Koki Yonekura comes in from JEF United Chiba

Koki YonekuraAfter a fair few weeks of speculation, Gamba finally announced the signing of 25 year-old midfielder turned right-back Koki Yonekura from JEF United Chiba.

The lad was the star for JEF last season who finished 5th in J2 last season. He converted to a right-back and got a stunning 11 assists from that position, more than anyone else plying their trade there. Additionally, he netted 6 goals, one of which came against Gamba at the Fukuda Denshi Arena back in July. He was immense that day and tore us apart, and I had to suffer the consequences being there that day.

He is a JEF boy through and through having lived in Chiba his whole life and his only professional team has been JEF up until this point. For JEF and their reserve team, he picked up 162 appearances since 2007, scoring 26 goals. The question for him now is if he can step-up another level in his performances for us in J1.

He has some experienced competition for him to look forward to at Gamba. He will have to tussle with Akira Kaji for the right-back spot or he could slip into the right-midfield position just as easily. His arrival does cast doubts on the future of Oh Jae-Suk who has not been able to take Kaji’s spot as of yet. We could be looking at a new formation for Gamba with his arrival – a system with wing-backs has already been touted as a possibility by fans.

The signings so far have been excellent and Yonekura is one of the most exciting. He found it difficult to leave the team he loves so dearly but wants to improve himself as a player. He will certainly get a chance to improve at Gamba and play at the level he definitely deserves to play at.

Welcome aboard Koki, please do your best and I very much look forward to seeing you tear-up the opposition’s left-hand side as much as Fujiharu does on the opposite flank!

Photo taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Kohei Kawata returns from Ventforet Kofu

Kohei KawataHaving spent the entire 2013 season on-loan to J1 side Ventforet Kofu, 26 year-old goalkeeper Kohei Kawata returns ahead of our return to J1.

Kawata managed 17 appearances last season for Kofu, picking up 4 clean sheets and one red card in the league. He also managed 5 additional appearances in the cup competitions. He had also spent the 2012 season on loan to Avispa Fukuoka in J2 but managed just 10 league appearances for the struggling team that season. This was after he made not a single appearance for Gamba in the 2 years between 2010 and 2011.

Kawata has been lucky to get back to Gamba after it seemed like he has been released at the end of the 2012 season. Gamba quickly snapped him back up in a bizarre move but sent him straight out to Kofu. On his return, it seems like he will battling Atsushi Kimura for the spot on the bench as it seems certain that new signing Masaaki Higashiguchi will be the main man between the posts.

Good luck Kohei and welcome back! Hopefully he can use the experience he picked up in the last two years to prove that he can be a pivotal member in 2014.

Photo taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Takuya Takei departs for Vegalta Sendai

TakeiA Christmas transfer (a bad one but not unexpected) came in the form of 27 year-old defensive midfielder Takuya Takei being signed by Vegalta Sendai having spent the season out of favour under new manager Kenta Hasegawa.

Takei ends a 6 year association with Gamba having joined Ryutsu Keizai University after graduating. He was a favourite under Akira Nishino from 2010 onwards and was able to fill several positions. His versatility was key in 2012 as Akira Kaji was injured a fair deal and Takei played at right-back.

This season he managed just 7 appearances in the league scoring one goal, which came against Roasso Kumamoto on match day 4, starting just 3 games and finishing the full 90 minutes just twice. His last appearance came on the final day of the season and he looked great but the problem for him has been that Kenta Hasegawa has not fancied him all season. Why that may be, I do not know but it is probably best for Takuya and Gamba to part ways.

In total, Takei made 175 appearances with 7 goals in all competitions. I am sure we could have done with his abilities in J1 but Sendai are getting a great player with an excellent personality. I wish him the best of luck and hope he gets the amount of game-time he deserves. Considering that the likes of Abe and Okazaki were ahead of him in the pecking order, it only baffles me that he was not given more game time.

Good luck Takuya but do not do your best when we play you next year!

Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Shota Kawanishi joins Montedio Yamagata on loan for the season

KawanishiAlthough he spent most of last season on the bench or out of the match day squad, it comes as a surprise that Gamba have allowed 25 year-old striker Shota Kawanishi to join J2 side Montedio Yamagata on loan for the entirety of the 2014 season.

The striker started just one game last season whilst coming off the bench 14 times. He managed just over 400 minutes of game time and netted just twice. He was always going to be down the pecking order with Usami, Leandro, Sato and Rocha ahead of him but his effort was never lacking and was very sharp in all the training games he featured it.

Having been injured for the majority of the 2012 season with a leg injury, this will be a great chance for him to hopefully get a good run in the starting eleven of a team to show his quality and to really get some good form. Montedio are not lacking in goals really and their defence should be their priority. Nevertheless, Shota should be able to be an effective and strong player in the second division and I am sure he will have a successful time in Yamagata.

His loan leaves Gamba with just 2 recognised strikers on the books in the forms of Sato and Usami. We are apparently close to taking Brazilian Lins Lima whilst we have been linked with South Korean forward Dong-Geon Cho. These two will be needed to make up the numbers but also to push for a starting place in the first team if we do indeed get them.

