Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: JEF United

Stadium:Chiba Fukuda Electric Arena (”Fukuari”) (20,000)
Average attendance 2008: 14,084
Last season's finish: 15th

2009 season's transfers:
DF Takumi Wada (Transferred from Shimizu S-Pulse)
MF Alex (Transferred from Kashiwa Reysol)
MF Naoya Saeki (Transferred from Omiya Ardija)
FW Masaki Fukai (Transferred from Kashima Antlers)
GK Tomonori Tateishi (Retired)
FW Takuya Kokeguchi (End of loan from Cerezo Osaka)
MF Kazuyuki Toda (End of loan from Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
DF Yuichi Nemoto (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
DF Tomonobu Hayakawa (End of loan from Yokohama FC)
MF Atsushi Ito (Transferred to Tochigi S.C.)

My view on the transfers:
JEF have been able to extend their loan-deal with FW Fukai, who were perhaps the most vital player to their great season run-in which saw them just avoid relegation last season. They've also brought in MF Chugo from Antlers, which played 24 matches for the champions last season. Clearly a player that will strengthen JEF, and along with two other newcomers in Alex and Saeki their midfield seems much stronger this year. The defence has been beefed up with Wada and Fukumoto, although neither of them can be considered as major reinforcements. Alot of players have left, but none of which were considered regular starters.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Okamoto - Sakamoto, Bosnar, Ikeda/Fukumoto,Aoki - Chugo,Kudo/Alex, Shimomura,Yazawa - Fukai,Maki

My view on the team:
Goalkeeper Tateishi have retired, but the veteran were beginning to look more and more unstable guarding the posts, and Okamoto were the preferred starter in the latter half of last season as well. More pressure on Okamoto this season though, as he's the only establishes goalkeeper they got. In defence Bosnar will continue to be a commanding figure, and after Miller took over the club the back four looked actually quite good. Saito is getting older, so he probably won't see too much playing time this year, which means newcomer Fukumoto might be given a few tries. In midfield Chugo and Alex are new additions and they look more complete this season in that part of the field. Yazawa were their main contributor offensively last season, but with Chugo added to the team they now have more firepower down the flanks. Up front Fukai and Maki forms a very promising duo, with Maki's aerial abilities going well together with the speedy little Fukai, who are good at reading the game. Fukai and Maki almost singlehandedly together shot JEF away from the relegation-zone last season.

Player to watch: Masaki Fukai

Manager: Alex Miller
Former long-time coach of Liverpool, the Scotsman turned JEF's misery into joy as he guided them out of the dropzone into a safe 15th place in the last round of the season. A fairytale kind of comeback, for a team that went the first 10-11 matches or so without winning. Clearly a man that knows what he's doing, and if the latter half of last season is something to compare with, one have to wonder what Miller can work out when he's in charge from the beginning of. Miller have added his son Greg to the coaching-staff, which is exactly the same as JEF's former coach Ivica Osim did when he brought in his son Amar.

JEF have noisy supporters, and especially at home at a packed Fukuari are they capable of intimidating the opposing team. Not the biggest support group, but averages around 15 000 in a 20 000-capacity stadium, so its often full.

Where will they finish:
JEF looks stronger, and under the guidance of Miller they should be able to finish at mid-table or so. I don't think they will be involved in any battle against relegation this season, as they have a healthy mix of players that are willing to bleed for the shirt. The team-spirit seems high as well.

8th-11th place

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