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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nine Months of Job Done - Part 2

A total of 29 players took the pitch in the 38 J2 league games for FC Tokyo in 2011, and here we'll run the rule over how they got on. There were several surprises as younger players emerged and took on important roles, and hopefully that'll hold us in good stead for our return to the top division next year. Of the 29, an impressive 17 players got on the scoresheet, as our goalscoring responsibility was shared throughout the squad.

As with last season, I'm grading on the following scale (slightly re-worded from '10, and with a + or - sometimes added for emphasis) based on how much was expected from individuals and how well they delivered:
  • A - Excellent Season
  • B - Consistently Good; Exceeded Previous Standard/Expectations
  • C - Did As Expected; Nothing Special
  • D - Below Previous/Expected Standard; Failed To Meet Expectations
  • F - Rubbish/Useless/Shit
but unfortunately due mostly to injury the following players are graded as - N/A: Takuji Yonemoto, Sota Hirayama, Tomokazu Nagira and Roberto all made just one league appearance, and Pedro Junior only two (the latter two aren't even with the club anymore of course, and Nagira isn't coming back). The third and fourth 'keepers, Satoshi Tokizawa and Ryotaro Hironaga, along with young midfielder Kento Hashimoto, are also of course not rated as they didn't make it onto the pitch. That leaves us with 24 players to assess, so lets get stuck in:

Shuichi Gonda 20 appearances - 11 clean sheets:
Our 'undisputed' number one 'keeper surprisingly spent almost three months on the bench after returning from Under 22 duty in June, but his shot-stopping and distribution didn't suffer when he was finally recalled. Will be a key man for us next year. For this season, consistently good. - B

Hitoshi Shiota 18 appearances - 12 clean sheets:
Had a lot more opportunities than expected, and didn't let us down. Still behind Gonda in terms of distribution especially, but although we said he should probably move on (for the sake of his own career) in Episode 12 of Gas Talk, he'll likely also get ample chances to play in '12 with Gonda's national team and Under 22 duties. A good year from Shio. - B

Yuhei Tokunaga 37 appearances - 3 goals:
After again being ineffective in the defensive midfield role in Matchdays 2 to 7, he was rejuvenated by his return to right back, the perfect two-way fullback for this division. He also chipped in three goals in four games in July and August, the best of them a screamer in the 5-0 thumping of Kumamoto at Kokuritsu. Also pinch-hit at centre half three times in the absence of Konno and/or Morishige. Note to Mr. Popovic - HE'S A DEFENDER! - A-

Masato Morishige 37 appearances - 6 goals:
Had a lot to prove after a disappointing 2010, and more than delivered this term. Extremely solid at the back, far more disciplined than last year and also a huge threat from set pieces, with his free kicks a legitimate weapon. He made a firm believer out of me, and would be my choice as the next captain of the club if/when Konno leaves. - A+ & Co-Winner of the On the Gas Player of the Season Award

Yasuyuki Konno 33 appearances - 1 goal:
This was all a bit easy for him, wasn't it? While Morishige bagged the goals (and more headlines), Konno was simply a class above the forwards in this division. Never ruffled and always an excellent distributor from the back, he was my choice as Player of the Year. Now, how can we convince him to stay? Anyone got any incriminating photos...? - A+ & Co-Winner of the On the Gas Player of the Season Award

Kenta Mukuhara 26 appearances (4 as sub) - 2 goals:
Only one more start than 2010, but there's no doubt that Mukuhara made strides this season as he kept Hokuto out of the team from September onwards. His two goals were highlight-reel quality (though he did get lucky on a last-second deflection against Kitakyushu) but more important was his consistent defending, not to mention a burgeoning combination down the left with Tanabe that should bear more fruit next year. - B+

Hokuto Nakamura 24 appearances (3 as sub):
The supporters will remember his determined run and cross for The Salad's winner away at Shonan in November, but while that was the high point, and even though he did make 21 starts, he certainly took a step backwards this season, and Mukuhara's impressive form meant he only made three pinch-hit starts in the final three months. Caught out of position too many times for my liking. For the most part he was "below expected standard." - D+

