Apologies that it’s two season recaps in a row – I got a bit carried away and blasted through season four in record time (well, for me!). So in order for the next few posts to make a bit more sense, it’s important that we’re up to date. At the end of season three we were the nearly men – a completely unanticipated title charge falling just short. I honestly couldn’t tell if we were going to run away with it this year, or if we were going to slump back down into mid-table. Only one way to find out I guess…

Transfers

Vasilije AdžićAM RLC, 17(1) apps, 7 goals, 4 assists, 7.29 avg rating.

Vasilije’s time at Tokyo Verdy could probably fill its own blog post, but I’ll give the short version here instead. We signed him on a free as he was literally too good to turn down, by far our best player. To highlight this point, he was actually voted number 44 in the NXGN Top 50 Wonderkids list! He started on fire, scoring four in his first three games, before missing three months with a broken foot. Once he was back he continued his fine form, but this attracted interest and Al-Qadsiah came in with an offer of £2.3m rising to £3m including a 30% of future profit clause. I’d have liked more for him, but with a release clause of £2.8m I felt this was the best deal we would get in the long run. A very short and sweet spell, Vasilije we hardly knew thee!

Shohei TakedaDM C, 10(10) apps, 1 goal, 1 assist, 6.83 avg rating. 

Signed for £215k, Shohei provided extra cover as we moved to a 4-3-3 with three defensive midfielders. He proved to be a very safe and progressive passer, but I was disappointed with his defensive contribution, probably owing to his declining physicality at 32.

Rihito YamamotoDM C, 28(14) apps, 1 goal, 4 assists, 6.93 avg rating. 

Rihito was brought in from Gamba Osaka for a fee of £275k rising to a potential (but unlikely) £550k and offers a few vital things that have made him a really good rotation option. Firstly, although not his best role he can play as a Regista, meaning we can further utilise Qashi’s versatility. Secondly, he’s fairly versatile himself; he can play at centre-back or left-back in our current set up, plus move further forward into central midfield if we need to change our shape. Lastly, and probably most importantly, he came through the Tokyo Verdy academy and therefore fills a HGC slot – crucial while our more recent academy graduates are still developing. I’d like to see him kick on a bit next season and become a bit more of a creative threat, but there’s no doubt that we can rely on him to keep things ticking over.

Seiya BabaD RC, DM, 11(9) apps, 0 goals, 1 assist, 6.79 avg rating. 

Seiya is a very similar deal to Yamamoto; a player brought back to the club having come through the academy, at a cost of £350k rising to a potential £875k. Brought in originally to challenge Flores and Asada for regular minutes, he was unlucky to fall down the pecking order due to a signing I felt we couldn’t refuse (more on him in a second). Safe on the ball and great in the tackle, but shocking in the air – he may have to get used to a backup role as we move forwards.

Omar SonkoDC, 35(4) apps, 1 goal, 1 assist, 7.03 avg rating.

Omar becomes our most expensive signing of the save so far, at a fee of £1.1m rising to a potential £1.4m. He was unhappy at V-Varen Nagasaki after their relegation to J2 and I felt I couldn’t let him go to one of the ‘big’ Japanese clubs that were interested in him. The headlines are that he is 19 years old, 6’6”, strong and has elite jumping reach, although his actual heading ability needs work and I hope to see him add to his single goal next year. Omar has recently been capped by Spain’s Under 21’s and although I know I will lose him eventually to a bigger club, we should get some really good money for him.

Oscar BobbAM RLC, 5 apps, 0 goals, 0 assists, 6.72 avg rating.

Oscar and our final signing were both brought in at short notice towards the end of the season as we were made aware of their availability on a free by their agents. With Vasilije Adžić gone, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to replace him with another X-factor provider. They aren’t the same type of player, and I do feel next season we will have to adapt slightly to get the best from Oscar (hence his slow start), but there’s no doubting he is the most talented player at the club and should do great things for us.

Santiago MeleGK, 2 apps, 1 conceded, 1 clean sheet, 6.85 avg rating.

Probably not the best, but certainly my favourite signing of the save so far. I signed Santiago for Defensor Sporting back on FM21, and he became one of my favourite players of that save. He’s since gone on to win three Uruguay caps in real life and looks a far higher calibre of goalkeeper than he was, and crucially a step above both Kojima (who will leave on a free) and young prospect Jack Bradley. Sadly in his second game for us Santiago fractured his arm and so we haven’t seen much of him yet, but I expect him to raise our level next season.

