Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Agent Orange: Extra Time - My Best and Worst XI

Best keeper Yokohama F Marinos' Hiroki Iikura. It's hard to get credit when you are behind a very decorated back four but on more than one occasion Iikura has bailed them out. Much maligned last year, he's doing the job this year.

Worst keeper Montedio Yamagata's Yuki Uekusa. When your team bunkers and you still bleed goals, look at the keeper. Uekusa has been a disaster for Yamagata and has probably cost them a chance at 2012 top league play.

Best sidebacks Kashiwa Reysol's Hiroki Sakai and Kawasaki Frontale's Takanobu Komiyama. Both players have been respectable in defense and key to getting the offense started for their respective squads.

Worst sidebacks Kashima Antlers' Alex and Avispa Fukuoka's Takumi Wada. Alex moved to Kashima at the worst possible time so I feel a little bad about throwing him under the bus, but he's been one of the most disappointing signings of 2011. As for Wada, he left S-Pulse for Marinos for their record-setting 2007 campaign of destruction, then moved to Tokyo Verdy and the year that nearly killed their franchise, then went to JEF United and saw the bottom drop out of them... and now finds himself at Fukuoka. Just saying.

Best centerbacks Ventforet Kofu's Daniel and Vegalta Sendai's Cho Byung Kuk. Daniel is probably better suited for midfield but the burly Brazilian has been a real bright spot in an otherwise dour Kofu defense. You can tell his value by looking at the four games he missed - four straight losses and a combined 11-1 drubbing. Meanwhile Cho has been the anchor of a Sendai back four who are allowing less than one goal a game and really has stabilized the position after the rotating mess of last year.

Worst centerbacks Avispa Fukuoka's Daiki Niwa and Gamba Osaka's Sota Nakazawa. Really any centerback for Avispa or Gamba could be thrown in here. I picked Niwa because he also serves as the captain of Avispa and he's been poor. Nakazawa gets the nod because he's been the consistent presence among the Gamba back four (and the goal he scored against us didn't help his cause).

Best volante Shimizu S-Pulse's Shinji Ono and Gamba Osaka's Yasuhiro Endo. Both players have had better years but for sheer leadership you'd have to say that the pair are indispensible for their respective clubs. Take Ono off of Shimizu and they are in relegation territory. Take Endo off and Gamba is not in the championship conversation.

Worst volante Kashima Antlers' Mitsuo Ogasawara and Urawa Reds' Keita Suzuki. Ogasawara has been distracted by all the stuff going on in Tohoku, more so than any other player in the league. He's been off his game and it has really hurt his squad. Suzuki keeps getting worse but his power in the clubhouse keeps him in the Reds starting lineup. The major failing of Urawa was not addressing the defensive midfield spot and letting Suzuki fester.

Best wings Kashiwa Reysol's Leandro Domingues and Kawasaki Frontale's Koji Yamase. Domingues was hands down was J2's best player last year and he's continued that with an impressive albeit slightly erratic campaign. He is the conductor of everything that goes on for Kashiwa and has proven himself time and time again. Yamase has been a very good addition for Kawasaki, leading the team in assists and chipping in with five goals.

Worst wings Urawa Reds' Marcio Richardes and Vegalta Sendai's Kunimitsu Sekiguchi. Richardes has been the disappointment of 2011 after coming off a sixteen-goal, five-assist performance for Albirex Niigata last campaign. He doesn't fit in the Urawa scheme. Sekiguchi, who has been overrated since he set foot in J1, has not contributed much to the Vegalta squad and actually has been a distraction with his attitude and his pining for a job in Europe. Let him go! Yoshiaki Ota is a better player.

Best forwards Nagoya Grampus' Keiji Tamada and Urawa Reds' Genki Haraguchi. The old dog at Nagoya keeps scoring... and flopping. Haraguchi has been one of the rare Urawa players who has lived up to the hype surrounding him. The way the league has worked so far this year he won't be here long, so enjoy him while you can.

Worst forwards Omiya Ardija's Lee Chun Soo and Vissel Kobe's Yoshito Okubo. Both players have had numerous chances that they have bottled consistently. Chun Soo gets the nod over teammate Rafael because he contributes almost nothing if he isn't scoring and sleepwalks through games. We've seen him play hard and the results are usually good... unfortunately that's not often. Okubo sees off the competition as leader of an inept Kobe strike force.

Best manager Kashiwa Reysol's Nelsinho. Unique plan has Kashiwa in championship contention and, for once, the team is disciplined. Honorable mentions go to Makoto Teguramori at Vegalta and Yoshiyuki Shinoda at Fukuoka, both of whom have had to coach through disasters and both have their players playing hard and competing, even through the most trying times.

Worst manager Urawa Reds' Zeljko Petrovic. He doesn't seem to know what he wants or have a coherent plan in place. The fact that people are praising him and Urawa for beating sixteenth-placed Ventforet should tell you how far Urawa has fallen. Dishonorable mentions go to Toshiya Miura at Kofu and Jun Suzuki at Omiya. Miura has been awful. After doing a good job keeping Omiya up in 2010, Suzuki has been a disappointment, especially at home where the team has failed to win. His squad selection has been off and it feels like the team has wasted a lot of opportunities. Not addressing the sideback problem has been inexcusable.



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