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Saturday, March 6, 2010
2010 J. LEAGUE PREVIEW
Team-by-team previews of the 18 teams competing in the first division.
Last season: third
Gamba manager Akira Nishino acknowledged his team wasn't ready for the season ahead after last year's 3-0 Xerox Super Cup loss to Kashima Antlers, and he was proven right by hot-and-cold performances over the first half of the campaign.
That Gamba managed to haul themselves into the title race after that suggests their problems are now over, and the Emperor's Cup final thrashing of Nagoya Grampus offered a further riposte to those who thought the 2008 Asian Champions League-winning team had become a spent force.
Nishino has resisted the temptation to tinker with a successful formula, with Ze Carlos and Dodo the only arrivals of any real note, taking the club's quota of Brazilian strikers to four.
But Gamba's midfield is where the team's reputation has been forged, and the quartet of Yasuhito Endo, Hideo Hashimoto, Takahiro Futagawa and Tomokazu Myojin is showing few signs of slowing down.
Gamba's familiar look does, however, have its downside. Central defender Sota Nakazawa and goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigaya have appeared shaky for some time, and Nishino is not really blessed with alternatives.
Then again, frailty at the back hasn't stopped Gamba from winning trophies by the bucket load in recent years.
Who's to say they won't win more this season?