Friday, March 6, 2009

J2 2009 preview: Mito Hollyhock

Stadium: Kasamatsu Stadium ( 22,022)
Average attendance 2008: 3,074
Last season's finish:11th

2009 season's transfers:
GK Kohei Doi (On loan from Vissel Kobe)
DF Sunao Hozaki (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
DF Hiroki Kato (Drafted from Ryutsu Keizai University F.C.)
MF Kim Tae-Yeon (On loan from Vissel Kobe)
MF Shunichi Nakajima (Transferred from F.C. Ryukyu)
MF Kota Morimura (On loan from F.C. Tokyo)
MF Yuki Shimada (Drafted from Komazawa University)
MF Taiki Tsuruno (Transferred from Consadole Sapporo youth team)
FW Kota Yoshihara (Transferred to Omiya Ardija)
FW Hiroyuki Takasaki (On loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)

3 DF Daishi Hiramatsu (Transferred to F.C. Tokyo)
5 DF Bruno (Released)
11 FW Shogo Shiozawa (Transferred to Sagawa Printing S.C.)
13 MF Takuya Shiihara (Released)
14 DF Yoichi Akiba (Retired)
15 MF Naoya Ohashi (Transferred to Fukushima United F.C.)
16 MF Park Joo-Ho (Transferred to Kashima Antlers)
18 MF Takafumi Akahoshi (End of loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)
19 FW K?hei Nishino (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
20 DF Takashi Kuramoto (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
24 FW Masahiro Takahashi (Released)
25 MF Yoshikazu Suzuki (Released)
26 MF Biju (Transferred to Zweigen Kanazawa)
29 MF Kazuhiko Shingyoji (Released)
33 MF Kento Tsurumaki (End of loan from Tokyo Verdy)
37 MF Park Jong-Jin (End of loan from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)

My view on the transfers:
Mito have made several changes to their team since last season, especially in midfield where they've lost perhaps their two best members in Park (sold to Antlers) and Akahoshi ( returned to Urawa). Several other players receing a fair amount of playing-time has left as well, including the veteran play-maker Biju. In defence the impressive Hiramatsu has transferred to FC Tokyo, while another often-used centreback Kuramoto has returned to his mother-club Oita. Mito hasn't brought in any major reinforcements to their defence, so on paper they look weakened defensively this season. In midfield as well, although they've brought in two talented youngsters that will most likely go straight into the team. Up front Nishino is gone, but they've brought in Yoshihara and Takasaki, which more than enough makes up for Nishino's loss.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Homma - Ozawa, Suzuki, Nakamura, Owada / Kato - Muramatsu, Hori / Kanazawa, Kim, Kikuoka - Arata, Takasaki / Yoshihara

My view on the team:
Mito got a solid goalkeeper in Homma, but who at times seems to lack focus. Not exactly a consistent performer, but came up with match-winning performances more than once last season. The defence seems weakened, and it's hard to see Mito being able to defend against teams like Cerezo,Shonan and Verdy. If they're two new rookies turns out to be good it doesn't look too bad though, but my bet is they will struggle. In midfield they've lost their two best players last season, and just like with the defence, Mito look overall weakened in this department as well.The only department that seems strengthened are the attack, as Arata will probably continue to deliver top-notch performances. Urawa-starlet Takasaki should be able to bag a few goals on this level as well, and with the experienced Yoshihara to back them up as well they look well-covered. Mito will most likely adapt the offensive style they had last season this year as well, which means we'll probably see lots of goals at both ends this season as the defence doesn't seem good enough to stand on their own
Player to watch: Hiroyuki Takasaki

Manager: Takashi Kiyama
Turned Mito into a much more entertaining team his first season in charge, and managed to upset several of the big clubs last year. His attacking-oriented style of football led to alot of conceded goals though, and humiliating losses to rival-clubs. I'd expect much the same this season, although Mito might opt for a tad more cynical approach to some of the matches atleast.

Mito had the smallest average crowd in the league last season, with a mere 3,000 on every game. The ones that do support them though are known to be among the friendlest in all of Japan, and enjoys big respect among the other club's fans.

Where they will finish:
Mito finished on a nice 11th place last season, but it might turn out hard for them to do the same this year. With three new teams in the league the competition is getting harder, but none of the newly-promoted teams looks good enough for an upper-half finish, which means they will have to rival against teams like Mito and Ehime instead. Mito should be able to hold a few teams behind them this year as well, but a repeat of last year's 11th might be too much to hope for.

12th - 15th

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