receing a fair amount of playing-time has left as well, including the veteran play-maker Biju. In defence the impressive Hiramatsu has transferred to FC Tokyo, while another often-used centreback Kuramoto has returned to his mother-club Oita. Mito hasn't brought in any major reinforcements to their defence, so on paper they look weakened defensively this season. In midfield as well, although they've brought in two talented youngsters that will most likely go straight into the team. Up front Nishino is gone, but they've brought in Yoshihara and Takasaki, which more than enough makes up for Nishino's loss.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Homma - Ozawa, Suzuki, Nakamura, Owada / Kato - Muramatsu, Hori / Kanazawa, Kim, Kikuoka - Arata, Takasaki / Yoshihara

My view on the team:
Mito got a solid goalkeeper in Homma, but who at times seems to lack focus. Not exactly a consistent performer, but came up with match-winning performances more than once last season. The defence seems weakened, and it's hard to see Mito being able to defend against teams like Cerezo,Shonan and Verdy. If they're two new rookies turns out to be good it doesn't look too bad though, but my bet is they will struggle. In midfield they've lost their two best players last season, and just like with the defence, Mito look overall weakened in this department as well.The only department that seems strengthened are the attack, as Arata will probably continue to deliver top-notch performances. Urawa-starlet Takasaki should be able to bag a few goals on this level as well, and with the experienced Yoshihara to back them up as well they look well-covered. Mito will most likely adapt the offensive style they had last season this year as well, which means we'll probably see lots of goals at both ends this season as the defence doesn't seem good enough to stand on their own
Player to watch: Hiroyuki Takasaki

Manager: Takashi Kiyama
Turned Mito into a much more entertaining team his first season in charge, and managed to upset several of the big clubs last year. His attacking-oriented style of football led to alot of conceded goals though, and humiliating losses to rival-clubs. I'd expect much the same this season, although Mito might opt for a tad more cynical approach to some of the matches atleast.

Mito had the smallest average crowd in the league last season, with a mere 3,000 on every game. The ones that do support them though are known to be among the friendlest in all of Japan, and enjoys big respect among the other club's fans.

Where they will finish:
Mito finished on a nice 11th place last season, but it might turn out hard for them to do the same this year. With three new teams in the league the competition is getting harder, but none of the newly-promoted teams looks good enough for an upper-half finish, which means they will have to rival against teams like Mito and Ehime instead. Mito should be able to hold a few teams behind them this year as well, but a repeat of last year's 11th might be too much to hope for.

12th - 15th

J2 2009 preview: Vegalta Sendai

Stadium: Sendai Stadium (19,694)
Average attendance 2008:14,080
Last season's finish: 3rd

2009 season's transfers:
5 DF Yugo Ichiyanagi (Transferred from Tokyo Verdy)
20 MF Takahisa Nishiyama (Transferred from Kawasaki Frontale)
31 MF Daisuke Saito (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
GK Shigeru Sakurai (Transferred from Montedio Yamagata)
DF Park Joo-Sung (Transferred from Suwon Samsung Bluewings)
DF Toshio Shimakawa (Transferred from Kashiwa Reysol youth team)
MF Elizeu (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
MF Keita Sogabe (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
FW Marcelo Gomes Soares (On loan from Associação Atlética Ponte Preta)
6 MF Masashi Miyazawa (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
17 DF Keita Isozaki (Transferred to Sagan Tosu)
22 GK Junnosuke Schneider (Transferred to Gainare Tottori)
24 MF Yukihiko Sato (Released)
26 MF Shinya Tanoue (Released)
29 MF Shinji Kaneko (Transferred to F.C. Ryukyu)
32 DF Kazunari Okayama (Released)
33 FW Nadson (Transferred to Esporte Clube Vitória)

My view on the transfers:
Vegalta have gotten rid of a few aging midfielders, and both Sato and Tanoue has been released. Both received a fair amount of playing time last season, but the signing of Brazilian Elizeu from Yokohama FC should make up for that loss. In defence, Vegalta has turned the loan-deals of Ichiyanagi and Saito into complete transfers, as well as bringing in a former Korean international in Park. Up front Nadson has been released, but the Brazilian striker only played 11 matches last season, and didn't have quite the impact the club were hoping for when they bought him. A rather unknown Brazilian have been brought in as a replacement in Marcio, and the jurt is still out on him and whether or not he will strengthen the team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Hayashi - Kitani, Saito, Ichiyanagi, Park - Sekiguchi, Ryang, Nagai / Sugai, Tamura / Chiba - Hirase, Nakashima / Marcel

My view on the team:
Vegalta's strongest department is without a doubt the midfield, where they have several quality players. Sekiguchi is perhaps one of the best players in the league, and Ryang poses a big threat to the opposing teams with his eye for goal. Nagai and Chiba have both turned 30, but still seems to have enough quality left to add something valuable to the team. But the younger Sugai,Tamura and Tomita are all talented players, and will probably be used more frequently this year as the legs of the veterans are getting weaker. Up front they lack a real goalscorer-type, and last year Hirase became their topscorer with 13 goals, which is an all-time high goal-tally for the veteran. Nakashima and Nakahara doesn't seem to have that killer-instinct ahead of goal either, so alot depends on whether or not Marcel will turn out to be a scoop. The defence isn't too bad, but they got little cover if some of the regulars were to be injured or suspended. Still, Vegalta is one of the cheapest teams when it comes to conceding goals in the league, which is much due to their cautious strategy as well.

