5:24 PM Dec 4th via ÜberTwitter
*WARNING* This is an extremely long post. Feel free to come and go, read it in bits and pieces, if it's length, and negative tone, prove too much for one sitting.
This is Part 2 of the grieving/healing process I need to go through as I, and all Tokyo supporters, mourn the end of our 11 year run in J1. Part 1 was all about the numbers. Here, its time to vent hard at the 24 players who took the field in an FC Tokyo shirt in the 2010 J1 season. With very few exceptions, the squad vastly under-performed, and while injuries can be used as excuses in a few cases, to say they are even slightly to blame for our relegation is simply bollocks. That is because, even though we had quite a lot of player turnover, and failed, YET AGAIN, to fill our allowed quota of foreign players, we thought this was one of our best squads ever, loaded with homegrown talent.
At the end of 2009, we bade farewell to club legends Ryuji Fujiyama and Satoru Asari, legendary eater Yusuke Kondo - officially the fattest man ever to play in the J.League*, defenders Bruno Quadros, Teruyuki Moniwa and Hideki Sahara; and midfielder Jo Kanazawa. Of those seven, only Bruno (23 games) and possibly Fat Man (12 games, 6 starts) were important on-field members of the squad in '09 (the other 5 made 29 appearances between them), but would the veteran trio of Fujiyama, Asari and Moniwa be missed more behind the scenes, at training and in the clubhouse, than on the field?
Nah, we'll be fine, we thought, as we brought in (with descriptions from the club website): Masato Morishige - "Top-class defender. Strong in one-on-one situations, powerful header and able to build play;" Ricardinho (didn't come with much of a C.V., but hey, he's Brazilian!) - "Lightning fast striker with dazzling dribbling ability and thunderous shot with both feet;" Toshihiro Matsushita - "Dynamic attacking midfielder. A major threat with free kicks;" Kim Young Gwon (South Korean Under 21 international) - "Aerially dominant defender with accurate left-footed passing ability;" and our prolific youth team striker Kentaro Shigematsu - "Physically strong centre forward with sound technique under pressure. Clinical finisher." We weren't to know it at the time, but those descriptions would turn out to be utter bollocks.....
Right then, here we go. My opinions only, and if I've slated your favourite player then I'm sorry, but he deserved it. I decided to grade on the following scale based on how much was expected from individuals and how well they delivered:
- A Excellent Season
- B Consistently Good, Perhaps Exceeded Expectations
- C Acceptable Standard
- D Below Acceptable Standard, Failed To Meet Expectations
- F Rubbish/Useless/Shite/Tatsuya
Shuichi Gonda: 30 games, 8 clean sheets, (15 clean sheets in '09); clean sheets were way down, but he's moved himself into the National Team frame with consistently strong play. Positioning and dealing with crosses still needs work, but he's an excellent shot-stopper and good at distributing from the back - My Runner-Up for Player of the Year - B+
Hitoshi Shiota: 4 games (July, early August) W:1 D:2 L:1, 0 clean sheets; filled in for 4 games while Gonda was out injured, still popular with the fans but he risks becoming a career number 2 if he doesn't move on now - C
DEFENDERSYasuyuki Konno: 34 games (33 starts), 5 goals; the only player to feature in all our league games in 2010. If only we had two (or three) of him, as I felt all along he should've gone into the holding midfield role after Yone went down, but he was still needed in central defence, where he was always solid. The one big blot on his copybook: allowing Tashiro to get across him to head in Yamagata's equaliser in the last home game. Despite that, I have no hesitation in naming Konno My Player of the Year - A-
Morishige: 30 games (29 starts), 3 goals, 2 red cards; "Top-class defender?" Well I thought so after the opening day win over Yokohama, when he was rock-solid, but he gave away a penalty and later got sent-off before halftime in the second game away at Urawa. Was passable at times, but too many brainfarts (the handball in the box in stoppage time v Kobe for one), while we saw the best and worst of him in the home Classico - scored the equaliser but later dreadfully uncertain defending let in Juninho for their winner. This stands for disaster - D
Yuhei Tokunaga: 30 games (29 starts); should probably be listed as a midfielder...after a very strong 2009 at full back, Jofuku made him captain before the start of the season and then moved him into Yonemoto's holding midfield role after the youngster's injury. Both decisions puzzled me, I'd never considered him captain material as he doesn't seem very vocal on the pitch, and I thought Konno should've moved up from defence. Tokunaga never got adjusted to playing up the pitch - he created next-to-nothing, and was caught in possession or rushed into passes so many times because he didn't have the 360-degree awareness necessary to play in midfield - after a career where everything was happening in front of him. Didn't see him leading by example as relegation threatened either. Hopefully we've seen the last of him as a midfielder. This one stands for dreadful - D
