Sunday, March 1, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Montedio Yamagata

Stadium: Yamagata Prefectural Sports Stadium (20,315)
Average Attendance 2008: 6,273
Last year's finish: 2nd (J2)
2009 season transfers:
GK Yuki Uekusa (On loan from Kawasaki Frontale)
DF Yuki Kurihara (Transferred from Yamagata FC youth)
MF Takuya Miyamoto (Transferred from Cerezo Osaka)
MF Kim Byung-Suk (Transferred from Vitoria Setubal)
MF Tatsuya Furuhashi (Transferred from Cerezo Osaka)
MF Hisayuki Sato (Promoted from youth team)

MF Takumi Motohashi (Transferred to Tochigi S.C.)
FW Rychely (End of loan from F.C. Tokyo)
FW Yohei Toyoda (End of loan from Nagoya Grampus)
FW Ryosuke Nemoto (Retired)FW Shunta Takahashi (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Montedio have lost FW's Toyoda and Rychelly, who were both important to the team's success last season. However, a few additions have been brought in, and on paper Furuhashi and Jaja should be able to replace the 2 departed ones. In defence and in midfield though, the situation seems a bit worse, as Montedio hasn't really brought in any major signings since last season. The squad looks thin, and are probably the weakest in J1.

Preferrable starting XI:
4-4-2: Shimizu - Kitamura,Leonardo,Kobara,Kobayashi - Miyazaki,-Miyamoto,Kim/Miyazawa, Zaizen/Akiba - Furuhashi, Hasegawa

My view on the team:
On paper the weakest team in the league, and Montedio will probably have to battle against relegation in their debut-season in J1.Defensively they didn't look too bad last season, and with Kobayashi brought in from Oita they should be able to do reasonable well. However, most of the players aren't used to the more pacier J1, and might struggle with the tempo, especially against the bigger teams. The midfield is made up by hard-working players, but none of them poses a real threat offensively. If Montedio wants to survive, they need atleast one of the midfielders to take a bigger goal-scoring responsibility as the chances won't come as easily for the strikers as they did in last year's J2. They have decent players in back-up if one or two are out with an injury. Furuhashi is their main signing this season, and the former Cerezo-player can be used both as a striker and a midfielder. In Cerezo he were mostly a striker, and most likely coach Kobayashi ( who were in charge of Cerezo a few years ago and therefore knows Furuhashi well) will use him as a striker. Hasegawa scored 13 goals last season, and will have to compete with another newcomer Jaja for the 2nd striker-role. Montedio's brazilian contingent doesn't look too well actually, with only Leonardo looking a certain starter. MF Andre Silva might make it into the team as well, but his achievements earlier in his career isn't exactly impressive. Likewise, FW Jaja is a relatively unknown and unmerited striker.

Player to watch: Tatsuya Furuhashi
Manager: Shingo Kobayashi
Kobayashi were only a whisker away of taking Cerezo to the title in 2005, when instead it ended up at Gamba after a 1-1 draw in the last match of the season. Kobayashi were back then regarded as one of the most promising coaches in Japan, but after a horrendous start to the 2006-campaign with Cerezo he were fired. Montedio were quick to hire him as the 2007-season approached, and Kobayashi have worked his magic with the Yamagata-based club ever since. A decent 2007-season were followed by a marvellous run to 2nd place and promotion the following year against all odds, finishing ahead of more renowned clubs like Vegalta and Cerezo. Definitiely a top manager, and if anyone can keep Montedio afloat in J1 this year, it's Kobayashi.
Yamagata is, by japanese standards, a small town with only 250 000 inhabitants. That means Montedio doesnt have the biggest fanbase to draw crowds from, and the modest average of approx. 6000 last season underlines that. Those figures are expected to be more than doubled this year though, as they will meet teams like Urawa and Gamba instead of Gifu and Mito.The hardcore-fans are passionate, but compared to other teams in J1 they can't compete in numbers, and will struggle to make an impact on the team's performance on the pitch.

Where they will finish:
Most surely 2009 will be a battle for survival for Montedio's sake, but with a clever manager, good team-spirit and hard work they could surprise. In some ways Montedio are similar to Kofu, being a small club battling it out with the big guns. Kofu managed to both upset and surprise bigger teams when they were up, and there's nothing that says Montedio can't do the same. Realistically though, anything above 16th place would be a major surprise.
15-18th place

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