The third and final part of my end of season player round up. Today, from Ao to Oniki. Plenty more moaning coming I guess.
25. TANAKA Ao
Definitely my player of the season. His improvement has been phenomenal, and now he looks like he’ll soon be pushing Oshima to be our first choice in that spot. Composed on the ball, tough in the tackle and more often than not plays a great pass. Fully deserves to get international recognition and I’m sure other clubs are looking at him. Really hope he stays.
Scored twice, assisted a similar amount, has played pretty well when asked to. Is another who finds himself behind other players paying out of position at right back. Oniki really doesn’t seem to like him (again... if so, why did we sign him?). Perhaps a bit more attacking than Mawatari so occasionally got caught out at the back, but like many others, only was able to work on this on the training pitch as more often than not, he didn’t even make the match day squad.
27. SUZUKI Yuto
Spent a large portion of the season on loan at Gamba Osaka. Before he went on loan was another player who was played out of position at right back. Didn’t really have a chance so it’s not really fair to comment too much. No idea if he’s coming back, staying on loan, or leaving us permanently.
28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
Another rising star of 2019. Has played in both the Kengo role and on the right. Always seemed to gets subbed around 60 minutes regardless of how he was playing. Imagine his future will be in the Kengo spot. He has a good eye for a pass and really wants to score. Still raw, and gives the ball away cheaply at times, but it always seems to be with a nice pass in mind, rather than through carelessness. The fact that he’s our joint third top scorer with not so many appearances says a lot. And it’s even more impressive when consider that even though he seemed miles from the match day squad last year, he’s now staking a very real claim to be a starting member.
29. Michael James FITZGERALD
Similarly to with Suzuki, Michael James left midway through the season and didn't play much before he did. The few appearances he did make though seemed to be an improvement on previous seasons. Definitely he wasn’t as good on the ball as some of our other defenders, but he played reasonably well I thought. Particularly strange from our point of view that we let him go to Niigata when we had only one fit centre back. But I guess from his point of view the move made sense. Good luck to him!
30. MIYASHIRO Taisei
Never made it onto the pitch for us, (was on the bench a few times though) but scored a couple of times for Renofa Yamaguchi on loan. One for the future but there are a lot of other strikers looking to claim that one spot, so perhaps another season on loan would do him good.
31. HARADA Koki
No action for him, not even making it to the bench.
32. MITOMA Kaoru
Once an unused sub, once a used sub and seemed to be quite bright when he came on, but it was only briefly so we'll see next year, I guess. One for the future.
33. HATATE Reo
Made it briefly onto the pitch in the final game of the season and seemed up for getting stuck in. Was played on the right though is apparently a striker. One for the future.
34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
Ultra versatile but only really got a chance at centre back. Always seems to want to go forward with the ball when he’s playing there though, it seems. Did a reasonable job at centre back and scored a couple of times, but I think he and I would both like to see him playing further forward. Could he not do a job on the right side of midfield perhaps? Maybe his versatility will count against him though, as he’s a really useful player to have on the bench, given how many positions he can cover.
35. ISSAKA Zain
One appearance as an unused sub so judgement is delayed. One for the future.
36. MAWATARI Hiroki
No action for him, not even making it to the bench. The goalkeeper situation is so up in the air that I've no idea what will happen.
41. IENAGA Akihiro
Tough season. Only one goal in the Emperor's Cup from the penalty spot and started off the season with some pretty ordinary form. I’ve heard he had some personal and injury issues earlier in the year which can’t have helped him perform to the best of his ability. Came alive in the second half where he started to look a lot more like the old Ienaga we know and love. I particularly like his shoulder barges against opposition players which seem simultaneously quite aggressive and amusingly soft at the same time. Passion! And quite enjoyed the way he went on a yellow card spree at the end of the season, timing it perfectly to avoid a ban!
44. CAIO CESAR
Breakthrough year for him, although sadly he broke through and then was sent out on loan. Younger than I thought so maybe one for the future and think that the loan will do him good. Whether he'll come back to us at some stage or the loan is a stepping stone to a permanent move, who knows. Came on briefly against Matsumoto and then started an ACL game. That probably says more about Oniki's selections than Caio though. We'll see.
I don’t think I need to say too much as anyone who’s read any of my blog Posts will know what I think of Oniki as our coach. This year, I think his luck ran out. Previously we’d been able to get away with being pretty inflexible and tactically rigid. This year, we weren't able to do this at the start of the season and Oniki went for the opposite, changing the team almost every game, giving no one a chance to get into any kind of form. We drew far too many games and ridiculously there were a crazy amount of 2-2 draws. The excitement is draining away from our football. There are players who seem undroppable and there are players who seem unselectable. I don’t think Oniki has the ability to freshen us up after we’ve fallen into this malaise. The Levain cup has papered over the cracks, but we went into the competition late and didn't exactly knock anyone’s socks off in most of the games we played. I don't dislike Oniki and when I watched one game from behind the dugout I was delighted to see him having a real go at some more useless officials. He's won our first three titles so deserves credit for that but I would like a new manager though. If it can happen in a mutually beneficial way, that would be nice. So, come on Kashima and hire him and then we can all get a happy ending!