Takumi Abe 8 appearances (1 as sub):
Showed some very promising signs when he started the first six games, but was exposed by Hiroki Kawano in the away derby and then Shingo Kumabayashi in the loss at Kusatsu. The latter game was the end of his run in the team, and after he made one pinch-hit start at the end of July, he didn't make the matchday squad for the rest of the season. One for the future, but is he physically equipped to be a regular J1 player? - C

Jade North 4 appearances (1 as sub):
At any other J2 club (and plenty of J1 clubs too) the Aussie international would've been a permanent fixture at centre back, but Jade had the misfortune (not sure thats the right word) of being next in line behind our two best players, in our strongest position. I felt he should've had a couple more opportunities (when Tokunaga filled-in against Tochigi at Kumagaya and Oita at Kokuritsu), but in his three starts we saw a composed, dependable defender who we should bring back next year. Top bloke, too. With more chances I'm sure this grade would've been higher. - C+ #KeepJadeInTokyo!

Tatsuya Yazawa 37 appearances (5 as sub) - 5 goals:
The supporters had him level with Morishige in our Player of the Year poll, and no one would've predicted that before the start of the season. Yaza no doubt benefitted from Ishikawa's struggles to get/stay fit, but he started every game but one from Matchday 10 on merit, as his delivery from set pieces was a strength of the team and you could never fault his workrate or willingness to try the audacious: see the backheeled flick for Lucas' goal at home to Kitakyushu. Now if he would just stop going down so easily... - A-

Hideto Takahashi 32 appearances (1 as sub) - 4 goals:
THE success story of the season, no question. I admit to being sceptical at first that he could succeed in the holding role, but he grew in confidence game by game and was outstanding from the middle of June onwards. He'll notice the jump in class in J1 next year, but if he continues his development he could be anything. The competition for the central role between himself and Yonemoto should be fascinating to watch in preseason, though he's a contender to replace Konno at centre half (his original position of course) if Yone's knees hold up. - A

Yohei Kajiyama 34 appearances - 6 goals:
Worked very well with Takahashi, and was quietly effective rather than spectacular. After his disjointed 2010 this was a good bounce back year from the tortured genius. I'd still like to see him move the ball on quicker, but as we all know with Casual thats never going to happen! Will have a point to prove back in the top flight next year. - B+

Sotan Tanabe 31 appearances (1 as sub) - 5 goals:
After not making a league appearance in 2010 he burst back onto the scene by bagging a brace, his first ever goals for the club, in the 4-1 romp at Kyoto in late May, and followed it up with a brilliant volley in the next game against Ehime FC at Komazawa. Was often hit and miss after that, but combined well with Mukuhara down the left and always looked to create against blueprint-following J2 defences. Five goals was a solid return, looking forward to how he follows up next year. - B+

Naotake Hanyu 37 appearances (3 as sub) - 5 goals:
It appeared he was being phased out early doors after he only made two starts in the first six games, but the injuries to Hirayama and especially Takamatsu meant he became a fixture in the hole, and he started every game from Matchday 7 on. Had some anonymous games and didn't score enough, but his game intelligence ((C) Rafa Benitez) - runs off the ball to create space etc - made him indispensible. Only got through the full 90 minutes four times, but lost his title as Mr. Early Bath to Tanabe. Well in Roswell. - B+

Naohiro Ishikawa 23 appearances (20 as sub) - 3 goals:
2009 seems like decades ago now, Nao, doesn't it? Again fitness was his achilles heel, and he was restricted to impact substitute duties for almost the entire season, finally making his first start in early November. Of course he scored the goal of the season, so we know he's still got the goods, and if he can stay upright in the preseason he'll relish the chance to run at J1 defenders next year. I've wavered a bit on his grade, but considering his fitness problems I'll go with... - B-

