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Saturday, March 3, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: 2nd
Manager: Takashi Sekizuka
Prospects: Bigger teams have got better than Frontale -- top 5
One to watch: Juninho, one of the best strikers in the league.
Frontale are devastating in attack and proved so last season when they scored 84 goals on their way to coming a brilliant second in the league. The goals were spread around, too, with midfielders Hiroyuki Taniguchi (13 goals) and Kengo Nakamura (10) getting in the act along with forwards Juninho (20) and Kazuki Ganaha (18).
Nakamura and Taniguchi are still young and can only improve if Sekizuka sticks to the tactics employed last season, as Frontale overwhelmed opponents with a blitzkrieg of all-out attacking. Nakamura, in particular, should be aiming to solidify a place in the Japan national team, as coach Ivica Osim appears to be a fan.
Frontale face two problems this season: The defense is creaky (55 goals conceded last season) and isn't getting any younger.
Former Japan youth goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima has joined from Nagoya Grampus Eight may help, while midfielder Takahiro Kawamura also has arrived on a one-year loan deal from relegated Cerezo Osaka.
The team's success has brought the problem of dealing with an Asian Champions League campaign with a thin squad. Sekizuka may do well to concentrate on consolidating his team's league standing and leave Urawa to fly the flag in Asia.
One more thing Frontale should hope for is an increase in interest in the team. Crowds hardly flocked to Todoroki Stadium last season, even though the team was playing some breathtaking stuff. Here's hoping. (J.M)