2024 J.League season preview: Big winter has Nagoya Grampus dreaming

2024 J.League season preview: Big winter has Nagoya Grampus dreaming

Nagoya Grampus are J.League originals with a historic first-division title in 2010 that lives fondly in the memories of their fans.

Can they reach those heights again in the 2024 Meiji Yasuda J1 League? Let's break it all down.

2023 review

For much of 2023, it looked like Nagoya were taking a major step up for the first time in years. They were in second place for several weeks in a row early on and spent most of the season’s first 26 matchweeks in the top three, where they finished in 2020. Unfortunately, they failed to score more than one goal in any of their last 14 matches, sending them down to a sixth-place finish.

The key to Grampus’ season was an unblemished home record as they went undefeated in the league at Toyota Stadium (and Nagaragawa Stadium in Gifu). This home dominance aided them in their cup runs too, as they made the quarter-finals of the Emperor’s Cup and the semi-finals of the J.League YBC Levain Cup.

Ultimately, though, Grampus' lack of scoring punch toward the season's end hurt them as they finished trophy-less and landed outside of the continental places.

Key loss

Haruya Fujii - The defender came from the Nagoya academy, progressed into the first team, and eventually established himself as not just a starter but the heart of the Grampus defense. He was phenomenal in 2023 despite being just 22 years old and he earned his first cap for Japan as a result.

Unsurprisingly, Fujii earned a lot of interest from Europe and he made the move to KV Kortrijk in the Belgian top flight last month on loan. Now, Nagoya will have to figure out how to maintain their solid center of defense without their young star.

Key addition

Yuya Yamagishi - Nagoya’s success in recent years has been built upon an excellent defense, but if they are going to take a step forward, they’re going to need more from their attack. Signing Yamagishi could prove to be a big step towards getting just that.

Yamagishi had 10 goals and four assists last season for an Avispa Fukuoka team that didn’t offer much in the final third. He had to do a lot for his side and he delivered with aplomb. Now, Nagoya will get that type of dynamism in their front line.

Goal for 2024

Push for AFC competition. Nagoya were aggressive in the winter and have what is necessary to be ambitious in their expectations.

In addition to Yamagishi, they added Patric from Kyoto Sanga and Keiya Shiihashi signed from Kashiwa Reysol. Add them to the returning Kasper Junker and Nagoya will not be short of attacking talent and greater depth where they needed it most last year.

Grampus also signed Ha Chang-rae from Pohang Steelers in the K League, giving them an experienced center back to slide into the heart of defense, while Ryosuke Yamanaka comes over from Cerezo Osaka to play fullback.

With all those additions, Grampus are chock full of talent. There is no reason they can’t push for one of the top three spots and a place in the AFC competitions. Cup glory is very much within their reach too. This is a club with big ambitions, as their winter signings proved, and all eyes will be on manager Kenta Hasegawa to turn this well-balanced squad into a big-time winner this season.