Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Vs Kashima Antlers (away) 13/10/19 - Levain Cup, semi final 2nd leg

Kashima Antlers 0 - 0 Kawasaki Frontale (1-3 on aggregate)

So this year hasn’t been a complete write off. We’ve made it to a final and there’s some chance of redemption for our many Levain final failures. As I keep saying, any kind of success does paper over the big old cracks in our season, but at this stage, I’m quite happy it hasn’t all been a disaster. Although we can still lose in the final and everything I said above is off. This group of players does deserve something though. My opinion, and it seems I never tire of restating it, is that we have got talent in abundance but we’re not doing a very good job of getting the most out of it. This game gave us another glimpse of quite how close we could have been to getting our third consecutive league title. Kashima, who are now leading in the league, were pretty useless again, and I know they’ll bring up the fact that they have a lot of injuries, but even with their injuries they’ve been ploughing on and picking up points in the league. We too have had injuries (and still do have), but we’ve failed this year due to having our usual slow start and then compounding things with a rotten run in August and September. I have a horrible feeling that we are going to end up agonizingly close to the top spot. We’ve got games against some of the top teams, so our run in isn’t easy, but at the same time it does allow us to have a big influence on the title race and take points off contenders. Whether we do this or not remains to be seen, but even in this dullest of dull games, we seem to finally be playing with a bit of attacking intent again, and have regained some solidity at the back. Problem is, it’s all a little too late for the league probably. Anyway, the games are coming thick and fast so I’ll stop blathering and try to get on with this post. Here’s what we might have learned from this game.


We were poor, they were poorer -

I think I went over this a fair bit in the last post, but this was another game that could be mistaken for a relegation battle rather than a cup semi-final in terms of the quality that was on display. We totally dominated but at the same time never really looked like we were going to score. An amazing amount of our shots went straight at the keeper, who rarely had to move to stop anything we threw at him. Kashima had one shot on target in the whole game. Considering that they needed to score at least twice to progress, this was pretty woeful. There was an amazing amount of possession conceded from both teams. We were excellent at winning the ball from them in midfield, but almost always gave it back to them with the next pass. It happened over and over again. We did a great job of pressing and stifling them, but when we had the ball, could do nothing with it. The shots stat is really misleading in this game, as plenty of our shots were little more threatening than backpasses. In fact they were less threatening I guess, as the keeper could pick them up. When we weren’t dollying the ball up for their keeper we were failing to score in even worse circumstances. Kengo missed an open goal. We got into great positions but consistently failed to pull the trigger. It was pretty frustrating. But not as frustrating as the next point.


We were sneaky, but they were dirty -

Our time wasting was pretty shocking to be honest. I never like to see this in a game, but I understand that it is an inevitable part of modern football. It’s definitely a thing that you get annoyed about if its the opposition doing it, but you’re fine with your own team doing. At least normally anyway, but I think we took the piss a bit in this game. Admittedly the onus was on Kashima to score, but it would have been nice if we had not slowed down the game to a snail’s pace. The last fifteen minutes was like an avant garde visual art/absurdist comedy piece where time after time we dithered on the ball drawing a foul from Kashima and then dithered over the free kick. It didn’t make for fun viewing, but I guess it was effective in seeing out the game and infuriating the Kashima players and fans. Quite how Kashima kept eleven players on the pitch, I don’t know, as there were some really awful tackles flying in. Jung seemed determined to physically attack each of our team, with a knee in Kengo’s dodgy back and other fouls all over the place. Bueno showed that nominative determinism can sometimes work in reverse, by being an all round bad player, with bad play and a very bad attitude. He charged over and went in swinging at Ienaga and Morita (who seemed to be only watching the aggro rather than getting involved) and didn’t even get a yellow. (Tojo the ref, was pretty poor in this respect in this game I thought, and I’m sure Kashima would probably agree, but for different reasons). Leandro again was a nasty piece of work. I totally understand their frustration as we weren’t exactly playing football, but after the first leg, this was an effective, if far from easy on the eye tactic for us to employ. And employ it we did. Again and again. And again. And again. A month or so ago there was talk about Kashima doing the quadruple, but now they’re down to only two competitions and judging on this game I don’t fancy their chances against Honda FC in the next round of the Emperor’s Cup and I wouldn’t think they’d be able to hang on at the top of the league if it weren’t for the fact that all the other teams around them are suffering their own implosions on a monthly basis. I’m really torn now on how I want the league to finish. As I said above, I think we won’t win it. FC Tokyo seem to be in freefall and I can see them slipping out of the ACL places. Yokohama blow extremely hot and then extremely cold and you’ve got to think they’ve got a cold spell coming soon. And Kashima are just a bit rubbish right now. Obviously, as our big local rivals I couldn’t really ever want FC Tokyo or Yokohama F Marinos to win the league. Which left me with Kashima as potentially being my preferred champion, which went against everything I have always believed in, as I’ve always disliked them. After witnessing their shithousery up close two games in a row, I now can't even be half-heartedly in favour of them winning the league. So where does that leave me? I dunno, but I guess I’m going to be disappointed however it turns out.


(Some) players remembering how to play -

Finally, a few words on various players. Morita seems to be finally regaining some of the form he once had and showing that he will hopefully be able to come good on the promise he’s showed in flashes. Since his goal he seems transformed and this was another great game for him. Defensively all round, this was a decent display so well done to all of those players. It was a marked improvement from the Kurumaya centre back and Morita right back starting line ups Oniki has tried recently. Oshima didn’t quite have the impact in this game that he had in the last game, but even so, it’s still great to see him back on the pitch. I think Oniki might have imagined that Oshima was going to be his saviour, riding back into contention near the end of the season and propelling us to a third league title. Shame that it’s come a bit too late. Kobayashi had another shocker to be honest. Pretty much the only positive things he did were in defence at corners. Up front he was a bit of a waste of space. We all know he’s a confidence player but he’s not been able to build up any confidence. I think he’s a good guy so I reckon he must be aware that Leandro Damiao is probably playing a lot better than him but never really getting the same opportunities. This can only be increasing the pressure on Kobayashi. Kengo was a bit sloppy in this game and Abe was pretty much absent again. I have no idea why Oniki would change the front four so much after the last leg. He can only be tinkering for tinkerings sake. Quit it! One bright spark was the fact that Ienaga did ok again. He’s still not back to the heights of last season, but he’s also considerably higher up than the lows he was in earlier this season. It’s very welcome! Lastly, I don’t think I’ve mentioned Ienaga’s weird warm up routine when he comes out before the game before. He basically uses a member of staff and leans on them at various angles and gets them to push him away from them. Quite weird, but I quite enjoy watching out for it now. In this game he was joined in bizarre behavior by Shimoda who almost immediately after coming on to the pitch did a couple of forward rolls and then a couple of backwards rolls, before getting up and carrying on as normal. I have no idea what they are doing, but fully intend to incorporate these things into my everyday life somehow.


Next up, Gamba away, another one of those fixtures where we always suck, and this year against a team who could realistically be pulled into the relegation places. Not the best game to have at this stage. I guess it will either be a dead rubber for us or depending on other results, a possible start of our charge to a third consecutive title. But we do have to win all our games for that to have any possibility of happening. Also, we still need all these teams who keep slipping up (at times when we've slipped up even more), to keep slipping up. It’s not going to happen, but I guess we can still dream, can’t we? And then a week later, the Levain Cup Final, a trip back to the scene of some of our most notable recent failures, the Saitama Stadium. Fingers crossed for this time, eh?


Team

GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu

Subs
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for KOBAYASHI 90+1')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for SHIMODA 57')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya  (on for ABE 52')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
DF 26. MAGUINHO
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto

My Frontale Man Of The Match
As mentioned above, it certainly won’t be going to anyone at the top of the formation as we were so bad up front, I feel like scoring no goals flattered us. The defence was solid, but I’m not sure quite how much they had to deal with, and I’m going to generalize and possibly bend the truth for the purpose of this announcement, most of it was stopped by….

MORITA Hidemasa - Give a player a goal and he’ll play better. Give him a song before the next game and he’ll step it up another notch. Stood out in a fairly mediocre if effective team performance and recently seems to be making important tackles and the right decisions when he has the ball. Keep it up!


Goals
None 


Highlights

Friday, 11 October 2019

Vs Kashima Antlers (home) 9/10/19 - Levain Cup, semi final 1st leg

Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 1 Kashima Antlers

Now that was a lot of fun! And what an unexpected treat it was too. There were plenty of doubts in my mind in spite of the demolition of Shonan last weekend. It’s undeniable that Shonan were in a pretty bad place and played pretty terribly. Kashima looked like being a far sterner test. But as it turned out, they were just another team turning up to get a pasting from us. I feel that Kashima are a bit of a bogey team for us. Nowhere near Cerezo level, but bogey enough. Apparently, according to the J League online forum the Kashima fans think that about us too. And judging on this game they are right too. At this stage of the season, results are much more important than the performances. If we’d got a few better results during our rotten patch we’d still be in contention. As it stands, it looks like we could end up missing out by just a few points giving us plenty of what ifs to stew over in the off season. But this wasn’t a league game, so we could approach it with some abandon. I certainly seemed to be enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. At the end of a pretty dodgy first half I was in a buoyant mood for some reason. Perhaps it was the fact that both teams were playing a bit rubbish. Probably it was more to do with the fact that Nishimura was Nishimura-ing it to the max. I’ve never seen so many bad decisions in one match. Normally it this would infuriate me but for some reason I found it hugely entertaining. I hadn’t even been drinking! Half time saw the introduction of a beer and a couple of goals in the second half contributed to a very fine night indeed. Here’s we might have learned from this game.


Well, I dunno anymore... -

Still don’t get what Oniki’s thinking with the line up but I’m just going to go with it for the rest of the season in order to stop myself losing my mind. I don’t know if he knows what he’s doing either, but from now on I’m going to treat every unique and confusing selection as a puzzle to put some thought into. This was a real hodgepodge of a first team reserve mix, but recently, I guess that whole concept of first team has got a bit confused so who really knows? Arai continued in goal, we again went with the centre back pairing of Kurumaya and Taniguchi, but decided to play a right back at right back! Leandro Damiao got his usual random cup run out and Kengo got his usual cup game rest. Probably the big news was the Return of Oshima to the bench. Hasegawa and Wakizaka got to start the game instead of being subbed on. The early withdrawal due to injury of Mawatari meant that Kurumaya was able to switch to left back, Nobori going to the right and Yamamura going back into the middle. Although Oniki did initially attempt to play Yamamura at right back, ever desiring of one more tinker. This change seemed to make things a lot more positive for us. Who’d have thought that Kurumaya would play better at left back, eh? Oshima replacing Shimoda also had quite an effect. Hokuto has been great recently I think, but Oshima gave us all a real lift. We seemed to actually be attacking with some intent. If only we’d had him for the whole of the season. I used to say that the sign of Oshima having a good game was the fact that you don’t notice him. I’m not sure this is true now though, as the boost he gave the fans and players was very obvious in this game. Long may that continue!

Kashima, champions elect? -

It seems to be a widely held belief that Kashima are going to power on for the title now FC Tokyo have relinquished their lead. From this games showing, I’d say that if that were the case, it shows the weakness of the other teams rather than anything great about Kashima. Aside from their early goal, which our defence could probably claim an assist for, such was their contribution through giving away time and space, they were pretty ordinary. After they scored they were time wasting, which was pretty ridiculous ten minutes into the game. They were on top for a decent part of the first half but seem to have taken a page out of our book when it comes to possession not being turned into chances. Their goal was their only shot on target according to the stats. It’s a mark of Nishimura’s insanity that we picked up two yellows and they only got one. Leandro probably should have been sent off for a dodgy tackle after he’d already picked up a yellow. (I would say this though as I still hold grudge against him for not returning the ball to us after we put it out for an injury in a game one or two years ago. The fact that we nicked it back of them and went and scored was lovely justice, but won’t stop me from thinking Leandro is a bit of an idiot). I’m pretty sure we should have had a penalty but the lack of a DAZN replay of the game means that I can’t check. They looked a real mess towards the end of the game and we could quite easily have got more. Sogohata looked dodgy in the extreme. Uchida was getting rinsed by Hasegawa and later Kurumaya, over and over again. It was lovely to watch. Kashima fans lamented that we don’t have any injuries, and whilst it’s true they have plenty, we are one bad tackle on Taniguchi away from having zero centre backs. The thing is, neither team particularly shone, at least not for 90 minutes. Our middle three were woeful for the first 25 minutes or so. There was a lot of squandered possession from both teams, lots of misplaced passes, but unusually for once, we seemed to be fairly clinical with our finishing. It’s lovely to score three against Kashima. Fun fun fun fun…


FUN!!!!!!!!!! -

Morita finally scored! He has a song! It’s quite catchy but has some potentially tricky lyrics for me. He looked like a changed man after it went in. Leandro Damiao seemed determined to score with an overhead kick. Never have I seen a player attempt to set himself up for one so many times in one game. One was pretty powerful and on target but sadly Sogohata didn’t fumble that one. Damiao had a great game I think. If he’d managed to score that would have made things ridiculously fun! I hope that Oniki was watching closely, as it’s not all about goals. He definitely deserves to start the next game, which presumably means that he won’t. If he ever got a run in the team, who knows what could happen. Even the referee’s ineptitude was fun. I don’t know if they ever drug test officials, but I think Nishimura would test positive for some kind of hallucinogen. I really needed this game (as well as the Shonan victory). It reminded me that football can really bring joy and that it doesn’t always have to cause teeth-gnashing frustration. Lovely! Whether I still feel this way on Sunday evening, who knows. I guess the highs can evapourate as quick as they appear. Fingers crossed.


Quite enjoying these shorter blog posts and I suspect most readers are too. Next up, the return leg. Who knows what the team will be? Who knows if the game will go ahead due to the typhoon? (Bet it will, to a tiny crowd, as the fan’s experience and travel possibilities seem to always be the last things taken into consideration). Who knows if we’ll be able to hang on and get to the final. Let’s not forget that we threw away a bigger lead against Urawa in the ACL a few years ago. Hopefully we can pick up another win and then who knows what might happen for the rest of the season. Wins breed confidence, and that’s something we desperately need and are in danger of getting. Let’s hope it will be as much fun as this game was. It was a blast!


Team

GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (Yellow card 30')
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (Yellow card 30')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO

Subs
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for HASEGAWA 76')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for SHIMODA 79')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya  (on for MAWATARI 37')

Goals
 
SHIRASAKI (Kashima) 10' 0-1
CHINEN (Frontale) 15' 1-1
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 61' 2-1
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 61' 3-1


Highlights

(Three lots of highlights again, probably pretty much all the same again)

Monday, 7 October 2019

Vs Shonan Bellmare (away) 6/10/19 - J League match 28

Shonan Bellmare 0 - 5 Kawasaki Frontale

I give up! Where did that come from? After an absolutely rotten performance against Vissel Kobe, Oniki picked the same team (for only the 4th time this season) and we hammered Shonan. I think there’s nothing I can really say now, so muddled is everything that I thought I knew. This was a much needed tonic for Frontale fans and I’m not going to write loads picking holes and finding things to moan about. I might write a little about it, but not loads. For now I’m just going to enjoy the result and enjoy the fact that we won away at Shonan, a game which we always seem to contrive to turn into a frustrating draw. Miracles do happen it seems! Here’s what we might have learned from this match.


Turn back the clock and party like it’s 2018 -

At least with the front four anyway. Kengo and Ienaga looked rejuvenated, Kobayashi put away his first chance confidently, we looked exciting going forward. At least in the first half anyway, which admittedly was at the other end of the pitch so perhaps my view wasn’t the best. But yeah! Goals!!! And a clean sheet!!! One slight downside was that Ienaga looked pretty pissed off when he was changed, and to be honest, who can blame him? He was playing much better than he had previously this year. He was involved! Perhaps though he should take being subbed as a compliment, as it normally seems to be the players who are playing well that Oniki changes (see, I knew I could get a moan in). After he potentially expressed some criticism, or at least commented on Oniki last week in his post match thoughts, I was surprised to see him start. I will also be surprised if he is still with us next year. Along with a few other players. This will be a shame as judging on this performance he seems to have worked his way through his dodgy spell now. I wonder if something has been said behind the scenes and some air has been cleared as there seemed to be an all round better mood in the team. Clearly this was a performance with a very different feel to recent games and given that it was the same eleven as against Kobe, you’ve got to wonder where such a change came from.


The cloud of the silver lining -

This is another victory which is very welcome, but has to be taken with a pinch of salt given the opposition. Shonan looked awful in the first half, focusing so hard on kicking lumps out of us that they forgot to try to play football. Akimoto had a bit of a nightmare fumbling most things he had to deal with. We have to remember that they lost 6-0 to Shimizu last week. They are very much not a good team right now. So are they awful and Shimizu and us are average? Or are Kobe and Urawa (who beat Shimizu this weekend), totally amazing, Shimizu and us good and Shonan merely not very good? It is the J League just being the J League? There have been some really weird results this season and maybe they are continuing. We still need to remember that our only two league wins in our last nine games have been against Jubilo who are rock bottom and Shonan who must be rock bottom of the form table and are flirting very forcefully with the drop zone.


Any other grumble business -

I’m going to round up my other grumbles into a quick little paragraph to get them out of the way. I realise it’s churlish to complain after winning 5-0. In spite of the result, I’m still not sure this was the correct team to pick. I really don’t know why Arai is getting picked over Sung-Ryong as until this game they’d both been conceding at least two a match. Although to give Arai some credit he did pull off a great save in this game. Morita at right back and Kurumaya at centre back still doesn’t work, with both of them naturally seeming to drift towards where they are comfortable and used to playing. We didn’t concede, but I think this again is more to do with the opposition. And again, the subs seemed nuts. The Ienaga change was mentioned above. Kengo off for Hasegawa means again moving Abe to the left (after which, he unsurprisingly lost his spark). And Mawatari on for Nobori means that we have a right back playing at left back and a midfielder playing at right back. I don’t think we’ll get away with that against Kashima. Oh and, I don’t know why they’ve put those seats in behind the goal, but it seems that it has severely reduced the capacity. As usual, there seemed to be a lot of people with a less than ideal view. If I hadn’t got to the stadium six hours before kick off I’m not sure we would have been able to find a space, and there were only two of us. And apparently our end hadn’t even sold out!


But yeah, forget my moaning. It seems I know nothing and I’m quite happy to look stupid if it means we win every week. I imagine with this result Oniki would have been flicking me a middle finger if he was aware of my constant criticism. But yeah, I’ll take the abuse. If only we could have started being not poor a bit earlier we might still be in with a shout as FC Tokyo seem to be stinking things up as some predicted. We now look like we could have a shot at an ACL place but one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and we have a tricky run in, so let’s not get too confident yet. Also, I was kind of looking forward to those Levain group stage games. But yeah, forget all this, and watch those highlights a few times. We scored some nice goals, so let’s enjoy them and make the most of some positivity while we can. Next up Kashima at home on Wednesday in the Levain cup...


Team

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro 
MF 14 NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu

Subs
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NAKAMURA 70')
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (on for NOBORIZATO 81')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for IENAGA 64')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya 

My Frontale Man Of The Match
Oniki has left me with a tricky decision in this game as he removed both of the players who I thought were in for a shout for the man of the match. In spite of the scoreline, this didn’t seem like a game in which we played magnificently, so I’ll go on what happened before the subs started and give it to...

IENAGA Akihiro and NAKAMURA Kengo - dunno what they’ve been eating or drinking or thinking, but they both seemed really up for this game and we’re both a real menace going forward. I don’t know if they were being rested with Wednesday in mind, but it was a shame they couldn’t have continued as I think we would have scored some more goals and recovered some more confidence.

Goals
 
OWN GOAL (Frontale) 15' 0-1
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 21' 0-2
ABE (Frontale) 26' 0-3
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 35' 0-4
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 81' 0-5


Highlights
 

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Vs Vissel Kobe (home) 28/9/19 - J League match 27

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 2 Vissel Kobe

Still we continue to plough this furrow of utter shitness, playing terribly and getting terrible results. Still Oniki is making absolutely senseless decisions. Still he doesn’t do the honorable thing and quit. But let’s look on the bright side. We now really don’t have to worry about the league title, although the teams above us continue to slip up giving us yet more reminders of what could have been if we had a proper manager in charge of our talented squad. And the kick offs are getting earlier, so now we have plenty of time to get smashed in the pub after the game in order to forget the horrors we’ve just watched. My enthusiasm about writing this blog post is low and to be honest most of the points I should make have been made in countless previous posts as the same rotten things are happening every week. I’ll be even lighter on detail than usual in relation to these aspects as I’m sure you’re fed up of hearing me moan about them. As usual, there is plenty that could be learned from this game, but as has happened in the past, it seems unlikely we will actually learn anything. In any case, here are the usual bullet points, but perhaps slightly truncated.

Team selection randomness and substitution nonsense -

See the previous ten or so blog posts for more details. Another all Japanese team, with two players playing out of position and plenty of players who’ve done next to nothing starting, and plenty of players who’ve played well being frozen out. Kurumaya has really been looking better in recent weeks playing at left back where he belongs. So cunningly Oniki decided to switch him to centre back. We have two adequate right backs in the squad, therefore Oniki decided to play Morita who has been struggling a little this season in his preferred position at right back where he has pretty much always had a dodgy game. As usual the subs were absolutely nonsensical. Oniki removed Ao, who was one of our only players who was playing well. Before this he took out Shimoda and replaced him in the defensive midfield spot with Wakizaka, one of the few players who ever shows a real attacking intent. The removal of Ao meant that we were playing Kengo and Wakizaka in those defensive midfield spots, so a further two players playing out of position. I really don’t know what Oniki’s problem is. This was his 24th different starting line up in 27 league games. He must really be going for a world record. Or perhaps his little magnetic line-up board feel on the floor, scrambling all the magnets and he thought it was a sign from above. That's about the only way I can explain the mess of decisions he's made recently.

Tactical incompetence, no, hang on, complete lack of tactics -

This could have been a welcome return of Iikura to Todoroki. He is a total liability in goal for any team who decides to use him as a sweeper keeper. It’s perhaps unfortunate that in spite of his limitations in this area, he now seems to be expected to do this. I think anyone who has paid any attention to the J League recently knows that when you have Iikura in goal for the opposition, you are always going to get some chances if you pressure him into errors. And we did… once in the entire game. The obvious selection would have been Leandro Damiao as he always does a good job of hassling the opposition keeper. However, Oniki’s aversion to playing him overrides any common sense and instead for the majority of the game, Kobayashi let Iikura do what he wanted, effectively giving Kobe an extra player. There was no support for Kobayashi in chasing Iikura down so perhaps this is why he was reluctant to commit too much to doing it, but this has all got to go down as being another Oniki blunder. Playing Morita at right back also really messed with any attempt of ours to play any kind of offside trap. As Taniguchi pushed the defensive line forwards, Morita was always a few steps behind. It’s a miracle we weren’t made to pay for this, as Kobe clearly seemed to be focussing their attacks down that side where we were clearly weakest. I am by no means a football tactics expert, but these things were leaping out at me time and time again as we huffed and puffed our way towards another defeat. If Kobe weren’t so awful we could have been absolutely battered. If both teams had been playing well and sitting great the top of the table you could probably say that this game was for the most part a great tactical battle between two teams at the top of their games. As it was, it was a slog between two awful sides, neither of whom for the most part could manage to string a whole attack together. Kobe had two shots on target and scored twice. We had plenty of shots, if you can call them that, but rarely troubled their keeper.


Here you go, a couple of goals, you're welcome -

I mean what happened for that first goal? We lost possession and the entire defence went missing. It was just a travesty. Neither Kurumaya nor Taniguchi got anywhere near making a challenge and the two full backs were nowhere to be seen. A total gift for Kobe. The second was equally generous from us. Plenty of our players complained about the goal, but I’m not sure what they were complaining about as it clearly wasn’t offside. Once again it was just a total absence of defending that did it, with loads of our players in the box but no-one actually getting anywhere near the ball. It hurts even more that one of Kobe’s biggest donkeys managed to score. But to be honest, it probably hurts more that were weren’t hardly able to get past said donkey at the other end of the pitch. The goal we did score was utterly meaningless, and I know it’s wrong, but I was delighted we didn’t manage to get an equaliser, as we really needed to lose this match. We were totally crap and a draw would once again have papered over the cracks. We are losing a lot of games and Oniki has to take responsibility for both these losses and the awful draws we are also sometimes luckily getting.

Dirty Furuhashi, useless referee -

I used to like Furuhashi but recently there’s been plenty that has put me off him. Sure he’s a good player, but he’s also a terrible diver and in this game put in an absolutely horrible tackle on Taniguchi totally unnecessarily. If the same tackle had been put in by us on one of Kobe’s ‘Barcelonitos’ (or whatever people call them, which definitely not what I just wrote...), it almost certainly would have resulted in a red. I don’t know if it is because of the constant high profile whinging that Mikitani has been doing for the past few years and particularly this season, but it seemed that any tackle on a Spaniard resulted in a free kick for Kobe. On the contrary, Kobe shoved Frontale player after Frontale player to the ground from behind and I don’t think we even got a free kick. But let’s not go overboard on the ref as the real problem about this performance was us. To lose once to Kobe is pretty bad, but to lose to them two games in a row takes quite some incompetence.

Booooooooo -

This game finished with a significant section of the main supporter section booing the team as they came to us after the match. I totally understand this, but I didn’t do it myself. I will however try to boo every mention of Oniki going forward as in my opinion, and I’m sure this come as no surprise to you, I hold him fully responsible for how bad we are this year. He is out of his depth, has no ideas tactically or in terms of selection, despite having his little board with those magnets, and is in danger of doing irreparable damage to us. We have to get rid of him as soon as possible. A better man would probably have offered his resignation before now, but it seems like he’s not going to do so. He must be aware that he has no idea what he’s doing and has no chance of getting us out of this mess. If he doesn’t go soon I think we are going to lose a lot of players at the end of the season. I’m only going on my gut feeling, but I reckon Sung-Ryong, Taniguchi, Kurumaya, Jesiel, Maguinho, Ienaga and Damiao will go. There are plenty more who could also be justified in wanting to leave. We’ll be left with a lot of gaps in our squad and we all know how bad Oniki’s recruitment has been so far. If he’s still in charge next year, I really feel we could be involved in a relegation battle. Ienaga’s post match comments said something along the lines of how the manager has lots of decisions to make but the players have to do their best. Which sounds to me like he’s not particularly happy with some of Oniki's decisions and who can blame him. Ienaga, Kobayashi, Kengo, Taniguchi, Morita, Sung-Ryong and many more have been pretty average this season. When one or two players are under-performing we can point the finger at them, but when it’s so many of the squad who are below par, you’ve got to think something’s not right with the management. The team selections are mostly random it seems which can’t exactly help the players get into any form or build up any confidence. Seriously, get rid of him now. Don’t wait till we inevitably crash out of the Levain cup (can you really see us beating Kashima, the state that we’re in at the moment?). A lot of people question who we would get in to replace him, thinking that if we don’t have a replacement we can’t get rid of him. I’d say that there’s a lot more danger involved in keeping Oniki in charge than having the assistant manager take charge for a few games whilst we look for someone else. Oniki is the bright spark who let one of our few central defenders leave the club when we had two of the remaining three injured. He’s the guy who delights in trying to force square pegs into round holes playing multiple players out of position. He’s the guy who has no plan A, let alone a plan B. He’s the guy whose substitutions seem to have been planned before the match and are made with no consideration of what’s going on in front of him. He’s the guy who seems to be unable to deal with any foreign players we have or had. He’s the guy who has knocked the confidence out of some talented players to the extent that they now appear completely clueless. He’s the guy who supposedly had tightened up our defence, which has now conceded 14 goals in the last eight league games, the majority of which were against teams in the bottom half of the table. He’s the guy who has contrived to get us knocked out of the ACL in the group stages for the last two years against some very average teams and has almost certainly guaranteed that we won’t be taking part in that competition next year. He’s the guy who has to go as soon as possible, preferably right now. We don’t need to boo the players. We 100% need to boo the manager.

Next up, Shonan away, a game that we always disappoint in. After that, two games against Kashima in the Levain cup. Let’s see if we can get knocked out of another competition at the first stage of asking. I normally would try to finish with an optimistic ‘go Frontale’, but I can’t. The longer we keep getting average to shit results, the longer Oniki will remain in charge. Instead this post finishes unsurprisingly with ONIKI OUT!


Team

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro 
MF 14 NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu

Subs
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for TANAKA 75')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 68')
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for SHIMODA 54')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Normally I would sulk and not do one of these after a game like this, but on this occasion, without a doubt it has to go to...

TANAKA Ao  - head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch on either team, defensively and going forward.

Goals
 
VILLA (Kobe) 44' 0-1
OSAKI (Kobe) 70' 0-2
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 90+1' 1-2

Highlights

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Vs Vissel Kobe (away) 18/9/19 - Emperor's Cup 4th round

Vissel Kobe 3 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale


Out of the ACL, out of the tile race and now out of the Emperor’s Cup, all with crappy results against pretty bad teams. this is truly the season that keeps on giving. I was only able to see the last five minutes of this game, so can’t really make any kind of informed comment, (praise the lord that I couldn’t go to Kobe to watch this). I’ve seen the ‘highlights’ though. Sung-Ryong could have done nothing about the first two goals given the complete absence of marking and defence but the third was an absolute rotter which admittedly looked like it had a Kobe handball at the start of the build up. But that’s no excuse. If someone could tell me what our shape was after Hasegawa’s injury and substitution I’d like to know, but looking at the match facts, you’ve got to wonder if Oniki’s complete lack of a plan B might have created some problems for us. Let’s be honest though, the plan A isn’t really working either is it? How we can go from having one of the best defensive records in the league to conceding around two goals a game is a mystery. And you can’t blame it on Jesiel’s injury as he was around for a significant part of the start of this rotten run. Got to again point the finger at Oniki I guess. I had a feeling we’d lose this game as it was vaguely important and Kobe are a bit rubbish. Once again, we’ve showed we can rival anyone on the rubbishness stakes. So, let’s cling on to our Levain hopes whilst we can. Soon, this slow motion car crash of a season could be totally finished and to be honest, I think quite a few of us would be quite happy to be put out of our misery right now. Next up, Kobe at home in the league the weekend after next. Plenty of time for us to get back on the training ground and sort ourselves out. But as we haven’t managed that since July, I can’t really see why we will be able to do it now.

Team

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO

Subs
GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for HASEGAWA 65')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for HASEGAWA 32')
MF 14 NAKAMURA Kengo (on for SHIMODA 46')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 76')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro

Goals
 
YAMAGUCHI (Kobe) 38' 1-0
FURUHASHI (Kobe) 45+3' 2-0
OGAWA (Kobe) 63' 3-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 70' 1-0
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 85' 2-0


Highlights
 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Vs Jubilo Iwata (home) 14/9/19 - J League match 26

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 0 Jubilo Iwata

As seems to always be the case recently, I’ve left it a bit late to do this post. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten everything about the game. This was a welcome return to winning ways in the league and has perhaps got people excited again. Let’s be realistic though, this was a pretty fortunate result. Jubilo hit the post very early in the game and the bar in the second half. We scored twice, both times with the ball miraculously passing through the keeper’s hands and went on to miss a hatful of pretty easy chances. Kobayashi was the main culprit again, though Hasegawa also missed when it looked easier to score. But we won! But it was against the bottom team in the league... So, I dunno, take some optimism from the game if you want, and I suppose a win is better for morale than anything else, but I feel like this game demonstrated our shortcomings as adequately as some of the recent defeats and draws. If you want to be ultra negative, and lets be honest, I usually do, this was also a result which is going to paper over the massive cracks in our season and delay any possible change of manager. Jubilo are a horrible team of cloggers who managed to dominate possession against us at home, mainly because we kept giving them possession though absolutely rotten passing. I guess at least we are shooting a bit more recently. But when three of those shots were the absolute solid gold clangers that we dropped in this game, perhaps shooting a lot becomes pretty meaningless. Anyway, here’s what we might have learned (but probably already knew), from this game.

Da Mystery of First Teamin’-

Yeah, I know that title doesn’t really work, but never mind. Basically what I’m trying to express (repeatedly, post after post after post...), is that I don’t think anyone knows who our first team are now, least of all Oniki. It seemed like he’d done a bit of rotation for the Levain Cup but after those two games we went with a pretty similar team in this game. This was a brave selection from Oniki and I suppose you could say it paid off, but you could probably equally say that we might have won more comfortably if he hadn’t been so ‘brave’. Perhaps the biggest shock for me in this game was the fact that Arai started in goal. Sure, Sung-Ryong has been a bit wobbly recently but I thought, as had been the case for the past few years, he had a lock on the goalie spot. Perhaps Oniki was looking to stem the flow of goals recently, but to be honest Taniguchi has been at fault for most of them and he’s undroppable (previously because he was an Oniki favourite, and now for that reason also but particularly as we have zero cover in that position due to Michael James being allowed to leave and Jesiel joining Nara on the sidelines through injury. I heard that Nara is back in training so perhaps we’ll see him soon. Yamamura, the right footed attacking midfielder, did a decent enough job though I don’t think he’s suited for that position. It’s funny isn’t it, that Yamamura is another player who could probably do a job on the right of midfield, but we’re still preferring to play left wingers there? Anyone would think that the manager hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing. But anyway, back to Arai. He also did a decent job, keeping a clean sheet but not really having a great deal to do as Jubilo seemed to only either hit the woodwork or blast wide. We do definitely lose something with him not being as good on the ball as Sung-Ryong, but I guess you could say he’d kept a clean sheet so deserved to stay in the team, rather than be replaced by Sung-Ryong who has been conceding an average of two goals a game recently. Oh, that’s right, Arai also conceded twice in the last game, didn’t he? Maybe a clean sheet now gets you two games before you’re discarded. Oh, and you know that striker who came on in the last game and scored? Of course he was never going to get a starting spot. Much better to retain the guy who can only score when it’s disallowed. We were begging for Leandro Damiao in this game as the Jubilo defence were a bunch of hefty brutes kicking lumps out of our forward players. Of course he didn’t make it off the bench though. I dunno, this is all a mystery to me now. I have no idea what Oniki is thinking. I have no idea what some people have to do to get consecutive starts in this team. I have no idea what some people have to do to not get a start. With four of our top five earners in the squad on the bench, (see here for the wages), something seems a bit strange. Either we’re paying some people way too much, or we’re picking the wrong teams.


JAPANESE ONLY! -

Up to this point I have jokingly referred to Oniki being a secret agent of Kashima trying to destroy our club but being so useless that we did well in spite of his efforts. I’ve also ‘joked’ about him having a problem with our current and former Brazilian players. I wonder perhaps if Oniki is actually being employed by Urawa fans instead as he has finally reached his
apparent goal of fielding a ‘JAPANESE ONLY!’ team. Even the subs he made were Japanese. Recently I can’t help but feel he doesn’t want Brazilian players. He certainly doesn’t cut them the same slack regarding performace as he does certain Japanese players. Perhaps he also doesn’t like Koreans. And New Zealanders. I know this is all ridiculous, but I’m pretty sure Neto left because of a bust up with Oniki, Edu was clearly an extreme last resort for him and frozen out completely most of the time, Elsinho despite being constantly one of the best right backs in the league decided to go for a new (mid-table) challenge at Shimizu as he felt undervalued by Oniki. This year, Jesiel was nowhere near the team until Oniki was left with almost no other option. Leandro Damiao and Maguinho could score double hat tricks and still get rotated out for the next few games. I don’t seriously think he’s a racist (although I suppose it could be true). But the fact that players who aren’t Japanese seem to be held to a different standard to Japanese players does seem to be almost a dictionary definition of racism. There’s a reason that there are limits to the number of foreign players in the J League, presumably to stop rich clubs naming a team of eleven foreigners brought in on big wages and running away with the league, (sorry Vissel, maybe soon they’ll change the rules for you). Foreign players provide an option for teams to supplement their team with talents and skills that they may not be able to find in the available Japanese player pool. After two big money DAZN titles, we’ve instead decided to use up our foreigner spots paying players to sit on the bench. Presumably we hired an extra translator this year because they would have a lot more work on, trying to keep our foreign signings occupied on weekends as they wouldn’t actually be needing those players to actually play football.

The usual substitutions moan -

The only explanation I can find for another set of useless changes by Oniki is that he was actually going for the Japanese only thing. Even when our left winger is subbed, Abe is still not allowed to play there, being kept on the right. Then the other two subs were pretty stupid, replacing a midfielder with a striker, therefore moving to 4-4-2. Then 13 minutes later removing a striker for a midfielder and switching back to the previous formation. I thought managers were supposed to use subs to change the game for the better. Oniki seems to use them to muddle things and give the other team a chance. Wakisaka had played pretty well, being our biggest attacking threat and being presumably full of energy given his youth. But he was still changed. The only possible reasons for bringing Kengo on in the 78th minute were either to add to his J League appearance total (actually, do sub appearances count?), or to frantically try to return us to the shape that Oniki had destroyed through making the previous change.


Songs of (exaggerated) praise -

Two weird things happened with songs in this game. The first felt pretty bad to be honest and although I am an enthusiastic song singer I couldn’t bring myself to participate. When the keepers come out for their warm up we ALWAYS do that BANG, BANG, BANG-BANG-BANG, BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG, OLE! song. BANG being used here to represent the sound of a drum and clap, not particularly accurately. Instead we greeted the keepers entrance by singing Arai’s song, presumably sending a clear message to Sung-Ryong that despite being our number one for the past three years, we were delighted to see him on the bench. it felt really weird to be honest. By all means celebrate the fact that someone else is getting a chance, but I felt that it could only be taken as a bit of a diss to Sung-Ryong. I wonder if he’ll be leaving at the end of the season. The other weird song thing was that that OOOOOOHHHHH song that is usually reserved for us when we’re leading by three or four goals was wheeled out at 2-0. I know us doing well has been a bit of a rarity recently, but have we descended so far that leading 2-0 at home against the league’s bottom team is enough for us to wheel out out beautiful football domination song? All seemed a bit weird to me and I wonder if our recent shittiness has sent everyone a bit crazy.

J2bilo -

Bit of a cheap shot, and one which works much better when spoken rather than read, but there’s really only one place that Jubilo are going to be playing next year and it’s in J2. They were rubbish. When they weren’t booting us all over the pitch they were booting the ball off the side of the pitch. There was a real lack of quality on show from both teams, to be honest. I know they could have scored twice when they hit the bar, and that they looked a bit better in the second half, thanks to Oniki’s tactical tinkering, but the fact that they were bad against us, a team some rotten form at the moment shows just how bad they are this year. Moriya must be really regretting his decision to move there. He won’t get picked because he’s not a tall guy who kicks people. Hopefully he can find a new club next year, even if it is another J2 team as I wouldn’t wish Jubilo on anyone, even my worst enemy. I feel for their fans!

Oh, and goals -

Oh yeah, we scored and it was another one for Wakizaka (drop him immediately!) and a first goal for Yamamura, with a finish that, surprise surprise suggested that maybe he isn’t best suited to playing at centre back or in defensive midfield. There’s no point telling Oniki though, as hardly anyone gets to play where they want to in this team.


Next up, an away Emperor’s cup tie at Kobe. Possibly the least enticing draw possible, apart from maybe another trip to Kashima. I wanted to go, but the fact that it would involve an overnight stay, plenty of expense and I would be doing the trip by myself put me off. Also the dynamic pricing probably means that we’ll be charged ¥10000 per ticket in order to recoup some of the outlay for their latest ex-Barcelona player. Kobe are rubbish, but let’s not forget that we also are rubbish. Can’t say I’m that confident, but it would be lovely if we could effectively end their season. Although I suppose they are still in a relegation dogfight. After that, it’s… Kobe at home in the league the weekend after next. If we could only win one of these two matches, I guess the cup would be better, as the league is over and done with, barring a miracle. Two wins would be a lovely slap in the face for Mikitani tough, so let’s all hope for that. Go Frontale!
 


Team

GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 21')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu

Subs
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for HASEGAWA 65')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
MF 14 NAKAMURA Kengo (on for KOBAYASHI 78')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for WAKIZAKA 65')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro

My Frontale Man Of The Match
As said above, not exactly a great performance, but given that he’s keeping Kengo and Ienaga out of the side in that central midfield spot, (although who knows what Oniki’s really thinking. Perhaps they’re being rested for when we have nothing to play for in any competition…), it has to go to...

WAKIZAKA Yasuto - still quite raw, gives the ball away at times, but does it in a way that makes me think, ‘ooooh, that was a good idea that didn’t quite come off’, rather than ‘what on earth are you doing?’ Seems to want us to score goals! He even shoots! Keep it up Yasuto!
 

Goals
 
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 22' 1-0
YAMAMURA (Frontale) 35' 2-0


Highlights

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Vs Nagoya Grampus (away) 8/9/19 - Levain Cup, quarter final 2nd leg

Nagoya Grampus 2 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale (2-4 on agg.)

No messing around with this blog post. Thanks to the fact that the Shinkansen service from Nagoya was curtailed due to an incoming Typhoon, we had to cancel our trip to Nagoya. Which is a shame, as I was looking forward to this match. It was annoying as the previous day there had been some talk of them bringing the kick off forward due to the weather. But presumably as the typhoon changed course and wasn’t going to hit Nagoya, they changed their mind. Screw the away fans who won’t be able to get home. Instead, I watched it on a dodgy stream which kept cutting out and finally gave up shortly before our second goal. I’m not going to say much as I don’t think watching the game like this qualifies me to do so. I was surprised that Oniki made so many changes after the first leg, our first win in seven games. Although let’s be honest, it wasn’t that surprising. If it had been another manager, maybe I would have been surprised. In any case, we got the job done. After Hokuto scored an absolute beauty it left Nagoya needing four unanswered goals so things were pretty much wrapped up. Needless to say though, we went on to concede a couple of goals, making the final score this season’s most common scoreline (I reckon), 2-2. The big talking point will probably be VAR ruling out Kobayashi’s goal. As I’m not 100% sure of the rules regarding VAR, I’m not going to go into much detail, but I wonder just how far they can go back when using VAR to verify a goal. From the replays it looked like Nishimura had made a typically Nishimura-esque decision, and perhaps he did, as it will almost certainly get people talking about him and his decision. The attack that Kobayashi was ruled offside from was probably at least 5 seconds before he received he ball for the second time, clearly onside, and put it away. It’s a shame for him, as he had the ball in the back of the net twice in this game, both ruled-out, as he never seems to be so clinical when they aren’t ruled out. But anyway, job done, and we’re on to the next round, even if it wasn’t exactly convincing again. Oh, and Damiao scored again. Almost certainly won’t start the next game as a punishment for doing that!

Next up, Jubilo Iwata at home in the league. Back to our full strength team, I guess, whoever that might be! Maybe we might actually win in the league! Or maybe not. Fingers crossed we do. 


Team

GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu

Subs
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for KOBAYASHI 74')
MF 14 NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for WAKIZAKA 65')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
DF 26. MAGUINHO
MF 32. MITOMA Kaoru (on for ABE 86')

Goals
 
SHIMODA (Frontale) 53' 0-1
HASEGAWA (Nagoya) 73' 1-1
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 81' 1-2
JO (Nagoya) 89' 2-2


Highlights