Relegationistan: Party Crashers

There’s always one. Someone who walks past a party and thinks “I haven’t been invited, but you know what that party needs? Me.”

In J.League terms, that someone is Jubilo Iwata. After a decent first stage in which they finished 8th with a fairly good record of 6-5-6, the second stage has seen them collapse to the point where they are in the relegation battle. In the latest of his columns, @AgentOrange2009 tries to dissect Jubilo, find who is at fault and assesses whether they are going to survive.



Jubilo fans can thank me now for saving them from relegation, but I have to wonder if we aren’t underestimating the danger Jubilo might be in. Everyone is kind of in agreement that Albirex has the toughest schedule on paper, while Nagoya have the easiest. Jubilo have upcoming matches against Nagoya and Vegalta away, and Urawa at Ecopa, their home away from home. Arguably they are underdogs in all three matches.

The second stage has been a disaster, with the managing one win in their 14 matches. Currently they have the second worst goals against mark in the second stage with 25. They are 16th in the second stage table, besting only relegated Avispa and soon to be relegated Shonan. After a respectable first half, manager Hiroshi Nanami has seen his side absolutely bottom out.

Last Saturday, the team lost to strugglers Albirex Niigata on a last gasp shot. this came on the heels of a home 0-0 draw to a Bellmare squad immersed in a 10 match losing streak. As of today, Jubilo is a mere 4 points away from 16th place.

The good news for them is that they only have 3 matches left and a three team cushion to help them thwart a drop to J2. Outside of Nagoya, none of the teams left in relegation territory look like sure bets to get even one point in their last three….all for different reasons.

To put it bluntly, Jubilo is a very bad team at the moment.

It’s tempting to put a lot of the blame on the lack of help for Jay Bothroyd. It seems as though the team is centered around him as the main scoring threat. He’s put up a respectable six goals in the second half and has managed to stay on the field. When he’s been out, the collection of Yasuhito Morishima and Kazuki Saito have combined for one goal this season. Attacking midfielder Adailton has really been anonymous in the second half as well. After coming off a season where he put up 17 goals in J2, the Brazilian playmaker has been held to 6, including only two in the second stage…..against Avispa. The offense for the most part has been a one man show with the departure of Yuki Kobayashi. Veterans Yoshiaki Ota and Daisuke Matsui have shown their age this year and young players like Hayao Kawabe haven’t filled the void.


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The defense has been a hot mess, allowing two or more goals in 8 of their last 14 matches. Injuries can explain away some of the problems. Kentaro Oi has been a no show in 4 of the last five matches. Goalkeeper Krzystof Kaminski has been less than effective after a long layoff in the middle of the season. Backup Ko Shimura also went down with injury after a decent run.


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Avram Papadoupolous has been a flat out disappointment after joining the squad midseason.  There are a collection of guys who were around last year that haven’t proven that they are consistent J1 starters. The whole team has disappointed, and while there are some very good parts, they seem not to be anything more than a struggler.

How much of this falls on Nanami? The three promoted teams were bunched together tightly at the end of last year’s J2 campaign. Avispa collapsed after failing to fill the Nakamura void. Omiya surged after winning a title and getting off to a strong start. Jubilo lost Kobayashi in the middle of the season and kind of quit. Is that on the front office for failing to address the needs in the back line and prepare for the loss of Kobayashi, or is that all on Nanami for letting the situation get that bad?


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Fair or not, the responsibility lies on the manager to get results. While Nanami is still relatively new to managing (this being his second year), he’s had moments of failure. The team failed to advance in the promotion playoff in his first year after losing to an arguably less talented Yamagata side. In 2015, Jubilo could have taken all the momentum by beating Omiya at home, but squandered a two goal lead. They had a chance to put some real pressure on a reeling Omiya side again but couldn’t after failing to beat an awful Yokohama team at home. We’ve seen collapses like this numerous times this season, including last Saturday.

It was unthinkable to ask in July, but now the question needs to be posed….should Nanami get fired? And how would you do it if he survives relegation? Tatsuma Yoshida wasn’t a particularly difficult firing for Albirex. the timing was inconvenient but Yoshida had no real ties to Niigata. The team was sagging (much like Jubilo is now) and looked like they were going in the wrong direction. The difference is Nanami is arguably the face of Jubilo and one of the two or three people you think of when you hear Jubilo. How do you tell a legend that he isn’t fulfilling his job responsibilities? Is it just a case of the team not being talented enough to be anything but bottom six?

Jubilo doesn’t have to look far for a past model. In 2012, debutant manager Hitoshi Morishita got off to a bright start for Jubilo but then saw the team slump to a 12th place finish. The negative momentum carried over into 2013 and saw the squad crash to a disappointing 17th place finish. While it’s not a perfect match, it does have some similarities….a team crashing out and arguably quitting on a manager who seemed ill-prepared to be managing in J1. I’m not sure that’s happening here.

Whatever is happening is ugly though.


1. KOFU – Is this finally the year the virtual duct tape and rubber bands finally break? A perusal of last Saturday’s lineup featured a keeper making his J1 league debut, a 42 year old centerback combining with a 36 year old and a guy who played his entire 3 year career at J2 Mito a 38 year old import from Brazil who had been cut twice from the squad, a 40 year old ramen shop operator who has been coverted from a forward to defender and back to forward again, a midfielder who previous to this year had last appeared in J1 in 2011 for last place Avispa, and the corpse of Davi. My question is not how Ventforet ended up in 16th, it’s how they managed to avoid 16th for so long. There was not one guy on that field who would have started on a top 12 J1 team. All that being said, they still have such a favorable schedule that they might escape relegation again. AMAZING J!

2. MANABU SAITO – Congratulations goes out to the Yokohama attacker who got called in for National Team duty after injuries to a couple key attackers opened up a spot for Saito. JNT manager Vahid Halilhodzic made the call after Saito’s 2 goal, two assist performance against Kofu on Saturday. OK, now look at point one again and that cornucopia of crap on display. i’m not saying that Saito didn’t deserve to be called up but that game was a pretty low bar to look impressive in. I guess we should just all be thankful that Cerezo wasn’t playing Mito this weekend.

3. PREDICTION UPDATE – I still think Albirex will be the one to go down, even though they got a big result against Jubilo. I think the break helps Jubilo and Kofu immensely, mainly because it gives Kofu time to get Arai and Dudu back and let’s Jubilo have some time to rejigger some things going into the final three matches. Nagoya seems to be hurt most by the layoff after seemingly turning their fortunes around. This break could really shake things up. Keep an eye on it.

October 22nd sees Jubilo going south to take on Nagoya in arguably the last true 6 pointer of the season.

Kofu travels to Avispa, who may or may not be inspired now that their fate is sealed.

Albirex has a home match against table toppers Urawa.

Shonan clings to their survival hopes with a visit to NACK 5 stadium and yours truly! Anything less than a victory means that Shonan is relegated. Also a combination of two wins by Nagoya and Kofu or a win by either Kofu or Nagoya and a draw by Albirex would relegate Shonan.


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