This is the first part of my 2019 season player round up. I wrote these on a plane, sleep deprived and still a bit grumpy about the 2019 season, so fans/haters of my moaning are going to find lots to enjoy/get angry about in here. Given that Arai has left already and is almost certainly not going to be the last player to leave, I'd better get these three parts up soon, before all of this becomes horribly out of date. By the way, Chinen is off on loan next year to Oita, so I'd better update his part before I post it. Here we go then, squad numbers 1-10 today.
1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
Bit of a weird year for the player who was our number one keeper, but now, who knows really where he is. I feel he has been unfairly blamed for us conceding goals, when it seems to me that the problem has mainly been in the defence in front of him. He hasn’t helped his cause by making a few blunders, but every keeper does that, don’t they? Him being dropped towards the end of the season convinced me that he was going to leave. Him being recalled confused me, but then it became apparent that Arai was leaving. I suspect they both will go in the end as Oniki seems to really not get on with foreign players. But full credit to Sung-Ryong, who has been a crucial part of a couple of successful seasons for us, and shouldn’t be blamed for our failing this year.
2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
A stop start year for Nobori due to some injuries. Feel like he’s a really important part of Oniki's plans though. Has played on both the left and the right sides of what was a slightly shaky defence at times and always does his best and gives 100% it seems. Can’t imagine he’ll be played further forward due to the huge number of left wingers we have in the squad. His versatility is one of his best attributes and can definitely still do a good job for us. As with many other players, he’s not at his best at right back, with his left-footedness being taken advantage of on a few occasions, but can certainly do a better job at playing there than some others we’ve tried to cram in.
3. NARA Tatsuki
A season blighted by injury for Nara. Of course I’d say so, but we’d definitely have done better this year if he had stayed injury free. If all players are fit, you’ve got to think that Nara and Jesiel are our best centre back pairing. But that’s never going to happen, is it? Disappointingly looks likely to leave, but you can’t blame him. At the end of the year he wasn’t even making the bench whilst players ahead of him in Oniki’s pecking order were making mistake after mistake. I’m sorry Nara that you had to have Oniki as your manager.
Seemed a different class after he’d settled in. Another player whose season was blighted by injury, and another who couldn’t get on the pitch at the end of the year even when fit. Attracted some big attention for his performance against Chelsea. If we can hang on to him, it will be a big bonus. But in order for us to cash in on this bonus, we’d actually have to play him.
5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
The player with the most appearances this season and towards the end, it was showing. I don’t want to criticise him too much, but he’s made some serious errors this year and seemed to be dropping clanger after clanger whilst retaining his place in the team. Needs a rest, I think. Not saying he doesn’t make some magnificent and crucial interventions at times. It’s just that more than often, these are dwarfed by his mistakes. But no one really seems to notice the mistakes. Inconceivably was in the running for the team of the year, but I suspect that was more for the fact that he was a mainstay in a top 4 defence rather than being a selection made by anyone who’d actually watched us play this year.
6. MORITA Hidemasa
This could have been a great year for Morita. He finally scored his first goal for us and therefore finally got his own song. He had some recognition from the national team (although I don’t think he made it onto the pitch). Can’t help but feel that he was outshone by his younger teammate Ao though. Oniki putting him at right back at the end of the season was a disaster and I don’t know when Oniki will stop thinking this is a good idea. He’s great going forward, but constantly got rinsed in defence. Perhaps he could be tried in the Ienaga position in the future. Has great composure and keeps the ball well for the most part, but still occasionally loses it through trying some kind of trick or fancy play. Doing this nowhere near as much as he used to though, and is clearly still learning and improving.
7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
8. ABE Hiroyuki
Seemed to have a slightly quieter season than usual, perhaps because he kept getting switched over to the right early on in the second half of games. It didn’t really work, but Oniki persisted. Scored an impressive amount of goals considering he hasn’t seemed to have played as much as in previous campaigns. Still love the fact that he always seems willing to have a shot and he’s scored some crackers. Does seem to have drifted in and out of games a bit this year though, perhaps a reflection of the general malaise in the team.
9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
Undeniably our most exciting signing at he start of the year, and has been undeniably underused. Never got a chance to have a proper run in the team. If he started and didn't score, he was dropped for a few matches. If he made an impact from the bench, that’s exactly where he stayed in the following game. This is all exaggeration of course, but it certainly felt that way. Did well to get as many goals as he did given his limited pitch time. The games he started tended to be ones where we were fielding rotated line-ups and his sub appearances often amounted to little more than time wasting changes. Oniki clearly didn’t want to play him and there was no real attempt to accommodate him. Perhaps wasn’t the best choice signing for our system (in which case, why did we sign him?!?!), and we never really played to his strengths. But he still did reasonably well and we are definitely left wondering what might have been if he’d been played a bit more. If he gets an offer from another team, I really wouldn’t be surprised if he took it, although he does genuinely seem to want to do well for us. Good guy!
10. OSHIMA Ryota
If we’d had Oshima fit all season, we would have done better. Pretty obvious thing to say I guess, but clearly it’s true. But then again, Oshima is never always fit so this is something we have to expect. We look so much more organised and composed when he’s playing and we really miss him when he isn’t. Doesn’t seem to shoot as much as he used to, so I’d like to see more of that as he’s got the potential to smack in some crackers. Defintiely one of our best players and if fit, even with Ao and Morita playing in the same position, he’s probably the first name on the sheet in the defensive midfield spot.