Monday, 28 January 2019

2019 season new arrivals

Thought I'd write a few things about the new arrivals for this season. I can't promise to provide you with anything that a bit of internet searching wouldn't provide, but in any case, here you are. Before we get on to that a quick mention of where our departed players have ended up. Elsinho is now at Shimizu S Pulse, Moriya has joined Okubo at Jubilo Iwata, Takeoka has moved to Ventforet Kofu, Tasaka is now at JEF United and Edu has gone to Matsumoto Yamaga. Oh, and Itakura has joined Manchester City... These are all permanent moves. As for loans, Tabinas has gone to FC Gifu, Akasaki to Nagoya Grampus, Miyoshi to Yokohama F Marinos and Popp to Oita Trinita. To say that some of these were more surprising than others is an understatement. There's certainly some strange ones in there. I'm sure we wish all of them the best of luck, apart from if they play us. So, on to the new blood, in squad number order. Looking forward to seeing how they get on if they get a chance. Hopefully they will!

(By the way, apologies or thanks to the official website, where I nabbed the photo above from).


Centre back signed on loan from Brazilian team Atletico MG although he spent last year on loan to Parana in the Brazilian top flight, playing 18 games and picking up two bookings. Only 24 and fairly tall, his pedigree suggests that he might have been brought in as a regular starter. Certainly should give us some more options at centre back where we didn't have much strength in depth last season.

Definitely the highest profile signing we made this year. Big goal scoring centre forward signed from Santos, but spent last season on loan at Internacional in Brazil’s top flight playing 14 games and scoring 10 goals. Perhaps most known for winning the golden boot playing for Brazil at 2012 Olympics. Has been linked with plenty of reasonably big European clubs in the past but never made the move due to a series of contractual issues. Apparently our offer was ‘irrefusable’ so it seems that he’s a big part of our plan for next year. I imagine this could mean Kobayashi moving out on to the right and Ienaga to the left but we’ll see I guess.

17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (DF)

27 year old right back (who apparently can also play at left-back), who signed for us from Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Spent most of last season on the bench after singing from Tokushima Vortis the previous year, although managed to score in the final game of the season. I guess someone who is looking to restart his career which seems to have stalled since he joined Sanfrecce. Will probably be playing understudy to Maguinho though.

23. FUJISHIMA Eisuke (GK)
Signed on loan from Renofa Yamaguchi to fill the vacant keeper spot since Popp went on loan to Oita. Started last season as an ever present but dropped out of contention towards the end of the season. I’d like to think this means he was playing when Renofa were doing well! Bit of a mystery as to where he’ll fit in the pecking order of keepers. Fun fact, he went to the same high school as Taniguchi and Kurumaya and was in the same year as our number 5.


27 year old right back signed from Vila Nova in Brazil’s second tier. Scored once in 30 appearances last season in the league, but got three goals in three cup games. Starter for most of the season, so you would imagine he’ll be the first choice right back next year.

30. MIYASHIRO Taisei (FW)

Young right-footed striker who comes as a bright hope for the future and is a product of the Frontale youth system. Made the bench in the last game of last season and probably would have got some pitch time if Kurumaya hadn’t gone off injured. Highly rated and has four goals in five games for Japan’s U19 team.

31. HARADA Koki (MF)

Young midfielder, straight from high school. Not the tallest so should fit in perfectly with us! Has been praised for being exceptionally skillful by many apparently.

34. YAMAMURA Kazuya (MF)

Apparently someone we’ve tried to sign a few times and we finally got him this year after he scored the goal to slightly flatten our title celebrations in the game against Cerezo. A reasonably tall right-footed midfielder who seems to be able to play in any of the midfield positions, at centre back, or even up front. Semi regular starter for Cerezo for the last three seasons with a decent goal scoring record too, although he only managed two last year.


Not strictly a new signing but still a bit of a mystery as he was with us last year after Neto left but never even got anywhere near the bench. However, he must have impressed as he signed a contract extension in January. Left-footed attacking midfielder and is quite tall, which makes a difference from the majority of our squad. Played a couple of games in the top flight in Brazil but has spent most of his time in the second tier. Got three goals in four games in the Brazilian third tier in 2018 and picked up a red card too. Only 23, so maybe one for the future is what we’re thinking.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

2018 Survey results

Thank you to all who responded to my call for answers to my survey questions. Here are the results with some choice comments in brackets when people offered them. My answers, (if you are interested, and I fully understand you not being so!), are included in the comments for each question. Thought it was only fair that I made my responses public.

