Saturday 18 May 2019

Vs Nagoya Grampus (home) 17/5/19 - J League match 12

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Nagoya Grampus

This was a game that asked more questions than it answered. As long as Kazama and Oniki are in their current positions this will always be portrayed as a master vs apprentice kind of match up. Whereas last year's results would have given Oniki some encouragement, this game felt to me like Kazama had the upper hand. There are some caveats to this though. Nagoya have a lot more money than us and until this year you could definitely say that they had more big name signings than us. Being able to get Leandro Damiao thanks to DAZN title money might have changed things a little in this respect though. With two consecutive titles, it feels that we should have the better team, (large parts of which Kazama put together), but that is maybe in the past now. On the night I feel that Kazama got his tactics right and out-thought Oniki. This was a fairly exciting game, probably more so for the neutrals than either set of fans. At the same time, it was a bit lacking in quality, with only six shots on target in total for both teams. It was a battle though, with plenty of action and a draw was probably the right result. I said above that there were plenty of questions from this match, so instead of my usual 'what we’ve learned’, let’s make this ‘what we are asking’ about this match. So, here’s what we’re asking after this match.

Rotation comes round again -

We came into this match with five league wins in a row and some of our many injured players returning to fitness. With our recent record in mind, you’d think that we’d follow the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. Instead, we’re back to Oniki apparently picking his favourites again. In my last post I praised Manabu and Leandro Damiao, who Oniki promptly dropped to the bench. Apparently Damiao was ‘tired’. I’m not sure I completely believe this. One big question is whether Oniki is rotating and saving players for the ACL game away in Sydney on Tuesday. We will probably never know, as players who were conceivably being rested were called on to rescue us after a pretty awful first half capped off by what was a lovely goal from Nagoya, which was the least they deserved. If this was rotation, surely it would have made more sense to rotate in some of the players who've been on the bench recently. Instead Abe and Kengo sailed straight back into the starting line up. Once again, I’m uneasy about criticising Abe too much as he was again being played out of position on the right, but he had a rotten night and was lucky to stay on the pitch for as long as he did. Kengo wasn’t at his best either, and neither really contributed anything positive. Maybe Yamamura could have been given a chance, or maybe Suzuki, our right midfielder, could have played right midfield, instead of being our last-20-minutes-substitute-right-back, the only opportunity he has had recently. And the right was a real weakness as nothing was working down that side. Everything encouraging went down the left, although we did continue to plug away in vain down the right and through the horrendously congested middle. Kurumaya is presumably now out of the side as a tactical decision rather than through injury. Hasegawa and Manabu seem to be equally favoured by Oniki, so he basically seems to swap them around on a game by game basis, regardless of past performances. Both played well against Shimizu, so it would have made sense to start them both in this game I would have thought, especially as Manabu seems to be the left winger who can cope best with being played out of position on the right, particularly in the formation we played in the last game when both wingers doubled up on one side for most attacks in a kind of 4-2-2-2 formation. Instead, we went back to our early season 4-2-3-1 and back to our early season slightly dodgy performances.

Friday night's alright for fouling -

I’m not sure all of our tactical problems were due to the switch back to 4-2-3-1 though. I think we were just out-thought and out-fought in this game. Of course Kazama knows how we like to play. In fact I’d say that if there are any J-League managers who don’t know how we play, they should be fired immediately as we’ve been doing pretty much the same thing constantly over the last couple of years. The normal way of disrupting this, which I’m really surprised more teams don’t use, is to sit with plenty of players deep and wait for a fast counter attack opportunity with a long ball and pick up a 1-0 victory. And also to rough us up a bit. Kazama seems to have instilled some of the latter in Nagoya recently and this recent defensive toughness might suggest that they could make a decent fist of the league this year. Their defence looked fairly solid and ahead of them, there were plenty of players stopping anything coming through the middle. Still, we persevered with endless sideways passing before trying to thread the ball through impossibly small or just non-existent gaps. They also did a fine job on the roughing us up part of the equation. They were kicking us all over the pitch with Nishimura giving us practically nothing. Seeing Nishimura announced as ref is normally a reason to fear the worst, as he usually loves to make a really stupid and controversial decision in order to turn the focus onto himself. However in this game he seemed more inclined to let pretty much everything go. He had a bad night by my reckoning, but I guess his performance pales into insignificance compared to what happened in the Urawa/Shonan game! In the second half, particularly after the introduction of Manabu and Damiao, we seemed to stop being affected so much by these tactics, perhaps giving as good as we got. Damaio’s goal was a perfect example of this. I can’t imagine Kobayashi or Chinen scoring such a goal, as when Damiao gets moving he seems like he’s a bit of a battering ram, forcing his way through defenders and powering the ball home in spite of the Nagoya keeper getting a couple of hands behind the shot. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened in this game if we’d stuck more with our line up and system from last weekend. You know, that game we won 4-0.

Next (and probably final) stop Sydney -

This is probably the last time we will have to question our priorities, as there’s a fairly high chance that we’ll be out of the ACL after Tuesday. But was this rotation to save players for Tuesday? You could argue that a league game against a team above us is more of a priority than a game that even if we were to win 20-0 could still result in another limp ACL exit. I don’t think we’ll ever find out if this was what we were doing though, as this kind of information is always pretty scarce from Oniki and the club. Still, one consolation to take from another hugely disappointing ACL campaign would be that we can finally say for sure what our focus is and therefore have a bit more of an idea of what Oniki is thinking.

As I’m writing this I’ve just seen that FC Tokyo have won again, stretching their lead. You could say that a draw in this game was the perfect result for them, with two of their nearest rivals dropping points. That’s pretty annoying to be honest, speaking as someone who doesn’t want them to win the league. You can’t really argue with us only getting a point though. We just couldn’t deal with what they threw at us. If we look at our recent run of decent results, you’ve got to admit that a lot of those wins came against bottom half teams. Against teams around us in the table, we are getting draws (FC Tokyo, Nagoya, Kashima, Yokohama). The other team currently making up the top six is Oita, who we are away to next weekend. This is now a must win I think, as we are not going to have a chance of winning the league by beating bottom half teams and drawing with everyone else. And we're certainly not going to claw back any ground on teams above us by drawing against them. Hmmmm. Plenty to mull over, and an interesting week coming up I guess.


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. SAITO Manabu (on for ABE 60')
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for NAKAMURA 80')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya

My Frontale Man Of The Match

I’m a bit torn again this week. There were nowhere near as many good performances this week and there were some stinkers. Hasegawa looked decent but was given no protection by a useless referee. Sung-Ryong made some important stops and could have done nothing about the goal. Damiao and Manabu both made a real difference when they came on but I’m loathe to give it to a sub, particularly as we didn’t go on to win the game. This probably only leaves me with one option, so it goes to:

JESIEL - two in a row for Jesiel. Again, was for the most part rock solid at the back, particularly impressive considering he was up against Jo, who many would consider to be the best striker in the J-League.


MATEUS (Nagoya) 45' 0-1
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 69' 1-1


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