4 Okubo Yoshito
Okubo isn’t really a new player, having only left us for a season’s holiday at FC Tokyo. He seems delighted to be back. This is a complicated one for me, as the season before last, I was quite happy to see him leave, mainly due to him being the first name on the team sheet no matter how bad his form was and his negative effect on some of the younger players. He definitely wasn’t enjoying himself at that stage and it was reflected in his performances. I can now satisfyingly gloat about being correct that FC Tokyo were not getting the player they thought they were, as last season wasn’t much of a success for him. But now he’s back, so maybe the joke’s on us. But, he really wanted to come back, has expressed some kind of ‘don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ thoughts about Frontale and apparently paid half of his transfer fee himself. These things, combined with his interesting new haircut and training camp bonding with Tabinas has given me a new perspective on him. Of course, he’s not going to be the same player of four or five seasons ago. In his last season with us you could see that he was losing his edge a little. But he’s still a significant goal threat. I suspect he might be playing a little deeper this season, perhaps in more of a Kengo role. I think it would be a mistake to put him straight back into our starting line-up. The players who have those positions have earned them. But with there being plenty of talk about us having two complete starting elevens, (which personally speaking, I think sounds like a terrible idea, much preferring us to practice some team rotation rather than completely change the line-up), he definitely should get a chance to show us what he still can do. Providing the all round good feeling can last, it could be an interesting season for him and I’m back behind him again. Apologies for what I shouted at him regarding his pace and skills in the FC Tokyo away games last year…
9 Akasaki Shuhei
If you consider that Okubo will probably be playing a little further back this season rather than right up front, forward Akasaki could well be the only signing we’ve made that is not a midfielder. Signed from Kashima Antlers, but having spent last season on loan at Gamba Osaka, Akasaki looks like the natural replacement for Morimoto, although he’s a little younger and a little shorter than him. In the first couple of years when he broke into the Kashima team, he played a decent number of games and was scoring at a reasonable rate (around a goal every three games), but he wasn’t so successful in his last season there, which I guess contributed to him moving to Gamba on loan. Last season at Gamba his time was split fairly evenly between starting and being on the bench. He only managed one goal for them in his fourteen appearances, but to be honest, the whole Gamba team didn’t score that many goals last year. I would imagine his rival for pitch time is Chinen. Hopefully they can inspire each other to some good performances.
22 Shimoda Hokuto
Arrives with us from Shonan as a free agent having appeared only ten times for them last year. Naturally, he’s a midfielder, (left footed) preferring to play in the middle but sometimes playing on the right. Seems to average a bit over ten games and one goal a season, but to be honest, I’m kind of struggling to find out much about him, so this is your lot. Sorry!
25 Morita Hidemasa
Came to us from Ryutsu Keizai University late last season, but didn’t really become a proper squad member till now. Defensive midfielder who can also play at right back and centre back. That’s about all I know.
27 Suzuki Yuto
Stepping up into J1 for the first time, Suzuki joined us from Montedio Yamagata who he played for 31 times last season (scoring six goals). A fairly tall (for our team) central midfielder with a focus on attacking.
28 Wakizaka Yasuto
Another university signing, this time from Hannan. Attacking midfielder who wants to be a Kengo type player. Product of the Frontale academy, leaving to go to uni and then coming back to us after graduating.
37 Saito Manabu
Aside from the return of Okubo, which was a big hit with at least some of the fans, this has to be the big name signing this year. It was a real coup to tempt him from our local rivals Yokohama F Marinos, who seem to be having a torrid time recently of keeping hold of their captain talisman players. Last year there was talk of us being interested in him, but him being set on moving abroad and I guess if he wasn’t injured that might also have been the case again this time round. It was a big shock when people started talking about his transfer on twitter and an even bigger shock when it was announced. But it makes sense as he’s from Kawasaki and his exciting attacking style is a good fit with us. He’s almost the perfect Frontale player, given that he’s good on the ball, can pass well, attacks a lot and is not very tall. Perhaps he’s the long term replacement for Kengo, but he will certainly be getting some pitch time when he’s fully recovered from injury. Certainly, at the moment we have too many pieces for our puzzle, but our two starting elevens plan will come into play here again I guess. I’m pretty excited to see him play and if he gets off to a good start I think he could be a really important player for us this year and in the future.