I’m not going to write too much about the first half of this season as I’ve moaned enough about it already on here. The shocking thing is the similarity in performance from the previous two years. Every year it seems like we’re doing worse than previously but when I check we end up having an almost identical record. I’d say that the team is a lot less settled this year and I’m still not sure if we really know what our best eleven is. Perhaps we are starting to rotate a bit better, which would be crucial for our future, as some of our big names aren’t getting any younger. But perhaps this isn't rotation, but more us struggling to find a team that can win rather than draw. Wakizaka looks like he could be, as predicted, our future Kengo. He’s done well when he’s played, has scored a few goals and always looks to attack. At the back, Jesiel has been a revelation. At the start of the season he looked to be the Brazilian the furthest from the team, but has now sealed himself a starting spot and looks like one of our best players. When Nara comes back from injury he’ll have a tough job getting back into the team. The other Brazilians seem to be getting a rougher ride. Damiao has scored goals and assisted but still doesn’t seem to be valued by Oniki. Maguinho’s plight is maybe the strangest. I feel he’s always done pretty well when called on, but now finds himself way down the right back pecking order, behind a couple of left backs playing out of position. Perhaps he’s more attacking than Oniki might like, but to be honest, I don’t think he made any mistakes in the games he played, so he can feel a bit aggrieved with his lack of pitch time.
In the middle, Ao now seems to be our great hope. Morita has slipped back a little this year, ironically at the same time as getting international recognition. Hopefully he’ll come good again soon. On the left we probably have our biggest quandary. All of Manabu, Hasegawa and Abe have done well when given the chance, but usually only one of them gets a chance per game. Hasegawa is probably Oniki’s favourite, but they all deserve to play so I understand it’s a tricky situation. With regards to players who have been doing well, there has been mercifully little attention to them from overseas so far. Plenty of other clubs are losing players to Europe, but no one seems to come knocking for ours. Whether they do actually come and we don’t hear about it, I don’t know. The only bid we have heard about was one from a Chinese team for Damiao and it looks at the moment like he will stay with us. I’m delighted about this and I think it’s a real credit to him as he hasn’t been getting the star treatment some might have expected but is still 100% committed and up for the job. I know I always speculate about trouble behind the scenes but maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps this is a club with a great relationship between players and management, that people really want to stay with. I’d be delighted if this were true.
I’m not going to dwell on results, but you’ve got to think that we could have done a lot better this year so far. Sure, in the league we’ve only lost once and that was a stinker of a defeat due to a late goal against a dodgy Gamba team. Late goals have been the story of the year to be honest. I don’t know why, and it’s really frustrating. Hopefully we can put an end to that habit. The ACL campaign was another disaster, but again, late goals did for us on a few occasions. I think we were a bit unlucky, but being unlucky doesn’t make it any more frustrating. And to look on the bright side, we now are free from ACL distractions so hopefully we can claw back some ground in the league. I’ve been pretty despondent at times this year, particularly after 0-0 games against teams we have dominated. The FC Tokyo game was hopefully our turning point. Fingers crossed we can push on now, cut out those late goals and turn the draws into wins. Bring on part 2!
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