Sunday, 29 January 2023

2022/23 Players in and out

After completing all of the end of season posts at a fairly leisurely pace, I guess it’s time to start with the new season posts. Or perhaps the in-between-old-and-new-season posts, as this will be the one where I talk about people leaving and people joining and probably have a bit of a more general moan about things. So here is our off season transfer activity broken down into a few groups. As usual, I’ve cheekily screen grabbed some photos from the pre-season ceremony video. Some of the photos are awful, but I kind of like them that way. Apologies to Matsunagane in particular.


Kenta Tanno → Iwate Grulla Morioka
Bit sad to see Tanno leave but it makes sense for him. I don’t know if the plan to bring in Kamifukumoto came first or whether it was as a result of Tanno deciding to leave. Didn’t really get many chances for us as Oniki seemed to be set on playing Sung-Ryong whenever humanly possible and you can’t really blame him for that. But I always thought that Tanno did a good job when called on, and he leaves us with an unbeaten record in the games he played for us. Good luck to him at Grulla, who I occasionally watch, so am looking forward to seeing him some time next season.

Shogo Taniguchi → Al Rayyan
I kept saying this transfer wouldn’t happen so look how much I know. For some reason, (presumably money), decided to move to the Qatar league. It’s very easy to moan about players chasing cash and it’s also quite easy to dismiss the Qatar league as just being about money. I probably did exactly that when Olunga moved there a few seasons ago. Was really disappointed to see Taniguchi leave as I thought he had a good season last year. Which I guess is probably another reason he decided to leave. As long as the manager of the international team keeps placing so much importance on players playing overseas, regardless of the standard of the league, I guess this will keep happening. Will definitely be missed, and for me this transfer has left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. Wish him all the best though.

Zain Issaka → Montedio Yamagata
Left the club but has been absent for the last two seasons anyway on loan to Yokohama FC. Whilst he was with us never quite did enough, (in the one or two chances he had), to show that he could provide back up for Yamane. I thought he did ok on his debut for us against Yokohama FC to show that he had some promise but it seems that Oniki disagreed. And perhaps so did YFC as he’s now been transferred to another J2 club rather than rejoining J1 with YFC after their promotion. Think his attacking style, (he used to be a winger I believe), will do him well at Montedio and hope he has plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. Good luck!

Kei Chinen → Kashima Antlers
This one came out of the blue. Perhaps our most effective striker last season albeit not the most elegant one, he did have a habit of putting away chances more often than anyone else who played up front in the middle. For him to join Kashima is a shock, but perhaps only because I dislike them quite a lot and would imagine that everyone else does too. Similarly to Tanno’s situation, I don’t know if Chinen leaving came before or after we knew Miyashiro was coming back from his loan. Or perhaps the fact that Damiao wasn’t leaving, (probably due to his injury), as some had suspected meant that Chinen found himself in a big group of players who all want to play in the one spot we have up front. I always liked Chinen, plenty of others didn’t so much, but he did have a habit of scoring which is a pretty good habit for a striker to have. I feel sorry for him now having to spend a lot of time with Yuma Suzuki and probably a lot of time in traffic jams in the area surrounding the Kashima stadium. Clearly is going to score against us in our first away game of the season. Good luck to him when he’s not playing us.

Out on loan

Kaito Kamiya → Ventforet Kofu
After a season spent at Fujieda MYFC in J3 where he seemed to slowly drop down the pecking order he’s gone on loan to Emperor’s Cup winners and next ACL campaign team Ventforet Kofu in J2. So it looks like his career is somewhat on the up. Don’t know how much he’ll play for them though. Another player who could give us some depth at the back back doesn’t seem to be fancied by Oniki. Once again I could moan about that on Kamiya’s behalf, but to be honest, we’ve seen so little of him that it’s difficult to make any kind of judgement. Good luck to him in the ACL!

