Vissel Kobe season preview: Ushi try to carry strong finish to 2022 into 2023

Vissel Kobe season preview: Ushi try to carry strong finish to 2022 into 2023

Vissel Kobe have big backing, big stars and big support, but the results in 2022 were not up to par. What will it take for them to right the ship this season?

Last season

The Ushi backed up their club-record finish of third place in 2021 with a 2022 that saw them battling relegation from the very start. They didn’t win a match until mid-May and spent 13 matchdays in last place, but they finished the season strongly to climb to safety.

Vissel won nine of their final 15 matches and were especially good in Kobe, where they won seven times to ensure their survival.

Goal for 2023

Expectations will always be high at Vissel as long as they have stars like Andrés Iniesta, Yuya Osako and Yoshinori Muto, but making their way back up to third place like in 2021 is probably a little too ambitious. There is no reason that the Ushi cannot make their way well clear of the relegation fight and challenge for a cup like they did in 2019 when they took home the Emperor’s Cup.

What to watch for

Vissel were pretty quiet in the transfer market over the winter, opting instead to rely on the talent that helped them to a strong second half of the season. The key to their turnaround was an improved defense, which will be difficult to maintain with Yuki Kobayashi having departed for Celtic FC in the Scottish Premiership, but securing the services of Matheus Thuler on a permanent deal after a successful loan will go a long way to stabilizing the back line.

Hotaru Yamaguchiwill carry a lot of responsibility in the midfield, but he has the quality to be everything the Ushi need him to be. The only question is he, like many players in the Vissel squad, are on the older side so proper rotation that allows everyone to keep their legs fresh will be a top priority for manager Takayuki Yoshida.