Monday, December 19, 2011

Tokyo Nerdy 1969 Season Review and Piping Hot Steamy Hot Pants!!

Sauna in my pants? Order already placed with Santa.
2011 season finished a couple of weeks back with a disappointing 2-2 with Shonan Bellmare at a thoroughly empty Ajinomoto with just 3,929 coming though the ticket gates for the finale which saw Verdy throw away another lead in the last minute to take a single point where three points were in the back pocket. 2011 has been (for me at least) an enjoyable if ultimately disappointing season. I hadn`t been paying much attention for the final five or six games since it became painfully obvious that promotion wasn`t going to happen for the third season in succession. Fifth again and probably about right, Tokyo Verdy in 2011 were breathtaking at times when steamrollering Yokohama, Bellmare, Kitakyushu, Toyama and Okayama twice. However, this season too many points were thrown away from good positions or by Verdy simply being outgunned by better teams. I can`t be arsed with the whys and wherefore`s but let`s have a look at the team and see who might, might not or definitely shouldn`t be around for next season. Let`s start with the keepers.

Takahiro Shibaski

Yoichi Doi
The keepers jersey for the opening game will be a battle between an injury free and hopefully fully fit Yoichi Doi and 2011 keeper Takahiro Shibasaki. The equation here is simple, if Doi is fit he will be number one. Doi was a huge loss following his ruptured achilles picked up in the first Tokyo Derby. Shibasaki had some good games in his first extended run in the team in over TEN YEARS at the club, but at times is was painfully obvious just why he has had 10 years of sitting on the bench. A big man and decent shot stopper, Shibasaki was also good in one-on-ones but often shaky on balls into the box and doesn`t instill me with confidence and also more importantly; his defenders. Young keepers Shota Arai and Niall Killoran will hoping to break through though neither are likely to be near first choice barring injuries to Shibasaki and Doi. Alternatively, Kawakatsu could bring someone in though I don`t think he will.

Which brings us to the defence. The solid defence of 2010 which was one of the best in the league in 2010 was a shadow of it`s former self and the prime reason for not bothering the promotion positions. The problem in 2010 was a lack of goals, that problem was solved (and some!!) in 2011 but whilst the goals were flying in at the right end, they were also piling in at the wrong end. The stats say that Verdy were top scorers in J2 with a very respectable 69 goals in 38 games, however the defence came in at 45 conceded to leave them in joint seventh with a Kyoto side that started the season dismally but finished up just one point behind the Greens in 7th place.
On paper the defence looked reasonably solid with 2010 first choices Doi, Tomisawa,  Tsuchiya, Fukuda and Yoshida being backed up by Verdy`s Olympic Under 22 fringe players Takuya Wada and Shohei Takahashi plus new signings Yusuke Mori and  Kota Fukatsu. All looked good for another solid year until injury befell Tomisawa after just two matches, Doi himself disappeared for the season after matchday four to leave a gaping hole in defence. Initially,  Kota Fukatsu signed from Machida Zelvia having impressed Coach Kawakatsu in the 2010 Emperor`s Cup tie came in to cover but looked slow,  ponderous and simply not good enough. Shibasaki came in for Doi as mentioned before and Mori came in for the unlucky Yoshida with Shohei Takahashi taking over in central defence from Fukuda. Yusuke Nakatani was also signed from Sanga late on in the season to operate in the full back berths.  So, who do Verdy keep from a unit that simply didn`t manage the job last season?

Yukio Tsuchiya
In many ways the leader of the defence and chief motivator of the side, Yukio Tsuchiya has been a giant for Tokyo Verdy since signing for the club back in 2007 from Omiya. Relatively short for a centre back, Tsuchiya is as fearless a competitor as you will find anywhere in the league and never afraid to go in when the boots are flying and rarely makes mistakes. Always plays with a smile on his face and enjoys his game. Age is most definitely catching up with him and he may not have enough in the tank for another year, though I`m sure he will be on the field on the Opening Day. KEEP!!
Seitaro Tomisawa
Tomisawa, absent for much of 2011 due to injury is a player who I have thought was either fantastic or diabolical at various times over the past few seasons and in reality he probably falls between the two in being average. He can be guaranteed to drop a couple of clangers every season but after a colossal year in 2010 he would have been hugely disappointed not to be able to contribute more in 2011. Verdy will be looking for a big season from the Captain in 2012. KEEP!!

