Monday, January 21, 2008

Moving. Again.

MOIST fans

MOIST is on the move again. The new blog can be found at:

www.yfmoist.wordpress.com

MOIST

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Comings and Goings

Or, as you will see, Going and Comings. A quick round-up of all the transfer activity since the end of 2007. And it will be pretty quick seeing as not much has happened, although that isn't to say nothing interesting has happened. Sadly, though, the most time consuming part of this article was finding the photos and not thinking of 40 more superlatives to describe the wealth of international talent MOIST hoped we'd sign. Still time though, Mr Out-of-favour-at-the-Nou-Camp-Brazilian-playboy.


On your way, sonny: The Goings.

Hayano Hiroshi (Won:18 Drew:10 Lost:18). The biggest news of the winter probably wasn't the sacking/resignation/'Mr Hayano just go outside for a second,' *locks doors* 'yoiks.' It was pretty much common knowledge he'd be leaving the Marinos for the second time, even before his close to tears speech after the last home game against Albirex sealed the deal. To his credit he took us to our best position since 2004. To his discredit he seemed quite barmy, a lot of his decisions still haven't been figured out by the University of Tokyo What the Hell? Department and 7th, frankly, wasn't good enough. Gone to: Back to the TV job, probably, to make a fortune as a knowledgeable pundit. Ah, the irony.

Nasu Daisuke (Played:167 Goals:9). Again, the departure of Nasu was about as shocking as putting your finger into a nice bowl of lukewarm water considering he's been linked with FC Tokyo earlier in the season, where he'd get a game. The cental defender, midfielder, left back, right back, substitute, teacher's pet had an up and down season last year. He was constantly fighting for playing time scraps off the table of Yuji, Yuzo, Naoki, Hayuma, Komiyama, Kawai and Yosuke and wasn't really getting anywhere. MOIST are very sad to see him leave because he was a fantastic player. Luckily for us, and sadly for him, we have solid players in his favoured positions. All the best, Nasu. Actually, considering where you've gone, MOIST takes that back. Gone to: Tokyo Verdy, to help them fight unsuccessfully against relegation. Hopefully.

Ueno Yoshiharu (P:376 G:30). A sad farewell to Mr One Club. After 13 years and over 300 games for the Marinos never again will we hear his fantastic chant. At 34 years old the old campaigner has hung up his boots and can spend his days gazing at his 3 championship medals and his one league cup medal. A great midfielder and a great servant to the Marinos. Many thanks Ueno. Gone to: Potter around in the garden in his slippers whilst polishing his medals.

Havenaar Mike (P:34 G:1). Now, hopefully at the start of next season you'll be seeing this big old white face in the Comings section, fingers crossed and all that, but for 2008 Mike will be way off down south banging in the goals in J2. His one year loan deal to Avispa Fukuoka will hopefully be just that and won't morph into a permanent deal. Rumour has it that Mike was quite peeved with his treatment in 2007, MOIST were peeved, too, Mike, but with any luck after a year away it will be time to kiss, make up and come back to the Marinos. If you're reading this, Mike, MOIST and friends will hopefully be in the away end at the Yokohama FC, Shonan Bellmare and, if we're drunk enough, Mito Hollyhock to cheer you on. Gone to: Avispa Fukuoka for one year and no more. Just one year, you hear, and then straight back.

Yoshida Takayuki (P:70 G:4). This will be the start of section when all the goodwill goes out the window and MOIST stops being upset that certain players have left. Take Yoshida for example. Has there been a more frustrating player over the past few seasons? Clearly there is talent in there somewhere, enough that we re-signed him after a few seasons in Oita, and on the odd occasion it even pops out, but generally...well, generally, uugghh. What boggles the mind, though, is that one of his most insipid performance of the year (the first 45 minutes away at Kobe) came against the team that ended up signing him. Perhaps their coach was only watching his own players, poor fool. Gone to: Vissel Kobe, to piss off their fans with his wayward crossing and poor shooting.

