Shimizu’s surprise start

Shimizu’s surprise start

By Daisuke Matsuura

The 2011 season of J.League has just made its halfway turn after completing 17 games in mid July. While two giant clubs, Kashima and Urawa, were struglling in the bottom of the table, Kashiwa Reysol marked a great start along with Vegalta Sendai and Yokohama F. Marinos.

Shimizu have surprised many so far this year

The fact that Kashiwa Reysol, a new face from Division 2, collected a total of 34 points and sit at the top of the table and Sendai remained unbeaten in 12 games overcoming the earthquake shock must be two of the more remarkable highlights from first half of the season.

So what about Shimizu S-Pulse? I believe that Shimizu have also surprised most J.League fans. Let me talk about my team.

Shimizu are sitting in sixth in the league,  collecting 27 points in 17 games with 7 wins and 6 draws. They have played well so far and succeeded to ease supporters’ anxiousness from pre-season after losing seven regular starters including three national team members. No one, even long time keen supporters, could imagine this result before the season started. Even relegation to Division 2 seemed so realistic to all supporters that it was very difficult to keep ourselves motivated.

But no one talks about it anymore. In fact, I can even say that supporters are now looking for a much brighter finish than sixth place towards the end of the season. If you are a regular attendant in Nihondaira stadium, you will have already noticed that supporters have changed how they view the teams performance over recent months compared to the beginning of season.

Anxiousness had changed to relief first, and then relief to hope and it has made us look further. Now we are expecting much more from the team than just staying in Division 1, as we were hoping in pre-season. Players also will have felt this change in their home stadium. The atmosphere now has almost reached to that of 2009 and 2010 seasons when being a champion was absolute must.

Shimizu’s revival is based on full understanding of Ghotbi’s style among players, which we started seing on the pitch around late May early June. Here are three players I pick as key players that embody Ghotbi’s style.

Shinji Ono
All play is going through him. It’s all his choice to accelerate or decelerate the attacking speed. It’s as if every single pass from him carries a message to his fellow players from him, moreover from Ghotbi. He is surely the conductor of attacking squad. The King of Shimizu looks much brighter on the pitch this season than last season having the new coach’s full trust. Though he doesn’t play the full 90 minutes, his performance still has a huge impact on the whole squad both on and off the pitch. If he scores as much as he talks to media, it’s not hard to imagine seeing orange at the top of the table.

Naohiro Takahara
His comeback to his hometown club in February was warmly received and he is getting much more acclaim with his performance on the pitch. Some had said in the off-season that he had already past his peak but he has proved that they were wrong. The goal he scored against Urawa made all of us scream and drove all of us crazy. He is also a great target player at the front. Thanks to his strong target play, Ono is now able to receive a ball facing forward, posing a greater threat to opponents.

Alex Brosque
The Aussie star has gained the trust from his coach and his fellow players as soon as the season started by his continuous dedication to defend. He covered almost the entire field to battle for the ball. And now he has started earning trust from supporters as well by showing his real scoring ability which was what we had expected from him.

The banner in the Shimizu home end

Of course there are many players besides those three star players mentioned above who should be counted as key player like Omae, Muramatsu, Kobayashi, and Iwashita. They all are helping S-Pulse collect points in many games, but a player I would like to push more than anyone is Toshiyuki Takagi. If you haven’t seen this 20-years old playing on the pitch, you are missing a golden opportunity to check out a rising Japanese star of the next generation. He will surely be wearing a national team shirt along with Usami and Miyaichi in the near future. All he needs is to score his first goal in S-Pulse as soon as possible.

This season started with very low expectations but now all of our eyes are aiming higher. There has been a banner at Shimizu’s home stadium right behind the home end saying “Wonderful Football Style” since the 2008 season. S-Pulse haven’t won any titles under this banner yet, but we will surely get closer to glory if they keep showing and improving the style they have now.

When Shinji Ono holds the trophy, that is when S-Pulse will have achieved the style written on the banner.

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