1. Game of season

A large majority for the home demolition of Vissel Kobe. ('Who doesn't love a dramatic comeback win?'). The huge victory against Sapporo picked up a couple of votes and Kashima home and Kashiwa away got one vote each. I went for Kobe home. Lovely to beat a moneybags team who are trying to buy the league convincingly and very happy to comeback after that rotten celebration from Kobe's Mita.

2. Player of the season

Another clear winner and we agree with the J League awards, giving it to Ienaga. ('Just super!') The only other players mentioned were Morita, Oshima and Kobayashi. I would have loved to give my vote to Nara, but Ienaga was just a different class this year.

3. Goal of the season

We have two from the same game and it was our game of the season Kobe home. Again this was a runaway victory and again we agreed with the J League, giving it to Oshima's goal against Kobe. ('Football Together!'). These videos should start at the right point for the goal, hopefully.

This was my choice as I thought it was emblematic of our season, being very much a team effort. We seemed to share the goals round a lot more this year. Sad that one of Kengo's where he nicked the ball from dallying defenders didn't get mentioned. The other goals mentioned were:

Saito - Kobe home ('Kept our comeback momentum going, and look how happy he was')

Hasegawa - FC Tokyo away

Kobayashi - Sanfrecce Hiroshima away PK


4. Disappointment of the season

Bit more variety on this question but there was a clear winner again which was our ACL campaign. I'm inclined to agree but I actually went for the loss to Kashima in the Levain where we completely failed to turn up. A shocking game! The other answers were the wrongly disallowed goal against Hiroshima at home (more on that soon!), Neto leaving, the Emperor's Cup loss away at Montedio Yamagata and one respondent who simply answered 'Manabu Saito'. One other answer was our performance in all competitions aside from the league, which I guess probably is the best answer of all as it covers most of what people were disappointed by in one neat package.

5. Villain of the season (anyone, from any team or an official or...)

No surprise to see a lot of answers relating to the Sanfrecce home game. Referee Tojo came out on top with one vote each for the linesman and Sanfrecce Hiroshima as a whole. Aside from this game, we had mentions of 'Robo ticket resellers', Kanazaki Mu and Oniki for his apparently random team selections at the start of the season. My vote was a choice between two Vissel Kobe players. Mita (for his smug and provocative goal celebration when he scored at Todoroki) is the runner up to Podolski, who for me is just a toerag, nasty fouling player, well past his peak and declining fast who thinks he's much better than everyone around him (at least until Iniesta joined! Hehe!). Him punching the opposition staff in that crazy game towards the end of last season sealed it though. Surely he should be getting a hefty ban for that?

6. Best away trip (if you've done one)

No-one said the same thing on this question which is interesting. I'm insanely jealous of the respondent who answered V Varen Nagasaki as I was denied this experience by being worried about a typhoon, work and home commitments and the availability of a full refund on our plane and hotel. Cerezo Osaka (I guess more for the fact that we won the championship than the actual game!), Kobe and Sendai. My answer was Sagan Tosu, given that we won, it's a fun trip and the fact that I was able to consume Sake and Shochu in the stadium before the game as well as my usual beer. Consequently can't remember so much about the game. There were two sad responses, 'I wish' and ‘Only went to Super Cup and that was definitely the worst away trip’.

7. Best stadium in the J League

This was slightly surprising for me. Todoroki won by a landslide. I suspect there is a little bit of bias involved though! (‘Needs more seats though’, ‘With memories with ex-girlfriend’). Nagoya's Toyota stadium was mentioned, as were Sendai's Yurtec, Kashiwa Reysol's Hitachidai and Gamba's Suita. Personally, I'm torn. I think Gamba's is probably the best but I have a soft spot for Sagan Tosu's and Shimizu S Pulse's due to their slightly unusual design and the fact that they are slightly old. I would definitely never vote for anywhere with a running track though!


8. Opposition J1 team you like the most


Quite close, but Nagoya take it, perhaps due to the Kazama connection. In second place Sendai, (which is my choice) and then behind that one vote each for Jubilo Iwata, Shimizu S Pulse, Kashiwa Reysol ('I'll miss them in 2019 season.  I want them be back to J1 in 2020'), Kashima Antlers and Yokohama F Marinos ('Hilarious to watch!').


9. Opposition J1 team you like the least

Interestingly no mention of our rivals FC Tokyo. Leading the way are Urawa (‘Kobe trying hard to dislodge them though’), closely followed by three teams all with an equal amount of votes, Kashima, Yokohama and Sanfrecce (‘ I don't like the way the coach and players appeal to the referee’). Kobe picked up one vote and I'm sure they'll improve on that score next year if they continue to try to buy every player in the world. I was torn on this one, leaning towards Yokohama as I'm getting a bit fed up with them thinking they are the greatest attacking force in world football, but in the end couldn't tear myself away from the thoroughly and consistently despicable Kashima Antlers.