Shuto Tanabe → JEF Utd (extended)
I thought Tanabe, after a loan spell at JEF where he was roundly praised, would probably be coming back to us for this season. Do I need to mention our lack of defenders again? I think he even took part in some of the end of season games we played in Asia. So it was a bit of a surprise to see him go back to JEF again, extending his loan. It’s good to see he’s playing and having an impact though, as this is the only way any of our loan players will get the chance to improve. Good luck to him in 2023 and hope to see him back in 2024.

Koki Harada → Nagano Parciero (extended)
Somewhat irritatingly, considering we sent him out on loan, spent most of the year not even making the bench for Nagano Parciero. Which is exactly what happened to him the previous year at Gainare Tottori. I was pleased to see him start the final three games last year though and hope that can continue in 2023. Clearly if he was with us, he’d be at the back of a long line of midfielders so it makes sense for him to try to get some football elsewhere. I’m not sure if we’ll ever see him back with us. He’s still young, but perhaps the last few years haven’t helped his development much. Good luck for 2023.

Taiyo Igarashi → Renofa Yamaguchi
Classic first season stuff for Igarashi last year. Came out of the youth team with a bit of a buzz and then had zero involvement in first team activities aside from a little ACL cameo and some end of season tour stuff. I guess Oniki likes to have the youngsters, (and new arrivals to some extent), training in the first team in their first season and then send them out for some experience somewhere in the second season. Hopefully at Yamaguchi he’ll get time on the pitch and some goals. Wouldn’t be surprised to see another loan the year after, perhaps following a similar path to Miyashiro. Good luck to him!

Ten Miyagi → V Varen Nagasaki
Something of a surprise to see him drop down to J2 for a loan, but at the same time, think it will do him good. Burst onto the scene with a bang and an amazing goal at Kashima in 2021 but struggled a bit last year, not being able to do the business in the limited opportunities he got when Marcinho wasn’t playing. Sometimes suffered from dribbling till he lost the ball instead of passing it, a bit like Kubo endlessly does. Feel like the step down to J2 to a club with some ambition and hopes of promotion should mean that he can get his mojo back. I think we’ll see him back with us at some stage, but I agree that one step back to make two steps forward is the right thing for him to do right now. Good luck.


Naoto Kamifukumoto GK - in from Kyoto Sanga

Almost ever present in goal for Kyoto last season which when you consider they finished third from bottom might not be too promising. But actually they conceded less goals than we did last year. Not sure what this means for our goal keeping situation in 2023 though. In 2022 Sung-Ryong had a lock on the position and I thought he was one of our best players. He is now 38 though, so perhaps he might be sharing the position a bit more with the slightly younger Kamifukumoto (33). If one of them starts most of the games and the other is always on the bench it seems like a bit of a waste of time as far as I’m concerned, but we do know that Oniki doesn’t really rotate very much. A new keeper wasn’t exactly top of my shopping list before this season so it was a bit of a surprise to see him join, but I think he’s shown that he will be an asset, if he gets the opportunity. Love the fact that he has a three kanji name and also that he’s gone for the squad number 99.

Takuma Ominami DF - in from Kashiwa Reysol

Finally we have signed a defender! Sadly we have also lost one of our best ones, so we’re basically in the same position or a slightly worse position than we were before. Ominami is 1.84m tall right footed defender who nominally is a centre back but can also play right back, (which he did a fair bit for Kashiwa last year I believe). So this is good news as we need cover for Yamane and we need more defenders. He’s also quite young, but has four seasons of playing quite a few games behind him so looks like a good signing. Taking my favourite squad number 3 so maybe he’ll be a future shirt purchase for me. I can’t see him really challenging for Yamane’s spot so I think we’ll be seeing him more at centre back. Where he fits into that pecking order, I’m not so sure.

Toya Myogan MF - in from Riseisha High School

Signed straight from Riseisha High school, lots of people are talking about Myogan. Has quite an unusual and interesting name! An attacking midfielder, will probably be used in the Marcinho position if he gets a chance. There’s a bit of a buzz about him so we can hope that he’ll be our new Mitoma. From the limited stats I can find it seems he played 21 games last year and scored eight times. Of course the J League is a different level, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he does.

