“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. At Christmas time, we live in light and banish shade,” sang 80s heartthrobs Band-Aid when they heard about The MOIST 2007 Season Review Spectacular. Imagine what they’ll come up with when they hear about the MOIST 2008 Season Preview Cavalcade?
But enough of that nonsense, MOIST, I hear you cry. Onto the good stuff.
So, without further ado, apart from this small bit of ado, I give you, in 3 parts for easy reading:
The MOIST 2007 Season Review Spectacular
Yes, despite the overall feeling that lingers with regards to 2007 there were a number of high points. 2007 produced some quality both in terms of players and performances which made the season not a total loss and the bodes well for the future of the club (finger crossed and all that). In no particular order:
Sure, I said they they wouldn’t be in any particular order but was it ever really possible that the highs of 2007 wouldn’t kick-off here? Only the FC strikers were more likely to be asked to kick-off anything 2007 related what with all the practice they had.
After the disappointment/debacle/robbery of the March game the two sides had gone in wildly different directions. That said, just winning a game was to go in a wildly different to direction to FC.
50,000 members of the Seagull Nation packed the Nissan to watch the phoenix well and truly crash back into the flames it had only risen from 6 months earlier.
9 goals and 90 minutes later, Oshima had over a quarter of his tally for the season, the FC fans had been told in no uncertain terms which hole they could shove King Kazu in and the natural order of things had been restored. One in the eye for the FC loving Mayor of Yokohama.
5-0, 6-0, 7-0, 8-0…
It wasn’t just FC that felt the wrath of the Scramble Attack as, in late May, the Marinos had briefly threatened to be good enough to challenger for the title. Over the course of two back-to-back games the players combined to produce more goals than FC scored away all season.
And it wasn’t as if the two games were against bog standard relegation fodder. Ok, so one was. An easy 5-0 home victory against a poor quality Oita side was followed up by a tough away trip to Niigata to face an Albirex side who finished the season in 6th place and had won the two previous seasons meetings at Big Swan 1-0.
Nothing, including most of the first half, suggested a 6 goal demolition but after a couple of poor performances one thumping performance had followed another and hope flourished amongst the Sailor Nation.
Ah, well, better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all.
Brothers in Arms
MOIST have always been one step ahead of the game but the emergence of a certain Mr Yamase as a class act left us ruing our decision to waste the inspired ‘Super – insert family name here – Brothers’ tee on Tetsuya and his clown handed faux brother Tatsuya back in 2006.
But MOIST, you cry, it was obvious Koji was something special when he was at the Reds. Why are you so surprised he came good in his first injury free year since dinosaurs ruled the lands?
Oh, you voices in my head, I’m not, so enough of your lip.
As you probably guessed about half an hour ago I’m talking about the man known around these parts as Mini Me, Yukihiro Yamase.
So, he’s no Koji, yet, but in this his first full season he weighed in with 4 goals and 3 assists in his 23 starts. It is true that over the course of the season he drifted in and out of games and had his fair share of tired performances but should we expect anything else from an overworked novice? He is clearly one for the future and if, in his second season, he is rotated better then he should make improvements and be worth watching.
His big brother has a tough season to follow. His 11 goals made him the top scoring midfielder in Japan and his 2 assists, although I doubt that stat is true, will, hopefully, make him work on his corner technique.
As mentioned earlier, 2007 was his first injury free year since joining the Marinos and his goalscoring exploits and spark in midfield led to a call-up to the national side. A call-up he capped in style with a 25 yard strike against Cameroon.
Time and again he showed exactly what he was capable of but it wasn’t all sweetness and light. The burden in him being the main, and often sole, creative outlet led to him being swarmed with defenders and, as a consequence, the Marinos attack had no bite. Hopefully the addition of another midfielder of Koji’s creative quality will allow the weight to be lifted from his shoulders and let him showcase his fantastic ability week in week out.
The Youth of Today
If you’re only 17 and you’ve only played 85 minutes of J-League football your inclusion in a list of the highs of the season might say a lot about your club’s performance over the year. It might but in this case it doesn’t. MOIST won’t beat around the bush here, we think Kota Mizunuma looks like the real deal.
Already a highly experienced international midfielder with the U17s, his three outings this season have been infused with pace, skill and passion. Sure, every other youngster is the new Maradona and for every Messi there’s just a mess but MOIST hasn’t liked a kid this much since we saw John Barnes, barely squeezed into his 1980s excuse for shorts, samba his way through Vicarage Road and into the Maracana.
Out of left field
Hayano couldn’t choose between them and nor can MOIST but, unlike Hayano who, in frequent moments of madness, choose neither of them, we know that in our left backs we have two potential internationals. 2007 saw both players play their first proper full seasons in the first team squad and both, Komiyama who got called up to a national team training camp and Yusuke who has represented the Olympic team, have had solid years.
Komiyama is perhaps the best going forward. He has a great ability to overlap, hit the byline and get in a cross. He’s also not scared to take on his man or cut inside and have a shot at goal.
Yusuke is more defensive minded though, perhaps ironically, is the only one of the two to have scored this year. He is solid at the back, except when being played out of position by the boss, but would do well to work on his attacking game where he looks a little slow springing forward.
