Yokohama F·Marinos are one of just two teams to play in every first-division season of the J.League, taking part in the inaugural campaign and having never once suffered relegation. As if that wasn’t enough, their four titles are second-most in J.League history, including their most recent triumph in 2019. This season, they have title number five in their sights and 2022 could be the year they bring it back again to Nissan Stadium.
Marinos lost their season opener, but then went 12 straight without a loss, placing themselves in the heart of the title race. Manager Ange Postecoglou left in June to manage Celtic FC in Scotland, but the Tricolor did not skip a beat, continuing to pressure Kawasaki Frontale for the title and nearly eclipsing the champions late in the season. They eventually settled for second place, led by joint Top Scorer Daizen Maeda, in a season that re-established the club among the elite of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.
Anderson Lopes was one of the top scorers in the league at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo before leaving for Wuhan FC in the Chinese league last summer, but he’s back in Japan and ready to lead the Tricolor line. Eduardo also comes over from Sagan Tosu, giving Marinos one of the best center backs in the league. Katsuya Nagato and Yuta Koike also come in to provide two strong options at left back.
Maeda has gone to Celtic, reuniting with Postecoglou, but leaving Marinos without the league’s top scorer. Thiago Martins has departed as well, creating the hole that Eduardo has been brought in to fill. Takahiro Ogihara and Theerathon Bunmathan also left Marinos, which could impact the defensive side of midfield and creation from the flanks, respectively.
Goal for 2022
After emerging as the top challenger to Frontale a year ago, but falling short, Marinos want to capture the title this season. They have the firepower to do so, replacing the spectacular Maeda with a proven star in Anderson Lopes. While his playing style may be different, the quality end product remains the same.
Eduardo was terrific for Sagan Tosu and fills the other massive gap left by Thiago Martins. Most teams would struggle to overcome those departures, but Marinos have done very well to keep their team among the best in the league. Kevin Muscat did an excellent job after taking over last summer and he has a squad that is capable of winning the title.
What to watch for
Last season, Maeda shared Top Scorer honors with Kawasaki Frontale’s Leandro Damião. With Maeda gone to Celtic and Frontale keeping Damião, Marinos knew they had to find a top-tier goal scorer if they wanted to keep pace with their title rivals and they did just that.
Anderson Lopes scored 12 goals for Consa before heading to China midseason. He was the point of an attack that often struggled to give him chances, but the Brazilian finished whatever opportunities they gave him and magnificently created others out of thin air.
Now, Anderson Lopes will get to play at the front of a great team with plenty of terrific chance creators, including Kota Mizunuma, Leonardo, Teruhito Nakagawa, and Marcos Júnior.
Lopes immediately becomes a Top Scorer candidate and Marinos’ ability to keep their punch at the top of the attacking trident makes them serious candidates for a championship. If Lopes can bag as many goals as he was on pace to last season with Consadole, that may well be the difference for Marinos in the title race.