The 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE has reached the midway point, which means it’s time to look back at the first half of the season. As we do, we turn to J.STATS to see which players put in performances worthy of attention.
Yokohama F. Marinos have shot up the table after a rough couple games to start the season and are now sitting in second place with a chance to challenge for the title. A giant reason for that has been their speedy striker, Daizen Maeda. Maeda has 10 goals this season, good for fifth in the league, and he’s getting it done with his constant running. The Marinos frontman has sprinted 764 times so far, by far the most in the league, but the impact of his sprinting is not just limited to scoring; it is also a weapon when defending, as evidenced by Maeda ranking first among J.LEAGUE forwards in tackles.
Right behind Marinos in third place is Vissel Kobe, who are on pace for their highest finish in club history. But while Marinos are leaning on a forward in Maeda, Vissel are getting excellent play from a center back, Ryuho Kikuchi. The immovable man in the middle of the Vissel defense, Kikuchi has started all but one of his club’s games this season, and his defensive numbers have been overwhelming. He ranks first in the league in both clearances and tackles, and is tied for first in blocked shots. He is also winning more than 80% of his aerial duels, tops in the league, making him one of the most productive defenders in all of Japan. Add in the four goals he’s scored, which is the most of any defender in the league, and Kikuchi has been irreplaceable for Vissel Kobe and a player worthy of the praise he has received throughout J.League.
(Stats as of July 17, provided by Data Stadium, Inc.)