Captain Keiji returns for 2016

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Today, the club was given a big boost by the contract extension signing of club captain Keiji Takachi. The soon to be 36 year old has proved Gifu’s most consistent player over the two years he has been here, and his signing provides a huge boost going into the season.

But why? Why all the hullabaloo over a player that is approaching the end of his career and didn’t score a goal in 2015? The answer to this is a bit complex, but I’ll give it a go here.

1.Status

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Takachi is regarded in very high terms around the J.League. He is an under-assuming personality, someone you might consider too quiet to be a captain. But he leads, and other people respect that. Hiroshi Nanami, the Jubilo Iwata coach and ex-Japanese international, recently said on TV:

He (Takachi) should be in J1. His mind works faster than most people in this division, and his left foot is beautiful.

Kawasaki Frontale midfielder Yuto Takeoka, who played with Takachi at Yokohama FC, said:

He is one player that I would pay to watch, and I hope others would too. He’s a genius.

That Gifu finished 20th last year is a moot point where Takachi’s reputation is concerned. He’s highly respected by all the Gifu players and staff, adored by the supporters here, and is respected by opposition players & coaches. He brings gravitas to FC Gifu – something that isn’t easily achieved.

2.Style

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His best position (in my opinion) is playing just off the front, and just in front of holding midfielders. Some of his best games last year were when he was given freedom to roam around the attacking third, and he does a lot of his damage cutting in from the right as a kind of inverted winger. He doesn’t have the pace to take full backs on down the outside, but when he cuts inside and runs at them on their weaker sides, as inverted wingers do, then it creates a sense of uncertainty. Should the full back stick with him? Does one of the centre backs come out to deal with it? Do you just continue to let him run and focus on holding the defensive line?

All these questions come about when you fail to deal with, at source, an inverted winger. I hope to see Takachi in this position much more in 2016. He doesn’t need to be burdened with any defensive responsibilities – that isn’t his game anymore, and I’m not sure it ever was. He needs to be given licence to get into the positions he knows are difficult to defend.

3.Final ball & Dead ball

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Yes, Takachi didn’t score any goals last season after scoring seven in 2014, but he registered, per the stats people at Football Lab, eleven assists – good for best in the league. His in-swinging deliveries, free-kicks & corners taken on the right side of the pitch, are particularly potent. He gets an enormous amount of curve and dip on them, and he can alternate between high velocity crosses and ones that hang in the air, and those cause goalkeepers all kinds of problems. If there is any hint of wind, Gifu will fill the six yard area and Takachi will put the ball right on the six yard line, and chaos usually ensues.

It isn’t just the dead ball which Takachi excels. His ability to thread balls through to his strikers – in the past  two years Nazarit, Hiroaki Namba & Leo Mineiro have all blossomed with him – is unparalleled in the Gifu squad and he is one of the best in the league at it.

So, there you have it. A bit of an in-depth look at Gifu’s “fantasista”. Hopefully he will continue to shine for Gifu in 2016.

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