'Tis the Season: Holiday gifts for all 18 J1 teams

'Tis the Season: Holiday gifts for all 18 J1 teams

The holidays are here and everyone is out buying gifts for their friends and family, so we got to thinking ... what are some presents the 18 clubs in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League might like this season?

Albirex Niigata: A striker

Albirex got promoted last season and led J2 in goals but they did it without a double-digit finisher. A true danger man up front will make a big difference in the top flight and will be a priority for them to find, whether from elsewhere or within a team that contains the likes of the electric Ryotaro Ito.

Avispa Fukuoka: A Jordy Croux replacement

No team in J1 scored fewer goals than Avispa and the task may get even harder this year as Jordy Croux moves to Cerezo Osaka. The Belgian's creativity and goalscoring punch will be sorely missed and Avispa would love nothing more than to fill that gap this holiday season.

Cerezo Osaka: Cup luck

The Sakura have lost in the finals of the last two J.League YBC Levain Cups, coming so close to adding their first silverware since their 2017 domestic cup double. After losing the last one in stoppage time, a little more fortune at the final hurdle would be very welcome this holiday season.

Gamba Osaka: No more summer blues

Gamba were in the relegation fight last season, but not because they didn’t start or finish the season well. It was because they had a stretch in the summer when they won just one of 11. This year, they're hoping for a little Christmas-type cheer in July.

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo: Supachok's impact to continue with more minutes

Consadole added Thai star Supachok Sarachat in the summer, and though his time on the pitch was limited, his impact was undeniable. In just 93 minutes, Supachok recorded three assists and brought back memories of the early Chanathip Songkrasin era. Can he get more playing time and keep the same impact in 2023?

Kashima Antlers: Araki on the pitch

Ryotaro Araki looked set to be Japan’s next superstar after a monster 2021 season that saw him become the first J1 player under 20 years old to score 10 goals since 1994, but a back injury really limited him in 2022. If he can be healthy and stay on the pitch in 2023, watch out: This could be the year of Araki and the Antlers.

Kashiwa Reysol: A bigger gas tank

Reysol were in the title race for a while last season, but they faded as the campaign wore on and finished seventh. It was a good year for the club, but this season all eyes are on making it last all the way to Matchweek 34 with the same energy throughout the campaign.

Kawasaki Frontale: A reenergized Chanathip

Chanathip Songkrasin was signed to provide some attacking punch at Frontale, and though he showed glimpses of his incredible talent, he will want to show far more in 2023. When Chanathip joined the J.League at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, he spent the first season getting his feet wet before a terrific second campaign that saw him earn J.League Best XI honors. Maybe Year 2 in Kawasaki will be just as fruitful for the Thai star.

Kyoto Sanga: Utaka's fountain of youth

Peter Utaka will be 39 years old when the 2023 season starts, but age hasn’t stopped him yet. The striker scored nine goals last season, doing his part to keep Sanga in the top flight, but faded toward the end of the campaign as the side nearly suffered relegation. If he can keep fit and fresh, his impact could be vital as Sanga look to avoid a sophomore slump.

Nagoya Grampus: A striker

Kenta Hasegawa kept the Grampus rearguard predictably stout, but they managed just 30 goals in 34 matches. Now, the focus shifts to a frontman who can score regularly. Find that and Nagoya could make some noise.

Sagan Tosu: A Miyashiro replacement

Sagan’s attack was more dangerous than it had been in past years, in large part due to the scintillating Taisei Miyashiro, whose eight goals and three assists made him a constant threat. He’s returning to Kawasaki Frontale from loan in 2023, though, so Sagan need someone to fill his boots.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima: A full season of Pieros Sotiriou

Michael Skibbe arrived in Hiroshima and promptly transformed Sanfrecce. They finished third, made the Emperor's Cup Final, and won the J.League YBC Levain Cup after injury-time heroics from late-summer signing Pieros Sotiriou. A full season of that type of impact could see them make the leap to even higher places in the league.

Shonan Bellmare: Machino magic all year long

Shonan have a true star on their hands in Shuto Machino. His 13 goals were the second-most in J1 and earned him a place on Japan’s World Cup team. He could lead Shonan to new heights in 2023, but that would require he spend the whole season at the club, which is no guarantee with foreign teams surely keeping an eye on the budding star. Holding onto him could be the difference between staying up and the drop.

F.C.Tokyo: Getting Diego Oliveira shots

Adaílton ranked third in J1 last season with 12 goals, helping lead FCT up to sixth place, but his fellow Brazilian Diego Oliveira was quieter than usual in front of goal with just four tallies. Oliveira played provider expertly, leading the team with five assists, but took only 1.5 shots per 90 minutes — ninth-best on the team. If Oliveira can start getting in better positions and taking more shots, the capital club could have a dynamic duo up top.

Urawa Reds:Continental glory

Urawa’s domestic season did not go according to plan in 2022, slipping to ninth place, but they were magnificent in the AFC Champions League, making it to the final. That final is set to be played this spring, leaving the Reds two legs from being crowned champions of Asia for an astounding third time. That would be one special gift for Reds fans.

Vissel Kobe:A fast start

The Ushi’s spring and summer were a disaster in 2022 and they spent large chunks of the season bottom of the table as a result. They turned it up in the fall, climbing out of the drop zone by playing with urgency and tenacity under a new manager. They just need to start the season with that mindset in 2023 because the quality is there.

Yokohama FC: Koki Ogawa to make the leap

Yokohama FC don’t have the money or trophy cabinet of crosstown rivals Yokohama F·Marinos but they may have the best finisher in the city in Koki Ogawa. Ogawa's 26 goals earned him the J2 MVP last season and they may need similar production from him in the top flight to stay up in 2023. If he can make the leap in J1, it will be a gamechanger for the Fulie.

Yokohama F·Marinos: Take the success global

Marinos were a freight train in 2022, riding an unstoppable attack to the title. Now, they don’t just want to succeed in Japan, but also on the continental stage. The Tricolor have what it takes to defend their J.League title and also make a run in the AFC Champions League. It’s time to show the continent what this club can do.

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