The MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE is evolving, and we see it clearly with the men between the posts. Over the last four years, goalkeepers have been taking far more short goal kicks, receiving far more passes and making far more passes of their own. This is true across the league, but two goalkeepers in particular have emerged as exceptional ball-players who are taking on a major role in their teams’ attacks.
At Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, Takanori Sugeno is a major part of his team’s play with the ball. Sugeno’s activity isn’t just measured by passes received or made, though. Specifically, it’s about how often he’s playing passes that reach at least the middle third of the pitch and don’t call for a teammate to win an aerial battle.
Those are especially progressive passes that rely on his vision and skill, not a teammate to win the ball. He’s made 183 such passes, tops in the league. The 37-year old, whose debut came with Yokohama FC way back in 2003 and counts Consadole as his fourth J.LEAGUE club, is showing off the type of deadly passing that has made him a threat for nearly two decades.
While Sugeno leads in total numbers of passes into the final third without having to win an aerial battle, he is not the most accurate. That distinction belongs to Yokohama F·Marinos’ Yohei Takaoka, who has completed a staggering 82% of such passes.
The next most accurate goalkeeper on those passes is down below 68%, further highlighting just how spectacularly accurate Takaoka is with the ball at his feet. The 25-year-old is much younger than Sugeno, but like his elder, he also started his career at Yokohama FC. Neither features for the Fulie anymore, but their passing is still making a giant difference in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.