|Sauna in my pants? Order already placed with Santa.|
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?
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.
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!!
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!!
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!!
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.
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 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 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!!
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!!