There have been a few more notable exits this year; former club captain Kosuke Saito (£300k), Léo Artur (loan with a £550k optional fee), Hiroto Taniguchi (£400k), Imanol González (loan with a £110k optional fee) and of course Vasilije Adžić have all left the first team squad. We’ve also sold last year’s intake prospect So Kobayashi for a fee of £700k rising to a potential £750k, but crucially with a 40% of future fee clause. I didn’t really want to lose him, but with several clubs interested we were able to generate a bidding war and bring some good money into the club. I still think he will be a very good player in the future, but he is a long way from first team level and has a lot of areas of his game that need considerable work.

League Performance

Despite our title challenge last season, our increase in expectations was modest. The board wanted mid-table, and the media predicted us to finish 11th. I wanted more. My hope was that we were good enough to challenge for the title again. With the added fixture congestion of the Asian Champions League Group Stage to come later in the season, my thought was that top 4 was probably a realistic achievement. 

By the halfway point, we were blowing all of that out of the water…

We beat Kawasaki Frontale, the side that pipped us to the title last year, and that set the tone for the most relentless run I have had on Football Manager in over a decade.

23 games unbeaten, including a run of 10 consecutive wins. We were absolutely extraordinary, and nobody could even come close to us. I was thinking that I’d accidentally assembled some kind of super team, but then I was humbled big time. 

Suddenly we lost 5 of the next 6 games, and remained inconsistent throughout the rest of the season. We had built up a huge gap between us and the rest, but it was reducing rapidly.

In the second half of the season we were the ninth best side in the division, and that’s including two wins and two draws from our unbeaten run. We had finally regressed to the mean, like I feared we would last season. The question is, were we good enough in the first half of the season to still bring it home?

Yes, although I won’t deny that the inability of Frontale and Marinos to kill games off has probably let us off the hook. 

It’s a strange feeling. Of course, I am thrilled to have won the league in just our third season back in the top flight. However, our form in the second half of the season is a real concern, and something we’ll need to address quickly if we’re to continue to challenge at the top end of the table. Despite our recent successes, our financial power pales in comparison to those around us and so we have to be smarter than them. If we can’t maintain that advantage tactically, we’ll simply drift back down the table.

Looks pretty good, am I right?

Cup Performance

Once again, we’d like a good showing in the cups. They will never be our main priority over league finishes, but trophies will always be welcome and a nice boost for our confidence.

Super Cup

By virtue of our second place finish and Kawasaki Frontale winning the Emperor’s Cup last season, we get the chance to lay down an early marker by taking them on in the Super Cup.

Click image for full match report.

An absolute blockbuster of a game saw us rally back from a horror start to show Frontale that we mean business this year. It sounds silly to say in a 4-2 win, but we weren’t at our best going forwards, creating a good volume of chances but not especially high quality ones, and we relied on brilliance from Fukui and Amang to fire us in front. Still, a trophy in the cabinet and a win against one of the nation’s strongest sides, we can’t complain!

Emperor’s Cup

Click image to enlarge.

Once again, we come up short. Don’t get me wrong, we came up against a decent side away from home, but this was actually the first defeat in our really poor run of form. Having been so good all year to this point, it was a shame to not progress further.

J.League Cup

Click image to enlarge.

Our J.League Cup campaign is probably more disappointing, but also remarkable! Our tie against J3 side Giravanz Kitakyushu was fairly routine, with rotated sides securing our passage. The Cerezo Osaka tie was carnage, though. The first leg defeat was our first loss of the season, and came due to a first-half blitz from Cerezo and a disaster class from our cup goalkeeper, Masato Sasaki. At home in the second leg and needing to overturn a deficit, I was confident we could still come through the tie. Going in 2-0 down at half-time made it improbable, being 4-0 down inside an hour made it almost impossible (as well as being embarrassing), and yet, we almost pulled it off. More out of anger than anything, I changed to an attacking 4-2-2-2 to try and least restore some pride. Remarkably, we managed to win the match 5-4  with a 92nd minute winner, but sadly we were still one goal short in the tie and out we went.

Next season, I’d love to have a proper cup run again.

Asian Champions League

For the first time in the save, and the first time for the club since 2006, Tokyo Verdy are playing Asian Champions League football. In what can only be described as a writer’s nightmare, the competition runs across two domestic seasons, so this post will only cover the group stage.

We were drawn to face April 25 of North Korea, Beijing Guo’an of China, and FC Seoul of South Korea. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to see our standing amongst out peers, I felt (with no disrespect) that April 25 are the weakest side in the group, but Beijing are current holders of the Chinese Super League, and Seoul are consistent title challengers in South Korea. With only one side guaranteed to progress and a board expectation to reach the second round, this wasn’t the ‘free hit’ campaign that I thought it might be.

