Matsumoto Yamaga 0 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
So finally, we managed to win a league game in 2019. Sure, this was only the fifth game of the season, but after quite a few underwhelming performances, it’s a real relief to pick up our first three point haul. Admittedly, the teams who we’ve played could all be considered contenders for the title or at least and ACL spot this year so weren't the easiest of opening fixtures. And these games also included a couple of local derbies, which are always a bit of an unknown quantity. Furthermore, you could argue that Matsumoto will probably finish lowest in the league out of the teams we’ve played so far so should have been our easiest game. But three points are three points, a win is a win, and a win is something we’ve badly needed to get the season started properly. Perhaps the Gamba result gave us a much needed kick up the backside. Although you wouldn’t really know it from most of our first half performance in this game which was pretty sloppy for the most part and were probably a little fortunate to go in at half time one goal in front. Anyway, here’s what we might have learned from this game.
Matsumoto and its wonders -
Aside for the fact that we got a very welcome win in this game, this was a great away day. I’d long heard people taking about how much fun this is as a fixture and they were totally right. Although the stadium isn’t the closest to the city centre and the train station, the fact that they lay on free shuttle buses is very welcome. The location of the stadium also contributes to some nice views, being quite close to the mountains on one side. These mountains however, probably contributed to the insane weather, which saw it rain and snow a little, even though it remained mainly sunny. I came away from this trip with a pretty convincingly sunburnt head, which I only began to notice as I put away a few beers in a couple of local breweries after the game. On Monday evening I was again invited to appear on the J Talk Podcast (Listen here). If I said anything particularly stupid, I’m going to blame it on the fact that my head was emitting enough heat to keep a family warm for a long winters’s night.
All plaudits given to their fans are well deserved too. They were loud, supported their team throughout and didn’t boo the opposition. I always find it kind of annoying that fans feel the need to boo the ‘star’ players of the opposition during the team announcements. Sure, it’s fair enough if there is some history, but more often than not, it’s just the big names who get booed. And some teams even boo all former players of their own team. Each to their own I guess, but there was something quite nice about there being only support at this game, rather than barracking. The atmosphere was so good actually that one plane landing at the nearby airport managed to fly past almost soundlessly! Being drowned out by the noise in the stadium. The first time a plane came over it was a bit of a shock, as although I knew the stadium was near the airport, I didn’t realise quite how near.
Oh, and one final thing about the atmosphere. It was once again nice to be able to wander round the ground inside the stadium before the game. I’m not sure if we could walk the whole way round, but we must have done 2/3 of it in search of the local brewery’s outlet. One drawback of having the local brewery in the stadium was that I missed a few sections of the game running to the toilet. Obviously, I don’t want to miss any of the action, but in the case of an emergency, I’ll attempt the old reverse jinx, trying to ‘buy’ a goal by visiting the conveniences. It didn’t work on this occasion. But in the end, it wasn’t a problem.
Still sloppy -
Like the [character] in the famous [story name] parable, it seems I’m never satisfied. That sentence would have sounded a lot better if could remember which parable and character it is. Sorry. For some reason I feel that it is my right to whinge about football players not being perfect all the time, whereas I’d hate it if someone was doing that to me at work. Once again, we were far from perfect though. The first half was pretty sloppy. There were some comments before the game about the long grass but even so, I don’t think this explains quite why half the team looked like they’d never passed a ball before. In the second half things improved, and at times towards the end of the game, we looked like we might be getting back to where we finished off last season. I guess confidence is an important thing in the game of football. Not sure quite why we have been so lacking in it this season though, as we are defending double champions. Once again it was quite a few players who were having a bad time, with the most obvious ones being Ienaga, Kengo, Ao and Morita. Morita and Ienaga doubled down on this by trying some fancy tricks and almost showy and cocky passes. It will come as no surprise, given that simple passing seemed a distant fantasy, to hear that these fancy passes resulted in us losing the ball. Later on in the second half when things were clicking and players were playing significantly better, these started coming off. But I don’t like to see these being attempted when we’re having a bit of a nightmare. Ienaga in particular in the second half was completely transformed. Towards the end of the game when we were running down the clock in the corner the ball appeared to be glued to his boot. Lovely stuff! He also set up Abe’s goal with some confident play in the box. In reality he just stood with the ball at his feet doing nothing and then finally putting in a perfect pass, but it was a mark of how transformed his play was, that in that situation the defenders just stood off him, not knowing what he was going to do and not wanting to get themselves into trouble. When this kind of play pays off it’s magnificent, but when it results in us losing the ball, it doesn’t feel so clever. You could also say the same about Kubo for FC Tokyo. People are rightfully delighting in his dribbling, passing and control. But in the game against us there was no final product and therefore it was all about as useful as two opposing keepers repeatedly hoofing goal kicks to each other.
