Friday, March 6, 2009

J2 2009 preview: Cerezo Osaka

Stadium: Nagai Stadium ( 50,000)
Average Attendance 2008: 10,560
Last season's finish: 4th

2009 season's transfers:
1 GK Daisuke Tada (On loan from Ehime F.C.)
21 GK Kim Jin-Hyeon (Drafted from Dongguk University)
2 DF Kenji Haneda (Transferred from Kashima Antlers)
13 DF Takashi Hirajima (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
19 DF Naoya Ishigami (On loan from Kashima Antlers)
7 MF Takashi Inui (Transferred from Yokohama F. Marinos)
3 DF Thiago (Transferred fromn Cruzeiro Esporte Clube)
MF Martinez (Transferred from Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras)
- FW Akinori Nishizawa (Transferred from Shimizu S-Pulse)
29 FW Takuya Kokeguchi (Returned from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)

DFAkihiro Sakata (On loan to Shonan Bellmare)
MF Ale (End of loan from São Paulo Futebol Clube)
MF Hiroaki Morishima (Retired)
MF Tatsuya Furuhashi (Transferred to Montedio Yamagata)
MF Germano (Transferred to Santos Futebol Clube)
DF Masayuki Yanagisawa (Transferred to Sagan Tosu)
DF Gilton (Transferred to Albirex Niigata)
MF Ryuhei Niwa (End of loan from Vissel Kobe)
GK Hiromasa Yamamoto (Transferred to Ehime F.C.)
MF Jun Aoyama (End of loan from Nagoya Grampus)
FW Noboru Nakayama (Retired)
MF Takuya Miyamoto (Transferred to Montedio Yamagata)
FW Yasuhito Morishima (Transferred to Oita Trinita)
FW Kim Sin-Young (Transferred to Ventforet Kofu)

My view on the transfers:
Cerezo have managed to keep most of their players from last season, and also brought in a few reinforcements. GK Tada is brought back from Ehime, but the expectations are higher for Kim, who's one of the biggest goalkeeper-talents in Korea. Most likely it's Kim that will become Cerezo's new no.1. Yamamoto and Aizawa, who were the first-choices last season are both gone. The defence looks stronger, as Cerezo have kept all their top performers from 2008, as well as brought in a few new players. Thiago especially seems to be a solid signing, but also Ishigami will be of good use. However, wingbacks Yanagisawa and Gilton have both left the club but they still seem to got good cover at all positions. In midfield Germano has left for Brazil, which of course creates a big hole to fill. Ale is gone as well, and Hiroaki Morishima have hung up his boots. The only newcomer is Martinez from Palmeiras, and he is expected to take Germano's role. Inui, who were a sensation the last couple of months of the 2008-season for Cerezo have made his move permanent. Up front, Furuhashi has left for Montedio, while veteran-striker Nishizawa has been brought in as a replacement. Kokeguchi is back as well from a rather unsuccesful stint with JEF.

Preferrable starting lineup:
4-3-2-1 / 4-4-2: Kim - Thiago, Haneda / Fujimoto, Maeda, Hirajima/Ishigami - Hamada / Sakemoto, Martinez, Kagawa - Inui, Komatsu / Nishizawa- Kaio

My view on the team:
Cerezo probably have the most talented squad in J2, with especially a very impressive attacking line-up. Kaio seems like a top striker, and with help from the two dribbling-sensations Kagawa and Inui he will probably be able to score atleast 15 goals this year. Whether or not Cerezo opt for 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2 remains to be seen, but most likely Komatsu and Nishizawa will see the pitch alot as well. Cerezo also got the wonderkid Kakitani in the squad, as well as Shiratani and Kokeguchi, so the options are many. The midfield seems a bit weakened as Ale and Germano are gone, but Martinez is a solid reinforcement and should be able to bind things together along with Hamada in central-midfield. Thiago can be used several places in defence, but with few options on the right-back he will probably take that position. Maeda is the leader in central defence, and will see either Haneda or Fujimoto alongside him. The goalkeeper position is the biggest unknown, as neither of the four goalies in the squad has any real experience. Kim seems to be the first choice, with Tada as back-up.

Player to watch: Kaio

Manager: Levir Culpi
Culpi received some critisiscm after failing to take Cerezo to J1 last season, but nevertheless is a well-respected manager. Has a very attacking-oriented strategy, which means the defensive focus isn't always as strong as it should be. Seems to have a good connection with the players, but there were stories last season that Culpi left out Yasuhito Morishima on purpose even when Cerezo were short on fit strikers a period cause of personal reasons. Morishima were later shipped off to Oita.

Cerezo have one of the more colourful fans in J2, and averaged over 10 000 last season. In a 50 000 capacity stadium that's not too much though, but in the latter half of the 2008-season Cerezo had over 20 000 several times.

Where they will finish:
Cerezo looks without a doubt as one of the strongest packages in this year's J2, if not the strongest. Another failure to win promotion to J1 would be a disaster, and looking at the players Cerezo got they are almost too good to fail this year. The young-guns Kagawa,Inui and Kaio etc are one year older, and the rest of the players are still only in their 20's so they are still in their prime-years. The defence looks stronger, but there are question-marks over the goalkeepers. They had a similar problem last season, which cost them many points in the end. With a better defence it should be improved though. Cerezo are in my opinion favorites for the 1st place, but their ultimate goal is to finish within the top 3, which seems a realistic target.

1st - 3rd

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