Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Kawasaki Frontale

Stadium: Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium (25,000)
Average Attendance 2008: 17,565
Last season's finish: 2nd

2009 season's transfers:
GK Takashi Aizawa (Returned from Cerezo Osaka)
GK Shunsuke Ando (Promoted from youth team)
MF Kyohei Noborizato (Drafted form Kagawa Nishi HS)
FW Takuro Yajima (Transferred from Shimizu S-Pulse)
FW Kazuki Ganaha (Transferred to Vissel Kobe)
MF Taku Harada (Released)
MF Masahiro Ohashi (Transferred to Gangwon FC)
MF Tatsuya Suzuki (Released)
FW Ken Tokura (Transferred to Thespa Kusatsu)

My view on the transfers:
Frontale has managed to kept most of the players that took the club to 2nd last year, with the only departures of any importance is FW Ganaha and MF Ohashi. Ganaha found himself way down the pecking-order last season, and decided it would be best for him to move on and try to revive his career another place. Ohashi played over 20 matches last season, but Frontale decided to release him on a free-transfer. MF Junior, who were on loan last season, have made his move permanent. Actually the only signing Frontale has made this year is FW Yajima from S-Pulse. Yajima does not possess the same amount of quality as his compatriots at Frontale does though, so most likely Yajima will be used as back-up striker.

Preferrable starting-lineup:
4-4-2: Kawashima - Ito, Yokoyama, Terada, Igawa - Yamagishi, Taniguchi, Nakamura, Mori/Vitor Junior - Juninho/Renatinho, Chong Tese

My view on the team:
Overall a very strong line-up, with no real weak links. Defensively Kawashima is one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, and in Terada/Igawa they have two of the best defenders as well. The midfield is arguably the best in the league, and up front the aging Juninho still seems to have a little gas left in the tank to perform on a high level one more season. If not, the talented Renatinho seems more than ready to take over his compatriot's duties. Chong has had two very good seasons for Frontale now, and is one of Asia's most gifted strikers. Frontale are well-covered all over the line, but if I have to point out on weak point it has to be the defence, who doesn't always seems to be 100% focused.

Player to watch: Chong Tese

Manager: Takashi Sekizuka
Sekizuka have been in charge of Frontale since 2004, and deserves alot of credit after turning the team in to an annual title-contender. Last season Sekizuka took a break due to stress-related issues, but are back in the manager-seat this season. Sekizuka loves attacking football, and sometimes seems to neglect the defensive responsibilites. Still, it has made Frontale into one of the best teams in Japan, and also one of the most entertaining one to watch.

With approx. 17 000 in average last season, Frontale is not among the best supported clubs in the league. They have a small, but nice stadium as well, so even at derby-matches they can only hold 25 000 fans. Passionate and noisy as anyone else though, and Frontale's "12th man" at home-matches.

Where they will finish:
Frontale has established themselves as a title-contender, but are yet to win the trophy. They came close last season when they finished only 3 points behind Antlers in 1st, and are hoping to improve on that this year. However, as they are qualified for ACL they will need to compete on two stages, and looking at last year, that took alot of energy out of the team. As they haven't really strengthened their team they might suffer the same problem this year. However, Frontale will without any doubt be one of the heavy-weight teams this year as well, and although I doubt they will be able to claim 1st, another top 3 finish seems likely.


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