Yusuke Segawa FW - in from Shonan Bellmare


Bit of a surprise signing for some. My Bellmare supporting friend said that Segawa was a nice guy but was one of the worst strikers he’d ever seen as he almost never scored for them. Perhaps this is a Bellmare issue though. Featured a lot last year, playing 32 games, scoring three times, assisting once and getting sent off once for a second yellow at the end of the first half. Seems to either play up front or on the left wing, so it seems that we’ve got two new players to play in a position that Oniki rarely rotates. Perhaps we’re not expecting Marcinho to hang around all year.

Shin Yamada FW - in from Toin Yokohama University

Surprisingly featured once last year as a special designated player, used when we were in the depths of our COVID cluster crisis. Played 83 minutes against Cerezo in a cup game that I’m afraid to say I didn’t see at all so can’t comment. Plays up front so is probably behind Damiao, Kobayashi and Miyashiro in the pecking order. Perhaps will get some time in the Levain Cup, but I’m guessing he’ll probably be having a Igarashi type season in 2023. But given that he’s come from University, rather than the youth team or high school, perhaps might get a bit more of a look in.

Back from Loan

Taisei Miyashiro - back from Sagan Tosu

I’m sure most readers will know all about Miyashiro from a few seasons ago or from his Tokushima and Sagan Tosu loan spells. Somewhat weirdly got sent out on loan first to Yamaguchi just when he seemed to be doing a decent job of getting involved for us. The loan spells seem to have done him the world of good though and he comes back with a real claim to get some good match time I think. And it could happen straight away as both Kobayashi and Damiao are starting the season injured. Eight goals and three assists in 22 appearances for Tosu last year is a pretty good rate. I think he’s going to have a good 2023.

Promoted from youth team

Kota Takai DF

Not sure if he should be here as he was kind of with us last year, having a squad number, but wasn’t actually called on apart from a brief ACL cameo and five minutes against PSG. Very tall and apparently still growing! Could be the solution to our centre back problem, but would be surprised to see him involved much this year as he probably needs to develop a bit first. Getting a fair bit of action for the national U20 team though. I wanted to buy his towel last year but they didn’t make one…

Yuto Matsunagane DF

Have seen him play a few times, once online and twice in person. Another three kanji name player! Seems equally at home at left back and centre back, but at 1.79m tall maybe needs a bit more height if he wants to play in the middle. As expected from a product of our youth team, looked comfortable on the ball. Probably won’t be involved much but looking forward to seeing him improve.

Yuto Ozeki MF

The new Oshima… maybe. But a bit taller (1.78m). Have seen him play in the anchor role and a bit further forward in midfield too. Like Matsunagane, seems comfortable on the ball and will maybe use 2023 to bulk up a bit as he still looks like a youth team player, Saying that though, he seemed to be pretty strong and difficult to knock off the ball, so maybe appearances are deceptive.

Overall, it hasn’t been a great off season of transfers I’d say, but mainly that’s due to our continuing complete failure to sign defensive cover with one player only coming in and a major one leaving. I’m a bit worried to be honest. If we get an injury early on in the season we could be in big trouble. I’ve also heard that we are practicing to play three at the back, which from the point of view of having a plan B is good, but seems a bit insane when you consider that we’ve barely got enough centre backs to play with a regular back four. But hell, what do I know? I wouldn’t say we got in any big names really, but I feel like our squad is decent. I suspect that the same players will be playing endlessly though. I’m sorry for my crushing negativity but I don’t have great hopes for 2023. This however is mainly due to my doubts over Oniki. which I’ve endlessly bored on about. We’ll need new ideas in 2023. I’ll be surprised if we will have any though. The extra Levain cup group stage games should mean that more players get involved, but I suspect it will actually mean that the same set of 15 or 16 players will totally run out of energy earlier than they did in 2022. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I’m not going into the upcoming season with any kind of optimism, other than looking to enjoy the away trips. Blimey…

