I mean, there’s not much I can say about this game without repeating what I’ve said numerous times already on this blog this season. This was another low point in a season of total disappointment. Sure Cerezo are our perennial bogey team, but its a shame that in a season where we are defying all logic and going against everything we’ve come to expect over the last couple of years that we couldn’t turn expectations on their head one more time and actually beat them for once. We were rubbish again, although we weren’t helped by another opposition team who defend in numbers with the hope of being able to pump a long ball forward and score on a counter attack. The crazy thing is that in most of our recent games against these teams, we give them an early goal and something to hang on to. I shouldn’t focus on bashing Cerezo though, as their system is effective and it’s a legitimate if boring way of playing football. And they did nothing wrong. As for us... Anyway, as I said above, there’s very few new things we’ve learned from this game, so please excuse me for banging on about these same things in the following paragraphs that have now been rebranded from ‘things we might have learned from this game’ to ‘the usual awful things about this game'. Let the torrent of misery begin to flow!
Even when they're right, they're wrong -
Normally I would be pleased that a ref got a decision right. It’s even better that he consults with a linesman and changes his initial opinion if he discovers he is wrong. When they consult mainly with one team's players though.... Such is the abject standard of J League referees, that even when they get a big and potentially contentious decision right they get it right for the wrong reasons. Their first goal was an absolute disaster for us. Potentially offside if you want to clutch at straws, non existent defending, a goalkeeper’s hand that a ball is able to magically pass through. All of these things irritate and frustrate, but the thing that really stuck in the throat, more so than our awful defending was the fact that in classic J League ref style, the referee made a complete hash of the decision, not giving the goal. The linesman, in classic J League linesman style, also made a hash of it, also not giving the goal. Cue huge and justified complaints from the Cerezo players. The referee stops the game after initially waving for play to continue and consults with his linesman, who let’s remember has also not given the goal. Quite how their conversation which effectively should have just been ‘was it over the line?’, ‘yes/no/I didn’t see’ took so long, I don’t know. Also I’m not sure how two ‘no’s made a ‘yes’. You’ve got to think that the Cerezo complaints had something to do with it. You have got to wonder if there was some kind of outside interference/information from another official involved too. I think there were accusations of this in a previous game (Shonan vs Urawa, wasn’t it?). I’m all in favour of goal line technology. Screw VAR, it’s making a mockery of the sport recently and we're going to see quite how bad it is in our cup game with Nagoya tonight. But a simple and definitive yes or no in response to whether the ball crossed the line or not seems like something it’s utterly stupid not to implement. Instead, we’ll probably get full scale VAR, where officials who don’t seem to know the rules of the game have multiple replays to look at and then still make mistakes over judgements and calls. So, whilst it might seem like I’m just in a bad mood about this, it’s not for the fact that the goal was given, it’s for the fact that J League referees are crap, are getting crapper by the week, and even when they make the right call they are only able to make it in completely the wrong way. Quite a skill set!
Game over -
That’s it. We’re done in the league. There’s no point hanging on to any thin threads. There will be no ‘sanrenpa’. We’re eleven points off top and fourteen points off the relegation places and the way that we’re playing right now, you’ve go to think that we’ll end up closer to the latter than the former. We’re third bottom of the form table too, which confirms exactly what we all know - we’re awful right now. Our last six league games have seen us come away with a grand total of three points. We’ve scored seven goals, which last year probably would have had us getting a significantly bigger return of points given that we used to be able to defend. The real killer stat is the goals conceded which is twelve. Letting in an average of two goals a game is never going to result in anything like title form. Half of our total goals conceded this season have come in the last six games and one of those games finished 0-0! So, what’s the problem? Thankfully, I’m not the manager so I don’t have to deal with it, but you got to think it’s the defence we have to look at. Which leads me nicely on to...
