Júbilo Iwata Season Preview: J2 champions set to take on the top flight

Júbilo Iwata Season Preview: J2 champions set to take on the top flight

There are few teams who have had as much success in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE as Júbilo Iwata. They have a glorious past, and their run of six top-two finishes in seven years between 1997 and 2003 also saw them claim three first division titles, the Emperor’s Cup, the J.LEAGUE CUP, and even the AFC Champions League.

Recent times have not held up that brilliant run of success, though. Júbilo were relegated in 2013 and 2019, but the Shizuoka-based club won J2 last season and are now back in the top flight.

Can Júbilo stay up in 2022 and go on another successful run in the first division?

Last season

Júbilo conquered the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE thanks to a scintillating attack that scored 75 goals in 42 matches. Their defense held up well enough, finishing seventh in goals conceded, but it was really the league-best attack that drove their title campaign. Lukian led all of J2 with 22 goals, while each of their first-choice midfielders ranked among the league’s top 20 in either goals or assists.

The season started rocky, with consecutive losses and three defeats in their first five matches, but Júbilo only lost once of their next 17 from there and ran to the championship.

Key arrivals

Júbilo moved quickly to strengthen their defense for the jump to J1 by signing center back Ricardo Graça from Vasco da Gama in Brazil, while Makito Ito comes over from Yokohama F·Marinos. They also addressed the front line by signing Ryo Germain from Yokohama FC. They also signed Yutaro Hakamata from Yokohama FC, as well as Rikiya Uehara from Vegalta Sendai in a raiding of the relegated clubs.

While Yasuhito Endo was on loan in Iwata from Gamba Osaka the previous season, the legendary Samurai Blue star was signed to permanent terms in the offseason. The iconic midfielder will be 42 years old by the campaign’s opening kickoff and his signing ensures a touch of class and a hearty dose of experience remain in the Júbilo squad.

Key departures

Júbilo were dealt a big blow when Lukian left for Avispa Fukuoka, leaving them without the centerpiece of the attack that shone so brightly a year ago. They have done well to retain much of their J2 winning side, though, and have been able to focus on addition as opposed to replacement this winter.

Goal for 2022

Every newly promoted side simply wants to stay in the top flight and that will be the case for Júbilo. They have a storied past and reasonable goals of competing for trophies in the first division again, but that requires establishing a solid foundation. Their last return to J1 saw them reach 13th and a similar target would go a long way to establishing them as a top-flight mainstay in the future.

What to watch for

Aside from the obvious questions regarding how some players will adjust to the top flight, the real hurdle for Júbilo is how to replace Lukian. It’s difficult to overstate how fantastic the Brazilian was in 2021 and Júbilo have their work cut out for them with him no longer at the club. They haven’t opted for a big name replacement or a foreign signing thus far, instead looking to shore up the depth of their forward line and add firepower elsewhere.

If Júbilo can manage a decent attack without Lukian, they have to feel good about their chances in 2022. Their defense has experience and has been added to, both in the center and on the outside. Their excellent midfield is intact and will provide all-around quality that is needed in J1.

Top to bottom, Júbilo look well-prepared for the jump, but that all assumes Lukian’s absence won’t loom too large. It’s only one question, but it is a massive one for Júbilo.