Yusuke Mori
Yusuke Mori came in pre-season from Kawasaki Frontale with a reputation as a no nonsense psychopath with a blotted history of red cards, blow ups with referee`s and a general Bad Boy reputation from his earlier days at Vegalta Sendai. He turned out to be a superb signing for Verdy, fiercely competitive and quick down the wings. Able to operate on either side of the defence, his crosses whipped in from either side proved deadly on many occasions this season and Verdy supporters will looking forward to another year of chewing gum and girly hair from Mori. KEEP!!
Shohei Takahashi
Takahashi had a good run in the side this year deputising for the injured Tomisawa and the ineffective Fukuda. He was also called up to the U-22 Olympic training squad and had a solid year with the Greens. He will be kept and rightly so, a product of the Verdy youth system Takahashi (minus his awful diving and rolling around like a big bloody jessie) is solid at the back and also able to play in midfield. Can`t stand his play acting but will be semi-happy to see him in Green for next year. KEEP!!

Kensuke Fukuda
Kensuke Fukuda went from being a guaranteed starter in 2010 to an occasional substitute in 2011. For some reason Coach Kawakatsu went against Fukuda, signing Mori and then Nakatani to cover the full back berths. Fukuda suddenly had a fight on his hands with Kawakatsu preferring the other two contenders for the full back slots. Harsh for Fukuda who never really did anything wrong and he will again have his hands full in trying to get back in for 2012.  Harsh but GOODBYE!!

Kota Fukatsu
Kota Fukatsu`s career highpoint came in 2006 registering 3 appearances with J1 outfit Nagoya Grampus. Surrounding this were uninspiring runs with Mito in J2 before coming up from the JFL with FC Gifu and staying for their inaugural J2 season. Fukatsu was signed as cover for the centre of defence and was shown to be a very limited player, playing out of his depth in the higher division. A poor signing who performed as he would be expected to do given his history. GOODBYE!!

Yusuke Nakatani

Nakatani came in mid-season and at 33 years of age looked to be a stop gap signing brought in to simply beef up the numbers. However, he forced his way into the side in the left back slot and went on to make 16 appearances for the Greens. Very experienced defender with lots of J1 playing time for Nagoya and Kawasaki. In the twilight of his career but good for another year in Green. KEEP!!

On current players available,  Kawakatsu would probably go with Doi, Mori, Tsuchiya, Tomisawa and Nakatani as his first choice line up with Takahashi first reserve. However, one blindingly obvious problem here is age. If Doi, Nakatani, Saeki in defensive midfield and Tsuchiya all take the field at once; their combined age is 350 or something. That is one OLD defence. Good enough for 3rd place in J2? I don`t think so. The Verdy Pensioners Horlicks, Brylcreem, and Werther`s Originals bill would be enough to sink even the most financially robust clubs, nevermind Verdy. Could be that it`s time for new blood and hopefully Kawakatsu is at least considering the same thing.
As weak as the defence was in 2011, the midfield and forwards in the attacking sense were on fire going forward. A measure of Verdy`s goal heavy statistics is that they finished top scorers in the league yet never once got in the top four. Verdy`s final finishing position of 5th was their highest position of the season. Let`s have a look at the midfield and see where those goals came from.

