Wednesday 26 December 2018

2018 Season Player Round-Up Part 3

This is the third and final part of three round-ups of each of our players' 2018. A more general round up will be coming soon. Or at least as soon as I have got round to writing it and found time to post it.

25. MORITA Hidemasa

Morita has been a bit of a revelation this year. From being an untested rookie last season to a first choice player and our only national team representative is a hell of a lot of progress. I suspect he could be the next player to leave us for a foreign team as he seems more ambitious than some of his team mates. Apparently he doesn’t want a song till he scores a goal, but I think he deserves one next year. Has surprised with his strength, tackling, movement and skill on the ball. Pretty much everything really. Only possible downside is that he occasionally seems to try a bit of showboating and it usually doesn’t work out. Guess this happens when you spend a long time training with Neto! Really looking forward to seeing him and Oshima play together next year and hope we can hang on to him for as long as possible. Should also mention, his transformation from fresh faced youngster to beard, moustache and classic J League haircut look has also been quite sensational.

26. TABINAS Jefferson

A season even less eventful than last year if that’s possible. Not even the solitary bench appearance this time. You’ve got to wonder why we don’t send him out on loan if he’s nowhere near the first team as he was supposed to be a bright prospect.

27. SUZUKI Yuto

Decent first season, and seems to have sealed the spot of replacing Ienaga when he moves inside. Feels kind of like a European style attacker, being a bit tall, powerful and a bit fast. And more direct than many of our other players. Played a bit of time at right back too, so maybe that could be his spot next year with Elsinho gone. Couple of goals, one of which was crucial, and a couple of assists add up to a solid first season.

28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto

Seemed to be the youngster that people were excited about at the start of the year with people saying he would be Kengo's replacement. Has had his pitch time limited though, starting one, coming on once and being an unused sub once. Oniki scandalously (in my opinion), subbed him halfway through the first half in his one start in a cup game. Nice man management from him as usual! That can’t have done his confidence any good. I guess he’ll hope he gets more of a chance next year.

29. Michael James FITZGERALD

Last year’s wilderness man came back and played some football! He even started some games! Although we shouldn’t forget that in the middle of the season we were playing our right back in the middle ahead of him and two other centre backs. It’s difficult to say whether he’s improved on last year as we got so little opportunity to see him last year. Think he’ll struggle to dislodge Nara, but seems to be more at the races this year.

30. ARAI Shota

As always, a reliable back up to Sung-Ryong. His keeping is pretty good I think, but is nowhere near as good with the ball at his feet which has caused us to change our plans on a few occasions. Got an assist this year which he was delighted about. Hasn’t really been found wanting too much this season, and if he’s happy with that I guess we are too.

31. POPP William

One appearance as an unused sub meant we got to sing his name, but are still largely unaware of what he can do. Guess the only thing lonelier than the life of a third choice keeper is the life of a fourth choice keeper.


Big season for Ao. He made his first team debut and on the same occasion scored his first goal. Time was otherwise limited until the last two games where he started due to an injury to Oshima. Not sure if this means he’s ahead of Shimoda in the pecking order or if Oniki was just using the couple of games after we’d won the title to give him a chance. Looked pretty wobbly in the first half against FC Tokyo but steadied himself and did a good job. Very much still in the one for the future category but much loved by the fans due to his long time spent with us from youth level.

33. MIYASHIRO Taisei

Still an unknown quantity. His one unused sub appearance came in the last game where it looked like he might be brought on for his debut, but an early injury to Kurumaya meant that we had one less late sub available and he missed out.

37. SAITO Manabu

Starred out injured but as our great hope, came on and almost won us the game against his old team and then kind of faded back into the shadows. It’s been a real stop/start season for Manabu with more stopping than starting. Another player in our most oversubscribed area, he was never going to walk straight into the team, but I think it’s been trickier than he expected. Oniki’s tactical ‘rigidity’ has meant that he’s never really had a run of games to get going and every time he looks like he’s getting somewhere, it doesn’t quite happen. But he’s an exciting player and can only do better next year. I think we’re all looking forward to seeing him really cut loose.

41. IENAGA Akihiro

My and many others player of the year, and the J League agreed. Streets ahead our most consistent performer, with very few off games, he’s brought goals, assists, skills and a kind of lovable on the pitch temper. Particularly like how he avenged Nara against Yuma Suzuki with a very amusing shoulder flick. It’s been said that he doesn’t like to stay at any one club did too long, but I hope he stays for as long as he can, as he’s really been the attacking heartbeat of the team this year.

44. CAIO Cesar

So underused that we don’t even know where he plays really, although I heard he’s a left footed attacking midfielder. If that’s true, whoever signed him must be insane as we have loads of them already. Will he still be with us next year, who knows? Looked a little bit like a signing which was made to keep up our quota of Brazilians.

ONIKI Toru - manager

As I’m sure anyone who has read this blog knows, I’m not Oniki's greatest fan. I realise this sounds stupid as he’s provided us with consecutive league titles in his first two seasons but I feel that these titles have been secured at times in spite of him rather than because of him. Our ACL campaign was a total disaster with just bizarre tactics employed. Hope he’s learned for next year. We also still have no plan B, and we’ve been a bit lucky that our plan A has been sufficient this year. Of course we can’t win every game, but when a team comes prepared, ably defends in numbers and sits back waiting for a counter attack (which many teams have at least tried to do this year), we are often found wanting. Equally worrying is his apparent complete lack of man management skills, which I’ve gone into in detail in individual player posts. Even so, I still feel a bit guilty criticising him. He has tightened things up at the back but we’ve definitely lost a bit of excitement going forward. So far it seems that he’s had luck on his side, and perhaps it’s better to have a lucky manager rather than a good manager. We just have to hope that he shows some more of the latter next season, whilst retaining plenty of the former.

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