Brazilians/First 11/(possible) injuries... who knows? -
I’ve found it hard to separate my final three points so they’re all lumped in together in this huge paragraph. Before the game I was a little surprised to see the predicted starting elevens doing the rounds. As it turned out, they were pretty accurate and this leads to some questions which I don’t really have answers for. Judging by recent lineups, it seems that Oniki favours Chinen over Leandro Damiao. Before this game, this seemed a bit weird, as LD clearly has more experience and pedigree and was the only player to have scored a goal for us in open play in the league. As it turned out, Chinen had a pretty good game, finishing his goal nicely and being a constant threat for the Matsumoto defence. Whether LD will be happy with being a sub is another matter I guess. Especially given that in this game he didn’t even get any time on the pitch. Some might say that he is being saved for the ACL, but it seems a bit early in the season to be resting players and we came into this game after a two week break. Also he hardly featured in the last ACL game only coming off the bench for about 20 minutes. So maybe that’s not the case. To begin with this season it seemed that in order to fit LD and Kobayashi into the starting line up we’d have to move Ienaga to the left, therefore, leaving a trio of attacking left footers who are important players for us on the bench at best. Now it seems that we’re not trying to fit LD into the team at all and it’s Chinen there instead. There were a couple of other notable absences in the starting line up. Both Kobayashi and Kurumaya were on the bench. Kobayashi was apparently coming back from an injury. Although we never really get that much information about injuries so who knows really? Kurumaya had apparently been dropped, perhaps due to him watching the ball roll right past him for a Gamba player to poke home in the last game. Ironically, aside from that admittedly costly error, I thought that the Gamba game was one of his best recent performances. He’s been off the boil a bit recently and maybe a spell on the bench might help him focus a little. In the end he had to come on for Nara at centre back, as Nara was having some problems with his vision, apparently connected to a stomach bug. Probably better that our defenders can actually see properly. So although I was not happy about the sub at the time, when I found out the reason it made a lot of sense. One other slightly strange selection was Suzuki continuing at right back. It’s clearly not his preferred position, and doesn’t afford him the space he would need to play his normal game. He was given the lowest rating of all the players by some ‘experts’, but I think you’ve got to consider he was playing out of position. Quite why Maguinho wasn’t playing there, or even on the bench brings me to my final point. Is it just me, or does Oniki have something against Brazilians? Or conversely, am I wearing Brazilian tinted spectacles and favoring them over the Japanese players? Whilst I’m pleased Suzuki is getting some game time, I really think Maguinho would be better there. Similarly, Chinen deserves to retain his spot after this performance, but I would have thought that LD would have been ahead of him in the pecking order. You’ve got to wonder if Oniki is making the decisions about the players we are buying, as he doesn’t really seem to want to play any of the ones who aren’t Japanese (apart from Sung-Ryong). Of course, this wouldn’t be a Frontale Rabbit hot take if I didn’t immediately undermine my argument, so I should say that it was something of a surprise to see Caio Cesar on the bench and then on the pitch! He seemed delighted and this delight was reflected in the stand. Asao’s secret weapon is a secret no more. Although whether this is a one off, or he might feature again, only time will tell. His song is pretty good , and hugely benefits from the additional arm movements. Think this is why everyone was so pleased to have him in attendance for once.
It seems I’ve got to the end of this post without really talking much about the game. Nice work! So I’ll quickly add that Abe’s goal was a beauty, and hopefully we now have a bit of confidence that we can carry into the next match. This next match is against Cerezo Osaka at home on Friday. They are a team we always struggle against, so perhaps in this slightly upside down so far season we’ll batter them. More likely it will be, as it usually is, a tricky game of trying to break through their defence whilst they sit back and then smack us with a brutally effective counter attack. Wonder if Yamamura will make an appearance, as we know Oniki likes to play players against their precious teams. We can’t afford to have any more dodgy performances, so fingers crossed we can get a decent result in this game. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for NARA 67')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for NAKAMURA 88')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 44. CAIO CESAR (on for TANAKA 90+2')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
I really wanted to give this to Caio Cesar as he gave us all a lift when he came on. Would be a bit ridiculous though as he was only on the pitch for a couple of minutes and almost made a horrible blunder. If I look past giving it to him, there’s probably only one option and that is...
CHINEN Kei - took his goal well, was a constant threat and now can probably be said to be legitimately keeping Leandro Damiao out of the team. Blimey!
CHINEN (Frontale) 44' 0-1
ABE (Frontale) 64' 0-2
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