Sunday, September 25

Not safe yet...

What a season it has been so far. 10 wins, 5 draws and 12 losses. Some of us declared 2 weeks ago we were safe - sitting 8th in the table. Now we find ourselves back down closer to familiar Vissel territory, seemingly at the beginning of another bad run with 7 matches to go. From this position, relegation would be an absolute disaster. If I were a neutral, I would still bet on us staying up, but the last two matches have brought back that annual autumn anxiousness that may hang around until the end of the season. All but one of our remaining league games are against teams in the top half of the table.

So what's going wrong? Well, in all fairness, our last two losses have been against very good sides. But one thing that really stood out for me, especially after watching the replays, was that our defense is failing big time, and it hurts me to say that Kitamoto has been the major factor in this. He was torn apart on the ground by Kashiwa last week and then in the air by Grampus two days ago. We have conceded 11 goals in our last 3 losses. Given his attitude and service up until now, dropping him would be a very hard decision to make, but I think the manager will need to consider this - next year. We have no one that can come into center back now. Miyamoto would not offer any more. He's too short and too slow to deal with top J.League forwards now and even his position on the bench seems a waste these days. If Yanagawa comes back from loan next year, he will give us another option, but I really think we need to bring in someone new. Takuya Iwanami, our U-18 center back, captained the national U-17 team at the World Cup in Mexico this year and looks certain to keep his place for the 2013 U-20 World Cup. He now trains with our first team, but we need a player with more experience to come in until he is ready to start for us... or until Gamba buys him, in which case we need to go shopping anyway.

This was how we started against Grampus. Popo's suspension meant that Okubo had to move up front with Yoshida and his skill and ability to hold the ball up in midfield was missed. Soma got his first start and he set up Park's goal. Overall he did ok, but we will need to see him play more to decide if he is worth keeping for next year.

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