The Brazilian demiurge

When you look at the rise of Yokohama F. Marinos throughout this 2019, this blog has to take some blame. In pre-season prediction, we didn’t tip the Postecoglou-band to go further than fourth, counting though for sure they would have been better than 2018, when they lingered with relegation threats for a long time.

The 41 points of 2018 become 70 in 2019, which then translated into a J1-title. A very much deserved one, since Postecoglou has been able to implement his brand of football in a league that’s an open lab for every football fan. And if certain additions have been crucial – Park Il-gyu in goal, Shinnosuke Hatanaka in the center of the defense, Theerathon Bunmathan on the left back –, some players developed hugely.

Thiago Martins forgot most of the uncertainties showed in 2018; Takahiro Ogihara is finally back to be a relevant player in J. League; Keita Endo showed immense progress and Teruhito Nakagawa… I mean, he won the MVP Award!

But there’s one player above others who showed to be the best signing in J. League and I think the key to win it all. Despite his sharp character, Marcos Júnior has proved himself in the J. League.

From Maracanã to Yokohama

Fluminense has been the club of the life (and career) of the Brazilian no. 9. He was raised by them, he was first launched as a pro by Flu (and especially manager Abel Braga had faith in him), he had then played for the first team for six years. Marcos Júnior is – and probably will always be – tied to this club. He won a lot with Fluminense: from the 2012 Série A to the 2016 Primeira Liga, whose title was actually sealed by a goal from the winger.

Marcos Júnior grew up in the last years, but failed to find a stable performance-rate, although he featured in the 2018 Team of the Year for the Campionato Carioca. But he never found the right stability, since he was also loaned to Vitória in 2014. So the winger needed a fresh start, a new place to reborn. And since he had already his experiences in his own country, he opted for Japan.

Like we explained in early 2019, “less is more”. Marinos could have picked a super-star, splashing the market due to the strength of the City Football Group (who have a share in Yokohama) or trying to sign a famous marquee-player through the DAZN deal-money. Instead, they went for something different, looking for Brazil: Edigar Junio was a first choice, then Marcos Júnior came around.

But if the former signed on loan, the latter opted to join permanently. And it was a good call by Postecoglou and his staff.

Being fundamental 101

In the first version of Marinos under Ange Postecoglou, something was missing. Actually, more than one thing, but still one stroke the most in his first year in charge. Some fantasy in the link between midfield and the forwards lacked in the line-up; Marinos hugely filled this hole by bringing in Koji Miyoshi from Frontale and giving to Jun Amano more fantasy to be coupled with.

At the beginning of the season, Marcos Júnior played as a winger, his natural role. In the end, the Brazilian forward found his breakthrough in this position, so there hasn’t been anything particularly surprising in this. But when Marinos opted this Summer to let both Miyoshi and Amano go, Postecoglou understood something had to be done. Edigar Junio’s injury only worsened the issue.

Then the Australian manager found a perfect way to solve this issue, also helped by two other factors: the rise of Keita Endo – who has enjoyed a wonderful season and might be ready for another leap in 2020 – and the arrival of two loan signings, which though have been fundamental for the second part of Marinos’ year. Erik from Palmeiras and Mateus from Nagoya actually helped deepen the roster.

With this new awareness, Postecoglou decided to leave Marcos Júnior in a different position, moving him from the wing side to the offensive midfielder role. While Takuya Kida and Takahiro Ogihara took care of the midfield, it was the Brazilian’s duty to invent for the forwards and send them into the space to run during counterattacks. And amazingly, it worked.

The deep skills by the former Fluminense winger provided assists, key-passes, good precision on penalty kicks, a solid preparation on free kicks and in general the capability of seeing everything on the pitch. Just look at the kind of plays he made, like the assist to Nakagawa in Shimizu to momentarily go ahead against S-Pulse away: a classic no. 10 play, but it’s a winger/striker to do that.

This versatility helped Marinos navigate injuries and difficulties along the road. Meanwhile, Marcos Júnior still put up great numbers in scoring, subbing in for a dreadful departure like the one of Hugo Vieira: the Brazilian closed the 2019 as the top-scorer alongside Nakagawa (despite the digits of goals were particularly low this year: 15 goals, the worst amount of goals to win this particular title).

What’s gonna come?

Marinos are moving well also in this transfer market window, where they almost retained every crucial member of the roster. Hirose is the only relevant departure (he was still a second line during this season), while Mizunuma, Onaiwu, Sento are all joining. And at the same time, the club turned loans into permanent deals for Theerathon, Thiago Martins and Takuya Wada. So there’s a lot of room to be optimistic.

Yes, because it’s undeniable Marinos will be one of the clubs to watch in 2020 AFC Champions League. They’ve a real shot at this while not letting the defense of their championship behind, since their roster is getting deeper and deeper every year that passes by. Marcos Júnior will a crucial piece here, because Postecogluou knows he can be used in several roles.

What’s gonna come for him and Yokohama? There’s a J1 derby on the horizon, many goals to achieve and possible developments to witness. Without Marcos Júnior, probably we wouldn’t be here talking about it.

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