And boy, do we have a few midfielders….
- Age: 33
- Previous clubs: Ventforet Kofu, Kyoto Sanga, Ehime FC
- Last year: 23 games / 1 goal / 1 assist
Tamori provides the experience in FC Gifu’s midfield now that Keiji Takachi has departed the club. Signed as a holding midfielder, he sometimes dropped into the centre of defence last year when the situation needed it.
He’s not the prettiest or flashiest of players, but he plays an important role in the team, screening the defence – and given the potential youngness of the defence again this year, it figures to be important again. His positional awareness is very good, partly due to his experience, but also partly through necessity because isn’t fast enough to cover runs from pacy midfielders. He knows Oki from his Kyoto days, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Tamori is made captain/vice captain in 2017.
- Age: 23
- Previous clubs: FC Gifu
- Last year: 16 games / 0 goals / 1 assist
The left-footed Aoki is similar to Daiki Tamori in many ways; likes to be a holding midfielder and isn’t very flashy. But Aoki is very energetic, and can cover a lot of ground. His passing needs a bit of work – in the area of the pitch he inhabits teams are more and more looking for all round players to sit in front of the defence, and I don’t think Oki will be any different.
He was known to take some set pieces last year when Leonardo Rocha was out of the side, but with emergence of Kazama & Tanaka I think he will relinquish those duties. He’ll be an important/versatile squad player to have.
- Age: 27
- Previous clubs: Machida Zelvia, Renofa Yamaguchi
- Last year: 42 games / 4 goals / 3 assists
A lot of people were surprised by this signing, seeing as Shoji was swapping a Renofa side that had defied all expectations to finish in the top half of J2 for a team that had just avoided relegation to J3 on the final day of the season.
I saw Renofa beat FC Gifu in the flesh way back in May, and I have to say that Shoji kind of passed me by. I went back to have a look at that game and while he played well, he didn’t jump off the screen (that award went to Renofa forward, Masato Nakayama). Since then, I’ve watched his highlights and have been impressed with what I’ve seen. A deep lying, ball playing midfielder with an eye for a through pass, Shoji looks composed on theball and is eager to start attacks from a deep position – the kind of player I envisaged Keiji Takachi to end up being as his age moved on. Shoji has proved incredibly durable too, failing to complete just one game in the past two years – ironically it was against Gifu in September when he came off injured in Gifu surprise 3-2 win in Yamaguchi.
Shoji has the potential to be a vital cog in Gifu’s new system.
- Age: 23
- Previous clubs: Kawasaki Frontale, Oita Trinita
- Last year: 30 games / 4 goals / 4 assists
A fan favourite, this year looks promising for the ex-Oita man. His favoured position is out on the right side of midfield. He has the skills to work as a traditional winger, but he also has the energy & workrate to work as an orthodox right sided midfielder.
You very rarely see him standing still, he always seems to be buzzing about looking for the ball. Sometimes that compromises the shape of the team, but this year it figures to be an asset. Oki’s teams usually try to make space compact, meaning that when his team loses the ball, Oki expects the players to shrink the pitch, giving less space for the opposition to work in. That approach obviously raises questions about how to exploit space whne Gifu have the ball, but as a defensive theory it is sound.
Kazama could be very good in this wide midfield/attacking role, and should Abe become the first choice right back, I can see them forming a good partnership down the right side.
It is also going to be a special season because he will get face his brother Koki, who plays for Yamagata, and his father Yahiro, who is the new coach of our local rivals Nagaoya Grampus.
Paulo Junichi Tanaka
- Age: 23
- Previous clubs: Zweigen Kanazawa, Kawasaki Frontale
- Last year: 20 games / 0 goals / 3 assists
Initially forgotten and kind of dismissed as someone who was there for morale purposes only, Tanaka came into his own in the final, important stretch run of games.
He lined up on the left hand side of the attacking midfielders, and used his seemingly limitless energy and not insignificant pace to stretch opponents in a way that Gifu couldn’t do before. His ability to switch sides with Koya Kazama proved valuable for the team and, along with pace of Leo Mineiro, gave Gifu some flexibility to how they played. He started the final three games, after having been a bit part player through most of the year, and in those final three games Gifu scored 6 goals, won two and really should have won the other one too.
His presence around the club is energetic, and he quickly became loved by the supporters. If he & Kazama can develop their games together, I see no reason why Tanaka can’t improve in 2017.
- Age: 25
- Previous clubs: Atletico San Luis (Mexico)
- Last year: 15 games / 0 goals / 1 assist
Ono came to Gifu in an unusual fashion, going to latin America to experience football before coming back to Japan. He has been in & out of the team so far during his time in Gifu, making 29 appearances over the last two years, but when he does play, it is usually as a central midfielder with a bit of license to get forward. He is left footed, and has a pretty good dead ball delivery on him too. It is crowded in that central midfield area now, so he will have to have a good pre-season if he is to make himself first choice in there.
- Age: 30
- Previous clubs: Valladolid, Osasuna, Suwon (KOR), Lech Poznan (POL), Veira (GRE)
- Last year: 11 games / 0 goals
Sisinio is a bit of a wild card for Gifu this year, with much expected of the former Spanish U21 international.
Sisinio’s is a funny story. Originally he wanted to play for Avispa Fukuoka and contacted them directly to see if there was any chance of playing for them – leading to an interesting Twitter exchange between Sisinio & Avispa’s SNS team. After that, Gifu caught wind of him wanting to come to Japan, and stepped in to sign him.
Very small, listed as 168cm, it will be interesting to see how he is deployed. Not having seen him in his previous clubs, I’m only speculating here but all signs point to him either playing on the left wing or behind the striker(s). He was an international team-mate of David Silva – you may have heard of him? If some of Silva’s stardust passed on to Sisinio, we are going to see something exciting in Gifu.
- Age: 22
- Previous clubs: FC Tokyo & FC Tokyo U23
- Last year: 28 games / 1 goal / 0 assists
I have to admit that I haven’t really seen much of Nozawa, but I know someone who has – Mr @JTalkPod – and has been described thusly:
“Really promising holding midfielder. Good engine, intelligent. Just needs to develop his range of passing. Should be good in J2”
He mostly played in FC Tokyo’s U23 side in J3 last year (possibly overshadowed by Muriqui and Takefusa Kubo) but I’m always happy to let young players have a chance to make it.
- Age: 20
- Previous clubs: Kyoto Sanga
- Last year: 0 games
I honestly know nothing about Nagashima, seeing as he didn’t play last year in J2, and only played 7 times in 2015. I assume that Takeshi Oki knows him or has had someone at Kyoto recommend him to him. I’m eager to see what he is about.