It is relatively simple premise – ask supporters what they think about the club they support.
In the first of what I hope is many roundtables to come, I asked @fortressnozuta (FN) and @spulseukultras (SP) to pull up a hard backed mahogany chair, pour themselves a nice cup of tea and tell us how they thought their teams had done thus far this season.
JLR – We are one month or so into the season. Has your team’s season gone as you thought it would?
FN – Given that Zelvia are currently top of the league table I would have to say, no, most definitely not. I know that it is early days and we are unlikely to maintain this position, but
Who would’ve thought it?!
Zelvia are showing themselves to be a strong, confident side. I originally had them down to finish around 16th position but now I’m wondering if they may not finish in the top ten.
JLR – Same question to you Mr. S-Pulse….
One month or so in and we find S-Pulse 6th in the table which, thinking back over the last two seasons, is quite the heady height. Albeit we’re in J2 not J1, but being nearer the top than the bottom is still quite the novelty. This year as a whole is something of a voyage of discovery, but nine games is time enough to lose the wide eyes and begin approaching the task in hand with deadly seriousness. That task is regaining our J1 status, and with that in mind, 6th position isn’t good enough. Four wins on the board already is more than half what was accomplished over the entirety of 2015. However, having failed to journey 900km to Nagasaki, 600km to Yamagata or 850km to Kumamoto I’m yet to see a live victory. To find a Nihondaira league win you have to go back to May, so it’s not an exaggeration to say 2015’s struggles still cast something of a pall over my Shimizu experience. Securing a home win will be a big mental step in becoming fully liberated from the traumas of ‘15.
JLR – Mr. S-Pulse, why can’t you win at home?
Good question. Of opponents Ehime, Matsumoto, Sanuki and Sapporo, only Sapporo looked like winning (which they did). None of Ehime, Sanuki nor Matsumoto threatened to take maximum points, and it was largely our own inefficiency which was the story of the day. Kobayashi persisted with Kitagawa in attack for our opening four games, three of which were those unfruitful home ties. He has since opted for Duke, who quickly found the net, adding to captain Omae’s encouraging strike rate. Which is to say I don’t think we will continue to have problems finding the target. So while 6th isn’t good enough for an automatic promotion spot, it is of course very early days.
JLR – Which players have proved to be important so far?
FN – We have kept the backbone of our team from last season but augmented it with new additions in the form of experienced players MF Tatsuya Yazawa, FW Yuki Nakashima, and most recently DF Calvin Jong-a-Pin, taking the position of stalwart Kota Fukatsu who is currently out injured. He did such a good job these last two games that I wonder if Fukatsu will return to his original position or find himself on the bench once he regains match fitness.
SP – Maybe more along the lines of “will be important” during the season but Chong Tese’s return from injury may see (coach Shinji) Kobayashi add an additional forward to the one he’s played so far.
JLR – Given that you were both in different leagues last year, what have you thought about your style of play now that you’re in J2?
FN – League table positions aside, on the field Zelvia are also performing better than I had expected. As a result of these additions and, in general, the higher level at which J2 teams play, the squad members who were retained from last year have raised their game. They have obviously been working on improving pass completion and retaining the ball under pressure, and I’ve seen some footwork and maneuvers to those ends that I never saw back in J3. I’ve often said that we are a team that needs a stronger opponent to bring out the best in us, and J2 is providing us with the opportunity to show ourselves at our best.
SP – What problems we’ve had are relatively simple to combat, indeed I think they are some way to a resolution. That’s not to say we can expect plain sailing until the end of the season, but I’m encouraged by the performances I’ve seen, even the no-score draws. We’re moving in the right direction, and have the resources to ensure one or two injuries needn’t impact too strongly. Famous last words perhaps, but I’m confident for the coming months, and am looking forward with excitement!