Friday, March 6, 2009

J2 2009 preview: Thespa Kusatsu


THESPA KUSATSU:
Stadium: Shikishima Stadium (10,050)
Average attendance 2008: 4,215
Last season's finish: 9th


2009 season's transfers:
In:

16 DF Daisuke Fujii (Transferred from Albirex Niigata)
DF Keiichi Misawa (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
DF Tatsuya Kawahara (On loan from Omiya Ardija)
MF Nozomi Hiroyama (Transferred from Tokyo Verdy)
MF Jun Tamano (Transferred from Tokushima Vortis)
MF Minori Sato (Drafted from Maebashi Ikuei High School)
27 FW Ken Tokura (Transferred from Kawasaki Frontale)
FW Junki Koike (On loan from Urawa Red Diamonds)

Out
6 MF Nobuhito Toriizuka (Retired)
10 MF Yusuke Shimada (End of loan from Omiya Ardija)
17 MF Tadahiro Akiba (Transferred to S.C. Sagamihara)
18 FW Shota Iwata (Released)
23 DF Akira Ishigame (End of loan from Omiya Ardija)
24 MF Jin Kanaoya (Transferred to Fukushima United F.C.)
27 DF Bae Seung-Jin (End of loan from Yokohama FC)
38 MF Reiichi Ikegami (End of loan from F.C. Tokyo)

My view on the transfers:
Thespa have released MF's Toriizuka and Shimada, who both were regular members of the team last season. Toriizuka have retired, while Shimada, one of the pillars of last season's team, have ended his loan-spell. The other released players are only fringe members of the team, so they've managed to kept most of the players from last season. Some reinforcements have been brought in as well, with FW Koike looking the most promising one. The Urawa Reds-striker is a very talented player, that were never given enough chances at Urawa to shine. J2 seems a more appropriate venue for him at this stage of his career, so he should be able to make an impact on Thespa. Hiroyama is new from Tokyo Verdy, and will make a nice addition to the midfield. There's a couple of other newcomers as well, but none of which will go straight into the first-team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Honda - Fujii / Terada, Tanaka, Omoto / Kita, Choi - Hiroyama, Kumabayashi, Matsushita, Yamazaki - Takada, Koike

My view on the team:
Thespa has kept most of their top-performers from last season, and with the arrival of Hiroyama and Koike they look overall strengthened. The defence looks tight, and will probably prove a tough team to score at this season as well. The midfield likewise, but if one or two members are missing the team's quality will fall drastically as there are no solid players in back-up. Takada is a very good J2-level striker, and along with Koike they should be able to score some goals this season. Lack of depth seems to be biggest problem though, which might mean we're in for a similar season like last year, where Thespa fell apart in the last 3rd of the season.

Player to watch: Junki Koike

Manager: Toru Sano
Sano has been the coach of Kyoto Sanga in the past, as well as Yokohama Flugels ( now Yokohama F Marinos), and is an experienced fellow. He doesn't have the best results to show for though, but nonetheless a respected coach that were appointed ahead of this season. His predecessor Ueki achieved good results with the team, and Sano's goal is to match those.

Supporters:
Your average japanese fans, that sings and dances throughout the entire match. Thespa doesn't have the biggest fanbase though,and they're not among the better ones in the league.

Where they will finish:
Thespa looks overall just as strong as last season, and should be able to come up with some good results this year as well. A tough team to score on, and with Takada and Koike up front they should be able to bag a few goals themselves as well. Sano's tactics is a bit more loose than Ueki's though, so they will probably adapt a more offensive strategy this year. I think a mid-table finish is what Thespa's fans have to hope for.

8th - 12th

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