Wednesday 5 January 2022

2021 Season Player Round-Up Part 3

The third and final part of the players 2021 round up, from Tanaka Ao (who is that again?) to Oniki (yes, I realise he's not a player). General season round up to follow in the next few days.

25. Ao TANAKA (MF)

Another mid-season departure but one who seemed so desperate to leave that he was happy with the German second tier. I have no idea about the level of that league, but the fact that his team is 13th out of 18 might suggest that he will need to attract another team’s attention to get to play in the top flight any time soon. Seems to be involved in their games though and thanks to him now playing abroad, has been much more involved in the Japan national team as playing overseas seems to be the first criteria when it comes to being selected under Moriyasu. He was fifth on our list of assists for the season and this was only from 19 games. I’m sad that he left and wish him well, but can’t help feel that being involved in a relegation battle in 2. Bundesliga might not really be the step up from J1 title winners that he thinks and has said it is.

26. Kaito KAMIYA (DF)

Another player who has perhaps been cursed by my towel purchase. Thought he was a future centre back for us but got his first time on the pitch at left back against Yokohama FC. Made another couple of appearances in ACL group stage games but has otherwise been wholly absent. Not sure if he needs a loan spell to get some experience or whether he’s just on the edge of getting some more pitch time. Impossible really to comment on him with the little we’ve seen of him. I quite like his hair though.

27. Kenta TANNO (MF)

Another season of sitting on the bench. Definitely the second choice keeper and only got involved for a single ACL group game when Sung-Ryong was fit, but played five games when our number one was injured. Thought he did pretty well in those five games, four of which we won, but is unlikely to get a start without further injuries or a big increase in Oniki’s desire to rotate.

28. Kazuya YAMAMURA (MF)

Good season I think. Much like Kurumaya, who he partnered in central defence on more than a few occasions, perhaps suffers from his versatility. Got a bit more of a crack in midfield this year though and loved it when he was ranging forward with the ball even when playing at the back. Was outstanding at the back against a dangerous YFM team at the end of the season when he had to come on early for the injured Kurumaya. Three goals and no bookings too which is pretty good. Hope he is happy with his intermittent involvement and wish that Oniki, if he is going to rotate at the back, would do it a bit more freely, rather than it being one of two sets of centre backs. The injury to Jesiel might mean that he’ll be getting some early season starts.

30. Shuto TANABE (DF)

Was thrown in at the deep end in central defence against Urawa in the Levain cup due to a defensive injury crisis (who could have predicted that, eh?) and was somewhat unfairly withdrawn at half time which can’t have done his confidence much good. Aside from that, got one half in the ACL group stage. He’s very young and centre back is a position that Oniki is quite picky about so his lack of opportunities is not so surprising maybe. Hopefully he’ll get more chances next year and then we might actually have some cover in the middle at the back.

31. Renji MATSUI (MF)

No involvement at all so maybe he’s next year’s Tachibanada. But Tachibanada doesn’t have a sister that’s a former member of an idol group, an actress and a model as far as I know, so he’s not last year’s Matsui.

32. Yuki HAYASAKA (GK)

No involvement and I have no idea if he has a famous sister.

40. Kyung-Tae LEE (GK)

No involvement aside from taking part in the Halloween dressing up thing. Has now returned to Korea to do his military service. Whether he will be back afterwards, who knows.

41. Akihiro IENAGA (MF)

Made the J League team of the year and was once again a very important player for us. 10 goals, four assists and a lot of game time show that he’s not particularly slowing down as he gets older. Probably has a somewhat unique position in the team as when he plays on the right up front he actually plays wherever he wants but when others play there, they tend to stay there. Also was the only survivor out of the ACL penalty missers. Had his usual couple of streaks where he wasn’t quite himself and had some off games, but you can’t easily replace his quality. Hopefully we can get a few more seasons out of him, influencing and teaching the younger players, before he retires and opens his cafe. Oh, and his special pre-game stretching routine never gets old, and in fact seems to get more involved and more entertaining month by month. Bravo!

47. Reo HATATE (FW)

Tough one for me to write as I have his name on my 2021 shirt. He had a great season, at least when he played in the midfield or up front, and did a creditable job at filling in at left back when he had to. Felt like he was slightly undroppable though and on some occasions when he was playing badly at left back, it was always someone else who got the hook and he moved position. But this speaks volumes about his flexibility. His tears when we won the league and at the end of the Oita cup defeat told us what we probably already knew - that he was going to leave us. It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed he did it to join up with an ex-YFM manager at Celtic, who is once again splashing the cash and buying loads of players to show what a good manager he is. Much like Joao Schmidt, I wish him all the best but somehow hope that this can be combined with his team losing a lot. Will certainly be a difficult player to replace.

Toru ONIKI (Manager)

Can’t argue with a manager winning four league titles in five years really. But the middle year total collapse might cause some worries. But this is supposed to be about 2021. This year we had a bit more competition when it came to the title but Oniki stood strong and did what he does and we came out comfortably on top. He is apparently well liked by the squad and his record speaks for itself. Some might say that we still can’t perform in cup competitions. The results might agree with this but I’d say that we were a bit unlucky to go out on every occasion in 2021. Which is surprisingly positive for me! Against Oita in the Emperor’s Cup we just came up against a keeper that would never be beaten and when one of their penalties goes in off the post and the back of the keeper’s head you can’t really blame the manager. In both the ACL and Levain we were undone by the same injury crisis. Although our lack of centre backs didn’t seem to cause us too many problems at the back, you’ve got to think it undid us going forward and cost us in those games. Perhaps this crisis comes in part from Oniki’s reluctance to rotate, which has been mentioned time and time again by me on this blog and even in these player round up posts. I think it’s probably something he needs to work out how to do if we want to compete on all fronts again next year. As we saw when centre back after centre back started succumbing to injury, there’s only so long you can continue pushing the same players before something gives. But it seems that Oniki is desperate to win every game, so it makes sense that he wants to play his best players all the time. Perhaps we could also do with a plan B. But equally, when the plan A works pretty well, maybe you’re inclined to stick with it. I’ve moaned about Oniki in the past, but to be honest, I’m an idiot and he knows a lot more about football than I do. And you can’t moan about his record. Next year is the big test though. Another compacted season with plenty of games in plenty of competitions is going to be a challenge and we have the thought of the three-peat of league titles in mind. I’m sure we can all remember what happened last time we were in that position. Fingers crossed for 2022! And well done Oniki!

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