Anyway, good luck Shota and come back to Gamba in 2015 all guns blazing and tear apart J2.

Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Gamba Osaka Pride is One Year Old!

It gives me great pleasure to tell you all that Gamba Osaka Pride has reached its first birthday today (18/12/2013). I decided to start this blog in the hopes that I could get my passion for this wonderful team out of my system as I simply had no-one to share it with. I also hoped that maybe somebody would take up watching Gamba or at least the J.League.

So first of all I would like to thank to each and every single person who has visited my blog. It takes a lot of time and effort to get keep this blog updated and in a good state so when people take their time to read it and share their opinions, it means a lot. So thank you for your support for this first year – I hope there are many more!

Secondly, I think I have really improved on my writing skills as the year has gone by and I have even had an article published in JSoccer Magazine, which is run by Kobe-based legend Alan Gibson. I wish everyone would buy the magazine as it was what got me started on the J.League. I hope to be writing more for Mr.Gibson in the future, as well as great sites like japanfooty.com for which I have a piece in the pipework.

I managed to get to Japan this year, specifically Osaka of course, where I had the time of my life and got to see 6 out of 7 games whilst I was there. All were pretty important ones too: Tokushima Vortis (H) 2-0), FC Gifu (A) 8-2, JEF United Chiba (A) 0-3, Giravanz Kitakyushu (H) 1-1, Vissel Kobe (H) 3-2 and Fagiano Okayama (A) 3-2. I cannot wait to get back to Osaka for my year abroad at Kansai University.

But without further a due, here are some great stats from the blog in its first year:

Total Views: 10,212
Busiest Day: 11th October 2013 – 218 views, 194 visitors
Busiest Month: May 2013 – 1,086, 623 visitors

Most Popular Article: 25th April 2013 – Takashi Usami will leave Hoffenheim – 370 views
Most Popular Preview: 13th October 2013 – Omiya Ardija (Emperor’s Cup) – 360 views
Most Popular Review: 22nd September 2013 – Matsumoto Yamaga FC (A) – 222 views
Most Popular Player: Yasuhito Endo – 87 views

Most Visited Countries: Japan – 3,370 views & United Kingdom – 1,633 views
Number of Visited Countries: 100

Number of Posts: 127
Number of Words Typed: 134,647

Masaaki Higashiguchi joins from Albirex Niigata

We got some great news today as we signed 27 year-old goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi from Albirex Niigata on a permanent contract having spent five years at his now former club. He comes in to fill the easily forgettable void that Yosuke Fujigaya left after he was released a few weeks ago. Gamba apparently paid 100 million yen (approx £600,000) for Higashiguchi who will be on a wage of 50 million yen a year (approx £300,000).

Higashiguchi

Higashiguchi is deemed as one of the best Japanese goalkeepers in the country and has been called-up to the national side although he never made it off the bench. He suffered a tough injury last season which kept him out for 9 months – he has since played in every game after his return from that lay-off. He achieved 5 clean sheets in a rather progressive season for Albirex who dropped their strong defensive approach that gained them 11 clean sheets last season with Masaaki in goal from 24 starts. That  injury is a concern for fans but hopefully that has passed by now.

Although Higashiguchi’s first professional team was Albirex, he does have a history with Gamba as he was part of the Junior Youth side between 1999-2001 – it makes sense when he is a Takatsuki local – before moving on to a high school team, Fukui Technology University before landing in Niigata at the University of Management. After 12 years, he is back home, and we love it!

We could not have got a better replacement and entirely superb improvement on Fujigaya. Masaaki should become our number 1 immediately and is the second man in after Evson. The promised reinforcements have been great so far and Higashiguchi is a fine goalkeeper who can only improve. Whether moving from a promising Albirex team is the right decision will be determined by what he achieves with us. I welcome you to Banpaku once more Masaaki, and allow us to forget Fujigaya.

Photo taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Evson signs in on loan

EvsonAfter speculation last month concerning Gamba signing Brazilian Evson (full name Evson Patrício Vasconcelos do Nascimento) on loan, we finally made it official today as the defender/midfielder, 23, signed a year-long contract which will start from the 1st February 2014 until the 1st January 2015.

The Brazilian joins from Corinthians-AL after spending the 2013 season with CSA and then Paulista FC. He had been playing as a central midfielder last year but Gamba have already set him as a centre back, which is a position we needed to strengthen thanks to Konno moving into midfield as well as Iwashita having an injury-plagued 2013. Standing at 190cm, he will be no pushover in the air but his reading of the game also looks very good based on the YouTube videos I have seen of him. He also seems to be a strong opponent with a good tackling ability as well as having some pace that we will need in our return season to J1.

He will be with us for at least one year but we have the first option to extend that loan period if we so wish. I think this will be a good signing if he can live up to his reputation in the J.League as well as settling in quickly. He has reportedly been in Japan for almost a month now so things should be going smoothly for him.

I cannot wait to see him play and I wish him the best in his Gamba career. Hopefully he and Nishino can form a formidable defensive partnership. Welcome to Gamba Evson!

Photo taken from corinthiansalagoano. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.