Kashima Antlers came close to every title last season; J.League, Levain Cup, Emperor’s Cup and ACL Champions League. However, in the end, they could not clinch any of them. To make a fresh start, the club appointed former Brazilian international Zago as new manager went through a drastic renovation of their squad.
Their defensive line in particular was reinforced through a big makeover, with Tatsuki Nara and Katsuya Nagato brought in to fix last season’s weaknesses. Up front, Everaldo and Juan Alano, who joined from Brazil to replace Serginho and Leandro in the attacking department, are highly skilled and expected to play a crucial role in producing goals.
Their opening match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima ended in a 3-0 defeat, as the new signings were still not well integrated and Zago’s style of football was not displayed as hoped. The results of this transition period can be crucial for Antlers’ future.
This is the fourth season at Kashima for the Brazilian volante. He displays powerful and tireless defensive skills, while he also plays an important role in attack, thanks to his accurate passes and strong dribbling. When needed, he also gets involved in finishing.
Izumi is a versatile player, and was one of the key elements at Nagoya Grampus in the past season. While his technique is displayed mostly when possession, his stamina and dedication enable him to make a notable defensive contribution as well. His natural position is offensive midfielder, but he can play in almost any position: defensive midfielder, full back and even as center-back.