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Atsu relishes the challenge at Kobe

1 Sep 2005(Thu)

TOKYO (August 28): Seven points from three games, including a draw at Urawa Reds.

Sounds like championship form, doesn't it?

But no, it's Vissel Kobe form, down at the other end of the table.

Since the resumption of J1 on August 20, Vissel have beaten Nagoya Grampus Eight at home, drawn at Urawa and then beaten Oita Trinita at home.

Although they are still bottom of the table with 19 points, they have closed the gap right up on Oita, and several other struggling clubs are coming into view.

The catalyst of the revival has been the new captain, Atsuhiro Miura.

Did anyone see his free kick at Komaba the other night?

It was a fantastic effort, from maybe 35 metres out, that was hit with power and curve. It was a David Beckham special with the right foot, and Atsu then went and scored another one, not quite as spectacular, in the win against Trinita on Saturday.

Clearly Atsu is revelling in the role of captain and attacking midfielder, rather than out on the wing.

A right-footed left back, Atsu had lost his way at Verdy, and lost his place to Takahito Soma, who has missed Verdy's last couple of games due to sickness.

Atsu needed a fresh challenge, and Kobe has given him just that.

He is leading a team that has changed remarkably in composition from the start of the season, both on and off the field, and he has several new teammates around him, such as Kaneko and Muller at the back, Endo (Akihiro) in midfield and Ulich up front.

These transfer moves seemed like a last throw of the dice by Hiroshi Mikitani to keep the club in J1 during a season in which two managers, Matsunaga and Emerson Leao, have both been fired in double-quick time.

When I asked Vissel's third manager of the year, Pavel Rehak, if this concerned him, he gave a good reply.

"I hope I'm the last manager," he said.

Regarding a points target for the season, he said he had not drawn one up, as the form of the other teams was too unpredictable. Instead, Vissel would just concentrate on one match at a time, and try and catch the team immediately above them.

This plan is working a treat, and Atsu is proving to be an inspiration in the middle of the park.

Whether or not this new position will affect his World Cup chances as back-up to Alex is open to debate, as Zico has shown loyalty to his players.

This will be the last thing on his mind, though, as Vissel pay his wages and he has a job to do...to keep them in J1.

So far, things are looking up -- and Rehak remains the club's third manager of the year.


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