Rotten performances, rotten selections, rotten subs -
It’s never nice to point fingers at individual players, but.... Taniguchi, sorry, you’ve been rubbish recently. He’s been involved in almost all of the goals we’ve conceded and was nowhere near any opposition player or nowhere near blocking the cross for the second goal. No idea what’s happened to him. If there were any justice, Nara who is getting back to fitness would replace him in the team, but as much as Oniki likes shuffling over and over and over again, I don’t think he’ll make that change. Sung-Ryong has looked a bit off form too. In this game he deflected a shot into his own net for the second game in a row. I fact both of their goals went through his hands. He still makes some crucial saves at times, but he’s far from blameless, even given the state of the defending in front of him. The ridiculous right back situation where almost everyone in the squad has now had a go can’t have helped either. It’s not only at the back that there are problems though. We’re toothless going forward and in this game we weren’t even really making chances for Kobayashi to pass back to their keeper. We were gifted our goal thanks to a clanger from the Cerezo keeper and aside from that only managed to hit the target on a couple of other occasions. Ienaga is ghosting about the pitch, Kengo blows hot and cold, most of the left wingers spend more time on the right wing where they surprisingly don’t play as well (who’d have thought it?!). The players in this squad haven’t become useless overnight, so I guess it has to go down to other things. Such as...
Where's the confidence gone? And the skills... -
Rock bottom confidence. Which is not surprising given the run were on and the ease with which we are conceding goals. We are always giving ourselves a mountain to climb by letting in soft goals. Even if we manage to get a lead, we magically turn it into a losing position, sometimes just about ending up grabbing a draw, but never really looking likely to get a win. Definitely there are individual errors that are costing us dearly. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to get us back into shape. Perhaps we’ll regain some composure and maybe even sneak a goal, but more often than not, our comfort zone seems to be passing the ball across the midfield around the centre circle with the opposition sitting deep. If you got points for possession and passes we’d be bossing the league. The chopping and changing of some players has got to be playing a part. Earlier in the season Chinen got an extended run in the side while he was scoring goals. He hasn’t been near the pitch for a while now. Leandro Damiao scores almost every time he starts, but still always gets dropped for Kobayashi the next game. I hate to bang on about it, but I think most of these things rest at the feet of Oniki. He should be the one organising us in training after we’ve conceded shocking goals. He should be able to re-instil some confidence. He should pick a team with players not playing out of position. He should come up with some tactical changes that affect the game, rather than persisting with the same old thing constantly. He should not throw on apparently random substitutions in a panic. These things are all his job, aren’t they? I know I have often criticised his pointless subs, but in a way they are probably better than those we saw in this game, where after the second and third subs no one seemed to have any idea of where they were playing and we our formation seeemed to have gone from 4-2-3-1 to D-U-N-N-O. Maguinho was removed again and Morita went in at right back. Later on in the game Oniki switched Shimoda there. Not bad! Three different right backs in one game, only one of whom is actually a right back! And if you consder the fact that Abe was playing on the right after Ienaga went off, the whole of the right side of our team were players playing out of position. No surprise that everything was going down the left at that stage. I’m fully aware that we are in the fortunate position of being able to moan about whatever Oniki does if it goes wrong. It would be nice to not have to moan from time to time though. However all of us supporters who are going to games are in the equally unfortunate position of having to spend lots of time and money going to these games and then having to watch some of the most hopeless and frustrating football we’ve played in years. Many clubs would have changed their manager by now. I have no joy in seeing anyone lose their job, but surely, sooner or later, Oniki’s time must be up.
And perhaps that time will be after our next couple of games, after which we most likely will be out of another competition. Home and away legs in the Levain against Nagoya, who let’s not forget recently hammered us, are up next. It’s a real shame that we’re pinning our hopes on the Levain at this stage of the season and to be honest, I think they’ll knock us out anyway. Then we’ll be left with the Emperor’s Cup only and that will be away at Kobe who are absolutely rubbish, but I think will also beat us. Dark times. We seem to be heading towards a totally disappointing mid-table finish if we’re lucky, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t end up in the bottom half. When the board will decide that enough is enough, I don’t know, but I think it will be too late to salvage anything from this year, (probably as it won’t be till 2025!). I’m not exactly full of excitement about attending the rest of this season’s games, but I’ll be there till the bitter end. There are some specks of brightness though. Maybe they’ll be less people trying to get away tickets next year so that will make things easier. And I’m really looking forward to the Levain Cup group games in 2020. And hopefully a new manager...
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 26. MAGUINHO
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 26. MAGUINHO
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto (Yellow card 30')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 42')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 21. ARAI Shota
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for NAKAMURA 66')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for IENAGA 59')
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for MAGUINHO 73')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
ABE (Frontale) 13' 1-1
SUZUKI (Cerezo) 54' 2-1
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