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Friday, March 2, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
JEF United Chiba
Last season: 11th
Manager: Amar Osim (Bosnia)
Prospects: Escaping relegation by the skin of their teeth
One to watch: Seiichiro Maki, who has a point to prove after an inconsistent 2006.
Mario Haas, Nebojsa Krupnikovic, Masataka Sakamoto, Yuki Abe have all left the club, changing a talent-laden side that underachieved in the league last season to one with a handful of decent players who may not have the guts if they become embroiled in a relegation dogfight.
It will be a big season for the likes of national team players Naotake Hanyu, a stylish attacking midfielder, and Maki as they will be the ones expected to realize their potential and turn into the sort of solid professionals the club can rely on.
Maki must improve on his 12 goals of last season if he is to be considered as a national team mainstay. At stages last year, he seemed to have mislaid his killer instinct. Hanyu also must up his strike rate and replace Abe (scorer of 11 last season) as the midfield goal-getter.
There is still some real quality in the lineup, though: Ilian Stoyanov is one of the best defenders in the league.
JEF also has signed Serbian central defender Nenad Djordjevic from Partizan Belgrade.
The 27-year-old, capped 18 times for his country, played at last summer's World Cup finals in Germany.
Amar Osim had a tough time of it after taking over from father Ivica, but he still managed to win the Nabisco Cup in 2006 ahead of the Antlers. Last year will be a picnic compared to the struggle he faces this year.