Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Shimizu S-Pulse

Stadium:Ecopa Stadium (50,000) and Nihondaira Stadium ( 20,339)
Average attendance 2008: 16,599
Last season's finish: 5th

2009 season's transfers:
DF Kosuke Ota (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
FW Frode Johnsen (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
FW Mitsuhiro Toda (Retired)

My view on the transfers:
Shimizu have lost the important DF Takagi to Gamba Osaka, but apart from him they've managed to keep their best players last season. FW's Nishizawa, Toda and Yajima are all gone though, but none of them were regarded as regular starters. They've bought two new experienced strikers instead in Johnsen and Nagai, who will have to fight with Hara and Japan International Okazaki for the starting roles up front. With four quality strikers on board, few teams can match the firepower Shimizu has this season. A couple of defenders are also new to the team, with youngster Ota being the most promising. The former NT-player Saito is good to have in back-up, while Hiraoka will most likely only be a squad player.

Preferrable starting lineup:
4-3-1-2: Nishibe - Ichikawa, Aoyama, Ota, Kodama - Honda, Fujimoto, Edamura - Nagai - Okazaki, Johnsen / Hara

My view on the team:
In midfield and attack, Shimizu are among the strongest teams in the league. There's a few question marks over their defence though, but last season they didn't fare too bad, and with Ota on board as well, who looked good for Yokohama FC last season, they look a little bit stronger. Whether or not they will opt for 4-4-2 or the more likely 4-3-1-2, they have a very impressive line-up going forward, and Shimizu should be able to score some goals this season.

Player to watch: Takuma Edamura

Manager: Kenta Hasegawa
Hasegawa took over Shimizu in 2005, and had a rough start to his managerial career.He took Shimizu to 4th place both in 2006 and 2007, and last season they finished 5th after a very strong 2nd half of the season. A well-respected manager, and seems to bring alot of knowledge to the club.

Shimizu has one of the most noisy and colourful fans in the league, and the sacred Nihondaira is a feared stadium in all over Japan. They only use the much bigger Ecopa for derby matches and other big events, as they only average around 16 000 a game. Despite the modest number, Shimizu's fans makes more noise than many of the other well-supported clubs, and are also known for travelling to away matches in big numbers.

Where they will finish:
Shimizu have finished within the top 5 three years in a row now, and this season they look even stronger so they might be able to improve on that. The competition is fierce though, and Shimizu has to up their game if they want to challenge for the title. I don't think they will finish any lower than 5th, but they doesn't strike me as a championship-winning team either as they have too many defensive woes.

3rd - 6th

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