Friday, March 6, 2009

J2 2009 preview: Vegalta Sendai


VEGALTA SENDAI:
Stadium: Sendai Stadium (19,694)
Average attendance 2008:14,080
Last season's finish: 3rd


2009 season's transfers:
IN
5 DF Yugo Ichiyanagi (Transferred from Tokyo Verdy)
20 MF Takahisa Nishiyama (Transferred from Kawasaki Frontale)
31 MF Daisuke Saito (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
GK Shigeru Sakurai (Transferred from Montedio Yamagata)
DF Park Joo-Sung (Transferred from Suwon Samsung Bluewings)
DF Toshio Shimakawa (Transferred from Kashiwa Reysol youth team)
MF Elizeu (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
MF Keita Sogabe (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
FW Marcelo Gomes Soares (On loan from Associação Atlética Ponte Preta)
Out
6 MF Masashi Miyazawa (End of loan from Oita Trinita)
17 DF Keita Isozaki (Transferred to Sagan Tosu)
22 GK Junnosuke Schneider (Transferred to Gainare Tottori)
24 MF Yukihiko Sato (Released)
26 MF Shinya Tanoue (Released)
29 MF Shinji Kaneko (Transferred to F.C. Ryukyu)
32 DF Kazunari Okayama (Released)
33 FW Nadson (Transferred to Esporte Clube Vitória)

My view on the transfers:
Vegalta have gotten rid of a few aging midfielders, and both Sato and Tanoue has been released. Both received a fair amount of playing time last season, but the signing of Brazilian Elizeu from Yokohama FC should make up for that loss. In defence, Vegalta has turned the loan-deals of Ichiyanagi and Saito into complete transfers, as well as bringing in a former Korean international in Park. Up front Nadson has been released, but the Brazilian striker only played 11 matches last season, and didn't have quite the impact the club were hoping for when they bought him. A rather unknown Brazilian have been brought in as a replacement in Marcio, and the jurt is still out on him and whether or not he will strengthen the team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Hayashi - Kitani, Saito, Ichiyanagi, Park - Sekiguchi, Ryang, Nagai / Sugai, Tamura / Chiba - Hirase, Nakashima / Marcel

My view on the team:
Vegalta's strongest department is without a doubt the midfield, where they have several quality players. Sekiguchi is perhaps one of the best players in the league, and Ryang poses a big threat to the opposing teams with his eye for goal. Nagai and Chiba have both turned 30, but still seems to have enough quality left to add something valuable to the team. But the younger Sugai,Tamura and Tomita are all talented players, and will probably be used more frequently this year as the legs of the veterans are getting weaker. Up front they lack a real goalscorer-type, and last year Hirase became their topscorer with 13 goals, which is an all-time high goal-tally for the veteran. Nakashima and Nakahara doesn't seem to have that killer-instinct ahead of goal either, so alot depends on whether or not Marcel will turn out to be a scoop. The defence isn't too bad, but they got little cover if some of the regulars were to be injured or suspended. Still, Vegalta is one of the cheapest teams when it comes to conceding goals in the league, which is much due to their cautious strategy as well.

Player to watch: Kunimichi Sekiguchi

Manager: Makoto Teguramori
A rather new name in Japan, but in Teguramori's debut season in charge of a pro-club he took Vegalta took a strong 3rd place finish. Seems to focus more on the defensive play than attack, and doesn't let the team takes any uncalculated risks going forward.

Supporters:
One of the best supporter-groups in Japan, and the noise and atmosphere their fans creates at Vegalta's home-matches aren't matched by many other clubs in Japan. Large in numbers, and an average of over 14 000 in J2 is very impressive. Their stadium only takes about 19 000 though, but they have the much bigger Miyagi Stadium in back-up if needed.

Where will they finish:
Vegalta have been in the running for promotion four years in a row now, and just missed the cut every year. Last season they finished 3rd and got to the play-offs, but lost there to Jubilo Iwata. Surely one of the favorites for promotion this year as well, as the team doesn't look any particularly weakened. Few options up front means the goals won't come easily though, which might prove vital come December.

1st - 5th

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