As I did last year, I've done a little write up for each of our players' 2018 season. I wrote most of these on the plane back to the UK for Christmas so apologies if some of them are slightly insane. It's a long flight and I was quite tired. Parts two and three to follow soon.
1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
A solid season for our keeper, but with a couple of straight red cards thrown in for excitement. He got significantly less man of the match awards from me this year, but I think that says more about the standard of our defending than his play. He certainly had less opportunities to stand out because things were more solid in front of him. Conceding the least goals in the league can’t be a bad thing, can it?
A tricky write up as Abe hasn’t quite got going either this year. He’s spent far too much of his pitch time playing out of position but this was caused by us having way too many diminutive left footed attacking players all going for the same spot. You’ve got to wonder where his future lies. I have always liked him playing up front, but it seems Oniki doesn’t feel the same way. His six goals and four assists sees a decrease from last year when he got 14 goals and seven assists, and he hasn’t played as much either. Interesting season coming up I guess.
2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
It’s been a good year for Nobori and he’s been involved quite a bit. Oniki switching Kurumaya to centre back mid season meant that Nobori was getting a lot of pitch time. He always stands out for giving 100% and is an excellent option for us to have on the bench, but will probably struggle to get ahead of Kurumaya at left back or any of the many short left footed attacking players on the left wing.
3. NARA Tatsuki
Obviously, I’ve got a lot to say about Nara. In my admittedly slightly biased opinion, he’s got to be up there as one of our best players this year. Unfortunately, Oniki disagreed for a significant portion of the year. Seems less prone to a blunder than Taniguchi but often doesn’t get the credit he deserves I think. Clearly he had a big part to play in our excellent defensive record this year and would be a huge loss if he went to Gamba, who’ve put an offer in for him.(Breaking news, he rejected them and is staying with us. Hooray! Happy Xmas to me!). Nice for him to round off the season with a goal as he must have been pretty unsure of his position earlier in the season when Oniki dropped him. The fact that he has ended up as the only one of our back five not in the team of the year is pretty ridiculous really. I would suggest that he was more deserving than any of the others but just seems to not get recognised for some reason.
I’ll write about Okubo more for posterity than anything else. It’s been another slightly dodgy season for him. I was against him coming back but I thought he was still offering something from the bench for us. It seems that he wasn’t into that kind of role though and let’s be honest, he was never going to be happy as a permanent sub. I wish him well in his quest for 200 J1 goals, but have no idea where he will be attempting that feat next year. Not sure Jubilo was right for him, but I think his abilities are on the wane, so not sure where would be right to be honest.
5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
Taniguchi is a bit of a mystery. He’s been an almost ever present this year, captaining the team on a few occasions. His form has swung from solid to abject and he’s made plenty of costly blunders, most obviously against Yamagata. But he is a protected species and seems undroppable. He chipped in with some goals this year and on the whole performed decently, but if we accuse Edu of always having an error in him we have to recognise that the same is true about Taniguchi. I think he’s a crucial player for us, but I think plenty of people think he’s better than he currently is. Hopefully next year he doesn't have to play as much and can sharpen things up. I know he always saw himself as playing in the defensive midfield position and he did well there in the first leg against Kashima in the Levain alongside Kengo, but both of them were rubbish in the second leg. I don’t want to criticise him too much as he’s done well, but it’s clear that he exists under different conditions to the other centre backs in the squad.
6. TASAKA Yusuke
The writing was somewhat on the wall for Tasaka this year. A mistake from him in the Super Cup was partly responsible for us conceding and after that Oniki seemed to lose faith in him, substituting him in that game and after that he slid out of the team and then off the bench. One of many victims of Morita, who initially took his place at right back whilst Elsinho was injured, and then went on to terminate a few defensive midfielders’ Frontale careers. We should remember that he probably didn’t really want to play at right back in the first place, but he’d slipped down the pecking order in the positions he would have preferred to play in. He’s put in great service for the club and I’m sure we all thank him for that, but I think moving on is best for him and us as he’s been merely making up the numbers recently. Good luck to him at JEF next year!
7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
Kurumaya seemed to stand out a lot less this year than last year. I’m not sure if he was playing worse or the players around him were doing better. He’s played a decent amount of games this year, but his one assist all season pales in comparison with last years 12. Perhaps Oniki switching him to centre back when he dropped Nara didn't help this, but on the whole it feels like he didn’t have quite the same impact this year. This change of position has probably also lead to him dropping off the international radar too. I’m delighted that he turned down Urawa and Kobe this year as he’s clearly our best left back and we suffer when he doesn’t play. Just can’t help but feel that this year he didn’t quite get going. Hope he can do so next year!
8. ABE Hiroyuki
A tricky write up as Abe hasn’t quite got going either this year. He’s spent far too much of his pitch time playing out of position but this is caused by us having way too many diminutive left footed attacking players all going for the same spot. You’ve got to wonder where his future lies. I have always liked him playing up front, but it seems Oniki doesn’t feel the same way. His six goals and four assists sees a decrease from last year's 14 goals and seven assists, and he hasn’t played as much either. Interesting season coming up I guess.
9. AKASAKI Shuhei
Looked like an interesting signing but has inherited more from Morimoto than just the number 9 shirt. Didn’t really get much of a chance, only getting on the pitch on six occasions including two starts in the Levain Cup against his former side. Will most likely slip even further down the pecking order with the arrival of Leandro Damiao, who seems to have also taken his number 9 shirt. We’re going to have loads of strikers fighting for one position up front, so hopefully we rotate a bit more next year, but things look a little bleak for him I’d say.
10. OSHIMA Ryota
Another season with a few injuries for Oshima. However, that, and maybe the fact that he seems to be a homely kind of person might be the things that are keeping him with us. Crucial player and seems to always play well but go a little unnoticed. Ironic that since he’s stopped shooting from distance he got the J League goal of the year award for the lovely team move goal towards the end of the season. Crucial piece of our jigsaw, who hopefully will stay fit all of next year.