Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: FC Tokyo

Stadium: Tokyo National Stadium (56,000) and Tokyo Soccer Stadium (50,100)
Average Attendance 2008: 25,716
Last season's finish: 6th

2009 season's transfers:
MF Hokuto Nakamura (Transferred from Avispa Fukuoka)
Out :
MF Emerson (Released)
MF Kota Morimura (On loan to Mito HollyHock)
GK Kota Ogi (End of loan from Vissel Kobe)
MF Reiichi Ikegami (Transferred to F.C. Kariya)
FW Rychely (Transferred to Esporte Clube Bahia)

My view on the transfers:
Tokyo have been awfully queit on the transfer-market this year, and have been able to keep pretty much their entire team. MF Emerson have left, but the Brazilian never really managed to lift Tokyo's game, and he won't be missed. MF Nakamura is the only signing of any significance, and the talented midfielder seems a better deal than the departed Emerson. Nakamura has been one of Avispa's better players the last couple of seasons, and is expected to take it to the next level this year. DF Hiramatsu is brought in as a back-up to the first-team, and is a good player to have through injury-ridden times.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Shiota - Nagatomo, Moniwa, Sahara, Konno - Ishikawa, Kajiyama, Hanyu, Otake/Nakamura Cabore, Hirayama/Akamine

My view on the team:
Tokyo got quality players in every section of the team, and should be aiming to improve on their 6th place from last season. They got an impressive defence, with Nagatomo causing a threat offensively as well from his wing-back position. Moniwa is one of the better central defenders in all of J.League, and with Sahara and Konno as well they look well-covered. Konno, who's the captain of the team, can be used as a midfielder as well, but with Tokyo being better covered in that area it's likely we'll see him either as a CB or as a side-back. The midfield is a very talented one, with many technically gifted players. The only concern is the lack of size, as they are easily outmuscled against the more rough-playing teams in the league. Cabore is expected to be regular starter up front, with Akamine and Hirayama battling it out for the other role. Cabore can be used as an attacking midfielder as well, and if Hirayama finds back to the form he showed in Holland a few years ago, Tokyo should be able to aim for a top 3 finish this year.

Player to watch: Naohiro Ishikawa

Manager: Hiroshi Jofuku
Jofuku took over Tokyo ahead of last season, and managed to finish 6th in his debut season with the team, only 4 points behind a top 3 finish. Jofuku is a well-liked manager, and seems to have brought in a good team-spirit to the team.

Tokyo averaged over 25 000 last season, which was the 3rd highest after only Urawa and Albirex. Clearly FC Tokyo have become Tokyo City's number 1. team, but with many clubs situated in the surrounding areas they have struggled to build up a proper fanbase in the past.

Where they will finish:
Without a doubt a very strong team, but Tokyo still has a littlw way to go before they can count themselves as a serious title contender. They are more a dark horse, who with maximum luck could end up lifting the trophy in December. A top 3 and qualification for next year's ACL is a more realistic target though, and they should atleast be able to match last season's 6th.



dokool said...

A fair assessment if ever I saw one! Then again you mostly agree with me so maybe it's just that I'm learning to not be quite an optimist =P

My biggest concern is the goalkeeping situation; with Shiota hospitalized through mid-March at the earliest Kenta will need to grow up in a hurry. I really, really wish we still had Ogi as a backup.

NipponBasse said...

hehe thanks! oh i didn't know Shiota were out. I agree, the back-up goalies doesn't hold the same quality, but if the backfour manages to prevent the opposing teams coming to that many chances you should be fine. Gonda's a talented shot-stopper isnt he?

dokool said...

I always keep calling Gonda "Kenta" for some reason. Damned kanji >_<

He's still wet behind the ears but reports from training camp have some people saying that he has the potential to be a better goalie than Shiota based on his command of the situation.

I think everyone was kinda under the impression that Shiota would be fine for the Urawa match, and that's really where I'm concerned about having a rookie between the posts. But you are right, if our defense holds (especially with Bruno in the starting lineup) it might be a non-issue.

NipponBasse said...

I thought u were referring to Kenta Mukuhara or something as he might get some more playing time this season!

About Bruno, isn't he a bit over the top?

dokool said...

Bruno just had a bad year last year injury-wise, I've read several reports in Weekly Soccer Digest and suchlike that have high expectations for him to be Kajiyama's setup man this year.

NipponBasse said...

I see, he seems like a good player though, but actually the last 3 seasons or so has been ruined for him due to injuries, and he's getting older as well. only 5 more days now to kick-off!