Monday 12 March 2018

Vs Gamba Osaka (home) 10/3/18 - J League match 3

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 0 Gamba Osaka 

Before I start on this game, a little blog housekeeping. I’m going to try to change the format a bit for these blog posts, as I’m sure that plenty of people who are reading them have watched the matches in question, or at least the highlights. The last thing anyone needs is me describing in detail what they can see with their own eyes. Hopefully, this might also make it a bit easier to keep the posts coming on time. We have a crazily busy schedule this year, (although I guess our ACL commitments might not extend past the next three games...), so it’s sometimes tricky to get a post up before the following game. Whilst I haven’t failed to do this yet, it's been quite close on a few occasions. Maybe there won't actually be much apparent difference to any readers in what I'm writing, but my intention is to make the words an addition to the video, rather than merely a written description of it.

In the last post I posited that surely Oniki wouldn’t punishment bench Nara for giving away the penalty against Melbourne. I was right, but not in the way I expected. He wasn’t dropped to the bench, he was completely dropped from the squad. He’s also not gone to Australia in the squad for Tuesday’s return match against Melbourne either. Yes, I know I am a Nara fan, (and recently an Oniki critic), but I think it’s pretty weird behaviour from our manager. I have mentioned numerous times before that Oniki seems to be a fan of dropping players who make errors. Of course, I don’t think that bad players should be starting games, but it seems that he has unrealistic expectations for people’s ability to always perform perfectly. If this policy were replicated throughout the whole of the squad, some of our big name players wouldn’t be starting. Also, if we held Oniki to the same standards of perfection he’d probably only be able to manage a third of our matches given some of the clanger team selections and tactics he’s used recently. I can’t imagine what it does for squad morale, knowing that you’re always on a knife edge, one wrong step and you’re out in the cold. Very much iffy man management I'd say. But then again I would, I guess. In this match Nara’s centre back spot was taken by Kurumaya, Oniki deciding to play one of our few internationals out of position. Sure, he’s played there before, fairly often a few years ago in a back three, and we know he can do a job there, but this selection seems to suggest that out of the four centre backs in the squad, Oniki thinks that three of them aren’t as good in that position as our left back would be. Once again, pretty worrying for Michael James if he wants any kind of pitch time, who has now presumably slipped back one more spot in the pecking order. I guess though that as long as people are making errors, players will be chopped, so a bad run could see Michael James as captain and playing up front. Nobori took the left back spot, freeing up the left wing spot for Abe, (didn’t quite work playing him well out of position last match, did it Oniki?). Ienaga was back on the right, Kengo in the middle and Kobayashi up front. The rest of the line-up was as you’d expect. Edu was back on the bench, perhaps not fully recovered, or perhaps still returning from the naughty step from a previous indiscretion.

The first half showed quite how bad Gamba were. We were straight at them and they looked as nervous as you’d expect a team who haven’t won in sixteen games to be. We were well on top for the whole of the game and Gamba really offered nothing going forward, attacks petering our with loose passes and a lack of any kind of idea what to do. Abe seemed to be well up for the game, marauding up and down the left side, attacking and defending with enthusiasm. Sadly he wasn’t able to get a goal against his old team, but he was clearly able to show them what they’re missing. We took the lead early on with a nice finish from Neto when a corner dropped to him after a little scramble. Our first league goal this season which wasn’t a header, fact fans. Much like in previous games though, we didn’t go on from there and the rest of the first half consisted of us making chances but not scoring. Gamba offered nothing, with a decent amount of possession but zero shots. Not just zero shots on target, but zero shots full stop. They were getting involved with quite a number of fouls though. Not that the ref noticed. He seemed to be giving pretty much every decision against us. But when have I ever been satisfied with a ref’s performance? We were moving the ball around nicely, with some lovely long cross-field passes, and 75% of our shots were on target (hallelujah!), but we had only scored once, and were, I presumed, just setting ourselves to concede a 90th minute equaliser.

