The first twelve weeks of the J-League has brought a number of surprises. It certainly isn't that the Kashima Antlers are running away from the league with Urawa Red Diamonds are in pursuit but instead the collapse of Ōita and rise of Albirex Niigata.
Turning the table on its end, injuries have played a major part Ōita Trinita's complete collapse. The defensive powerhouse has given up one goal shy of their entire total last year, have only a single win to speak for and are nearing panic mode to avoid relegation. While there is time to climb safety, the injuries to Yasuhito Morishima, Daiki Takamatsu, Tatsuya Ikeda, Roberto, Edimilson and Ueslei, just to name a few have left them a shell of their former self.
J2 could be quite interesting next year with Ōita possibly headed there but one team who won't is Albirex Niigata who are nestled third in the table and only three points behind the Reds. A last day victory over Gamba Osaka gave them a bit of a cushion from relegation but few would have expected the club to a emerge with well-disciplined style that oozes fundamentals and patience.