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

2022 Season survey results

Finally, here are the results of the Frontale Rabbit 2022 Season survey. I don't think I'll be getting any more responses, but if I do, I'll do my best to somehow add them. This year we had a couple of sets of answers from non-Frontale fans which I'm quite pleased about. In the situations where their answer seems a bit strange from a Frontale point of view, I've added a note that it's a non-Frontale opinion just to avoid confusion. As always, in the interest of openness, I'll let you know what my response was too. 2022 was a season where we achieved absolutely nothing, so it comes as no surprise to find that the answers were not as positive this time round. Fingers crossed that 2023 will be better. I think that judging by our current lack of reinforcement and pre-season injury crisis, those crossed fingers might have a lot of work to do!

1. Game of season


A runaway winner here and it was our last minute victory over eventual title winners and ever-irritating neighbours YFM. As far as I can remember, it wasn't actually the greatest of games but it did show a rare example of Oniki changing something instead of just ploughing on with the same old stuff relentlessly. It's always nice to beat your local rivals and even better to do it in the last minute. Shame it eventually didn't count for anything though and instead was basically just us prolonging our agony and keeping our ultimately pointless hopes alive for a bit longer. Thinking about my answer, it's difficult to remember many positive games this year in an absolute ocean of mediocrity, (and occasional uselessness). I might say Avispa away as it was my first singing game for a long time and it was great to have that back again. In a fit of pettiness I'm tempted to say my choice was our 4-0 victory against Gamba as it was the game where Terada was nominally in charge instead of Oniki but to be honest, I think I had the most fun in the pub after the YFM game so I'll go with that too. Other games mentioned were Shimizu home by two people, in both cases because it was the only game they were able to attend, Sapporo at home and Vissel Kobe vs YFM in the ACL (which is obviously an answer from a non-Frontale fan, but given that YFM lost, I feel it's one us Frontale fans can also enjoy!

2. Player of the season

WINNER - Ienaga Akihiro

Before my vote is added it's a dead heat with Taniguchi and Ienaga tied for top spot. One person described Ienaga as 'timeless' which I think is pretty accurate. I hope he'll be back and banging next year, and perhaps he'll be able to do even better if he gets a bit more rest. Other players mentioned were Wakizaka a couple of times and Tachibanada. Oh, and Mateus of Nagoya Grampus (not a Frontale fan answer). When I was asked for my three players of the season by the J Talk Podcast I said Ienaga, Marcinho and Sung-Ryong (who I think saved us on numerous occasions). I'm surprised no-one voted for Marcinho so you might think I'd go for him. But, given that Taniguchi has abandoned us for the dizzy heights of the Qatar league, I'm instead pettily going to go for Ienaga in order to deny Taniguchi the joint prize. Yes, I'm a big old sulky baby.

Stop the presses, one late vote for Ienaga meant it's a clearer victory for him.

3. Goal of the season

WINNER - Jesiel vs YFM (home)

Getting a non-Frontale fan answer out of the way first, one was Everaldo's overhead for Kashima against Cerezo. The clear winner amongst Frontale fan respondents was Jesiel's last minute header against YFM at home which finished off our game of the season very nicely. Certainly the significance of the goal was greater than the actual goal itself.

In second place we have 'nothing stands out' which perfectly sums up 2022, I think. Behind that we have a load of goals which all got one vote. They were...

Ienaga Akihiro vs Gamba Osaka (home)

Miyagi Ten vs Gamba Osaka (away)

Kobayashi Yu vs Consadole Sapporo (home)

and my answer...

Seko Tatsuki vs Sappporo University (home)

I just feel like Seko has had a tough season, not particularly due to anything he's done wrong but more in the way that new signings sometimes have to put up with a very quiet first season with us. I hope that he could enjoy his goal which was a great strike. Fingers crossed he can push on next year. All in all, some quite nice goals, considering how mediocre we were in 2022.

