This post looks at predicting the final table for the 2022 J1 League Season.
I found putting together the table very difficult and kept shuffling teams around. In the end, I decided that what was more important than the precise final position of each team, was the general area in the table I saw each team fighting for.
The table is divided into 4 areas/colours:
Green (Top 5) - Title chasing teams
Peach (6-9) - ACL potential/Upper midtable
Orange (10-13) - Lower Midtable/Relegation
Red (14-18) - Relegation candidates
For each team, I will be giving a general narrative of my views on them. I will also pick out Key Players who are those I see in the strongest X11/starting most of the season. I will also pick out Ones to watch which will include a mix of young players and players who have transferred/returning from injury.
This post will look at who I predict will come in the top 5.
Predicted Final Table for J1 League 2022
1) Kawasaki Frontale
Kawasaki have lost some key players over the past year including Mitoma, Tanaka and more recently Hatate. They do look somewhat weaker than this time last season and I am expecting a much closer title battle this year, however feel that Kawasaki will have enough experience to win the league.
I am slightly concerned by the balance of the squad, especially the number of midfielders (Tachibanda, Seko, Oshima, Schmidt etc) compared to CBs where Jesiel is out injured for the next few months. Further players potentially leaving such as the highly rated Yamane in the summer alongside ACL commitments will test some of the older legs in the squad.
Key Players - Damiao, Yamane, Ienaga, Taniguchi, Wakizaka,Noborizato, Jung Sung Ryong
They have a number of big players, for me Damiao is the best striker in the league and keeping him fit and playing will be key for Frontale. Yamane had an amazing season last year and he contributed the most assists in the league. He is one the best scoring defenders on Sorare and I can see this continuing. I thought Ienaga would be playing less last season due to his age, but if anything, his influence grew as the season went on. He looks completely at ease when on the pitch and see him continuing
One to watch - Oshima, Chanathip, Sasaki, Tanabe
Oshima has really struggled with injuries over the past few years. If (and its a big if) he can stay fit, I feel he is a player that has alot of potential not just for Frontale but on Sorare as I see a fit version of him in their strongest X11.
Chanathip is likely starting on the left wing and another I think could do very well on Sorare. He is also injury prone and there will be rotation which can be frustrating.
Sasaki and Tanabe are two young defenders for Frontale who I see gaining experience in the cups (including ACL!) this year.
2) Urawa Red
Urawa have been highly active in the transfer window and have made some very astute transfers including Matsuo, Ohata, Iwao and Karlsson.
The manager Rodriguez has begun to stamp his mark on the team and the squad looks both to have the depth in cover and experience to perform well in all competitions including the ACL
With only Junker as their main striker, this is an area that looks a little light. Junker also didnt perform to his abilities last year, though I am expecting big things from him this year. If everything clicks and they get momentum, I can see Urawa challenging for the title.
For Sorare, the difficulty will be the rotation of players, especially in midfield. I do think that players like Koizumi may well be benched at times but can make big impacts regardless if they start or come on later in the game.
Key Players - Junker, Karlsson (when visa approved), Esaka, Scholz, Sakai, Nishikawa
Urawa will need Junker to perform consistently for them to be challenging for the league. I fully expect him to be one of the top scorers this years, especially with the quality of delivery coming from players like Esaka and Iwao.
Ones to watch - Matsuo, Koizumi, Ohata
Urawa have a lot of the most exciting young players in the league. They added to it over the summer with the excellent signings of Matsuo and Ohata who I fully expect to be in their strongest team. Koizumi is a fan favourite and v versatile player who I also see having a big season.
3) Vissel Kobe
Vissel had an excellent season, especially the second half and looked well balanced and also very robust at the back with Kikuchi and Sakai being their standout players. They brought in a few (too many?) strikers last summer with Muto being a major upgrade to Douglas and adding class in their attack
My worry for them is their lack of strength in depth and with new ACL commitments which they didnt have this year, I can see them only being one or two injuries away from losing their momentum/shape.
I think overall they will do very well this season but lack the consistency (especially against the biggest teams) to win the title.
Key Players - Muto, Iniesta, Yamaguchi, Kikuchi, Sakai, Hatsuse
Whilst watching Muto last year, it was easy to see he was head and shoulder above the normal standard of strikers in the J1 League. He has excellent ball control, speed and shot power. I expect him also to be challenging for the golden boot.
Ones to watch - Yuruki, Ohgihara,Makino
I was a little surprised to see Yuruki leave Urawa as he been doing well there. He is a player with huge potential if he can consistently play. I was also impressed by the signings of Ohgihara and Makino who both bring experience and ability to the side.
