With Gifu’s comprehensive win in Kumamoto, we’ve reached the half way point of the season. Here are just some brief thoughts on the season thus far.
- Keiji Takchi has been superb. I love watching him play. Never looks flustered, and rarely seeks to deviate from his cultured passing game. He is what makes FC Gifu tick. He is my player of the year so far.
- All of Gifu’s veterans have performed well. Of course, they bring the crowds in, but they have played at a decent level. Yoshikatsu has, at times, reminded us why he has been one of Japan’s best ever goalkeepers. Santos’ deadball delivery is of the highest order and has provided numerous goals. Miyazawa has looked assured, Namba has looked…..well, like a reborn Hiroaki Namba.
- If the youngsters develop, the future is bright. Junki Endo is rightly receiving acclaim for his recent performances, but it is not just Endo that has ascended this year. Tomohiro Tanaka was first to get a shot up front and scored his first senior goal against JEF United. Ryoto Higa hasn’t looked out of place in the first team. Taisuke Mizuno (on loan from Nagoya Grampus admittedly) has transitioned from a winger to a “Volante” really well. But there has been one youngster who has stood out this year……
- Masanori Abe has been outstanding. Abe came straight from University, and only signed for Gifu 2 or 3 weeks before the season started, and he was only signed due to Yuki Fukaya’s serious injury, but you wouldn’t know it from his performances. He has looked assured most of the time, and even when he hasn’t (against the likes of Shonan’s Wellington and Yamagata’s Ryohei Hayashi) he has been learning how to defend against streetwise strikers. If he continues his rate of development, he can become an extremely good defender.
- Ruy Ramos: Still a star, still an enigma. Very rarely in Japan (or anywhere, I’d guess) do you get a manager of a middling second division club turning up nightly on TV and talking about the best players in the world. Ramos does that. He’s still the main show in town. Journalists love him – always looking to try and coax that one quotable snippet out of him. If they can’t, they just show pictures of his big smile. Footballing wise, I think he is still trying to figure out this large Gifu squad. He has changed formations and tactics quite a lot this year, and he likes his squad rotation. Somewhere along the line, he is going to have settle on something he likes and believes in. His willingness to play youngsters is to be commended, and there is no doubt that he has raised the profile of the club and brought in more sponsors and money. On the pitch is where the fans will judge him.
- The second half can be better. It all depends on a run of games. Recently, Gifu have endured a torrid schedule, constantly playing teams in the top 6. But now they face a slightly easier run of games. Note I said easier, NOT easy, because any game for Gifu in this division is tough. But they face Yokohama FC (H), Kamatamare (A), Okayama (H), Ehime (H), Gunma (A) in their next 5 league games. They are all winnable, and if Gifu can build up a head of steam, who knows how far it will take them.