2 – Evson
Little is known about our first winter transfer arrival but Evson has a lot to live up to. He can play as either a central midfielder or a centre back, with the latter his probable position for us. He seems to have good reading of the game and will be learning the ropes with us having spent his early career in the lower Brazilian leagues. Rumours of him being homesick are probably true but he has at least a season with us to get used to Japan. Whether he will get into the starting eleven is questionable and if so, who does he partner? Taking the number 2 jersey from Oh Jae-Suk will be pushing him into the match-day squad you feel but I think we will be seeing the best of him towards the end of the season and next year if he wants to extend his loan.
3 – Takaharu Nishino
His breakthrough season pushed Nishino into the U-22 national team for the Olympics of 2016 (as captain no less) but this season will be a big test of his quality. Whilst he was assured and relatively faultless in J2, J1 will bring him up against tougher opposition to deal with, thus bringing him up a level. He will need to command a starting position more often with a regular partner (which is still undecided). He would be in my starting eleven though and should be given time at this level with a J1 experienced partner. Taking number 3 suggests he will get the chances he needs; I am looking forward to him improving thanks to the good and bad times he will have.
4 – Hiroki Fujiharu
More of the same please Fujiharu! You simply cannot see Fujiharu bequeathing his regular left-back spot to anyone else and will add to his 80 consecutive league starts with no substitutions in that time. It will be great for him to have a superb up-and-coming left-back like Yuto Uchida behind him in the pecking order to teach the skills of his trade. Hiroki will need to add more decisive crosses to garner more assists and try not to be caught out too high up the pitch in his offensive mode but you cannot fault him at all. This guy will just keep getting better, getting more fans, and more assists and goals. I repeat, more of the same!
5 – Daiki Niwa
Despite being a great partner to Takaharu Nishino towards the end of the season, I do not feel that he did enough to command a starting position this year at centre-back. He is only comfortable with Nishino and actually looked competent. I think he will be on the bench a lot of the time and will probably get games in the Nabisco Cup the most. Nevertheless, when does play he should not change his passion and desire whilst playing with the competence show alongside Nishino. I hope he can step-up when we need him and continue his good form from the end of last season – but this year, with any defensive partner.
6 – Kim Jung-Ya
Having spent a hugely unsuccessful loan spell with Sagan Tosu in 2013, I am disappointed to see Kim back at Banpaku. The only positive thing about his return was it allowed Katsuhisa Inamori to move out on loan to Gainare Tottori to pick up some experience in J3. My expectations of Kim are non-existent so any positive news is good news. I can see Kim being the last choice to get in at centre-back and we will rarely see him if his lack of quality shown over the last two seasons is anything to go by. His J1 experience may be crucial if needed, however. I seriously do doubt that that will be the case however.
8 – Keisuke Iwashita
He had a tough season last year, picking up several injuries to prevent him from really going anywhere. One would think that if he does stay fit this season, he will be partnering Takaharu Nishino at centre-back and that would do them both the world of good. Iwashita is an improved version of Niwa but needs someone secure next to him and Nishino will give him that. Iwashita will be a threat down the other end too and his J1 experience will be needed next to whoever he starts with. I am expecting good things from him in 2014 as long as he stays fit along with the usual ridiculous amounts of silly fouls and yellow cards.
14 – Koki Yonekura
The new man from JEF caused excitement to flow through the Gamba fan circles and with good reason. The midfielder turned right-back picked up the most assists as a defender last season in J2 and netted 6 goals as a Fujiharu-esque attacking full-back. The even better thing is that he will be giving health competition to Akira Kaji at right-back as the vice-captain was basically guaranteed his starting position in 2013 despite several mistakes. It will be an interesting tussle between the two for the regular starting role but Koki could easily take the right midfield spot. It will be interesting to see whether Koki can be so effective in J1 but I am expecting him to be a wonderful acquisition.
21 – Akira Kaji
Kaji had a bit of an odd season last year. He was the undisputed number one choice for right-back and only missed games due to suspension or injury. Nevertheless, he did make a lot of silly and poor errors (just like Konno) but he was always a threat when going forward. Fresh competition in the form of Koki Yonekura will give him the kick up the backside he needed but whether he is the first choice right-back now or not remains to be seen – he needed some competition. You would still expect Kaji to be in and around the match day squad every week and I am sure if he can fix the mistakes he made in 2014, he and Yonekura will have an interesting battle to see who will come out as number one.
22 – Oh Jae-Suk
It seems like a miracle that Oh is still playing for Gamba. He was never given a chance in 2013 to show his talent despite Kaji’s errors and there were rumours of a return to Korea. Add in the fact that his number has been changed from number 2 to 22, things do not look great. Nevertheless, he is still around and will be looking to get more chances this year, probably more at left-back than right-back. He will be a very squad player is my feeling, being able to play on either side of the defence, but that is all I expect of him. If he does not make an impact this year then I can see him returning back to Korea and who would blame him? I hope he does get a chance to at least show the fans what he has…
23 – Yuto Uchida
Yuto is definitely one to watch this year. He is only 18 years old and removing Fujiharu from that left-back position is going to be a gargantuan task and this means that Yuto will probably be the understudy to Fujiharu throughout the season. His biggest chance to shine will be in the Nabisco Cup to start with and he really does have the potential to become a huge star. All of the Gamba Youth followers know that he is incredible considering his age and you don’t captain your country at his age for no reason. It might be a slow season for him but it will be exciting to see him grow and become a superb player – keep your eyes peeled for this guy.