Marques (P:40 G:5). There is an old jokey folk story that is often told in the pubs and bars of Yokohama where Marinos fans gather and always get a good laugh. Once upon a time, long, long ago, so the story goes, there was a soccer player. Not just any soccer player but a Brazilian soccer player. This player was a striker. Not just any striker but a goalscorer. Not just any goalscorer but a proven goalscorer. And his name, shall I tell you? the story teller continues to cries of tell us, tell us. His name was, the story teller pauses for dramatic effect, his name was Marques. And, oh, do the people laugh and how they laugh. But it gives the children nightmares. Gone to: Atletico Mineiro, because 1000 players left Brazil last year so they need some back.

Suzuki Takayuki (P:4 G:0). The sad thing about Suzuki is that there isn't even a comedy folk story about him ever scoring goals. Bringing him back from the Balkans was a huge gamble and one that went horribly, horribly wrong. God only knows how much he was paid for the four games he actually took part in for us this season. And even Duncan Ferguson hasn't finished a season with more red cards than goals. Well, he might of but you get my point. Gone to: Nowhere, it's unlikely that anyone actually knows he is still alive.

Shiokawa Taketo (P:9 G:2). Maybe Shiokawa should be a little higher up the list because MOIST actually have some nice things to say about him. Scored more goals for us than Suzuki with two. In fact, his lone league goal came in a 1-0 away win over Sanfrecce so it was a pretty big deal. The previous fact might be wrong but MOIST are fairly sure it's correct, so, nice one, Shiokawa. In 2007 he played 33 games for Tokushima so he has obviously fitted in well at his new club. Best of luck to you, Taketo, and thanks for the goals. Gone to: Tokushima Vortis, it's warmer down there which is nice.

Eltinho (P:1 G:0). No-one knows hold old he is and, MOIST supposes, no-one needs to care anymore. Known as a free scoring, yellow card getting left sided player for the reserve team his 45 minutes of first team action certainly hinted at that. Sadly for Eltinho that was his lot and back to Brazil he went. Gone to: Parana, to impress all the Brazilian ladies with his well travelled self.

Yoshimura Koji (P:0 G:0). Who the hell are you? That's what you're all thinking, aren't you? A year ago when we signed Mr Whatshisname, MOIST said it was a waste of time, not that it was a difficult call to make. A complete waste of an otherwise decent number 16 shirt. Gone to: Nowhere. Truth be known, I don't even know who he is.

Tominaga Yasuhiro (P:0 G:0). Another of those unknown players although at least this chap has a reason. Spent all of 2007 with Consadole Sapporo and has made his move permanent. At 6'4 he's a beast of a Japanese man but I don't think that has helped him get any games. Still, he'll be in J1 next year keeping Sapporo's bench nice and warm. Gone to: Consadole Sapporo, to help his team mates reach things on high shelves.


You're welcome: The Comings

Kuwahara Takashi: Manager. A warm MOIST welcome to all of the new faces in the Seagull Nation, even the ones, like the new manager here, who we aren't too sure about. It does have to be said that Kuwahara has a great CV, 2 league titles and, before everyone loved the Reds, an Asian Champions Cup. They, however, were many moons ago football wise and questions could be asked about whether he can manage a J1 team in the 21st century. He comes to us from Hamamatsu University and hopefully he'll be able to teach our players some new things, paper over any cracks and help us make the grade this year. Ahem.

RoniƩliton Pereira dos Santos (Roni): FW. Just the one Roni, British comedy fans, but perhaps a decent one. At age 30 he is, according to that old pundit's tale, reaching maturity as a striker. Looking at his history it seemed his best days were behind him, 24 goals in 87 apperances for Fluminese between 1997 and 2000 along with 6 caps and 4 goals for Brazil in 1999, but in 2007 he had a solid year at Cruzeiro, scoring 12 goals in 30 games. Judging by his photo and knowing that he is 171cm tall, he would appear to be built like a mini Wayne Rooney. This would seem to suggest an Oshima Roni partnership so hopefully the lad has some pace.

