If all are fit and well, and as advertised (the new Brazilians), then I'd suggest only one or two changes from our "Best XI" from last season, but with players in their correct positions (Tokunaga), and more potency in attack (in spite of Hirayama's presence, some would say!). Right now, perfect world, here's my team: (4-4-2)
(Yes, I've made that on Paint. Best I could do, as I'm a total numpty with making graphics.)
Now, we were all excited about Ricardinho this time last year, but Roberto Cesar (think I'm gunna nickname him 'Robbie C,' though 'Julius' or 'The Salad' are other possibilities) comes with a better CV and scoring record than Rica had, so he'll walk into the team ahead of Takamatsu, who is more likely to be in competition for a spot with Big Sota. Pedro Junior is going to destroy J2 defences with regularity, and will make it hard for Hanyu, Otake and Sotan to get many starts.
Roberto and Uesato could both slot into central midfield, but they'll have a tough task to unseat our regular centre mids Yone and Casual. Yazawa is the wildcard, he could be anything and might start a few games ahead of Nao, I just hope he doesn't channel Matsushita and end up being shite. Nagira and Tokizawa will barely make it onto the bench (especially Toki, naturally), let alone the pitch.
The greater flexibility in attack Robbie C and Pedro (who could also play up-front of course) can provide shapes as the key for us in a season where we can expect similar defensive tactics in basically every game as we faced from "lesser" teams in J1 last season. Yes, the same tactics that we consistently failed to break down. I know, I know, I've talked enough about 2010 in the past two months, but I'm trying to make a point about how I'd like us to play in 2011 here, so bear with me....some context:
A lot of my criticism towards Hiroshi Jofuku, before he was relieved of his duties last September, was that he didn't appear to have a Plan B formation-wise to break down stubborn defenses (apart from having our wingers switch sides every now and then). Perhaps it was a blind faith in his system and his players, but it was hugely frustrating to sit there at Aji Sta and watch the same in-game pattern emerge time after time, and then see our manager struggle to counter the opponent's tactics.
Even more frustratingly - and this saw us slip into the mire more than anything else -many times we did manage to take the lead, but then went too defensive and didn't look to build on our advantage - illustrated by the stat from N.M.o.H. Part 1 that five of our 12 draws last season came after we had taken (and then lost) the lead. Now, circumstances conspired against Jofuku, and later Kiyoshi Okuma, to a degree (Nao's poor season; injuries, and later suspensions in central midfield), but on the surface it appeared too little was done to change formation, method of attack or simply to react to what was happening on the pitch.
Taking all that into account, in 2011, I'd love to see Okuma grow a couple of hairy ones and really go for it in games where we're struggling to turn pressure into goals. Whether he'll actually have the bottle to go more attacking in the second half of a 0-0 or 1-1 game against The Spews or Chiba for example remains to be seen, but against ultra-defensive teams or those who play only one striker and look to sit deep on us, lets get after them! One tweak of the above 4-4-2 formation and suddenly you have....
(Otake on the left could be Yazawa, Hanyu or Sotan; or Hokuto could move forward from left back obviously)
....and that 3-4-3 would be a lot of attacking intent to throw at a J2 opponent, without sacrificing too much defensively. You've still got the ball-winning midfielder (Yone), and three quick, positionally aware defenders. Going forward, that looks absolutely lethal, and too much for most, if not all, J2 defences to deal with.
Now I'm not saying we should turn into a 3-4-3 club, I'd just like to see some more positive tactics and thinking on his feet from the manager, depending on situations that arise in games. 4-3-3 could also work of course, with Yone or Roberto as the holding midfielder and Casual and either Otake or Hanyu as the more advanced centre mids, my 3-4-3 above is just to illustrate the type of more-attacking formation that Okuma shouldn't be afraid to switch to in the second half of games we're being held in.
With just under four weeks left until Tosu visit, there's plenty of time for Okuma to experiment on things, and hopefully once the real stuff starts we'll see some tweaks to our regular 4-4-2 if and when situations call for them.
If you have any ideas for taking this further - players you would choose in your own Best XI ahead of my selections, alterations to the 3-4-3 formation above, or other tactical/formation tweaks you'd like to see tried - feel free to post a comment. Also, if you know of any editable football pitch graphics I could use for posts this season, please let me know!