4. Disappointment of the season

WINNER - our ACL campaign

Plenty to choose from when it came to disappointments in 2022 and our ACL campaign and the two Shonan games were neck and neck and right up there for me too. A late vote gave it to the ACL. Other things mentioned were Damiao's season (probably the only way was down from 2021, but I'm not sure if they meant that he didn't play well, or he got injured. Or maybe both), Oshima's physical condition (poor guy, hope he stays injury free in 2023), not winning a title, YFM winning the title, Nagoya postponing our match for 'disloyal reasons', the Sapporo away game and the one word answer Taniguchi. I presume this final one was referring to his departure rather than his play in 2022. I agree with all of the above, but I think I would probably say that the really disappointing thing was that we had the players to win the league and multiple opportunities to win the league, but just kept slipping up over and over again. And our football was often really dull in 2022. As I think I said in a blog post, watching Frontale was a fun experience in 2022 apart from when the match was actually taking place. Maybe I like travelling and going out more than football... It's clear that in 2022 the football didn't really get anywhere near challenging the pre- and post game experience when it came to fun.

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

WINNER - Nagoya Grampus

The postponement of our away game due to slightly dubious reasons mentioned a few times in these answers took to the top spot. I'm inclined to agree as it clearly seemed to work out quite nicely to their advantage. Personally speaking, if cancelled we could have only got a tiny proportion back of what we'd paid for this game's expenses so decided to go ahead and make the trip anyway. Other answers were #1 J League hate figure Yuma Suzuki, ('hate ppl who flop so looking at you Yuma Suzuki'), our numerous injuries, the ref who sent Taniguchi off, COVID regulations, Cerezo Osaka fans (can't remember what they did, someone please remind me), Kevin 'the whistler' Muscat (who to be honest, I find much less objectionable than Postecoglou), Marinosuke (!), the somewhat mysterious answer '❤️' and our 'front office', which is one which I can really agree with. I don't know how much of our recruitment is down to Oniki and how much is out of his hands, but starting the season with our best defender long term injured and thinking that two players playing out of position would be enough cover is pretty disgraceful. This year we might be about to make a similar mistake but this time up front with both Damiao and Kobayashi now starting the season with injuries. But amazingly we signed a defender! Oh... but we also lost one of our every presents. For my answer, I don't want to say Oniki as I think he's doing his best, but I will say Oniki's inflexibility to make it slightly less personal. We constantly bored on with the same tactics, never looking like we had any other ideas, never really changing personnel and pretty much getting what we deserved. After a mid-season personal meltdown I decided to stop caring so much and found that going to matches was a lot less stressful if I didn't get annoyed about the same old shit every week. Not sure how long I'll be able to keep that going in 2023 if Oniki doesn't come up with something slightly different anfd significantly better.

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

Only a few answers and no clear winner which is probably understandable given that COVID was still having an effect on J League activities. The majority had not made any away trips at all but the few games that were mentioned were Shimizu, (which I agree is always a good one), Sapporo 'although we lost', (which I agree is always a good one and was improved immensely this year by the new Hop Kotan Sapporo taproom), and Thailand away to watch Consadole and Frontale after the end of the season, (which was mentioned by a non-Frontale fan! Bravo!). I feel like I need to say Sagan Tosu away as I always do, not for the match, but always for the fact that I get smashed at the game on the selection of shochu they have available, a drink that I otherwise never drink, but now is an integral part of Sagan Tosu away for me. Of course, as is par for the course for us at a Kyushu away game, we didn't win and got a player sent off. There was one late vote for Kobe away, which was a great one as we snatched a not completely deserved win at the end. That's my spin on it though, rather than the person who voted for it.

