Player in Focus: Is Ryota Aoki the man to jumpstart the Consadole attack?

Player in Focus: Is Ryota Aoki the man to jumpstart the Consadole attack?

Ryota Aoki got off to a slow start this season, playing under a half of football across Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo’s first 12 matches, but his playing time has steadily increased ever since and so has the quality of his play. Now, he just might be a key player to getting the Consadole attack kick-started.

Consadole are still trying to figure out how to reorganize their attack after selling Anderson Lopes, who was leading the line and goal-scoring charts in the first half of the season. And while Aoki is not a like-for-like substitute, playing as an attacking midfielder and not a center forward, he is showing he is capable of bringing the dynamism they need.

After getting more time off the bench in four successive matches, Aoki got his first start of the season in late May and promptly registered an assist. His tidy passing added a key element in the final third and he continued to rack up starts.

Last week, Aoki’s unpredictable and intelligent movement finally paid off as he routinely made runs from deep to trouble the defense, resulting in a pair of goals. He got Consadole’s first when he knocked home a rebound after getting in a good position. His second came from cleverly hooking a run around his mark and calmly finishing the winner. In both cases, it was Aoki’s understanding of space and anticipatory movement that made the difference.

But can he replicate this performance is the question. Aoki is proving he can impact the match in a variety of ways that Consadole need as their reimagined attack continues to take form; whether he can do it week-in and week-out is something we may find out in Oita this weekend as Consadole face Trinita.