Hokuto Nakamura: 28 games (26 starts); started the season as a midfielder, but spent most of it in defence...credit where its due for Hokuto, he made only 5 starts in midfield before the World Cup break, but following Nagatomo's departure to Italy he started every game but one at full back, and provided steady while not brilliant defence and looked to get forward down the flank whenever possible. Almost my third-place getter for Player of the Year - B
Kenta Mukuhara: 24 games (21 starts); I thought Muk would really kick on this season, but he was steady rather than great. In-and-out of the team until the end of July, he started every game but 3 after that. Overlapped well, but must improve his crosssing - C
Kim: 23 games (18 starts); a decent first season from the young Korean, he was used at left back and also in central defence when Morishige was suspended or used in the holding midfield role. Kim's passing often let him down, but he's a good prospect, and was missed when away at the Asian Games all of November - C
Out on loan - Yuto Nagatomo: 12 games, 1 goal; a big loss after he did so well in South Africa and skipped off to Italy? Yes, without question, but we were 12th at the World Cup break, so it's not like we were pulling up trees while he was with us. In his 12 games I thought he didn't quite hit the heights of '09, but was still very good, and his goal against Shimizu in what turned out to be his last appearance was class - B
MIDFIELDERSYohei Kajiyama: 24 games (19 starts), 2 goals; Casual had a 'mare in 2010 (not Robinson Crusoe there, I realise), he was injured in the preseason and didn't start until the 9th game, and never really got into his groove, missing a total of 9 games due to injury and suspension. Showed flashes of genius but it turned out to be a wasted season for someone so talented - D
Naohiro Ishikawa: 31 games (26 starts), 2 goals; he'd set the bar so high in '09 (15 goals) that it was difficult to see him matching that level this year, but as I mentioned at the tail end of Part 1, the fact that he netted only twice was startling, and, frankly, the disappointment of the season. Tough to come back from a serious knee injury, but his speed, confidence and shooting touch never seemed to really be there. Always presented, and I can't fault his effort, but '09 looks like a miracle after this. Missed the final game through injury, and though we'd like to think he could have altered what happened, he probably wouldn't have. This grade may look harsh, but he clearly "failed to meet expectations" - D
Naotake Hanyu: 25 games (24 starts), 2 goals; bit of a wasted year for Roswell, he started the first 17 games of the season in both central and wide roles (partnership in the middle with Tokunaga never worked), but later spent some time out injured. Too often a peripheral figure despite his usual nice touches, "Mr Early Bath" completed the full 90 minutes only 5 times, and fell out of favour with Okuma at the end: was an unused sub in 2 of last 3 games - could we have used his creativity in the Kyoto game? Did he have a better season than Nao or Casual? No, but less was expected, so - D+
Takuji Yonemoto: 7 games, 0 goals; the tragedy of the season - after a barnstorming '09 when he should've won the league's Best First Year Player Award, and was the hero of our Nabisco Cup Final win - Yone did his knee in the preseason and after a long period of rehab made it back for the last 8 games of the season. Started the last 7, and was brilliant first-up in the win in the Shimizu typhoon, but had little impact in the final 3 games. Should be back to his best in '11. For getting back on the pitch he deserves a B, but for what he did on it - C
Tatsuya Suzuki: 14 games (7 starts), 0 goals; anyone who knows me knows I can't stand Tatsuya. No, he hasn't hit on my fiance or anything, I just think he's a dreadful footballer. He managed to score 4 times in '09, but was so ineffective this term it was beyond a joke. He's just not good enough, either as a winger or up front, is technically poor and can't pass, cross or shoot. Why he started the last game having played only 15 minutes of football in 3 months still staggers me, and Okuma needs to seek mental help if he doesn't regret that decision. That my usual whipping boy would get this grade was inevitable (he is one of the criteria after all!), just a shame he isn't the only one getting it - F
