Abirex's four-goal Kawata wants more
Four-goal Kawata believes he can do much better
BALESTIER KHALSA v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Saturday, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
He is coming off a brilliant four-goal haul in his last outing.
What is even more ominous for opponents of Albirex Niigata is that Atsushi Kawata believes he is hardly at the peak of his powers.
Blessed with speed and strength, excellent technical ability and ferocious shooting, the 23-year-old showed glimpses of his quality in last season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, although he only managed six goals in the league and 11 in all competitions in his first campaign.
The 2016 S.League season is only two weeks old but Kawata already has four goals to his name, all coming in last Saturday's 5-0 rout of Garena Young Lions.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, he said: "Although I was able to score four goals in the last game, there were many chances that I missed.
"I am only 50 per cent satisfied at the moment and, as a team, we are far from perfect, yet. But it is very good that we've won the first two games.
"The atmosphere in the dressing room is very good and none of us are allowing ourselves to be overconfident. But we are confident that we can achieve our target of winning all three trophies."
The Japanese club, who achieved a Double when they won The New Paper League Cup and RHB Singapore Cup last year, aim to retain both trophies and also capture the biggest prize of them all this season - the league title.
Next up for the White Swans is a trip to Toa Payoh Stadium on Saturday to play Balestier Khalsa.
The Tigers are struggling, after suffering a shock loss to the Young Lions in their only league game so far. They followed that up by conceding a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 with Maldives' New Radiant in the AFC Cup on Tuesday.
Kawata failed to score against the Tigers in the league last year, although he did find the net when the sides met in the semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup.
With his new role up front - as opposed to the wide position Kawata took up under predecessor Tatsuyuki Okuyama - Albirex coach Naoki Naruo has backed the Osaka native to be an influential figure in their title charge.
Naruo told TNP: "He did a very good job against Young Lions, but he is also contributing in defence.
"His strengths are his ability to break through with power and his shooting. While he can also play on the right and left, I believe his best position is when he can face the goal.
"As long as he keeps getting the ball in front of goal, he will score a lot more."
With the White Swans looking even stronger than they were last season, winning the Treble of the S.League, Singapore Cup and League Cup could be a realistic target.
Kawata believes helping the club achieve the feat would be the perfect way to repay their faith in him.
"I regret not being able to contribute to the team as much as I envisioned last year," he said.
"That's why I decided to continue playing for Albirex. I want to play a part in the team's success this year."
Although I was able to score four goals in the last game, there were many chances that I missed.
— Albirex Niigata striker Atsushi Kawata on his four-goal haul against Garena Young Lions