Not a topic that has been broached so far this season in regards to FC Gifu (!) but as the saying goes: Goals win games. Or something like that. In the absence of any goals from FC Gifu to talk about, I’m going to take a quick look at the strikers in J2 that are currently spearheading their team. Note: these are who I consider to be the strikers in form, NOT the best strikers.
Kempes – JEF United (7 goals)
He comes with a caveat: over half of his goals came in the demolition of Giravanz Kitakyushu. However, this doesn’t disguise the fact that he has the traits to score plenty of goals in this division. He is big, strong and quick and he gives J2 defenders nightmares as to how to cope with him. Cerezo Osaka fans might not agree with that assessment given his rather muted spell woth the pink side of Osaka last year in J1. In his four goal salvo against Giravanz, he scored one header, one with his right foot and two with his left demonstrating his repetoire. Against Gunma last weekend it was a tap-in. Good strikers score all types of goals and Kempes is certainly doing that this year. When he is paired with Jair, they make a very good tandem – a tandem that will likely be too good for lots of defences in this league.
Tomoyuki Arata – Fagiano Okayama (4 goals)
Arata is the talisman for a Fagiano side that has moved into second place in J2 after their win against Consadole Sapporo last Sunday. Arata opened the scoring in that game with a superb half volley from 25 yards out which left the keeper with no chance. Arata burst on to scene at Mito Hollyhock before unproductive spells at Jubilo Iwata and JEF United, and now he is calling Kanko Stadium home. He scores all kinds of goals: the spectacular (see against Consadole & Ehime), the poacher’s (see against Nagasaki) and headers (see against Verdy). He doesn’t have one outstanding facet of his game, but he looks very decent in all aspects: he’s not slow, he has a good leap, he is a good finisher and he leads the line well. Fagiano were tipped by many, including myself, to be dark horses for a play-off spot this year and if Arata can continue his hot start, they may just live up to that billing.
Takayuki Funayama – Matsumoto Yamaga (4 goals)
You can’t miss Funayama. He’s the one with bleached blond hair, menacing defenders who try to stop him and his Yamaga team. He has a knack of knowing how to find space in the penalty area and how to finish when he gets opportunities. Funayama was a bit of a journeyman in his younger years, but he finally found his calling at Yamaga, first helping them win promotion from the JFL and then scoring 12 goals in their impressive debut J2 season. He has carried on the form this year notching 4 goals in his opening 7 games. He is versatile as he can play as the target man, but he can also play off a frontman as he sometimes does, usually with Nagasawa playing the top man. So far this season he has scored 2 headers, a penalty and a typical poachers goal where he followed up on a parry from from Kobe ‘keeper Yamamoto. The blond bombshell looks set to continue his crusade against J2 defences this year.
Shouma Mizunaga – V-Varen Nagasaki (4 goals)
Mizunaga, and V-Varen in general, have been a breath of fresh air in J2 this year. His four goals have helped the J2 newcomers to a very respectable mid-table position and if he continues in his current vein they will in around that position and not have to worry about relegation. Mizunaga has spent all of his career in Kyushu having played for Honda Lock before joining Nagasaki two years ago. His 12 goals last year helped V-Varen pip Nagano Parceiro to the JFL title (in much the same way as Funayama helped Matsumoto) and has started the J2 season well. He is helped by the fact that Nagasaki set out to play attacking football, and also the fact that Koichi Sato is there to take some of the pressure off him (Sato himself has got three goals this season). He’s a fairly tall guy so it is no surprise that he has a couple of headers, including the injury-time winner against Vortis and from time to time Nagasaki have no problem in turning to the long ball to relieve pressure/be more direct. J2 teams are on notice: Nagasaki will be no soft touches this year and Mizunaga will be at the forefront of their first J.League campaign.
Kazuki Hara – Kyoto Sanga (5 goals)
The former Shimizu S-Pulse man is at the business end of a Kyoto side looking to go one better than last year and achieve promotion back to Japan’s top flight. He always had potential, but never really lived up to it and fell out of favour at Shimizu and joined Sanga following a brief spell with Urawa. Hara had a fairly lean time of it last year scoring only six league goals, but this year he has assumed extra goalscoring responsibility in the absence of Atsutaka Nakamura, who is now with Kashima Antlers. He scored a brace on Sunday against Gifu but he also scored a brace earlier on this season against Vissel Kobe proving he is no flat track bully. His two goals against Kobe were of the highest quality: his first was a howitzer from the edge of the area which smacked the underside of the bar before going in while his second was calm clip over the onrushing Kobe ‘keeper. This Kyoto side has the ability to create plenty of chances with the likes of Miyayoshi, Yokotani, Mitsuhira, Ando scheming and orchestrating. Hara has a good chance to hit 20 goals if he stays fit and is able to continue this run of form.
Should I have included Leandro? Popo? Uchimura? Tashiro? Let me know here or on twitter!!