No-one quite went at the winter transfer market like JEF United. They cleaned out almost an entire squad, and went about replacing them – cosmetic surgery on a stunning level, even by football standards.

But has it/will it do any good? Or are we just expecting JEF to do what JEF do best and tease their long suffering supporters with hope of promotion, only to fall away when it matters most?

One person who has seen this happen more regularly than most is @ChibaNews – so who better to talk about the fate that awaits JEF United this year. Take it away…..

 

It has been a crazy winter for JEF United. So many players have left and arrived. Why?

 According to Mr. Yuta Takahashi, the new general manager of JEF United, there are two reasons for this “scrap and build”:

 1) Lack of eagerness for success in JEF United

Takahashi talked with players after the team finished 9th last season. He felt some players had a lack of eagerness for J1 promotion. So Takahashi decided to recruit new players who have a desire for success and additionally special affection for JEF United (or Chiba region). He expects those players know the meaning and the purpose clearly why they play for this team. He confirmed in an interview that he did this shuffle intentionally.

 

2) Financial reasons

JEF had paid a lot of transfer fees.(Morimoto’s face occurred to me immediately.) Once purchasing players, football teams have to pay out not only their salaries but also amortize transfer fees based on contract periods. Takahashi said those costs had been becoming a weight on the club finances. 18 of 19 new players are free transfers. JEF paid 5M yen only for acquiring Takayuki Funayama from Kawasaki Frontale. Takahashi wanted to keep some players such as Kazuki Oiwa or Kim Hyun-Hun, but due to insufficient contract scheme, JEF failed to keep them. “We should change our mind and become more cost-conscious. Additionally, we should look be an expert on making contracts”, emphasized Takahashi.

 3) Overall

Financial reason sounds realistic. It is the 7th year for JEF in J2. The budget has been reduced certainly. Takahashi explained how those purchases had been becoming a burden for the club finances. Although JEF have not disclosed detailed financial reports, you can see JEF’s fixed assets(assumed including players value) are higher compared to the other J2 clubs. (http://www.jleague.jp/aboutj/management/club-h25kaiji-j2.html)

 I personally understand new GM’s idea. He wanted to clean up existing habits and start from scratch. I had the similar experience in some American companies. It is quite common that a new manager comes in, sweeps away the old employees and brings new ones. Sometimes it works. But usually these changes are not such as  drastic as JEF United did this time…

Some unanswered questions are lingering. Do the exit-players really have less eagerness than newcomers? Are there no management issues about Sekizuka in the club? If all players are gone, can JEF fans consider it is still our team?

 I hope they become clear at the end of this season.

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Why do you think JEF decided to keep Sekizuka as coach?

 JEF change a coach when the team does not go well. The club drifted from one coach after the next and finished in vain. It is easy to accuse somebody of all responsibilities/failures rather than to analyze the situation and improve it. However JEF have decided to keep Sekizuka this time. Even if 2015 result was the worst in 6 years in J2.

Is Sekizuka the right person? There are huge discussions among JEF fans and it seems there is still no conclusion. To be honest, I’m not sure whether he is good or not. JEF sometimes had exciting games but towards the end of the season they produced some poor performances. We don’t know if it was because of players’ mentality or lack of tactics. Probably both.

 Sekizuka succeeded Jun Suzuki and came to JEF in the middle of 2014. This is his third year in JEF and potentially his last year. Maybe it is Sekizuka who needs to show a big passion for promotion.

 

 How do you think JEF will do in 2016? Do you think they can challenge for promotion?

 Generally speaking every team has a chance for promotion this year. When you look at 2016 J2, there are no absolute favorites such as Jubilo Iwata or Omiya Ardija last year. Straight-in might be secured by well-financed teams such as Cerezo Osaka or Shimizu S-Pulse, but play-off positions are attainable to the others.

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So far JEF play better than we expected.

 Ex-Kashiwa Reysol player Naoya Kondo and LEE Joo-Young from Tochigi SC are getting stable in the defense line. Aranda from Paraguay shows his superiority in the midfield. Kazuki Nagasawa who had been well trained in FC Köln for the previous two years, now plays for JEF United on a loan basis from Urawa Reds. I have to say our new GM did a good job in such a limited time.

 JEF still need more games to function as a team. Although fan’s expectation is not very high after such a big change, I personally feel excited.

And that is what a new season should bring….excitement. You can follow all the thrills and spills of the brand new JEF United Chiba by following @chibanews – do it, you won’t be disappointed.

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