2024 J.League season preview: Shonan Bellmare aim for successful rebuild

2024 J.League season preview: Shonan Bellmare aim for successful rebuild

Shonan Bellmare have had five separate stints in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, but they’ve never made it more than six straight seasons in the top flight. That is until now, as the 2024 campaign marks a club record seventh consecutive year in J1 for the Hiratsuka side. What awaits them in Year 7?

2023 review

It was a precarious season for Bellmare, who spent 11 straight weeks at the bottom of the table, but they eked out of the drop zone in late October when they took 13 points from five matches to secure their spot in the first division.

The defense was Bellmare’s biggest issue, as they allowed the fourth-most goals in the league, but Yuki Ohashi led an attack that scored just enough to get the job done in 2023.

Key loss

Yuki Ohashi - Unfortunately, the man who led Bellmare out of the drop zone has departed for Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Ohashi’s 13 goals ranked seventh in the league and his departure follows the summer transfer of Shuto Machino, leaving Bellmare without their top two goal threats from this time last year.

Key addition

Lukian - With Ohashi and Machino out of the picture, Bellmare are turning to Lukian to be their star man up front. It’s a bit of a risk with Lukian coming off just eight goals combined in the last two seasons with Avispa Fukuoka, but there is a great goal scorer in there.

The Brazilian scored 22 and added eight assists three years ago in J2 with Júbilo Iwata. Bellmare are betting on that version of Lukian leading the line and, if they are right, they have themselves their Ohashi replacement.

Goal for 2024

Bellmare have been near the bottom in five of the last six seasons so they are no stranger to relegation fights. This season, they’d be happy just to inch themselves into the middle of the table and leave the threat of the drop behind them.

While the spotlight will likely be on Lukian and how Bellmare replace their departed stars, the real question is how they manage at the back. It was their defense that let them down a year ago, and that’s why they signed Kim Min-tae from Kashima Antlers and Yuto Suzuki from Júbilo to shore up the backline.

If those new recruits end up making the difference in defense, and the attack stays productive, Bellmare could find themselves positioned as a mid-table team that won’t have to sweat relegation down to the end.