Player to watch: Kunimichi Sekiguchi

Manager: Makoto Teguramori
A rather new name in Japan, but in Teguramori's debut season in charge of a pro-club he took Vegalta took a strong 3rd place finish. Seems to focus more on the defensive play than attack, and doesn't let the team takes any uncalculated risks going forward.

One of the best supporter-groups in Japan, and the noise and atmosphere their fans creates at Vegalta's home-matches aren't matched by many other clubs in Japan. Large in numbers, and an average of over 14 000 in J2 is very impressive. Their stadium only takes about 19 000 though, but they have the much bigger Miyagi Stadium in back-up if needed.

Where will they finish:
Vegalta have been in the running for promotion four years in a row now, and just missed the cut every year. Last season they finished 3rd and got to the play-offs, but lost there to Jubilo Iwata. Surely one of the favorites for promotion this year as well, as the team doesn't look any particularly weakened. Few options up front means the goals won't come easily though, which might prove vital come December.

1st - 5th

J2 2009 preview: Consadole Sapporo

Stadium: Sapporo Dome (42,300) and Sapporo Atsubetsu Park Stadium (20,005)
Average attendance 2008: 14,547
Last season's finish: 18th (J1)

2009 season's transfers:
No. Position Player
GK Hiroki Aratani (Transferred from Omiya Ardija)
5 DF Yoshinobu Minowa (Transferred from Kawasaki Frontale)
DF Cho Sung-Hwan (Transferred from Pohang Steelers)
MF Danilson Córdoba (Transferred from Independiente Medellín)
MF Shinya Uehara (Drafted from Okinawa University)
MF Hiroyuki Furuta (Promoted from youth team)
FW Thiago Quirino (Transferred from Djurgårdens IF Fotboll)

3 DF Junji Nishizawa (Retired)
5 DF Tomohiko Ikeuchi (Released)
10 FW Davi (Transferred to Nagoya Grampus)
11 FW Anderson (Released)
14 MF Tomoki Suzuki (Retired)
16 MF Shinji Otsuka (Retired)
19 DF Shusuke Tsubouchi (End of loan from Vissel Kobe)
21 DF Yasuhiro Hiraoka (End of loan from Shimizu S-Pulse)
24 MF Masaya Nishitani (Retired)
26 GK Yasuhiro Tominaga (Retired)
28 GK Takahiro Takagi (End of loan from Omiya Ardija)
29 MF Jun Marques Davidson (End of loan from Albirex Niigata)
33 MF Chung Yong-Dae (Released)
34 FW Edson (End of loan from Esporte Clube Vitória)
- DF Tsuneyuki Ueda (Transferred to Honda Lock S.C.)
- DF Hiroshi Kichise (Released)
- FW Shinya Aikawa (Retired)

My view on the transfers:
Consadole have gone through a complete make-over since they were relegated, and several regular starters have gone. Only in defence are four players that received frequent playing time gone since last season, as well as their preferred goalkeeper Takagi. Five midfielders are gone as well, as three or four veterans have decided to hang up their boots. In one way a good thing, as Consadole now can give their talents more playing-time. Up front, Consadole's best player by a mile last season Davi has left for greener pastures, and will leave a big hole to fill for the rest of the strikers. Anderson is also gone, but he never managed to make an impact on the team. They've done some shopping as well though, and from Omiya they've picked up GK Aratani, who will be a good back-up to Sato, who took over Takagi's place in the middle of last season and kept it ever since. In defence, Minowa has made a permanent move from Frontale, while the former Korean international Cho will also be a solid acquisition from Pohang Steelers. In midfield, Consadole have brought in the talented Danilson Cordoba from Colombia, who despite his young age have already been an established member of Independiente Medellin for years. Surely a player that will improve Consadole. Thiago is brought in to fill Davi's shoes, but the Brazilian has a relatively poor spell in Sweden behind him. There was expected great things from the attacker, but he never really found the rhythm in Allsvenskan, and is hoping to revive his career in Japan instead.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Sato - Soda, Minowa, Nishijima, Cho - Fujita, Sunakawa, Danilson, Claiton - Thiago, Nakayama

My view on the team:
Consadole got a solid midfield, with lots of options to choose from. They got several talented youngsters that's already established within the team, and during a long season that will come in handy as the regular starters might suffer from fatigue. The defence however looks weakened, and only Nishijima were considered a regular last season. Cho will strengthen the team though, but they lack options and doesn't look as good as they did last time they were in J2. Up front there will be alot of pressure on Thiago to deliver, as it's he Consadole are hoping to get most of their goals from. Nakayama has never been a goalscoring type, and although they got a few talented FW's in back-up, it looks thin. Sato is a decent goalkeeper, and with Aratani in back-up they are well-covered in that area.

