Player in Focus: Spotlight on Daizen Maeda to lead the Marinos front line

Player in Focus: Spotlight on Daizen Maeda to lead the Marinos front line

Yokohama F·Marinos were the hottest team in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE heading into the Tokyo 2020 break. They’d won every match they’d played since late May and surged to second in the table, mounting an increasingly dangerous title challenge to Kawasaki Frontale.

This sensational play was mostly due to an unstoppable attack, led by Daizen Maeda and Ado Onaiwu. Both ranked among the league’s top five goalscorers. But Onaiwu was transferred to France’s Toulouse FC last month.

Maeda now stands as the lone leading man up top for Marinos. He’ll get help from Élber, Marcos Júnior and the rest of the strong squad, but it is up to Maeda to lead the line and keep the Marinos attack one of the league’s best. That challenge continues this weekend as Oita Trinita come to Yokohama.

Fortunately for Marinos, there’s plenty of reasons to think Maeda is up to the task. He’s scored 10 goals this season and his work — be it in possession, with his passing, or the clever runs he makes to clear space — was a big part of Onaiwu’s success. In Maeda's first full 90 after Tokyo 2020 duty with the Japan U-24 national team, goal contributions came from elsewhere in a 2-0 win over Nagoya Grampus and he showed a keen ability to get his teammates involved in dangerous spots.

But while it's a good development to see other names on the scoresheet, and different faces involved in the buildup, all eyes will remain fixed on Maeda's ability to change games with his own goals and assists.

With a title challenge becoming more realistic, the Marinos attack can't afford to take a day off, and that means Maeda can't either. Whether he is up to that task will in large part determine the success of this attack — and this team — going forward.