4) Kashima Antlers
Kashima have some of my favourite players in the league in Araki and Ueda. Both are young, dynamic and can change games in a flash. They have also brought in Suzuki who will only improve their attacking options and Higuchi from Sagan Tosu was an excellent coup.
I feel they almost have all the right materials to really challenge for the title. I do think they wont have the consistency and have a couple of concerns with them;
1) René Weiler their new manager is still out of the country. This is definitely not ideal as its unlikely he would have been able to communicate his preferred setup/watch the players properly. I feel this will effect the ability of the team to tactically change or even be confused into what is expected of them
2) Losing both Machida and Inukai at CB makes the team feel light at the back, especially in regard to experience. Sekigawa stepped up to the challenge last season but has yet to play a full season at the top level.
Kashima could benefit from not having to play the ACL like the other teams mentioned. I feel if they are able to get in a grove and find a setup that brings out the best of players like Arakai, they can finish higher. However, at the moment, I feel the team doesn't feel balanced enough to make a title charge.
Key Players - Suzuki, Ueda, Araki, Pituca, Min Tae, Sekigawa, Anzai, Tsunemoto
Suzuki has played the past 2.5 years in the Jupiler League where he performed well, especially last season where he netted 17 goals and drew the attention of some big European clubs. It was apparent last season, that Kashima were really missing a striker after Everaldo was struck down with covid and never fully recovered.
I can see Suzuki having an excellent season and I'm excited to see the link up play between him, Ueda and Araki in particular. Pituca really impressed me in the engine room of the midfield and I am impressed with the Min Tae buy as he will bring much needed experience to the side
Ones to watch - Higuchi, Everaldo
Higuchi is an excellent all round player. He has excellent vision and also takes set pieces. I am unsure how he will fit into the team with players like Alano doing well on the right side last season. I expect him to however be in the majority of first X11 teams though will be a rotation risk.
Everaldo is a bit of wildcard entry here. He had a horrendous season last year after covid led to him shedding alot of weight. When he returned, he never looked quite right. There is also a risk of him transferring out, however if he remains, he could return to his 2019 scoring ways. I personally don't see it happening.
5) Yokohama Marinos
This one feels a bit controversial to have YFM so low down on the list. I feel that YFM went downhill quite considerably after Ange left and Muscat joined. This may well be harsh on him as he joined mid season and it was always going to near impossible to replace Ange. However, for me, his philosophy doesn't suit the Yokohama FM team he inherited.
Losing Maeda and more recently Martins is huge loss for the squad and although Eduardo is a great replacement, I feel like Maeda hasnt been replaced.
There is still significant quality all over the team, with players like M.Junior, Kida, Hatanaka (returning from injury) and Takoka representing an excellent spine for the team. Nagato and Nishimura were also excellent signings for the club. Anderson Lopes also joined more recently and he certainly divides opinion and although I do rate him more than his critics, I think it causes the balance of the team to be slightly off and im uncertain if he has the qualities of say Damiao or another title chasing teams striker
Overall, I do think Yokohama Marino could easily finish in any position in the top 5 but for me its likely they wont be able to challenge for the title and the team feels in worse shape compared to this time last year.
Key Players -Marcos Junior, Kida, Hatanaka, Eduardo, Takoka
Marcos Junior performances dipped at the end of the season and in general when he plays well, the team win so he will be crucial this year too.
The new CB partnership of Hatanaka and Eduardo looks very solid on paper but these two will not have much time to work together before the season starts.
Ones to watch - Nishimura , Yoshio, Fujita
Nishimura joins from the now relegated Sendai and he will be looking to get his career back on track after a disappointing time in Europe. I feel he will have alot more opportunities to show off his talent at Yokohama compared to Sendai. I do worry about his consistency and for Sorare will be a rotation risk with Elber and Nakagawa
Joel Chima Fujita was also an excellent buy from Tokushima. I feel this year will be too soon for him to be playing consistently but he is one of the brightest prospects in the league
I hope you found this post useful . I found it very difficult & thought provoking trying to come up these predictions. As always, I am not trying to be right with these exact predictions rather trying to analyse the teams and get a sense of what their positives/negatives coming into the season.
For a lot of the teams, we will be able to get a better feel of them after the first few games, especially seeing as so many of the "big" teams are playing each other in the opening 5 games.
Let me know how you think the league will finish and who you are most looking forward to watching this season :)
For an intro to the J1 League you can find it here
I have also reviewed the 2021 season here
There are also a number of posts around strategy/how I pick players for Sorare in my blog here
I will be posting the rest of the teams predictions in the coming days :)
I am always more than happy to talk things J1 League & Sorare on twitter or Discord
Click below for the J League Sorare Discord channel: