'Best they've ever been': Mitch Langerak enjoying finest performances of career
Australian goalkeeper Mitch Langerak is in career best form with 12 clean sheets to his name as his Nagoya Grampus chase one of the highly sought after automatic AFC Champions League spots.
Langerak leads the charts in clean sheets for the J League this season with 12 shut-outs from the 27 matches so far this season.
Nagoya have enjoyed their best campaign since the Aussie shot stopper arrived in Japan with the club having registered consecutive mid-table finishes over the past two years.
Aside from front runners Kawasaki Frontale, Langerak’s side have the second best defence in the competition with just 25 goals conceded while they are one of two sides who have managed to topple the league leaders this season.
It is these kind of statistics that have made this season a special one for Langerak and his Grampus teammates.
“We’ve had a really good season as a club, for me personally it’s been great to be in such good form and be contributing to the team and to the success that we’re having,” Langerak told Socceroos.com.au.
“It’s enjoyable, we’ve been winning a lot of games and been keeping a lot of clean sheets.
“I’ve kept 12 cleansheets this season, so far it’s been really good. We’ve got seven or eight games to go in the league so ideally we want to stay up in that second or third position and qualify direct for the (Asian) Champions League for next year.”
The Aussie goalkeeper has been pleased with his individual performances but has placed greater emphasis on his side’s overall displays.
“I’m very happy to be leading the clean sheets at this stage but I don’t judge myself on that, at the end of the day, the people look at the clean sheets and the goals against,” he said.
“I prefer to look at performances as a whole and that’s what’s keeping me the happiest, that my performances overall in general with everything have been the best that they have ever been.”
The ex-Borussia Dortmund shot stopper has adjusted well to life in Japan with the country’s top flight division making it a somewhat seamless transition from his European career.
“Compared to Germany, it’s very similar for a goalkeeper, it doesn’t really matter what league or what country you’re playing in because at the end of the day the difference between Germany and the J League isn’t that big,” the 32-year-old said.
“As a goalkeeper you really just have to react to what’s in front of you, you have to react to the shots, react to everything that’s going on.
“You’re not really feeling what’s happening in the middle of the park or the quality of the players on the pitch. You’re only taking care of what comes into the middle of the box and what comes into the goal.
“In that sense, nothing has really changed for me and it hasn’t for the last four, five, six years between Germany and Japan.”
For just over two months, J League supporters have been fortunate enough to watch their teams live with a 50% attendance cap set on all stadiums across the country.
This has meant that Nagoya’s supporters have been able to spur their team as they aim to finish in the top four for the first time since their runners-up finish in the 2011 campaign.
“The support I get here from the fans is first class, we’ve been quite lucky in terms of coronavirus break, it hasn’t affected attendances majorly,” Langerak said.
“It’s still amazing to go out there, we have a large stadium of around 40 or 50,000 so when that’s half full it’s amazing, most of the stadiums here in Japan are jut as big so you get 20,000 fans into the game.
“They can’t be vocal but they’ve got the drums and things like that which make it an amazing atmosphere.”
Langerak will be going in search of his 13th clean sheet of the campaign when his Nagoya travel to Sanfrecce Hiroshima at 9pm on Wednesday night (AEDT).