Takuma Abe
Tokyo Nerdy 1969 Player of The Season had an incredible Roy Of The Rovers style year going from bit part midfielder to a goal scoring centre forward over the course of the season. Abe was first brought in as an emergency striker following injuries to Hiramoto and Ishikawa and the lack of goals from an erratic Hirashige and the perenially misfiring Taira Inoue. 18 goals in 35 games for Abe saw him top the charts in Green and an absolute screamer into the top corner against Toyama announced his arrival away to Bellmare. He was promptly given an enhanced contract and at 24 will be coming into his peak years.  Though he tailed off towards the end of the year, Abe will be starting next season as a marked man and hopefully still in Green. 100% KEEP!!
Hiroki Kawano

Hiroki Kawano came into the year off the back of a somewhat disappointing 2010 beset by discipline problems and a reputation as a bit of fancy dan. On his day he is one of the most skilful and exciting players in the entire J-League and he had his most productive season in 2011 with eight goals playing mainly out on the left wing or as an occasional second forward. Running with the ball at his feet is when he is at his most dangerous, he can ghost past players with ease and I look forward to him hopefully staying in Green. Every off-season I fear that he will be sold and hopefully this year won`t be the year. KEEP!!

Takuro Kikuoka

Kikuoka came in at the start of 2010 and played in fits and starts battling with Yoshiaki Takagi for a wide right role that year and initially Yuki Kobayashi for a defensive midfield role this year. However, after Takagi left for FC Utrecht the door opened for Kikuoka to make the right midfield position his own. Scored nine goals in thirty six games this season and contributed a lot with some superb passing. Kikuoka was far more useful as an attacking midfielder as opposed to being a stopper. Kikuoa was deadly with free kicks anywhere near the box and also scored straight from a corner. Gotta love a dwarf. KEEP!!

Kazunori Iio had an up and down year playing well when on the field but spending far too much time on the treatment table. Iio started only sixteen games this term scoring four goals in the process. At 29 his best years are behind him and as the new generations come through from the youth team, players like Iio will be the ones nervously looking over their shoulders. Always gives his best effort though he is never going to bothers the net much over the course of any season. Could be time to go. GOODBYE!!
Yuki Kobayashi

Youth Team graduate Kobayashi was used to plug the gap left by Kohei Shibasaki`s departure to Kawasaki Frontale in pre-season. Kobayashi is a water carrier for Verdy and played the role very well last year with some tireless performances and a general confidence in himself. A player not likely to stay in Green for long especially if they stay in J2. Kobayashi was visibly upset when his friend Yoshiaki Takagi transferred to Holland though after seeing how "well" Takagi has done since going; Kobayashi might think twice about leaving right away. KEEP!!

Naoya Saeki
Along with Kobayashi, Saeki is Tokyo Verdy`s other "grunt". Placed in front of the back four Saeki`s job is to break up the oppositions attack. Another of the Verdy Pensioners looking over his shoulder nervously awaiting the inevitable thump of his P45 on his doormat. The statistics show that the defence wasn`t protected well enough last season and as a defensive midfielder that`s your job. 34 years old and  the most anonymous player in the side. GOODBYE!!

Takuya Wada
                                                                                                                       Takuya Wada is another home grown talent who as yet is not a regular in the side but at 21 he still has plenty of time to mature. Mainly used as a full back or occasional defensive midfielder, Wada made 20 appearances for the Greens last term and also earned a call up to the Under -22 Olympic squad. The future looks bright for Wada and another who will hopefully ply his trade in Green. KEEP!! 

The midfield play going forward this season was superb. With Abe on fire, Kawano tormenting teams down the wings and  Kikuoka scoring and supplying goals, Verdy`s midfield was it`s most productive part. Kawano, Abe and Kikuoka are lock on keeps for next season and will hopefully be even better next term having had a whole season of playing together. Saeki is nearly done and one player who duly announced his formal retirement is Tomo "Nine Second Wonder "Sugawara, holder of the unenviable record of fastest ever sending off.  Which brings us to the forwards.
2010 was a dismal year for Verdy in terms of attacking scoring just 47 goals with Kazuki Hiramoto finishing top scorer with a meagre 10 strikes. It was blatantly obvious that the Verdy attack needed a boost and Kawakatsu looked to have done remarkable pre-season business in bringing in Maranhao, Hirashige and Ichikawa in on loan to add to Hiramoto and Taira Inoue. Ex-JEF United stalwart and Japan international Seichiro Maki also came in towards the end of the season to further bolster a team already hitting the net with unusual regularity. 

