As if Santa's close-season movements weren't excitement enough, Frontale have spent the festive period dipping their collective toe in the transfer market.
Hot on the heels of Yamagishi's loan move to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, it has now been announced that left-back Kazuhiro Murakami will be joining Omiya Ardija, with Yokohama F Marinos' Takanobu Komiyama coming in as a straight replacement.
Murakami had a solid season in the backline, but there was always a sense that (admittedly much like the rest of Frontale's defence) he was a square peg in a round hole. Competent rather than commanding in defence, Kazu was also fairly average coming forward (hence his failure to pin down a midfield role). We wish him well at Omiya.
Komiyama joins the team with a decent pedigree. The 25-year-old was a member of the team that won Gold for Japan at the 2005 Universiade (World Student Games). He then earned a call-up to the full national team in 2007, during his first season as a full professional.
It's encouraging that the management is looking to upgrade in this department. But at the same time, we'd all better pray that Komiyama manages to stay injury-free. Frontale are losing a very handy utility player in Murakami, and there's not much else in the way of back-up.
In other news, Yabu and Sugiura are both set for a season on loan in J2, with Ventforet Kofu and Ehime FC respectively. It'll be good for both players to get some regular action, but Sugiura (still only 20 years old) will no doubt relish the opportunity more than Yabu.
And finally, eager though I am to steer clear of the rumour mill, it would be remiss not to mention the stories surrounding Junichi Inamoto. It seems the 30-year-old is keen to return home in an effort to bolster his chances of a third World Cup finals appearance. And Todoroki is currently thought to be his most likely destination!
The star of Japan's 2002 World Cup campaign has been a peripheral figure at French First Division side Rennes since his move in the summer. However, he looked pretty impressive for Japan in a recent friendly against Ghana, which suggests (to me at least) that he's by no means past it.
Do Frontale really need a player like Inamoto? Well, they need an experienced defensive midfielder. So, basically...yes. But they could potentially get much more than that...
- The man's not just experienced, he's got over 70 international caps and has competed in several of the world's best leagues.
- He's vying for a place in the national team, so he'll be fully motivated (which might otherwise be a serious doubt surrounding a player returning from so many years in the bright lights of European football).
- He has a creativity to his game that many in his position lack (which would take some of the burden off Kengo's shoulders).
- He's marketing gold dust (which means bums on seats).
It's a gamble, but I reckon they should go for it. And once they've blown their entire remaining budget on him, and he ends up de-stabilising the dressing room and spending the majority of the season on the injured list, you can blame me!