Welington Nogueira Lopes (Lopes) MF/FW. Another Brazilian from Cruzeiro joins the Marinos fun bus, although this one, Lopes, has spent the last two years on loan at Vegalta Sendai. His two years appear to have been very successful. Playing in midfield he managed to score 28 goals in 87 games for the Sendai club. Admittedly that was in J2 but MOIST would like to think that the better players around his this year will help his game improve. At 28 years old he has some good years ahead of him and, if he forges a nice partnership with Koji, should help us do well this year. Was apparently linked with a move to the Reds so he must be a bit of alright. Even if he isn't, at least he isn't Alex Santos.

Mizunuma Kota: MF. What more is there to say about Kota that MOIST hasn't already said? Technically a new signing this year as he has officially been called up from the youth squad, people are well aware of his talent and potential. MOIST would, of course, like to see him feature in 2008 but, seeing as he is only 17 years old, don't want him to feature too much and burn out. Any chance the new manager is Ferguson-esque and knows how to handle our Beckhams and our Giggses?

Ogura Shohei: MF. If you've been bored enough to read the comments pages on this here blog you'd have been pleased to discover that Ogura is "easily the most underrated Japanese defensive midfielder today." Of course, that opinion comes from a Mito Hollyhock supporter and to them a goal is like Christmas and a point the Second Coming. Only 22 but already having played 108 times in 3 seasons for Hollyhock he comes to us with a shedload of experience. And even though Hollyhock have been camped at the foot of J2 for those three seasons, Ogura played well enough to earn a call up to the U22 Olympic side. Presumably bought to fill the gap left by Nasu it seems he could be a good signing in his own right and keep Kawai on his toes.

Furube Kenta: FW. This is the stage of the Comings section where MOIST in entering moslty unknown territory; University and youth team players. We will soldier on valiantly to keep you informed, though, dear reader. A while back we talked about this signing on the old blog but we'll give a quick recap. Born in 1985, Furuba is a tallish striker at 180cm. Whilst he was at Ritsumeikan University he got called up to the U22 Olympic squad, in 2006, and took part in the Summer Universiade, in 2007. Definitely looks to have the potential to be a good player.

Kanai Takashi: DF/MF. Being on the bench for the last home game of the season and, possibly, being a central defender is about all the information MOIST have on Kanai. But wait, an update, he is a member of the U17 National Team. Promoted from the youth team, 2008 will probably be a season of Satellite Leagues games and training with the big boys.

Hyodo Shingo: MF. Hyodo, so it seems, is a quality act. A 22yr old midfielder he was a regular in the Japan Youth Team during his High School days and was invited to take part in an U20 Japan training camp. Whilst at Waseda he was the captain, and number 10, of the U20 team that played in the 2005 World Youth Championships. Also in 2005 he took part in the Summer Universiade. In his final year at Waseda, 2007, he was MVP as they won the 56th All Japan University Football Challenge.

Urata Nobuhisa: DF. He's a defender from Teikyo High School. That's all MOIST have got right now.








Umei Daiki: DF. 190cm of big Maruoka High School defender. Nothing else to report.







That's all the transfer news so far this off season. If and when we sign anyone else you can read it here first. Ok, maybe not first, probably not even second but you'll be able to read it here at some point.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

MOIST 2007 Season Awards

I think I said, I can't be bothered to check but you can, that next up would be the comings and goings off the off-season. Well, I changed my mind because we still haven't signed Ronaldhino and I don't want to make him big-headed when he comes by giving him a whole post to himself.

So, whilst we wait for him to sign on the dotted line you can feast your eyes on the MOIST 2007 Season Awards. We have 4 categories: Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season, Goal of the Season and Game of the Season.


Each category has 5 nominees and will be announced in reverse order. If you don't agree with the results, let me know. You'll be wrong but let me know anyway.


Player of the Season

5. Shimizu Norihisa
The much maligned, around these parts at least, Shimizu was something of a revelation this season. Although he didn't figure for a significant amount of the campaign he was a real threat and a livewire in the games he did play in. Moved into a wider position than his former off-the-striker role he was able to use his pace and experience to play havoc with full backs.

