YAMANE Miki - Transfer from Shonan Bellmare
It’s no surprise to see us sign a right sided defender after Oniki shifted both of last season’s right backs out of the squad. Shonan fans seemed quite upset that he has left them and joined us and whether that is because we are rivals or he was a great player remains to be seen. Hopefully both are true. Can apparently play right across the defence, which is useful as we seem a little light on numbers in a few positions there. Let’s not think about the fact that he played in some really heavy defeats for Shonan last year. Seems to be quite a positive signing.
DIOGO MATEUS - Loaned from Ferroviária
The new Elsinho? Not to put too much pressure on him too early! Loaned from Ferroviaria but was out on loan last year in the Brazilian second division. Played 29 games last year making four assists and getting a yellow card every third game. Hasn’t scored since 2017 though, but he is a right back and perhaps we were spoiled with Elsinho's goals. Got to think that he will be competing with Yamane for the right back spot. Let’s hope Oniki can be a bit more decisive about that position than he was last year. The last thing we want to see is Morita there and the two right backs out of the squad again.
TANNO Kenta - Transfer from Cerezo Osaka
Another keeper and one with some experience. Although this experience has recently been sitting in the stands as he hasn’t played more than a handful of games since the 2015 season. Who knows where he’ll be in the keeper pecking order? Who knows where anyone will be in the keeper pecking order? I’ve heard some rumours that we might be attempting some keeper-sweeper type antics next year so perhaps he’s been brought in with this in mind or perhaps we just liked the fact that his name sounds a bit like Kano Kenta and therefore we can maybe use the same song.
JESIEL, FUJISHMA Eisuke and MAWATARI Hiroki - Loan to permanent deal
These three have all been signed on permanent deals after joining us on loan last year. Jesiel signing permanently is a huge coup as he looked very good when he wasn’t injured last year. The two keepers, well, who knows, but hopefully Fujishima will finally get a chance to be involved after spending most of last year injured. We now have five keepers though, which seems a lot, given that I think we only played two last year. I suspect the Levain Cup group games will give us an opportunity to change things around a little.
KAMIYA Kaito - signed from Tokai Gakuen University
We signed someone from a university who isn’t a midfielder or striker!! Amazing! Central defender I believe, but there’s not a great deal of info I know about him. 1.82m… that’s about it. Could be crucial if we have injuries in a position we are light in, but whether he actually gets a chance is another matter. Tabinas didn’t and hasn’t been doing much on loan either. Itakura wasn’t played much, got loaned out and then sold to Manchester City. Will Oniki trust him enough for him to get on the pitch or is he just making up the numbers?
ISSAKA Zain, MITOMA Kaoru, HATATE Reo - signed from university teams
These three were all hanging around the place last season and some even got a bit of pitch time but have now officially joined us. Many people are talking about us being a youthful and exciting team this year and I’d love that to be true, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The average age of the squad has certainly got a bit lower though, I think. Fingers crossed!
IN THEN STRAIGHT OUT AGAIN
MIYAGI Ten - From youth team then loaned to Kataller Toyama
Striker from our youth team, only 18 years old and has played for the Japan U20 side. Saw him play in one youth team game but don’t remember him doing much. But don’t remember much about the game apart from the penalty shoot out. Loan spell in J3 makes sense as he’d likely be nowhere near the team if he stayed with us. Good luck!
TONO Daiya - From Honda FC then loaned to Avispa Fukuoka
Lots of people are saying good things about him and he's still young. Hopefully he can make the jump from semi-pro to professional easily as he spends a season on loan in J2 at Avispa Fukuoka. Short, so perhaps we can guess what kind of striker he is from that. Has a record of scoring once every three games for Honda FC which is pretty good. Interesting prospect!
NARA Tatsuki - Free transfer to Kashima Antlers
You can probably guess what I’m going to say about this transfer. Can’t blame Nara for leaving as he hasn’t been treated particularly well by Oniki who has never really seemed to like him or rate him even though I think he was our best defender on many occasions. I think it will be another transfer where the player leaving goes on to better things. Just wish he hadn’t gone to Kashima…
ABE Hiroyuki - Free transfer to Nagoya Grampus
Bit of a surprise, but we are overloaded in this position. Fan favourite but obviously felt like he could be getting more pitch time and who can blame him. Really should have been played up front more as he was always a goal threat for us. Did drift out of games a little at times last season, but was always willing to have a shot and scored some crucial goals which we may well miss.
