Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Urawa Reds

Stadium:Saitama Stadium (63,700)
Average attendance 2009: 47,609
Last season's finish: 7th
2009 season's transfers:
DF Koji Noda (Drafted from Hannan University)
DF Mizuki Hamada (Promoted from youth team)
DF Takuya Nagata (Promoted from youth team)
MF Shunki Takahashi (Promoted from youth team)
MF Naoki Yamada (Promoted from youth team)
FW Yuichiro Nagai (Transferred to Shimizu S-Pulse)
GK Kenta Tokushige (Transferred to Vissel Kobe)
MF Shunsuke Oyama (Transferred to Ehime F.C.)
My view on the transfers:
Urawa hasn't brought in any reinforcements this season, and are instead opting for the same group of players plus their many talented youngsters this season. A few regulars has been sold though, with FW Nagai and MF Soma being the 2 biggest losses. However, one of Urawa's problems last season were to keep all the players happy, as they simply had to many "stars" that were often left out of the team, which then again caused alot of unhappy faces in the team. So getting rid of 2 of those big names might not be a bad thing after all. The squad is still very big, and they got double cover on pretty much every position. MF Akahoshi returns from an impressive 1-year spell with Mito in J2, and he's probably gonna receive some playing time this year.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Tsuzuki - , Tsutsumi/Nagata,Tsuboi,Tulio, Hosogai - Abe, Ponte, Suzuki/Yamada, Hirakawa, Tanaka,Takahara/Edmilson

My view on the team:
Maybe the most star-studded team in J.League, and certainly the most expensive. Urawa were known for their big-spending sprees earlier seasons, but with the arrival of Volker Finke as coach, that strategy seems to be gone this year. Urawa got a big squad, and good cover on most positions. Their biggest woes seems to be in defence though, as they are depending too much on individuals like Tulio. Behind the starting four, there are only rookies to choose from almost. Several of the midfielders can play in defence as well though, with Abe,Hosogai and Yamada all capable of stepping in either in central defence or as sidebacks. Urawa used to play 3-5-2 earlier, but Finke seems to be going for the more traditional 4-4-2 this season. In pre-season he has used many different players, so it's hard to tell which ones will be preferred. Either way Urawa have several options in midfield, and can afford to rest players if needed. Up front, Tanaka are likely to get a starting role if he manages to keep away from injuries. Takahara and Edmilson will receive playing time as well, but with two hotshots in Escudero and Haraguchi also competing for one of the two striker roles we might see some rotation. Then Urawa are back to the problem with keeping the players happy, as big names like Takahara and Edmilson won't be too happy sitting on the bench.

Player to watch: Hajime Hosogai

Manager: Volker Finke
Finke led Freiburg for more ththan 16 years, and brought many good moments to the club. He won promotion to Bundesliga twice and also managed to take the club to the UEFA cup on two occasions. Finke's not the type of coach that splashes out money on big names, as he prefers to give youth-players the chance instead. That's good news for the many talents at Urawa, and we'll probably see some unknown names on Urawa's roster this season. Finke is new to the japanese culture though, which might prove a challenge for him. But Urawa are used to having german coaches, which will make the transition smoother. Finke doesn't speak japanese, which means he needs an interpreter to communicate with the players.

Urawa has the biggest fanbase in Japan by far, and their fans have become world-famous due to the massive support they provide Urawa with. Urawa doesn't only attract "good" fans though, as there are some hard-core groups of fans with alot of anger and temper as well. Japanese fans usually support their team even though they are trailing by a couple of goals, but the last couple of years there's been an increasing tendency of booing when things go bad, especially at Urawa's matches. So if Urawa doesn't play well, they will risk that certain groups of their fans will turn their back to the team, and give them a hard-time.

Where they will finish:
Urawa didn't qualify for ACL this year, which might be a good team regarding J.League. Where their main rivals Antlers and Gamba will have to travel all around Asia and Australia, Urawa can stay home and gain energy instead. Especially in the latter stage of the season that might affect the teams. The squad still looks pretty strong, but with a new coach and a new playing-style it's hard to predict how they will do. I still see Urawa as one of the favorites for the title though.

1st - 4th

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