Tatsuya Suzuki 18 appearances (10 as sub) - 2 goals:
He made eight starts? Really? Must've slipped my mind...Oh thats right, all but one of them was at the beginning of the season, when we were poor. Just a coincidence that we won only two of his eight starts? No. Time to find a new club, mate. - D

Kazumasa Uesato 17 appearances (15 as sub) - 1 goal:
Probably the disappointment of the season. Much was expected when he arrived on loan from Sapporo, had chances after Yonemoto's injury but failed to impress in his two starts, and then was nearly forgotten as Takahashi made the holding role his own. When Shimoda was chosen ahead of him for Shonan away that told you all you needed to know about how much the boss rated him. Good luck back in Sapporo next year. - D-

Genki Nagasato 8 appearances (7 as sub) - 2 goals:
It was difficult for him to come into a settled squad and make an impact, but he showed flashes and scored a great goal in the win at Ehime. This division looks to be his level though, and I'd expect we'll try to sign a J1-caliber wide man to take his place. C-

Kohei Shimoda 3 appearances (2 as sub):
Probably didn't need to be rated as he only made one start, but I wanted to mention him as he was quite good in that game, the win at Shonan away. Not sure how many chances he'll get next season, but a good squad player. - C

OUT ON LOAN - Yohei Otake 11 appearances (9 as sub)- 1 goal:
Ah, The Little Maestro... Just not Mr. Okuma's type of player? It certainly looks that way after he barely played in the last 11 games of last year following Big Bear's return, and then made only two starts (with a goal and an assist in the first of them, the 4-1 win at Kyoto) this season before going to Cerezo Osaka on loan in August. Always seen as a bit of a luxury player, if he comes back to us hopefully Mr. Popovic will get the best out of him. At 22, its not too late. - D

Roberto Cesar 29 appearances (13 as sub) - 10 goals:
The Salad wasn't the prolific scorer we were hoping for, but the injuries early on forced him to be the focal point and he led the line admirably until Lucas came in. When he had six goals to the halfway point he seemed to be coming into his own and I thought he'd kick on and get about 15...but a calf injury saw him miss eight games and then Lucas proved impossible to shift from the XI in the last ten. Some cracking goals though, and he won the Shonan away game off his own boot. - B+

Lucas 23 appearances (5 as sub) - 9 goals:
Our second-all time leading scorer answered the bat signal at the end of June, re-energizing the club upon his return, and his first goal back, the last in our 5-0 battering of Kumamoto sent Tokyo supporters into raptures. The Salad's injury saw him make his first start in late August and he was quickly up to speed, bagging our only hattrick of the season at home against Kyoto in September. Nine goals was a terrific return and the big fella kept his fitness levels up which bodes well for 2012, as all signs point to him coming back. - A-

Daisuke Sakata 10 appearances (9 as sub) - 1 goal:
I was intrigued when we signed him at the midway point of the season, but he never really got much of an opportunity and Mr. Okuma wasn't able to integrate his abilities into the team structure. If he stays with us Sakata will definitely benefit from a full preseason with the new manager, but he'll need us to shift back to 4-4-2...the question is will he be able to work his way ahead of Lucas, Hirayama and The Salad (and Kazuma Watanabe?) for regular starts? - C-

Daiki Takamatsu 5 appearances:
Forwards from Oita just don't work out for us, do they? Terrible luck for him breaking his leg in the away loss to Kusatsu, but truth be told he was fairly ordinary in his five starts and if it was up to me he'll be elsewhere next season. - D

There you go then. Had a lot more fun writing this than last year's version, in which I (had to) shitcan almost everyone. Part 3 of Nine Months of Job Done should be up early in the new year, and by the time its posted hopefully we'll be Emperor's Cup winners! Part 3 will focus on 2012, who might come and go in the offseason and how our new manager (not officially but seemingly 99% sure) Ranko Popovic might have us set up.

Until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all On the Gas readers (yes, even you too, Anonymous!) from myself and Tokyo Bairn.

Up the Gas! Smash Urawa!

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