Matsushita: 21 games (14 starts), 1 goal; boy oh boy were we wrong on this guy! Set piece master they said, "dynamic attacking midfielder," they said, and what we got was a frightened waste of space, who wouldn't take his man on. His only goal won us a point in the last game before the World Cup, but most of the time you didn't even notice he was out there. Completely dropped off the radar and didn't start a game after Okuma came in, and was an unused sub in the last 5 games - F
Yohei Otake: 14 games (4 starts), 2 goals; hugely frustrating year for the little maestro, due to injury he didn't start a league game until after the World Cup break, and promptly banged in a beauty to mark the occasion, but after 2 more starts he was back to the bench. Was an unused sub for 7 of 9 games before the finale, came off the bench with 24 minutes left but couldn't make much of an impact - C-
Sota Hirayama: 30 games (25 starts), 7 goals - 5 in last 8 appearances; Big Sota continues to frustrate, and went 19 games (more than 6 months) without a league goal at one stage, but after he broke that drought away to Sendai mid-October he seemed a different player. Suddenly flush with confidence both in the air and with the ball at his feet, he was brilliant in the Shimizu typhoon, won the game at Yokohama off his own boot, and scored the goal we thought had kept us up in the home finale. This grade may seem high to some, but this was his highest-scoring season with us- C-
Masashi Oguro: 22 games (21 starts), 7 goals, 5 in last 10 games; Oguro came in during the World Cup break and did what he's done all his career: score. Netted in consecutive games three times, no other Tokyo player did it once. Did drift out of games at times, but his class (and reputation) meant he had to be accounted for every minute he was on the pitch. Capable of goals of all sorts, his first (at Shonan) and last (at Nagoya) were my favourites. Okuma picked Tatsuya over him for the finale after 21 straight starts, we're all still having nightmares about that. My Third-best Player of the Year - B
Ricardinho: 29 games (16 starts), 1 goal; I'm actually writing Rica last, even though it doesn't look that way...I tried to put it off...but he's in the firing line now...first, a positive note - he tried. He tracked back, he tried to take people on (unlike Matsushita). We wanted him to be good because he tried. But you can't always get what you want, and this guy was a f++king disgrace, a truly horrendous footballer. Whoever the scout was who suggested signing him needs sacking. A Brazilian striker, you say? Oooh yes, please! His only league goal was the third in our home romp over Shonan, he never came close to scoring another. Couldn't/wouldn't shoot early on in the season, so he was moved to the wing. Lost the ball on countless occasions, misplayed passes, poor crosses. Hopeless, and played the full 90 minutes only three times - F
Shigematsu: 19 games (3 starts), 3 goals; burst onto the scene, scored on his league debut and had 3 goals by the World Cup break, but didn't start a game after league play resumed and slipped right down the pecking order, playing a grand total of 12 minutes in the last 8 games. The ultimate insult was that even Fat Maeda was preferred to him v Yamagata! Only 19, but needs to kick on in '11 - C-
Shunsuke Maeda: 6 games (all as sub), 0 goals; who are you and why are you here? Never thought I'd yearn for Shingo Akamine, but Fatty Jr. sure made me. He'd only started one game this year for J2 Oita (0 goals) before heading up to the capital, Akamine nicked off to save Sendai's season, and Fat barely made it on the pitch. He was utterly useless after replacing Oguro v Yamagata in his only lengthy time on the field - F
Out on loan - Shingo Akamine: 12 games (3 starts), 0 goals; well he didn't do the business with us, Shigematsu's emergence made him expendable (we thought) and most supporters probably weren't that bothered when he moved to Sendai in mid-August - D- but with Sendai he was an integral part of their eventual survival: 15 games, 14 starts, 4 goals; but he had the courtesy not to score against us when they won up there.
OK there you have it. If you've managed to read the whole thing, I commend you. Extremely long, apologies, but again, I needed to vent, it's all part of the process of getting to grips with the reality. If I've been too harsh, or not harsh enough, feel free to comment and let me know.
Part 3 will be up within the next week or so, looking at what we can expect on our return to J2 in 2011. Who should and shouldn't be around, other things to watch out for, etc. Hopefully, at the end of Part 3, my soul will be cleansed, the anger will have reduced to normal levels, and I can think more positively about renewing my SOCIO membership.
* = this may or may not actually be true