Nagoya Grampus will look very different in 2022. They have overhauled the team, with Massimo Ficcadenti leaving after more than two years as manager. His defense-first style is out and now Kenta Hasegawa is in, bringing with him some more attack-minded players as Grampus embark on a new era.
Nagoya were pegged as possible title contenders before the season and were in the race for a while, but fell off as the campaign progressed. A tough end to the year saw them come in fifth place, but they captured the 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP and their run to the AFC Champions League quarter-finals made them the last remaining team from Japan in the competition.
Léo Silva joined from Kashima Antlers, fortifying the midfield. Noriyoshi Sakai and Keiya Sento have both been added from Sagan Tosu and Tiago Pagnussat has been signed from Cerezo Osaka.
Gabriel Xavier departed to Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Ryogo Yamasaki went to Kyoto Sanga. Yasuki Kimoto joined F.C.Tokyo and Naoki Maeda sealed a big move to FC Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Goal for 2022
Hasegawa is bringing changes to Nagoya, but his first aim must be to maintain the club’s excellent defensive record. Grampus had the second-best defense in the league last season and the new manager will hope to keep that intact.
On the other side of the pitch, Hasegawa knows the club must improve its attacking output after finishing last in goals among the top six last season. If he can boost the attack, Nagoya have a chance to compete in the league as some suspected they might last season.
We know they can take home silverware, now it’s about challenging for the title with a revitalized attacking band and a maintained defense. The goal must be to compete with that elite subset of clubs in the 2022 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.
What to watch for
Ficcadenti helped establish Nagoya’s defensive identity, but the key to Grampus’ great work at the back was in goal - Mitchell Langerak.
The Australian backstop has been the best goalkeeper in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE ever since signing for Nagoya in 2018. He has a slew of records as proof of his excellent work, but you can’t point to just one thing Langerak does so well to keep goals out. He does it all, between stopping shots with great reflexes, regularly being in great position, coming off his line to collect balls, and organizing the back line.
He may have lost some of the players in front of him this offseason, but Langerak’s excellent form should provide a buffer against any major drop-off or growing pains.
Still, as they transition under Hasegawa, the Aussie goalkeeper’s form will be a key indicator to see if much has been lost in defensive solidity.