10. Team you're disappointed to see go down

Somewhat fittingly, with only two teams going down, the votes were split exactly between V Varen Nagasaki and Kashiwa Reysol. I went for the former as I really wanted to go to that away game after missing it in 2018.

11. Team you're pleased to see come up


Matsumoto Yamaga at the top here with over twice as many votes as Oita who tied with 'no-one' and there was a single vote for 'I don't know yet'. I said Matsumoto but I'm pleased about Oita too.


12. Best thing about the J League

I'm just going to copy and paste these as they were written:

- Friendly atmosphere among the fans.
- Feeling of unity

- Not so far from my home
- Friendly away fans and locals
- Vissel Kobe's strategy

- That we win it every year
- The atmosphere
- It's all in good fun.
- Peaceful

I'll add to this my answer which is something to do with the experience of away games, where you're welcomed, the atmosphere in the stands is more focused and exciting than at home and you get to see some different cities.

13. Worst thing about the J League

Once again, I'm just going to copy and paste these as they were written:

- Popularity. In Japan, most people like baseball more than football.
- Toss up between dire officiating and outrageous uniform prices.
- People queuing for queuing

- This year the World Cup break caused ridiculous fixture congestion
- Lack of Japanese referees' skill
- Queuing system 
- Not quiet
- Players transferring/retiring

- Referees' level should be higher. (Fans including me should learn rules more, too.) 

I think for me, the referee thing is potentially the most damaging thing as some of them are totally useless. But from a personal point of view, it's kind of annoying to queue for such a long time before the game and then have at least two hours to kill before there is any sign of anything happening. But I'm aware that I am part of the problem here.


14. Trophy you would like to win the most next year

The league takes it, ('Let's make it three in a row'), with double the votes of the ACL. No mention of the Levain or Emperor's Cup. I went for the League.

15. What's Kengo's role next season? (first team regular, semi-regular starter, sub etc.)

A resounding win for first team regular. ('Starter. I think he'll let us know when he's not ready for that anymore.' 'His role in 2018 was very good, I think. As a starting member, play at full power until around 60 minutes.'). Only a couple of people (me included) thought that he should be a semi-regular starter. My thinking behind this was that he had a few dodgy games and I think we relied too heavily on him in 2018. Let the man have a rest sometimes and someone else have a go. I think Ienaga will be starting in that position a few times next season.

16. What’s your view of Oniki?


I think I've made my feelings about Oniki well known, but I'll try to sum them up briefly before copying and pasting the other responses. I think he's a lucky manager, which is great, but I think some of our results have been achieved in spite of him instead of because of him. I'm most worried about his man-management, with his favourites being undroppable and others having to take the blame for them. But, yeah, stay lucky, won't you?

- Good motivator.
- Someone who can grow with the players 
- He should wear a formal suit.
- Lucky (to take over the team Kazama created)
- Must become accustomed to ACL
- Love him like a father
- I hate his squad management but I respect his regularity to get points in the crucial moments of the championship. I’d like him to know how to establish a valuable plan B next season. He has the squad to play great in all competitions
- We've won the league back to back, so I think there must be something going for him. On the other hand, some games he's more tic-tacs than tactics
- A good leader

17. If you could have any J League player sign for Frontale, who would it be?

I'll just list them:

Nishi Daigo (Kahsima Antlers)
Fernando Torres (Sagan Tosu)
Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol) 2 votes
Misao Kento (Kashima Antlers)
Amano Jun (Yokohama F Marinos)
Ruben Ira Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea...)
Nakayama Yuta (Kashiwa Reysol)
Matsubara Ko (Shimizu S-Pulse)

Personally, this is tricky for me. I get too attached to the players we have and don't want them to leave or get replaced. I have recently developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with Yuma Suzuki (previously a hate-hate relationship...), as he's the kind of player I thought we could probably do with in certain situations. But perhaps Leandro Damião could be that kind of player. Without having seen the new right backs in action yet, I'll say I'd like us to get the Shimizu right back Elsinho in. I've heard he's good...

18. Any other comments

This wasn't supposed to be a self congratulatory question, but thank you for the nice things you said which I'll copy below, along with a few other comments that aren't pats on the back for me. My other comment is 'Thank you very much for responding and thank you very much for reading the blog. And please say hello if you see me at a game. I'm the British guy wearing the Nara shirt.'

- I hope Leandro Damião will be the key player for ACL.
- I hope I’ll come back to Todoroki in 2019 !
- Happy new year! 
- I'm looking forward to read your blog again this year!
- I enjoy your blog always.  Thanks:-)
- Great blog, keep up the good work and go easy on Oniki :P