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From the Promise of Last Season: Gamba Osaka
gambaboy.jpgIn the past several years, Gamba Osaka had consistently produced players who were able to perform at top J.League level and NT level (like Junichi Inamoto now playing in England, Yasuhito Endo, and Tsuneyasu Miyamoto). This year's North Korea match gave us a chance to watch yet another Gamba player, Masashi Oguro, make it to the NT level. Last year, despite missing Miyamoto and Endo a third of the year, coach Akira Nishino was able to keep the team at the top of the league with great performances from the Oguro-Futagawa pairing (Video of great Futagawa goal (top photo), will need to sign in free). He was also able to solve the problem of missing Captain Miyamoto's defensive and leadership presence by placing Sidiclei in the defensive lineup and instilling in the team over time an expectation of how everyone should move in anticipation of plays. (Video of a recent interview with Sidiclei) CONT'D
This year will prove to be another version of this challenge for the coach, as we can predict Oguro may also begin missing more games as the NT continues its fight to the World Cup 06 and attends the Conferations Cup tournament in June. Now that Oguro has made his mark on the NT, many fans want to see the same brilliant Oguro-Futagawa pairing there as well. This may not be Coach Nishino's only problem -- last year we saw the difficulty of reintegrating Miyamoto back into the defensive line, as Sidiclei did a great job during his absence. Nishino tried using Miyamoto as a defensive midfielder upon his return, but results of his performance were not stellar. This year, not only will Sidiclei prove to be a threat to Miyamoto's position in the starting line-up, but he has already taken the Captain's title from Miyamoto as well.

However, at the beginning of this year, Nishino has announced that he feels Miyamoto is necessary to the team. In the preseason games held in Korea this week, Nishino was seen to be testing various formations -- a 4-back line with Miyamoto and Sidiclei at center; making Miyamoto a libero and pushing Sidiclei up to defensive midfielder. It looks like the latter lineup will stick, with an option of going to a 4-back line depending on circumstances.

On the offensive side, Gamba has also shown last year that they can do more than just attack from the sides and haul the ball in to a post-player forward. Their offensive game-plan included an offense that began with a dependable defense and continued forward using the speed of key players to create smooth passes. On top of that, their new player Araujo, who is a great dribbler, is expected to contribute new offensive possibilities.

Compared to other teams, Gamba has not made great changes to the memberlist this year; this could be an indication that they are hoping to keep the strengths of last year with the aim of fine tuning their play instead of drastically overhauling anything.

PreSeason Game Gamba spent the last week in below-freezing Korea, scheduling games with several Korean teams. The main game was their revenge match against 仁川FC, the team that beat them 4-0 last year. Though the pitch was frozen in various places, Gamba kept their patience and took opportunities to counter as they were unable to keep long possession of the ball. Araujo scored a goal off a cross from the right. Coach Nishino commented that he was reassured by the performance of the defense, but will be expecting more offensively.
[japan football soccer national j-league]
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