The second half was fairly similar to the first with us fully in control but having trouble extending our lead as much as our dominance might have suggested. Fortunately though, it didn’t take too long for us to get a bit of a safety net with a second goal. It was a nice team move again, culminating in a great volleyed finish from Ienaga on his weaker foot. I have a theory that we are working on a plan to try and get as many different players to score in the league before any individual scores a second goal. Six goals and six different scorers so far. It’s just as well that we’re spreading the goals round, as Kobayashi, aside from his nice header against Shonan, still looks like he’s searching for some kind of finishing form. His all round play is going ok, just not the whole scoring part. Once again though, Ienaga was having a great match. It seems that recently wherever he plays he does a great job. He really is a crucial part of our team now. Neto kicked the ball out of play for his own substitution on 73 minutes. Not sure if he was knackered or injured. He was able to start a long overdue 'Vai de la Frontale' at the end of the match though, so I guess it was the former. Abe faded a little, particularly after Kengo was replaced by Hasegawa, which moved Ienaga into the middle and Abe out to the right. Because that worked so well last time, didn’t it? Once again Oniki’s had made a weird substitution, preferring to move people out of positions they were playing well in, in order to accommodate what seemed like his pre-planned changes. The substitutions were complete on 85 minutes with Morita replacing Elsinho who was perhaps being saved for Tuesday. All of the subs made a decent fist of it. Moriya was solid in the middle and unlucky with one of his usual long range shots. Morita didn’t have a lot of time to get involved but looked comfortable again going forward and defending. It’s difficult to believe he’s one of the really inexperienced youngsters. Hasegawa maybe showed the most though. His dribbling and desire to run at the opposition’s defence is something we really miss when he’s not playing. I wish we used him more than we do. Thankfully, any last minute disappointment didn't come and we saw out the game with our two goal lead intact. Apparently Gamba had a couple of shots in the second half, but before I saw this in the stats, I was genuinely convinced they hadn’t had a single one. Unsurprisingly their fans, who had been in good voice for the whole game, weren’t too happy at the end and their players were on the end of a hearty booing. Not great for them, especially the youngsters, but they were rotten. I have no idea what’s gone wrong for them.

Positives and negatives. Negatives first. On the surface this looks like a decent result and certainly, seven points from nine is a good start to the season. But if you dig a little deeper I still think these results are papering over the cracks and perhaps our ACL results give us a more accurate idea of where we are. In my last post I said Melbourne were likely to be the worst team we played this year. Immediately I have had to revise this position, as Gamba were truly woeful. Yet we only managed to score twice against them. I know it seems that I'm maybe asking for too much, but two goals wasn't exactly convincing given the nightmare the opposition were having. Arai must be cursing the fact that he played against teams creating plenty of chances, and then in Sung-Ryong’s first game back after injury, he was barely called on to make a save in the whole game. We’re getting results, but I’m still not convinced we’re doing that well, or that we’ve come up against anyone that good so far. Time will tell, I guess. Oh..., positives. Another good game from Ienaga and a nice goal. Hasegawa looked sharp and dangerous. Hope he gets more pitch time soon. Oh, and the result, if not the score line.

Next up, we’re away to Melbourne Victory in the ACL on Tuesday. Make or break time in that competition. After that, we have a beautifully scheduled Sunday evening league game in Nagoya that prevents travel home by train and requires an overnight stay. I wonder if this year the J League is collaborating with some Japanese hoteliers association. The much hyped Nagoya played out a 0-0 against Shonan on Sunday, so either Shonan are better than people expected, or Nagoya aren’t as good as the people who've tipped them to be champions in waiting thought. The one thing I can say for sure is that I still don’t really know what’s going on with us, but as long as we keep picking up points at the current rate we are, I'll try not to grumble too loudly. 


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (Yellow card 68')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (Yellow card 50')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 4. OKUBO Yoshito
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NAKAMURA 75')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for NETO 73')
DF 25. MORITA Hidemasa (on for ELSINHO 85')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Once again, a bit of a weird game for man of the match purposes. Gamba offered so little that the defence had hardly anything to do. I’d love to give it to Abe against his old team, but I think for all round contributions to the win, he was beaten by another former Gamba player...

IENAGA Akihiro - looks vital for us at the moment. Wherever he’s playing, he’s always involved. And nice finish for the goal.

EDUARDO NETO (Frontale) 8’ 1-0
IENAGA (Frontale) 55’ 2-0


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that a previous year's highlights got wiped when the broadcaster got changed, I'm going to stick with the official J League ones. But you can watch the longer highlights here if you want. And we have that extra footage video again at the bottom.

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