Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Gamba Osaka

Stadium:Banpaku Stadium (23,000)
Average attendance 2008: 16,128
Last season's finish: 8th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Yoichi Futori (Transferred from Roasso Kumamoto)
DF Kazumichi Takagi (Transferred from Shimizu S-Pulse)
DF Park Dong-Hyuk (Transferred from Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i)
DF Shunya Suganuma (Promoted from youth team)
MF Takashi Usami (Promoted from youth team)
FW Shohei Otsuka (Promoted from youth team)
FW Ryota Miki (Returned from Ehime F.C.)
FW Cho Jae-Jin (Transferred from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors)
FW Leandro (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
DF Mineiro (End of loan from Sport Club Internacional)
DF Yohei Fukumoto (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
FW Roni (End of loan from Cruzeiro Esporte Clube)
FW Hideya Okamoto (On loan to Avispa Fukuoka)
GK Masaki Kinoshita (On loan to Roasso Kumamoto)
DF Ryujiro Ueda (Transferred to Fagiano Okayama F.C.)
DF Hirotada Ito (Transferred to Renofa Yamaguchi)
MF Yasunobu Matsuoka (Transferred to Roasso Kumamoto)
MF Toshihiro Matsushita (Transferred to Albirex Niigata)
FW Satoshi Nakayama (Transferred to Roasso Kumamoto)

My view on the transfers:
Gamba has been the most active club on the transfer-market this season, and brought in several players expected to go straight into the team. Up front, Gamba have splashed out on Cho Jae-Jin and Leandro, who will give Bando,Yamazaki and Lucas a good run for the starting roles this season. In defence, former Korean international Park as well as Japan NT-member Takagi are new. The 16-year old wonderkid Usami will probably see some action as well in midfield, as there are expected great things from him. Among the departed players, none were regular starters so the team look without a doubt stronger this year.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-3-1-2: Fujigaya - Kaji, Takagi / Park, Yamaguchi, Yasuda - Endo, Myojin / Hashimoto, Futagawa - Lucas - Leandro / Bando, Cho

My view on the team:
Without a doubt one of the best teams in the league, if not the best. They got about 10 current or former international players, and it oozes quality all over. Fujigaya is a decent goalkeeper, but not among the best in the league. The defence however have taken a major boost this year, with Takagi and Park joining. The wingbacks Kaji and Yasuda are top class as well, and contributes alot in attack with their endless runs down the flanks. In midfield Endo will continue to pull the strings, and surrounded by Myojin and Futagawa they have perhaps the strongest central midfield in the league. Lucas will probably be the binding player between the midfield and strikers. Cho is almost certain to nail one of the starting roles up front, and most likely Leandro will receive the other. Gamba also got Bando and Yamazaki to choose from though, so they have a strong back-up.

Player to watch: Yasuhito Endo

Manager: Akira Nishino
Dubbed the "Arsenè Wenger of Japan" due to the similar playing style Gamba and Arsenal possess, and Nishino isn't the type who settle with just a win, he wants to win in style. Gamba are arguably the most attractive playing team in Japan, but beautiful football doesn't always result in points. Nishino is a very attacking-oriented coach as well, which explains why Gamba concedes as much goals as they do.
Passionate and energetic, the black and blue fans brings good support to Gamba. A rather poor stadium with running tracks means they are having a hard time creating a good atmosphere though.

Where will they finish:
As Gamba won the Emperor's Cup, they won qualification to ACL which means they will have the chance to defend their continental crown from 2008. However, the participation there meant Gamba sometimes performed worse in the league, which explains why they finished a lowly 8th place. A bigger squad this year means they should be better prepared for that, and if there's any team that can do well on both stages, it's Gamba. Definitely one of the favorites for this year's title.

1st - 3rd


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