News • February 3, 2016
S.League 2016 Team Preview: Albirex Niigata (S)
Written By: Stanley Yeo
Since their inception into the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League in 2004, Albirex Niigata (S) have claimed three cup wins; the Singapore Cup in 2015 and the Singapore League Cup in 2011 and 2015. The S.league title remained elusive after 12 years in the league.
Playing well has never been a problem for the Japanese team but scoring a goal is. Albirex have always impressed with their short-passing and counter-attacking football. However, their inability to convert fluid play into tangible goals have proven to be their biggest weakness.
Albirex only managed to score 27 goals last year and ended up finishing third in the S.League title race.
With a new coach and several star signings, Albirex will be hoping to compete for all the titles this season. The White Swans must overcome their scoring problems if they are to displace DPMM Brunei as the champions of the S.League.
Coach Profile – Naoki Nauro
The last time Naruo was in charge in of the Albirex, they finished seventh in the S.League.
Despite an underwhelming stint the last time he was here, the newly appointed head coach of the Albirex is really excited to have another shot at the S.League title with a stronger squad at his disposal.
The 41-year-old coach also stated his confidence in his squad’s ability to compete for all titles, including the elusive S.League title.
“I am really relishing the experience to be back in Singapore.” said the coach.
“I have a much stronger team as compared to the last time I was in charge. I wish to challenge for all the titles [with this strong squad].”
Coach Naruo has identified Kawata and Mine as two key figures for the upcoming season.
He will certainly be hoping that both players will fill in the scoring boots that Albirex have been missing in their previous campaign.
However, the former Grulla Morioka coach cautioned that his team will have to remain focused throughout the season to achieve something.
“We have many young players, and we need to keep their spirits and motivation to last the whole season.”
Star Player – Atsushi Kawata
It is no surprise that Naruo has identified Kawata as the fulcrum of his team. After all, the 23-year-old who previously played for Hannan University, was a dazzling player in his debut season for the White Swans. Part of his star quality lies in his versatility.
The nifty winger can also be deployed as a striker or in the coveted number 10 role. What makes his versatility even more prominent is the fact that he can rack up goals despite not having a regular position.
The 1.75m tall midfielder bagged a total of 11 goals despite being deployed in several different positions throughout the past season. All eyes will be on Kawata’s ability to score and to create for his teammates, especially for Albirex’s latest signing, Kazuki Mine. It will be interesting to see how things work out for their partnership.
S.League.com Season Prediction: 3rd
The White Swans look primed to better their 27-goal haul last season with the combination of Kazuki, Kawata and Inui in attack. Still, the bulk of their squad comprise of youth players. Such inexperience means that Albirex will struggle for consistency when it matters the most.
Albirex Niigata (S) 2016 S.League squad