Good timing for Inamoto, Okada
January 18, 2010: You can't blame Junichi Inamoto for coming home at the start of World Cup year and joining Kawasaki Frontale.
The former Gamba idol has been slogging away round Europe for several seasons now, and his move to France proved to be a bridge too far. Unable to make much impression with Stade Rennais in a very difficult environment, he finally decided enough was enough and headed back to the J.League.
It's good timing for Inamoto, as it will put him firmly in the spotlight in the build-up to South Africa, gaining match fitness week by week.
National coach Takeshi Okada will be pleased, too, as he knows “Ina” will be playing regularly rather than lost on the bench in Rennes. Although Okada has shown a clear preference for the Hasebe-Endo tandem in the midfield engine room, it does not mean Inamoto has no chance of breaking into the starting line-up, as his ball-winning ability, physical presence and experience can give Japan another dimension.
It's also going to be interesting to see how Frontale coach Takahata manages his players in the opening weeks of the new season, now that Inamoto has been added to the mix.
Last season, Sekizuka favoured Taniguchi and Yokoyama in the centre of midfield, with Kengo taking up more of a wide berth.
In many aspects Taniguchi and Inamoto are quite similar players. They both like playing box to box and making runs from deep, although Inamoto cannot match the extraordinary aerial ability of Taniguchi.
Yokoyama was a Sekizuka favourite, but it is difficult to see how he can get in the team this time with Taniguchi and Inamoto an obvious and irresistible combination.
I actually preferred the way Frontale played two seasons ago under Takahata, with virtually a 4-2-4 formation held together by the Kengo-Taniguchi partnership.
Maybe this is what Takahata will try again, with Kengo playing further forward behind the front three and Inamoto coming in alongside Taniguchi.
Like Nagoya Grampus, Frontale have a big squad, and it may take time for the respective managers to find the right blend. Inamoto's days on the bench, however, appear to be over – and the J.League in general will benefit from the return of this popular character.
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