With a squad full of younger players it is unlikely that Shimizu will start many games in the 2008 campaign but his ability to come off the bench and make things happen combined with the experience he can pass down to the younger players should make him a vital cog in the works next season.

4. Yamase Yukihiro
Yokohama's very own Phil Neville didn't have to move cities to get from under the wing of his older brother and, in some ways, impressed more than Koji in 2007.
Playing on either flank, swapping sided regularly during a game, and often popping up in the middle, Yukihiro covered a lot of ground in his own, highly amusing comedy running way. Weighing in with a handful of goals and assists he had a great season and proved to be an additional attacking weapon from midfield. With more consistency through, perhaps, better rotation he should have a great 2008.

3. Komiyama Takanobu
After Dutra was told to pack his bags it seemed like their would be an unfillable hole down the left side of the field. However, this season, three players have shown that Dutra's departure wasn't the end of left-footed world.
Komiyama spent the season vying with Tanaka Yusuke, and occassionally Nasu, for the left-back spot and, in the opinion of MOIST, was the better full-back. Although he was initially third choice for the position he forced himself into the team and enjoyed a long run once selected. His battle with Yusuke next season should be interesting to watch.

2. Yamase Koji
Perhaps a shock choice for number 2 being the top scoring midfielder in J1 and the creative force in midfield but, although Koji has had a fantastic season and, hopefully, laid to rest any doubts about his injury proneness, he needs to work on one aspect of his game to make the jump to number one.
Now, this isn't to disrespect the man, but his dead ball delivery this season has been fairly woeful. When's he aimed for goal he's either hit the target of come damn close but when's he aimed for players he's usually found the other team. If he can improve on his delivery it's star number 4 for the Albatross Nation.

1. Kawai Ryuji
Oh, oh, oh, oh Kawai. Oh, oh, oh, oh Kawai. Oh, oh, oh, oh Kawai. Kawai Ryuji re-oh.
Yes, MOIST 2007 Player of the Season is midfield hardman Kawai Ryuji. Kawai was Mr. Consistency in 2007 mopping up in front of the back four. Indeed, he went above and beyond with 3 goals and a vastly improved passing performance. MOIST, we must admit, had a preference for the younger, more skillful Nasu in the middle of the park but Kawai has proved us wrong and brings to the team a great amount of steel that, perhaps, Nasu lacks. He also brings some comedy passing and comedy shooting but when they work, oh, yes, how they work! All-in-all: Legend.


Young Player of the Season


5~2. (clockwise from top left) Havenaar Mike, Inui Takashi, Mizunuma Kota, Hasegawa Aria Jasuru
The Young Player of the Year Award is a little different. This season the fans haven't been treated to a large amount of playing time from the youngsters so, rather than try and praise the players for their achievements in 2007 we are going to look at the potential of the cream of the crop.
From the brief amount of action we got to see from the 4 players on the left, it is clear that they all have the potential to be great players in the future.
Mike scored in 50% of his starting appearance (2 games, 1 goal) but was a constant threat when brought on at the end of games. More skillful use of him by Hayano could easily have seen him score more and the Marinos pick up more point.
Inui, who was told by Hayano he'd never play in the J-League again in 2007 early in the season and then was called into the team for the Nabisco Cup semi-final, struggled but showed some flashes of fantastic close control, trickery and skill. Again, he was often thrown in at the end of losing games when the opposition defence was sat back waiting for him and his brand of football perhaps wasn't what was needed.
Mizunuma Kota figured in the last few games of the campaign and showed a mature head on young shoulders. Unlucky not to open his account against Kobe, the U17 Japan captain could be the next big thing in Yokohama.
Aria, if he ever gets fit again, promises to be an exciting midfield option. Vieira-esque with his tall and rangey style he looks strong in the tackle, quick with his feet and has the ability to get from box to box.

1. Tanaka Yusuke
One of the few youngsters who got a run in the team this season and did well enough to be called into the Japan Olympic squad. His battle for left-back spot with Komiyama was interrupted when Hayano claimed he was too lazy at training. However, he seemed to have got that monkey off his back and worked hard enough to earn a recall towards the end of the season. Perhaps not as strong going forward as Komiyama but equally adept at the back he will hopefully be jetting off to Beijing this year to bring gold home to Yokohama.


