As usual, I'm going to write a few posts about all of our players' 2021 season. This is part one and it goes from Sung-Ryong to Kobayashi. Parts 2 and 3 following in the next couple of days.
1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (GK)
Another great season for our number one. And it’s been a bit of a slog for him as he’s played a crazy amount of games, Clearly he’s our first choice and for good reason. Hasn’t showed any real signs of his increasing years and hopefully should be good for a few more seasons. The fact that he got the most man of the match awards from me suggests that he’s had to play some good stuff to get us over the line on more than a few occasions. Personally I think he was robbed not getting into the team of the year as he conceded the least goals in the league and that was in a team that doesn’t just play ultra defensively. But I guess there was such a backlash after Langerak didn’t get it last year so he was bound to get it. Definitely one of my players of the season.
2. Kyohei NOBORIZATO (DF)
Nobori seems to be somehow getting better with age. If it wasn’t for his injury early in the season, he would probably have got a lot more starts. The only one of our regular back four who didn’t get in the team of the year, which seems pretty harsh but then again they did swerve actually picking a left back in that team, so maybe that was why. Still only 31 despite seemingly being around for ages. Hopefully he has a few more years in him as Kurumaya now seems to be a back up centre back as far as Oniki is concerned. Definitely seems to be undervalued or go unnoticed by some, but has been an integral part in all of our recent success.
3. Koki TSUKUGAWA (MF)
A weird first season for one of my favourite new signings at the start of the year. Was more involved at the beginning of the season but seemed to pick up numerous head injuries which kept him out of the squad and led to him drifting out of Oniki’s plans slightly. Always gets stuck in which I love. It’s great to see a more physical player in our midfield. Perhaps this explains his head injuries! Astonishing that he didn’t get any yellow cards as he’s made some important fouls for us. Sushi Football on Twitter told me that might be the case when we signed him, saying something along the lines of ‘he fouls a lot but never seems to get booked’. Feel like he could have had a bit of a better go of things rather than just having a few late five minute cameos. But then this year was pretty much a season of not much change when it came to line ups. Fingers crossed for 2022!
4. JESIEL (DF)
Another one who is definitely a contender for our player of the season and must be one of the first names on the team sheet. (Although to be honest, it seems that Oniki keeps the same team sheet and just erases people who are injured rather than starting with a new team sheet each time). His injury came at a stage of the season where it was thankfully less devastating for us, but I was still quite pissed off with him being brought on at that stage of a fairly meaningless game. The injury however might have helped us secure him for another season though and I’m pleased that he’s extended his contract with us. Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that he had such a good season as he is always so consistent. Crucial part of our 2022 season so hope he’s back from injury near the start of the season.
5. Shogo TANIGUCHI (MF)
Our captain has had a pretty good season I think, with a lot of appearances and a national team call up. I think he’s played really well in defence and can’t really be blamed for Oniki always trying him in midfield, which has almost without exception, been a bit of a disaster. Given how few defenders we have in our squad I would have thought it might be best to not try to convert any of them to midfielders. Only got one goal this year, but obviously that’s not the main reason he’s on the pitch. Only one yellow card in the whole season for a central defender is also pretty amazing really. Another player who picked up an injury when being used unnecessarily (in midfield naturally), but of course I was always going to moan about that. A great 2021 and a well deserved inclusion in the J League best 11.
6. JOAO SCHMIDT (MF)
Weird season. Started as the big signing and great hope to replace Morita. Settled in very quickly and was doing a great job I thought. But slowly drifted out of Oniki’s plans, like Brazilian players sometimes tend to do. One of the players who after missing a penalty in the ACL round of 16 on an absolute mess of a pitch, seemed to be almost completely shut out of the squad. Apparently going on loan to FC Tokyo next season which is a bit baffling, but it is said that he is on a big wage with us, and if he’s not going to be playing very often, I guess that makes sense. Bit of a shame how things worked out though. Good luck to him if he moves, but good luck in the way that I hope he plays well and succeeds, but obviously we don’t want FC Tokyo doing too well. Well, apart from when they play our rivals.
7. Shintaro KURUMAYA (DF)
As mentioned above, now seems to be a back up centre back rather than a contender for left back. Surprised to see he made 25 starts in 2021 as it felt like he wasn’t involved that much. But I guess the centre backs were playing in the one area that Oniki did switch sometimes. And there also were quite a few injuries in that department. Kurumaya picked up a couple of injuries and I’m slightly worried about the one he got against YFM and not sure how serious it was. If he’s happy with how much he’s playing, I’ll be delighted to have him with us next year as his versatility is a big bonus. Perhaps in a way this is a disadvantage for him when it comes to getting starts as having him on the bench covering two spots makes a lot of sense.
8. Yasuto WAKIZAKA (MF)
Played the majority of our games in an ever changing midfield, scored six times and assisted eight times. In a similar way to Oshima, at times he goes slightly unnoticed by me when I’m in the stadium watching the games. I decided to redress the balance on one occasion by keeping a close eye on him and feel like I cursed him somehow as he didn’t play very well when I was focusing on him. Perhaps that’s true of other people watching too, which might be a good thing when it comes to us being able to keep hold of him. There has been some talk of him getting Kengo’s shirt number next season, which if it happens would be a huge honour and perhaps some encouragement to ignore any overtures from overseas. But the fact that he made the best 11 suggests that maybe it’s just me who manages to sometimes miss what he’s doing.
9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (FW)
After a quiet settling-in first season and then a great second season, Damiao has had a blinder of a third season with us. In the league, he’s scored three more goals in five less appearances this year compared with last year. And has knocked in numerous goals in cup games too. But the huge amount of assists this year can’t go unnoticed too. The fact that not many of the goals were penalties and a lot of them were overhead kicks and back heels shows just how much of an exciting player he is. And he also seems to be a lovely guy too. Thoroughly deserved to get the golden boot and the J League MVP. Delighted he extended his contract with us. Let’s hope he can do even better next season!
10. Ryota OSHIMA (MF)
A season plagued by injuries is something that is commonly mentioned when rounding up our number 10’s year. This year it went to another level though with him only making 5 starts and 10 substitute appearances in the whole season. Started the season injured, came back in time for the ACL group stage, and then got another big injury before he could even leave quarantine after the ACL when he pulled something taking a corner away at JEF in the Emperor’s Cup. Much like Jesiel’s injury, it looked serious almost immediately. And much like Jesiel, he got his serious injury after coming on as a sub. Still managed two goals in his limited time on the pitch and showed his class when he made it back to playing after the second injury. If we can keep him injury free in 2022, (and admittedly that’s a big if), he looks like he could have a great season. Fingers crossed.
11. Yu KOBAYASHI (FW)
Felt like a quiet year for Kobayashi as unsurprisingly Damiao took centre stage. It was hard to argue with Damiao starting most of the games so it left Kobayashi in a tricky spot. It turned out though that he played a similar amount of games to the previous season though, so perhaps the feeling that he wasn’t as involved is slightly false. But then again we did play more games due to the ACL. His return of 13 goals from 15 starts and 27 sub appearances shows his value. Especially when you consider how important some of those goals were. He was definitely a super sub on more than a few occasions. I really feel like he could play more on the right but I’m not sure that’s where he wants to play. Him and Ienaga both getting older suggests that it might be a good idea for them to share that position a bit more next season. If we could ever get a 442 to work, that might also be an option for him. But you can’t say it’s been a great success on the occasions we’ve tried it. He’s Frontale through and through, so I hope we can get him involved a bit more and that he’s happy with the part he’s playing.
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