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Thursday, March 1, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: Promoted from J2 via playoff
Manager: Hiroshi Matsuda
Prospects: They'll stay up -- where, though, is a mystery
One to watch: Yoshito Okubo, striker who did little during a spell in Spain and even less after coming back, but still has time on his side.
Vissel Kobe has been the busiest of any J1 side since clinching promotion after a tight promotion playoff with Avispa Fukuoka, bringing in a whole new squad's-worth of players and getting rid of a fair few, too.
The most significant signings are forward Okubo from Cerezo Osaka and 'keeper Tatsuya Enomoto from Marinos.
Brazilian midfielder Boti also has arrived on a loan deal, while last season's top scorer, Atsuhiro Miura (with 15), stays. Yusuke Kondo, who scored 10 last year, has had his loan period from FC Tokyo extended.
Matsuda hasn't been in the job long after taking over from Stuart Baxter last year and will have his hands full making sure all the new faces settle. It may take a while.
Another big factor in whether Vissel sinks or swims is how interested in the club is backer Hiroshi Mikitani, the Internet mogul who owns the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. If Vissel gets mired in a relegation fight early on, it will be interesting to see whether Mikitani loosens the purse strings to refresh the team in midseason. It could be the difference between consolidating a position in J1 or yo-yoing between the top league and J2. Mikitani knows that a club with the potential of Vissel shouldn't be in the latter category.