In Part 1 of this series on FC Tokyo's new signings, Brendan from the excellent Yokohama blog Tricolore Pride gave us his thoughts on Gasmen newcomers Kazuma Watanabe and Aria Jasuru Hasegawa.
Here in Part 2 we hear from Nick, the man behind the always insightful Tokyo Nerdy 1969, on Hiroki Kawano, and Barry from the superb S-Pulse UK Ultras blog on Kosuke Ota. I was expecting fireworks as the two players left in fairly acrimonious circumstances, and the guys didn't disappoint!
Hiroki Kawano - thanks Nick from Tokyo Nerdy 1969
How important was Kawano to the setup of your team?
Kawano played last season either as a straight right winger or as a deep sitting second striker. His importance to the side can be measured in that he would be the first player the passer would look to when breaking out of defence. He also picked up countless freekicks when being brought down by defenders unable to keep up or simply mistiming tackles. Kawano and probably Abe were the two most important players last term in terms of scoring and creating chances. Kawano offers the unpredictable.
What do you feel is his best position and where do you see him playing for us knowing what you do about our squad?
He has played at times as full-on forward in a 4-4-2 or many times top of the diamond in a 4-5-1 with licence to roam. I would say he is most effective just behind the forwards or on the wings as his finishing is not top drawer (not terrible either but not as good as his other attributes). I don`t know that much about your lot but I`d be surprised if he was played as a finisher above a creator of chances. Just off the front two or either wing. He`s scored a couple of penalties for us too, not blasted but placed high in the corners.
How greatly (if at all) will he be missed at Verdy?
Massively. The most skillful player in the side and the kind of player fans pay to watch. Another home grown Verdy talent gone.
Who do you have that could fill his position?
Alex from Kustasu has been signed as his probable replacement. Kazunori Iio and Takuma Abe can also play in Kawano`s position.
Any general comments about Kawano and what we can expect from him at FC Tokyo?
(He) has been known to be a touch petulant at times, giving away cynical fouls and collecting big numbers yellow card wise. I think you can expect excitement when he gets the ball though J1 will offer a sterner test than what he is used to. Hopefully FC Tokyo will get relegated and knocked out of the Champs League in the first round. Verdy get promotion and Kawano wonders what the hell he was thinking signing for such a shithouse team!!!!???
Kosuke Ota - thanks Barry from S-Pulse UK Ultras
The latter. FC Tokyo and S-Pulse are probably on par when it comes to league potential (I mean generally over the next few years). Tokyo are in the ACL, and that's the difference. No doubt he got a much better offer than the first FC Tokyo one (which he'd rejected with the infamous "S-Pulse or abroad" quote).
What do you see as his strengths as a player?
Crossing. Running at midfielders and defenders. Diving.
How important was he to the setup at Shimizu last season?
He was the regular left back. Had a good few assists from his running at defenders and crossing. Even scored a couple.
How greatly (if at all) will he be missed on the pitch?
His attacking play will be missed, but that said we've made a good replacement signing in...
Who do you have that could fill his position?
Yoshida. He'll probably be taking his position. We also have Jong a Pin who is also a left back by trade, although we've had him playing in midfield.
He has one cap for Japan (in 2010), do you feel he has the ability to become a regular in national team squads considering the fierce competition at fullback?
May take a couple of years, but he's got the potential. I guess that's another reason he wants bigger exposure than the J. League. He's still quite young mentally so a lot depends on how he can focus and really go for it.
Any general comments about the player?
He's a cock. Nah, he's allright. Just let down most of his former fans. They'll be no love lost when he comes back to Nihondaira.
And what we can expect from him at FC Tokyo?
He styles himself as a mood maker, and he's knows how to charm the crowd. I don't doubt he'll be a favourite at AjiSta, but don't get too connected. By the move's very essence he's clearly got FCT in mind as a stepping stone. He'll probably do OK though, and football is all about villains, so we've got ours this year when your lot come to town.
Thanks again to Nick and Barry for giving such candid responses on the two players I expect to become our regulars on the left hand side, Kawano on the wing and Ota at fullback. Both have already been heavily involved in the early preseason action, with Kawano scoring his first Gasmen goal in the first minute of our opening friendly against FC Ryukyu at our Okinawa camp, and Ota seemingly starting out behind Hokuto Nakamura in the battle for the left back spot, though I'm confident he'll win the job.
Just over two weeks remain until the Super Cup against Kashiwa, and the squad head to Miyazaki this afternoon for our second training camp, that runs for a week and will include friendlies against Kawasaki, FC Seoul and a yet to be confirmed opponent. As Barry said in signing off his email: the season can't start soon enough!