[JNT Position Depth Analysis] Defenders

Depth Analysis for Center Backs:

  1. Masato Morishige

    morishige_masato

    Strengths: Leadership, passing ability, aerial ability, timing of tackling
    Weaknesses: Losses out to stronger players in stand up tackles
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: Morishige is an all-around center back, who I believe would play just as well as a center midfielder, but Japan absolutely needs him at CB.

  2. Maya Yoshida

    yoshida_maya

    Strengths: Aerial ability, headers, dangerous from set plays
    Weaknesses: Lack of concentration, lack of pace and acceleration
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: Strong aerial presence. Yoshida wins the majority of headers for Japan because he is usually marking the target man of Japan’s opposition. However, he is susceptible to the occasional blunder which leads to a scoring chance for the other team.

  3. Tomoaki Makino

    makino_tomoaki

    Strengths: Physicality, mentality, technical ability, tackling
    Weaknesses: Aerial challenges, lack of international experience
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: Makino is not just a mood-maker. He is a quality defender. Yes, a quality defender. He has good technique with both his feet. He has a “never say die” attitude and this drives him to win all one-on-one situations.

  4. Naomichi Ueda

    ueda_naomichi

    Strengths: Heading, tackling, marking, strength
    Weaknesses: Long passes, lack of international experience
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: He is the mold of an orthodox CB; he has good heading, tackling, and marking ability with his strength. However, he needs more experience to be able to distribute the ball effectively at the international level.

  5. Yuichi Maruyama

    maruyama_yuichi

    Strengths: Very technical, naturally left footed, passing ability, one on ones
    Weaknesses: Physicality, lack of experience
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: He his the most technical CB (can also play SB) in the current squad. If there is an injury crisis in this position, Maruyama can team up with Morishige flawlessly because they play together at the club level with FC Tokyo. However, for Maruyama to play well, he needs his CB partner to be physical and able to win air battles.

From analyzing previous matches, Manager Halilhodžić feels Yoshida is the rock at the center of defense and looks at Morishige as the best partner. However, as seen above, I believe Morishige is the best CB the JNT has. However, who is his best partner? At the moment, Yoshida is the best choice, but I feel that Naomichi Ueda has the potential to overtake Yoshida in the pecking order. Regarding Makino, he will always be used has a sort of utility player because he can play as a CB, LB, or RB (even a CM in emergency situations) and he can use both feet.

Depth Analysis for Side Backs:

  1. Gotoku Sakai

    sakai_gotoku

    Strengths: Aggressive runs up the pitch, crossing, tackling, stamina, balance
    Weaknesses: Defensive positioning
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: An aggressive attacking option on the flank which comes from the defensive line. However, because G. Sakai is so aggressive on the attack, he does get caught out of position. So, he has to rely on his ability to track back and tackle his opponent.

  2. Hiroki Sakai

    sakai_hiroki

    Strengths: Crossing, acceleration, heading, tackling
    Weaknesses: Concentration, decision-making
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: Just like G. Sakai, H. Sakai is an attacking option out on the flank which comes up from the back. However, he does make bad decisions when making runs up the pitch, which leads to a huge hole opponents can exploit.

  3. Yuto Nagatomo

    nagatomo_yuto

    Strengths: Stamina, pace, dribbling, mentality
    Weaknesses: Tackling, heading
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: Versatility. He can play on either flank of the defensive line, and he can play on either flank of the midfield also if needed. There is one thing that bother me: lack of playing time at club level. Nagatomo has a great mentality, which saw him captain Inter a few times in the past and also the JNT, but he is not ready to start a match just yet.

  4. Kosuke Ota

    ota_kosuke

    Strengths: Technique, free kicks, crossing, passing, standing tackle
    Weaknesses: Strength, heading
    Q: What does he bring to the team?
    A: Ota is a free kick specialist. Not only that, he can distribute and dictate the tempo of a match from the LB position, and this is something not all LB’s are able to do. However, he is not the best defender. If he sees action, it will be if Japan is in need of a goal.

In my opinion, with Yuto Nagatomo experience an injury a few years ago, his club Inter decided to strengthen the SB position. This resulted in the lack of match appearances for Nagatomo. With Nagatomo’s situtation and Atsuto Uchida’s problems with his knee, the SB position was open game and Gotoku Sakai and Hiroki Sakai have made a name for themselves. Other players such as Hiroki Fujiharu should be in the mix also, but Manager Halilhodžić sees something in Kosuke Ota which he likes more than Hiroki Fujiharu.

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