In the end it turned out to be pretty routine, but after defeat to Seoul and conceding a last minute equaliser to Beijing, I wasn’t so sure. Our home form carried us through with really convincing wins over both of those sides in the reverse fixtures, perhaps ironically when our away form has typically been better domestically.

In the next round we face Bangkok United of Thailand, a side who impressed in their group by being the only side to take points from Kawasaki Frontale and eliminating South Korean side Jeonbuk.

More on that next season!

Youth Intake

For the first time in the save, it’s a fairly underwhelming youth intake this year. We have signed four players however, with two in particular showing incredible promise. 

Shunya Harigaya is the pick of the bunch, a 15-year-old holding midfielder who according to coaches is already good enough to be on the brink of the first team. We’ll take our time with him, of course, but he does indeed look very talented for his age. It’s no surprise to see that he isn’t great physically – that will come with age – but technically and mentally he is already very well rounded. Good defensively but also composed, brave and smart, he combines this with good technique, passing and touch. Much like I briefly did with Yuma Nakamura, I potentially see a future for him as a creative full-back, able to invert but also to go down the line and get a cross in. 

Shuichiro Nakagome also has a lot of potential but is a bit more raw, despite being a year older. Although naturally a number 10, I see him more as a traditional left-winger, making use of his pace, dribbling and elite flair. There is of course a lot of work still to do, but there are pretty solid building blocks in place.

The other two players may not ever be up to the level we’ll require, but have been signed to see if they can turn into decent squad options. Hideki Ikeda (GK) has a few strong attributes already, but has a lot of talented goalkeepers just ahead of him in their development pathways. Yuga Kamifukumoto (LB) is primarily a beneficiary of there being a lack of other young left-backs at the club. At best he may develop into a player to provide cover and help with the homegrown quota, but realistically we are probably developing him to try and garner a transfer fee.

The ‘Danny Birchall’ List

For the first time in the save, I have more than two players to induct into the ‘Danny Birchall’ list.

Omar SonkoDC, 35(4) apps, 1 goal, 1 assist, 7.03 avg rating.

Omar had a really solid first season at the club, but I was expecting to see more of a goal threat from him from corners considering his size and stature. I noted earlier that his heading is a weakness, but I want to see just how detrimental it is, and also how much of a physical beast he is.

Jack BradleyGK,  22 apps, 23 conceded, 7 clean sheets, 6.82 avg rating.

Jack was given a run in the side fairly early on in the season after an injury to Ryosuke Kojima and was so impressive in his first few games that it inspired this Twitter thread. He couldn’t maintain those standards for the whole season, perhaps not unsurprisingly, and did eventually lose his place again towards the end of the season. However, this wasn’t entirely down to his poor performances, and there’s no doubt that there’s a talented young goalkeeper there, so I’d like to see just how good he looks when all is laid bare.

Hiroyuki Nakamura – AMLC, ST C, 9(18) apps, 9 goals, 0 assists, 7.06 avg rating. 

Where Junma Nishihata walked last year, Hiroyuki ran this. With Junma and Akinori Shimizu both succumbing to long-term injuries, Hiroyuki was drafted into the first-team fold to offer some depth and he almost instantly looked a first-team player. With our change in tactic we now don’t use the Shadow Striker that I originally profiled him as, but he’s played well as both an Inside Forward and Pressing Forward, but as time goes on I see him more and more as an out and out number 9.

In Other News

After a dismal 2026 World Cup where Japan lost to Tunisia, Serbia and Canada to finish rock bottom of their group, their long-term manager Hajime Moriyasu was sacked, and at the end of the season (I suspect my negligence in updating the real name fix played a part in this) I was approached to replace him. I’m immediately thrust into action with the Asian Cup, where we’ll face Pakistan, Qatar and Iran in the Group Stage. I’ll cover this, plus our squad selection process, in full in the next couple of posts. 

I wouldn’t have pegged us as double winners at the start of this season, but life is full of surprises! Work to do though if we’re going to maintain our standards and not slip away, possibly some tactical tweaks to come. Plus a new job to boot, what a season! Until next time…

Author

  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

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1 thought on “Tokyo Verdy – Season Four Recap

  1. Wheeeeeeyyyyy. Congratulations on the title. I almost thought you were going to tell us you’d gone invincible for a moment there. Picking up the national job should add an extra layer of fun!

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