7. Best stadium in the J League

WINNER - Todoroki

Definite homerism on this question as usual. The overwhelming majority of people voted for Todoroki. Other stadiums mentioned were Sagan Tosu's Ekimae Fudosan, Urawa's Saitama stadium, Gamba's Suita stadium, Kyoto's Sanga stadium and Shimizu's Nihondaira, which will be sadly missing from our 2023 schedule. Notably all of these are stadiums without running tracks. One answer which combined the two prevailing types of responses was perhaps my favourite one, the 'Future Todoroki Non-athletic Stadium'. I liked this mainly due to it being an answer from a different time. I'm certainly looking forward to it, but perhaps not the fact that I will be very old when it's finished. Oh and my answer? I always say Sagan Tosu for the booze, easy access and that nice terrace behind the goal.

8. Opposition J1 team you like the most

JOINT WINNERS - Consadole Sapporo & Sagan Tosu

I went with Sagan Tosu as in spite of us always getting horrible results against them, you can't help but like a team that constantly produces great young players and manages to prevail in spite of them being snatched away all the time. If they could somehow bring back the patatas bravas to the outside stadium food selections, they would be even better. Pretty unlikely I'd imagine though. I think Consadole probably got votes due to their relentless attacking positivity. They also had a pony in the stadium at the away game so kudos for that. Other teams mentioned were Kashiwa Reysol a couple of times, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, (which I think is a first, and perhaps due to them not being so boring anymore), Kyoto Sanga and 'I don't know' and 'no-one'.

9. Opposition J1 team you like the least

WINNER - Yokohama F Marinos

It's no surprise YFM won this I guess. Local rivals, and they had the cheek to win the league too. I think they were almost as average as us in 2022 so it hurt that bit more when they beat us to the title. My answer is 100% YFM. Aside from YFM, there were the usual mentions for Urawa and Kashima but in second place behind YFM were Nagoya, presumably thanks to their dubious cancellation of our game with them bending/breaking/not being aware of the COVID rules. It wouldn't have been such an issue if we hadn't been so awful in the rearranged fixture in Nagoya. And I guess it stings a bit that we messed up in our COVID game at Urawa where we had four goalkeepers in the matchday squad but which wasn't canceled. I said at the time that I hoped that it didn't come back to haunt us at the end of the season and it kind of did. Although there were plenty of other slip ups that we made. One amusing comment about Nagoya which suggests it's not all bad feeling about their COVID cancellation is 'It's not the team or the players, I just don't like the city of Nagoya'. Our other local rivals FC Tokyo weren't mentioned at all, which they probably won't be too happy about. Neither were Shonan Bellmare, who we contrived to lose to twice. A win in either one of those games would have got us the title. We didn't deserve to win either match though.

10. Team you're pleased to see come up

WINNER - Albirex Niigata

This question has gone slightly off-piste this year as I normally intend it to mean who are you happy to see joining J1 from J2. But some people have answered it from the point of view of a wish list. Next year, I think I'll split it into two questions as I think both are interesting. For me, it's Albirex Niigata as it's a great away trip that we haven't been able to do for a few years. Yokohama FC is less exciting for me, although I do like their stadium, (but not the walk up the hill to get there). I probably would have preferred any of the teams who were in the playoffs to have made it as all would have been fun away trips. But I'm pleased for Hasegawa to be back in J1. Respondents were split with a few more saying Niigata than YFC. On the wish list front, we had mentions for Blaublitz Akita, Venforet Kofu, Roasso Kumamoto, Fagiano Okayama and Ehime FC. In this category, maybe I'd like a Shikoku or Tohoku team in J1 again, purely from the point of view of away travel.

11. Best thing about the J League

Here are people's comments quoted. For me, I think it would be that it's fun and the match day experience, particularly for away games is great.

- Great managers (Petrovic, Puig, Skibbe). Players have more talent than MLS games are enjoyable to watch. They play w/ talent versus physical/flop unlike concacaf. The atmosphere of the stadiums w/ chanting
 - Food
- Oniki
- Supporters culture
- Mascots
- Everything Kawasaki Frontale
- Safe away trips
- General lack of shithousery from a watching point of view
- Peaceful
- Amazing supporters (most of the teams)
- Safe stadiums

12. Worst thing about the J League

I would say a few things, some of which are mentioned below. Players leaving for a supposedly higher level for little or no money is unsurprisingly annoying for me. The referees are still awful. And there's a been a real increase in the amount of know-it-alls on Twitter, but I suspect this is a problem of society and Twitter so it seems a bit harsh for me to blame the J League for it. Again, here's what the people said. 

- They are not maximizing their potential. Instead of reaching a global audience they'd rather increase their reach into SE Asia. Good players will be sold for no fee and increase of ASEAN players does not make J League better
- Annoying fan policing on the internet
- Muscat
- J league without song of supporter it's been too long
- COVID rules going on too long
- Referees
- Unreserved seats
- General lack of shithousery from a wanting to win point of view
- It's too expensive to watch on DAZN
- Clubs not making any money from their star players transferring to Europe
- I want to sing chants.
- DAZN considers J League not attractive.

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

WINNER - The league

Around 65% of respondents said the league and I agree with them. The other 35% said the ACL, but I think it would be a miracle given Oniki's record in knock out competitions.

14. What’s your view of Oniki?

The most interesting question for me, unsurprisingly. I have complicated feelings and wish we'd won the league in 2022 as I think then he might have left on a high. Instead he's stayed and I think that he's equally likely to bounce back or completely trash his reputation next year. Hopefully the former. You can't deny his success, but at the same time, I think even the most ardent Oniki-ites would have had some doubts in 2022. Here's what people said. 

- 'Undisputed great manager, but needs a few new ideas'
- 'Legend, 2nd place with that squad was arguably a greater achievement than winning the league.'
- 'Great Director, but I think team need more rotation for reserve players'
- 'I trust him'
- 'Please call JFA'
- 'Lucky'
- 'Does the business with minimum of fuss'
- 'Should rotate more and give younger players a chance, also should have more than one tactic available. Otherwise seems like a very nice guy. I thought he stuck to same members too much, but after seeing our Thaiand and Vietnam tour, I realized he was right (at least last season).'
- 'The best of the best in spite of no trophy'

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

Just a list of names for you here with one comment.

- Alexander Scholz (Urawa)
- Kikuchi Ryuho (Vissel Kobe)
- Higuchi Yuta (Kashima)
- Ogawa Koki (Yokohama FC)
- Machino Shuto (Shonan)
- Handa Riku (Gamba)
- Thiago Santana (Shimizu) 'would suit this team, replacing Damiao'
- Usami Takashi (Gamba)
- Koizumi Yoshio (Urawa)
- Eduardo (YFM)

16. Which former Frontale player would you most like to see us re-sign?

WINNER - Mitoma Kaoru

Not a massive shock, considering how he's currently making an impact in the Premier League. Extremely unlikely though for quite a few years, I'd say. Perhaps with that in mind, a few people went for Miyoshi, which could be more likely. We do have a certain shirt number free... One person said Tanaka. And another said the 'Saginuma brothers' nicely getting in both Mitoma and Tanaka in one go. There was also a mention for Nara. And it didn't come from me, although I can get behind it. And one person said Itakura, ('Now we need a good defender!') which is a really good point. I wasn't sure who I'd say till I saw that last answer and the more I think about it, the more I agree with it. And there was a late vote for Morita too.

17. What’s your prediction for next season?

A mixture of responses with a mixture of positivity and negativity here. I'll list them all below, but personally speaking, I think it's going to be a long and tough season with not much fun, unless Oniki surprises us with some new ideas. Taniguchi leaving is a big blow and our incoming players don't exactly look like a response to a previous season that was a complete flop. We'll see, I guess. Here's what people said.

