More than a few changes from last year, here are the defensive players for FC Gifu in 2017.

Henik

  • Age: 27
  • Previous clubs: Criciuma, FC Gifu, Botafogo
  • Last year: (for Botafogo) 4 games / 0 goals

Now this was a surprise. It had never even crossed my mind that Henik might come back, although he was very popular in his previous spell at the club.

Speaking of that previous spell, Henik was used as a midfielder in those days, using his muscle & energy to get up & down the pitch. He was forceful more than elegant, getting things done via strength as opposed to a huge amount of skill. What is interesting this time is that he has been signed as a defender. When he was last here, he impressed when he dropped back into defence – he’s not the quickest, but he very rarely loses out in a one-on-one situation. He looks a trimmer than the last time, maybe in an effort to improve his coverage ability. I assume that in the intervening time back in Brazil, he was used in defence and that is why he has been brought back to Gifu.

Injuries not withstanding, I expect him to be a starting central defender in the first game.

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Henik, before he left Gifu last time….

Masaya Tashiro

  • Age: 23
  • Previous clubs: FC Gifu
  • Last year: 28 games / 1 goal / 1 assist

It might seem odd given Gifu’s bad defensive record last year, but Tashiro looked like he could become a very good player. He isn’t outstanding at one thing, but is good at a lot of things. He’s tall enough to challenge the biggest players at set pieces, but not tall enough to dominate. He’s quick enough not to be left behind, but not super speedy. Hispassing is good enough, but not difference making.

If left to concentrate on the defensive stuff this year, I believe he’ll take another step forward. He had to deal with a serious facial injury last year, but other than that he proved pretty resilient for a centre back in his first year at a struggling team.

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Go Iwase

  • Age: 21
  • Previous clubs: Kyoto Sanga
  • Last year: 30 games / 0 goals / 0 assists

Iwase is back again for Gifu, extending his loan from parent club Kyoto Sanga. Iwase did a bit of everything last year – he played left back, centre back, defensive midfield, left midfield. I’m interested in how new coach Takeshi Oki uses him, because at the end of last season he was being used as a centre back. He’s only 170cm, not really your average centre back height, but he’s very quick and I think his ability to cover quicker players made Megumu Yoshida decide to play him there.

As mentioned, his height renders him a liability at set pieces, but his pace is an asset elsewhere. I wouldn’t be unhappy to see him at left back this year.

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Jun Suzuki

  • Age: 23
  • Previous clubs: FC Gifu
  • Last year: 20 games / 0 goals / 0 assists

Suzuki was another one of the FC Gifu defenders to play in a few positions in 2016. At various times he was left back, left wing back and centre back. As an observer, I’m still not sure what his best position is – he looked ok in centre defence, but that was in a small sample size and I’d be concerned about his positioning because his natural way is to gravitate to the left, which is no surprise given that he has primarily played left back in career to date (including university). The left full back position is up for grabs now, with no real leader there so it could be that he fights for his place there. I don’t see him as a centre back now given that Henik & Tashiro (not to mention Daiki Tamori or Kentaro Kai) look to be the front runners for the CB roles.

If Gifu were to play a 3-5-2, or a variant thereof, I would think he has more chance of claiming a starting spot.

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Jun Suzuki, making sure of the instructions….

Kentaro Kai

  • Age: 22
  • Previous clubs: Hannan University
  • Last year: (for Gifu) 1 game / 0 goals

Kai was actually with the club last year as part of the special “JFA designated player” deal where a club can take on a player while he is completing his studies.

He’s a centre back with a good university pedigree, having been selected for the Kansai (west Japan) Universities team – which is no mean feat given the amount of talent that competes at the university level in that part of Japan.

His only appearance last year was at Yamagata, where he was brought on very late to help preserve a 1-1 scoreline – which Gifu did. Again, I don’t really know enough about Kai to comment too much on him, although in the small pieces I have seen of him, he is a centre back who competes in the air for balls. He also looks comfortable with the ball, although doing that in the university grades is a different thing to doing it in the pro game so we’ll have to see how he adapts there.

As an aside, FC Gifu have found a couple of really good (for this level) defenders from the university game in recent times – Masanori Abe & Masaya Tashiro – so hopefully Kai can emulate them.

 

Masanori Abe

  • Age: 25
  • Previous clubs: FC Gifu
  • Last year: 38 games / 4 goals / 4 assists

Already a veteran of the team (in fact, along with Hiroaki Namba, he’s the longest serving player having arrived at the start of Ruy Ramos’ time) Abe will be looked upon to show some strong leadership at the back this year.

He started out as a central defender, but I like him more as a full back/wing back, depending on which system Gifu play. He’s not that tall, but he is strong and deceptively quick with the added ability of being able to put some good crosses in. His four goals last year was good enough to place him third top scorer at the club. I think he is well suited to the right back role and I would expect him to make it his own this year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him as captain at some point this year either – I think Namba & Daiki Tamori are in front of him now, but those two won’t play every game and so I think it would be good to give Abe some responsibility.

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Takayuki Fukumura

  • Age: 25
  • Previous clubs: Shimizu S-Pulse
  • Last year: 13 games / 0 goals / 1 assist

Fukumura joins on loan from promoted Shimizu S-Pulse, where he started the season as a regular, but didn’t make an appearance after May 15th.

He played the full 90 minutes against Gifu in Gifu, but I have to say that I don’t really remember anything about him from that game. He played predominantly at left back for S-Pulse,  so I guess that is where he will be looking to fit in at Gifu.

 

Yuki Omoto

  • Age: 22
  • Previous clubs: Hannan University
  • Last year: –

A graduate from the same university as Kentaro Kai, I have to admit that I don’t know a lot about Omoto. In his club introduction, he says he is comfortable playing on the left or right of the defence, and he also says he likes to get forward as much as possible. I think with the depth that Gifu have at the full back positions, Omoto will have to wait a bit to get his starting chance.

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