Player to watch: Danilson Cordoba

Manager: Nobuhiro Ishizaki
A rather inexperienced coach that will make his debut on this level with Consadole. Were appointed ahead of this season, and not really much to say about him.

Consadole got a good crowd, and one of the biggest fanbases in J2. Their fans are very loyal, and the bond between the club and fans are strong. Due to long travels to pretty much every other arena in Japan they don't have as many fans as other teams at away-matches.

Where they will finish:
Consadole were butchered in J1 last season, but I doubt they will suffer the same destiny as Yokohama FC did after a similar season in 2007. Consadole looks like one of the stronger teams in the league, and if their new players will adapt quickly they can make a serious bid for a top 3 finish. However, with so many unknowns left unclear they will at most be looked upon as a dark-horse this season.

2nd - 6th

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

J1 2009 Preview: Round-up

Now that I'm done with my team-by-team preview for J1 I thought it would be appropriate with a little round-up about how I think the table will look when the season are finished in December:
1. Gamba Osaka 70p
2. Urawa Reds 66p
3. Kawasaki Frontale 63p
4. Kashima Antlers 62p
5. Shimizu S-Pulse 59p
6. FC Tokyo 59p
7. Nagoya Grampus 58p
8. Oita Trinita 55p
9. Yokohama F Marinos 49p
10. Vissel Kobe 49p
11. JEF United 45p
12. Kyoto Sanga 43p
13. Omiya Ardija 40p
14. Sanfrecce Hiroshima 38p
15. Jubilo Iwata 34p
16. Kashiwa Reysol 32p
17. Albirex Niigata 30p
18. Montedio Yamagata 24p
Agree? Disagree? post your comment below. For a detailed preview for each team look in the menu on the right.

Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Oita Trinita

Stadium: Oita Big Eye (43,000)
Average attendance 2008: 20,322
Last season's finish: 4th

2009 season's transfers:
DF Shusuke Tsubouchi (On loan from Vissel Kobe)
MF Takashi Umeda (Returned from F.C. Gifu)
MF Masashi Miyazawa (Returned from Vegalta Sendai)
MF Keigo Higashi (Promoted from youth team)
FW Yasuhito Morishima (Transferred from Cerezo Osaka)
FW Shunsuke Maeda (Transferred from Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
FW Takahiko Sumida (Drafted from Sakai High School)
DF Ryo Kobayashi (End of loan from Kashiwa Reysol)
FW Hiroshi Ichihara (On loan to Sagan Tosu)
FW Masaru Matsuhashi (On loan to Ventforet Kofu)
DF Tetsuya Yamazaki (Retired)
GK Masaharu Kawahara (Transferred to Kamatamare Sanuki)
DF Yohei Fukumoto (On loan to JEF United Ichihara Chiba)
DF Yuichi Shibakoya (On loan to Ehime F.C.)
DF Yuichi Nemoto (Released)DF Takashi Kuramoto (Released)
MF Yoshihiro Uchimura (Transferred to Ehime F.C.)
MF Kazuhiro Kawata (Released)
FW Kohei Nishino (On loan to Fagiano Okayama F.C.)

My view on the transfers:
Oita hasn't lost any of any significance in the off-season, but hasn't really brought in any big names either. They've extended the loan deal of MF Ienaga from Gamba, as well as made FW Morishima's move permanent from Cerezo. A couple of other acquisitions, but mainly players that will be used in back-up.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Nishikawa - Uemoto, Fukaya, Morishige, Fujita - Ienaga, Kanazawa, Suzuki, Edmilson / Roberto - Ueslei, Takamatsu / Morishima

My view on the team:
Oita looks very strong in defence, and probably has one of the best defensive lineups in the league, if not the best. Nishikawa is a great shot-stopper, and Fukaya / Morishige forms a solid central-defence while Uemoto and Fujita both are important contributors to the team. In midfield, Oita has a new dimension in Ienaga, as the technically gifted midfielder lost all of 2008 due to an injury. Kanazawa is the main threat though, and will try to build further on from his magnificent 2008-season. Up front the aging Ueslei will once again be in focus, with Takamatsu, Morishima and Takahashi alternating for the 2nd role. The team could do well with a bigger squad though.

Player to watch: Mu Kanazawa

Manager: Pericles Chamusca:
Chamuscha has done wonders with a rather grey team, and the fact that he almost led them to the title last year tells that he's a great coach. Very defensive in his strategy, but as long as the points keeps ending up in Oita the fans doesn't complain.

Oita has a rather big fanbase, and they averaged over 20 000 last season. They got a very nice stadium with a good atmosphere, and the loud home-fans were without a doubt one of the reasons why The Big Eye were turned into a fortress last season.

Where will they finish:A repeat of the fairytale-season Oita had in 2008 is unlikely, but Chamusca has a nice bunch of players to work with, and Oita will be a tough team to beat this year as well. I don't think they have what it takes to fight for a top 5 finish though, but an upper-half finish wouldn't be surprising.

7th - 11th