1 – Masaaki Higashiguchi
One would thoroughly expect Higashiguchi to be between the posts come the 1st March against Urawa Reds. As replacements go for Yosuke Fujigaya, I am sure there were many could have been an improvement but the former Gamba Youth player who was let go way back when due to his small stature will be looking to make a big impact on his return to Osaka. He joined from the growing Albirex Niigata and will be eyeing a return to the national team too; for now, he needs to keep J1-experienced Kohei Kawata out of reach of the first team and I would expect that to be the case. I am very confident that Higashiguchi will save us a fair few points in 2014 – a superb transfer in. We finally have a goalkeeper who will give the defence confidence in his actions.
16 – Kohei Kawata
Having spent 2013 on loan to J1 outfit Ventforet Kofu, it looks as if Kawata will be the back-up choice to Higashiguchi, although I am sure he will be fighting for the starting position. He started half of Ventforet’s league games last year and picked up 5 more in other competitions. It was always a tussle for number 1 spot at Kofu with Kota Ogi but Kohei looked like he won it overall, so it is strange they let him return. However, he will give us an excellent option in case Higashiguchi gets injured. I expect Kohei to be starting the Nabisco Cup games to begin with, and we shall see where he goes from there.
18 – Atsushi Kimura
Kimura loves Gamba and that love will never tear him away from the team unless he was told to move on. He will be content with playing second fiddle or even third fiddle this season and it would be an achievement for him to make the bench this season. I feel sorry for him because I think he could have been a very good goalkeeper if he was given the chance, but when he has no desire to leave the team he loves, there is not much that can be done. The best he can hope for is a few injuries to the guys ahead of him to get his chance of throwing a spanner into Hasegawa’s goalkeeping choices.
31 – Ken Tajiri
I am very surprised Ken still with us for 2014 considering that Numata and Inamori were both let out on loan for the upcoming season. With the return of Kohei Kawata and Tajiri behind Kimura in the goalkeeper pecking order and all three of the goalkeepers that are ahead of him filling the quota for 2013, we do not really need a 4th choice goalkeeper, especially at Tajiri’s age. It would have been nice to see Ken go and pick up some experience as a first team regular in at least a J3 side to show Hasegawa whether he has what it takes. Nevertheless, remaining at Gamba and having Higashiguchi and Kawata ahead of him to learn from, it might be a good chance to grow learning alongside them.