Goal of the Season

5. Yamase Yukihiro vs Yokohama FC (August 11, Nissan Stadium)
25 yards out, left foot, top corner. Pick that one out.

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4. Oshima Hideo vs Yokohama FC (August 11, Nissan Stadium)
Edge of the box, swivels, sidesteps, left foot, bottom corner. Hat-trick hero.

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3. Kawai Ryuji vs Oita Trinita (April 22, Nissan Stadium)
Yokohama, Japan (MOIST News Agency) - Three minutes later it was 4-0. Possibly the pick of the bunch as Kawai strode upfield, picked up a ball from Yukihiro Yamase on the edge of box, cut inside past the despairing dives of two defenders before rolling the ball into the net. His third league goal in 3 seasons and, without a doubt, his best.
Sadly there are no highlights of the best goal of Ryuji's career, so the official MOIST report is al we have to remember his moment of magic by. If anyone has any clips please send me a message and let the world see this wonder strike.

2. Yamase Koji vs Ventforet Kofu (March 3, Nissan Stadium)
Suzuki to Aria, little lay off on the centre circle into feet, powerful run, ghosts past 2 defenders, flicks it past the keeper. Let the season begin.

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1. Yamase Koji vs Urawa Reds (May 27, Saitama Stadium)
40 yards out, ball from Kawai, skips past a challenge, left foot, loops it over the keeper into the far corner. Reds drop two points, lose the title.

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Game of the Season

5. vs Albirex Niigata (April 28, Big Swan)
6-0 away at the Big Swan right on the back of a 5-0 win over Oita at home. A fantastic set of results but 6 away from home edges it. This game also saw the worst penalty decision in the history of man.
1-0 Yamase Y (37), 2-0 Yamase K (38), 3-0 Yoshida (47), 4-0 Sakata (51), 5-0 Sakata (56), 6-0 Oshima (69).

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4. vs Jubilo Iwata (August 29, Mitsuzawa Stadium)
After going down a goal early, the Marinos fought back in the latter stages of the first half before totally dominating and out playing Jubilo in the second.
0-1 Kaga (11), 1-1 Oshima (43), 2-1 Shimizu (55), 3-1 Yamase K (58), 4-1 Sakata (71).

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3. vs Kawasaki Frontale (May 3, Nissan Stadium)
Not a classic by any means but a wonderfully committed display that overwhelmed a good Kawasaki side and recorded the first victory over our Kanagawa rivals.
1-0 Oshima (4), 2-0 Yamase K (66), 2-1 Magnum (77).

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2 vs FC Tokyo (August 14, Aijinomoto Stadium)
After a listless 1-0 loss in the first leg of this Nabisco quarter-final, the Marinos raced into a 4 goal lead in the second leg. Two late FC goals made it a nervy finish but the team held out for a great victory. Sadly there are no highlights available of this game played in the driving rain which is notable for producing the only goal scored by a foreigner for the Marinos this season as well as Elthinho's sole appearance of the campaign.
1-0 Yamase K (19), 2-0 Oshima (48), 3-0 Oshima (68), 4-0 Marques (72), 4-1Ishikawa (78), 4-2 Kanezawa (87)

1 vs Yokohama FC (August 11, Nissan Stadium)
The ultimate in revenge against our cross city rivals. Maybe not the final nail in their J1 coffin - more like a bag of nails, a couple of handles and a large hole dug for them.
1-0 Oshima (30), 2-0 Sakata (44), 3-0 Yamase K (51), 4-0 Yamase Y (62), 5-0 Oshima (65), 6-0 Oshima (72), 7-0 Yamase K (74), 7-1 Hiramoto (82), 8-1 Oshima (88)

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And that, MOIST fans, is the end of another long post. Hope you enjoyed it. We'll be back soon with all the comings and goings since the end of the 2007 season. Promise.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

2007 in Review - The Highs

"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:

8/11, 8-1
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.

Double Dragon
"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.

Hot Water
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.