MAWATARI Kazuaki - Loan to Shonan Bellmare
A mixture of injuries and Oniki’s whims meant that he didn’t have much opportunity to make his mark. Feel a little for him as he looked useful on occasions, but had big boots to fill following on from Elsinho. We will miss his dead ball delivery. Or rather we would if we had actually seen it often enough to get used to it. Lovely free kick against Kobe though! Feels like he was a bit of a scapegoat at times for the failures of Oniki’s favoured ones in a season in which we were a bit dubious defensively.
MAGUINHO - Loan to Yokohama FC
Can say the same thing about Maguinho. As well as he played on the limited occasions he did play, he never seemed likely to start the next game. Seemed more attacking than defensive and maybe this was his downfall. Seemed like a lovely guy so I hope he does well at Yokohama FC and we get to see what he could do for us.
CHINEN Kei - Loan to Oita Trinita
Slight head scratcher. Played loads at the start of last season then seemed to disappear. Scored more goals than we probably remember but was always going to struggle getting into a team which plays one up front and has Oniki favourite Kobayashi starting and ex-Brazil international Leandro Damiao on the bench. When he first broke through I made a bold prediction that I thought he’d end up in Europe and maybe now that will be the case if he has a good season at Oita. Sure he'll be knocking in the goals and then perhaps another player who Oniki considers not good enough for us will transfer to a European team.
ARAI Shota - Free transfer to JEF United
Another head scratcher. Seemed to have won the battle for the number one shirt towards the end of last season and it looked like it would be Sung-Ryong leaving. Clearly wanted to play more games so you can’t blame him for leaving. But you might have thought that he would have had a chance to do that this year. The only thing I can think is that if we are doing the keeper-sweeper thing he might slip down the pecking order as his kicking/passing was always his weak point. Feel sorry for him though, and I’m sure he’ll be missed.
SUZUKI Yuto - Loan to Matsumoto Yamaga
No surprise to see him out on loan again, as he never was going to get much of a chance in his preferred midfield position and he clearly wasn’t suited to playing right back. Hopefully he can get a bit more pitch time with Yamaga.
CAIO CESAR - Loan to V Varen Nagasaki extended
Same as above really. Pleased that he’s getting some game time. There’s a lot of traffic ahead of him in our squad.
AKASAKI Shuhei - Free transfer to Vegalta Sendai
Feel like he didn’t get much of a chance with us, but as I mentioned with Chinen, there are a lot of strikers all going for one spot in the team. Good luck to him at Sendai.
William POPP - Loan to Fagiano Okayama
Perhaps worth him dropping down to J2 to get some game time. Didn’t play much at Oita last year. Think there’s a good keeper in there, but I'm saying this based on having no experience of ever seeing him play for us apart from at practice sessions. Still young though, so potentially one for the future.
TABINAS Jefferson - Loan to Gamba Osaka
Weird last season for him on loan at Gifu where he didn’t play very often in his preferred defensive position but apparently had an absolute stormer after coming on as sub playing much further forward. Strange that after struggling to get in the team at J2 Gifu he has no gone on loan to J1 Gamba, although perhaps crucially they do have their U23 team in J3 for one more year. Perhaps being managed by a legendary Gamba defender will do him some good. Really want to see him play for us one day though as he arrived with a lot of promise.
Not a hugely informative blog post, I’ll admit, but there are perhaps a few things that we can take from these transfers looking at them together. Next year looks like it might be one dominated by our younger players, which is quite exciting. However, we’ve got to remember that Oniki doesn’t have a great record of bringing these youngsters through. Fingers crossed that is going to change in 2020. I’m interested to see what is going to happen with the goalkeeper situation next year as I think no-one really knows the pecking order yet. We’ve had some fairly big names leave us, and I wonder if we will regret letting some of these players go. Hopefully it will be more of an Okubo to FC Tokyo situation rather than an Elsinho to Shimizu one. I have to admit I was quite unenthusiastic about the new season, but after writing this I’m thinking it could be interesting if the right selections are made. Big if though, isn’t it? But I’ll do my best to keep positive for at least a couple of months of the campaign!