- J1 Champions!
- Jung Sung Ryong to come running out of his box at some point, do a flying karate kick, miss the ball, take the player out and get a red card. Trademark move.
- 'Taisei Mayashiro is top scorer'
- 'Taniguchi changes his mind (please)'
- 'J1 title back, out early from every cups'
- 'League title'
- 'Top three minimum but failure in cups.'
- 'It'll be the season for raising'
- 'Kamifukumoto will be a god in goal (if he actually plays)'
- 'I don't see a good future.  Morita, Mitoma, Ao, and Hatate left, and we haven't found their alternatives.  And now our captain Taniguchi left.  Without him, can we do better than last year? I don't think so.'
- 'Marinos or Kawasaki will win the J League title'

18. How do you feel about us having lots of players leaving for Europe?

This is a tricky one for me. I want them all to stay with us but understand that they have other goals and ambitions. The thing that annoys is that many of them go for little or no transfer fee and that basically we seem to be becoming a team who brings through talented players and loses them quite quickly and cheaply. And it is irritating where some of them go. I'm not sure the Scottish Premiership is actually a higher level than the J League. Likewise the second tiers of other European leagues. I guess because Moriyasu and the national team seem to place so much emphasis on players playing overseas it makes sense for talented J League players to go to play in countries in perhaps weaker leagues as it will help them get into the national team. But anyway, what do I know? Here's what other people said.

- 'Presents a big challenge obviously, but I just want to see them do well over there.'
- 'They should leave at the end of the season, not mid season. And if they go it should be for big bucks.'
- 'Sad but acceptable'
- :(
- 'I like when they rule the World Cup but I’m sad for Hatate.'
- 'Good for them'
- 'Can't really be helped but would be nice to hold on a little longer. Looks like Waki and Tachi will stick around another season? Bonus'
- 'Every players have their lives'
- 'Don't let players leave in midseason for a second division team and demand more money if they really want to leave'
- 'I believe players should play in Europe if they want to. But I miss all the players who left for Europe, and honestly I'm tired of thinking "Is he leaving too?" when I see good young players. And about leaving for Qatar, I just hate it. (The country is not the issue. It's about the level of the league.)'
- 'I am in favour of their transfers if European clubs pay us right transfer fees.'

19. How was VAR for you?

Yeah, maybe it means that more decisions are correct but I still feel that the delays and disruption totally destroy a lot of the fun of the sport. Add to that the fact that even when something is reviewed in the J League the decision doesn't always seem to correspond with the laws of the game and that it seems that having extra refs just presents more opportunities for someone to drop a clanger. I'd be delighted to get rid of it and just have goal line technology instead. I can't see it being abandoned now though, which is a real shame for me. Here's what the people said, and it seems that plenty of people feel differently from me.

- 'No big issues'
- 'Still shite, bin it.'
- 'I think in J league working better than some league in Europe'
- 'overused '
- 'Still hate but it’s 1 millimeter to change'
- 'OK'
- 'Unsure. Seems to be a hindrance sometimes, then helps get something important right (eg. Mitoma/Tanaka at WC!). Needs more work, faster, more open/explanation.'
- 'I like it'
- 'It just takes too long and there were quite a few bad mistakes, but I still think it can take some pressure off the referees and save some bad initial decisions'
- 'Not about J-League but the World Cup, I love VAR for Mitoma's one millimeter.'
- 'I want to hear conversations between referees and VAR.'

20. Any other comments

As ever, this question is mainly added to try to elicit some praise or encouragement for myself. Even though it is somewhat self-indulgent, here are the responses.

- 'Here's to another title run!'
- 'Awesome blog, I didn’t have DAZN this year so I watched highlights and read your blog.'
- 'Have a good year for Frontale and fans'
- 'Allez Frontale!'
- 'Keep up the good work!'
- 'Come back early, Damiao!'
- 'Thanks for the entertaining blogs and keep it up for the upcoming season! :)'
- 'Sorry now I'm too pessimistic, but Taniguchi shock was too big.  I hope my prediction [for a bad 2023 season] won't be right.'