2008 should see an interesting contest between these two to claim the left back spot.
“I watched him and thought: no pace, can’t head it, can’t score, they’ll get rid of him at the end of the season,” said Alan Hansen when asked to comment on Ryuji Kawai. Or was it Ian Rush he was asked to comment on? Yeah, I think it was Ian Rush but, the point is, chances are the Reds were thinking something similar 5 years ago when they released the Goal King. (That’s Kawai, not Rush.)
Despite him popping up to head home in the 2004 Suntory Championship he hadn’t done much to prove them wrong in their assessment. Until, perhaps, this year.
Not only did he have a breakout goal scoring season with 3, his passing measurably improved (most of the time) and he was easily the Marinos’ most consistent performer of the season, taking over the mantle from the departed Dutra.
He didn’t do anything flashy, apart from his record 3 goal haul, but then he isn’t meant to. He just sat in front of the back four, protected them and tidied up. Think Roy Keane but nicer. Or Patrick Vieira but shorter. Or Owen Hargreaves but less Welsh. And less Canadian. But probably more English.
For the last couple of seasons, Shimizu has been nothing more that MOIST’s favourite Thai ladyboy, an excuse to roll our eyes whenever his chant was heard and someone to blame for missing when he was thrown on up front and told to dig us out of a hole.
Certainly there was no reason to believe this would change. When the season started with a distinct lack of the Shimizus and Yoshidas of this world, MOIST, we must admit, were relieved.
Somewhere along the way, though, Shimizu started to win the hearts and minds of MOIST. Playing out on the wing and furnishing not finishing the attack he started to become a very real threat.
Although the stats only show 1 goal and 1 assist (which is nonsense as I watched him provide 2 assists in a game against JEF), Shimizu in his 12 appearances, half of which were as a sub, was a constant threat and games against, in particular, JEF, when he was instrumental in the 2 late goals, Sagawa Kyubin in the Emperor’s Cup, when he changed the game at half-time, and Jubilo, when he scored his sole league goal and famously, and hilariously, said after that he was just happy to be playing have certainly altered MOIST’s perception of him.
He will hopefully figure more in the 2008 campaign, after his strong showing in 2007, and will be useful as both a role model to the likes of Mini Me as well as a highly viable alternative.
For the record, he’s still our favourite Thai ladyboy.
Pride of Kanagawa
In footballing terms Kanagawa was a battleground this season with three teams representing everyone’s favourite prefecture just south of Tokyo.
Since being promoted at the end of 2004, Frontale have twice secured league bragging rights to being the Pride of Kanagawa. Even if the suits at the JFA Comedy Club like to remind us of the FC Tokyo – Frontale “Tama Derby,” there’s no doubt that both sets of fans are desperate to get one over on their local rivals.
Kawasaki, like Omiya, have been something of a bogey team to the Marinos. Before this season it was played 8, won 0, drawn 2, lost 6. The less said about Omiya this season the better but, buoyed by those back to back five and six nils and with a drug addled Kawasaki tired from its ACL exploits, the jinx was finally broken as Oshima and Koji both scored in a convincing 2-1 victory at the Nissan.
It was a case of “as you were” for the away game in August. Oshima and Koji again scoring, before a late Kawasaki goal once again played havoc with the nerves. When the long awaited final whistle sounded it confirmed that bragging rights belonged to the Marinos.
Let’s just not mention the Nabisco Cup.
Away Day Blues
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to see the Marinos win away.
Indeed, like MOIST, seeing the Marinos pick up points away from home is fun and easy. Out of the 17 away games you would have only failed to see a result in 4: YFC, Reysol, FC Tokyo and Jubilo, all games lost by a single goal.
The other 13 games saw the Marinos pick up 27 out of the 39 points available. In the process they recorded 7 wins and 6 draws, scoring 27 goals, the 6th best in the league, and conceding only 13, the best away defence in Japan.
Some notable results from those 13 games were creditable draws at Urawa, Kashima and Shimizu and impressive victories at Gamba, Niigata and Kawasaki.
If next season’s away form can be built on so as points are not dropped, as they were this season, against the likes of YFC, Kofu and Omiya then the Marinos can easily leapfrog up the table.
The Thin Blue Line
As was mentioned above the Marinos defence was conceded the least goals away from home and this was one of the reasons for an improved league finish over past seasons. At home, the defence was not quite as solid, a point that will be touched on later, slipping to 9th in the standings by conceding 22 goals.
Overall, however, the defence ranked 2nd in the league with only Urawa ahead of them in the stats. With 35 goals conceded the Marinos recorded their best defence record since the won the whole thing in 2004. The previous two seasons had seen us concede 43 and 40 goals, a marked increase from the 30 in 2004 and the 33 in 2003.
The reason for the re-established solidity at the back was a return to form of Yuji, although his form did take a turn for the worst just after the Asian Cup, as well as the improved performances of Kawai, in shielding his back four from danger, and Hayuma, who had a very solid season at right back. The loss of Dutra, to Brazil, and Naoki, to injury, may have been expected to cause problems at the back but the emergence of Yuzo, Komiyama and Yusuke as quality replacements had an impact this season as well as boding well for the future.
And then, of course, there is Nasu. But that’s a whole different topic.