Kazuki Hiramoto
Tokyo Nerdy favourite Kazuki "Goal Machine"Hiramoto  is probably the closest Verdy have to a "Mr. Verdy" in their current ranks. Since graduating from the youth team in 2000 bar a short loan period at Yokohama FC back in 2007, Hiramoto has huffed and puffed along the forward line and also had a stint as an emergency goalkeeper and in a bizzarre move even at right full back. Hiramoto has never actually been that good it was just that the players around him were worse. If you have to choose between Hiramoto, Taira Inoue and Yuzo "192cm" Funakoshi as your star forward, there is only one choice. The best of a bad bunch if you like. At 30 years of age, Hiramoto is probably on borrowed time after spending much of 2011 injured and looking cumbersome on his return to the side. He has the competition from Abe and Maki for a starting berth and I can`t see him winning the battle. It kills me to say it but it could be GOODBYE!!
Brazillian Maranhao came in from Venforet Kofu with a good reputation and the scoring figures to prove it. Maranhao`s statistics don`t look too bad with eleven in twenty seven appearances but as the old saying goes; "Sometimes statistics are complete bollocks". Maranhao should have scored at least 20 given the chances that came his way. So many GOLDEN opportunities were duly fired high and wide, scuffed, shin rolled or saved. Glen Hoddle reckoned Andy Cole needed seven chances to score for Man United back in the day. The same could be said of Maranhao. As a bloke he seemed like a good guy and he was an excellent comedy villian. Maranhao was SOOOO happy when he did score I couldn`t help liking him even though his play was so frustrating. He was only loaned for a season so, thank you for some great comedy moments, (the best of which was flying over the advertising boards after a dash down the left wing) and GOODBYE!!

Taira Inoue
Taira Inoue started the season as every other season, as an object of comedy fun for all at Tokyo Nerdy 1969 HQ. Nominally a forward, Inoue has been one of the least effective players ever to pull on a shirt for Verdy. Over four seasons he "racked up" a paltry five goals playing as a centre forward. 2011 was Inoue`s swansong year scoring three in 11 appearances operating on the right side of midfield. At the moment Inoue is out of contract and I would be very surprised if he gets another one. Five goals in fifty five appearances is simply not good enough. So GOODBYE!!

Seichiro Maki
Seichiro Maki was brought in following unsuccessful spells in China and Russia to bolster the forward line and presumably give valuable experience to the side. Questions were asked regarding his fitness upon arrival and some slow, lumbering performances didn`t do anything to dispell those fears. Scored a few (three in fourteen) towards the very end of the season but will have a lot to do to impress the Verdy faithfull. Maki is very much on the downslope of his career at 31 and will probably look at the next couple of seasons as one last hurrah before hanging up his boots. I wouldn`t mind in the slightest if he retired this winter. GOODBYE!!

Ryuichi Hirashige
Ryuichi Hirashige, brought in from Sanfrecce Hiroshima on loan was a fixture in the side in the early part of the season. Hirashige scored a memorable hat trick against Kitakyushu to add to his earlier goal in the Sagan Tosu defeat but his star faded out as quickly as it was ignited. Hirashige played a further few games after his hat trick and was then dropped to the bench for the remainder of the season before going back to Hiroshima. A one day wonder if ever there was one but he will always be able to tell his kids about the day he scored a cracking hat trick. GOODBYE!!

So there it is readers. Your 2011 squad review. 2012 is just around the corner and Tokyo Verdy will hopefully still be a functioning football club. The new signings season generally begins in earnest in January and let`s see who Verdy pick up. Will Verdy get promoted next year? Will Verdy go back to Green or continue with the Zebra stripes? Will Hiramoto ever manage to grow a decent `tache? Will Kazu STILL be around in 2012 stinking up the league like the old cabbagy fart that he is? It`s all to come again as we start for another lap on the good ship Green!! 
Finally, I`d like to say a big thank you to all readers of Tokyo Nerdy 1969. Official Winner of Shittest Blog On the Internet Title 3 years running. We`re done for 2011 but don`t be shy to say hello in 2012!! Until then Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. Onwards and Turkeywards The Boys Scoff On!!