Gamba Osaka 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale
This game saw us possibly face our toughest challenge so far this year, particularly if you are looking at league positions. It represented the first game since the league ‘opened up’ with teams from the east and west taking each other on for the first time this year. Gamba were sitting three points behind us in second place in the league before the game. Of course I’m delighted to say that the gap is now six points after we won a bit of a scrappy game with another lovely goal from Oshima. I’m not sure what rival teams’ fans will think about this game, but I think we deserved to win, as in spite of a bit of a dodgy performance up front, our defence never really looked like being breached and their best chance probably came from a bizarre and potentially deadly misplaced pass from us giving them a shooting opportunity which they failed to take. This was another game we had to watch on DAZN and I have to admit I find it quite hard to focus on these games, particularly when we’re not playing so well. For this reason, I don’t have a great deal to say about the game other than making the sweeping and perhaps evidence-less proclamation that we deserved to win. I understand this probably makes me quite an annoying person, but I hope I earn a bit of credit back by at least being aware of this and acknowledging it. Gamba had more possession than us and about the same amount of chances but it always felt to me that if they did score it would probably be due to a situation of our own making. At the other end, four shots on target from 14 tells the story of our attack which was disjointed and out of form. Unlike in previous games the midfield stood out. Previously it has been the front three who have wowed and the midfield has just kind of got on with it. But thankfully Oshima was on fire, barely misplacing a single pass or tackle and able to whack one in from distance when required. I think Higashiguchi’s view was blocked by a defender as he just stood rooted to the spot as the ball went in, but full credit to Oshima, it was a hell of a hit.
Probably the main things that have stuck with me since this game are related to our attackers and the selection of them. Once again the curse of the starting striker struck. Kobayashi, aside from hitting the bar with a header was pretty much anonymous. He looks nothing like the player who has come off the bench and scored so many goals so far this year. Whether we solve this by dropping him back to the bench I don’t know. I suspect that if we do it might just damn Leandro Damiao to the same fate. I don’t know why the starting striker struggles but it’s pretty weird considering how many goals we’ve scored so far this season that our starting striker has only scored once in the first half of the eight league games we’ve played. Weird! Thankfully the goals are coming from elsewhere and at other times, but if you’re a striker looking for goals you’d probably do better starting off on the bench right now. Normally in a game like this with a misfiring or in this case anonymous front man we’d expect Oniki to make the switch around 60 minutes. Whether Damiao gets the opportunity to replace Kobayashi around this time in a game as much as the reverse happens we’ll have to wait and see, but it does seem that he might not be quite so lucky. One other slight mystery is Oniki again selecting Hatate ahead of Mitoma. I think both are great prospects but Mitoma definitely seems to have the momentum at the moment so I’m surprised with him always being a sub and not a starter. My final and slightly related point regarding this relates to our lack of rotation. Plenty of teams fans are already talking about fatigue and the necessity of rotation, but Oniki seems to be going with what’s working right now and as long as it keeps working who’s to say anything else would be better? However, we did look a bit off the pace in this game and seemed unable to string more than a couple of passes together for long periods. I wonder if we should be trying to freshen things up a bit. Ienaga is playing great right now, but he’s not young and seems to be playing the majority of the minutes in most games. The midfield seems to be the area where we are rotating the most but even in there it seems to be either a first choice midfield (Oshima, Ao, Wakizaka) or a second choice midfield (Morita, Shimoda, Wakizaka) chosen rather than a combination of both. Perhaps it’s something to do with combinations of players that I’m not aware of, but I think fatigue will be the biggest issue we have to deal with this year, and I suspect that it might be soon that we need to deal with it. We have a Levain Cup game on Wednesday away to Kashima so maybe this will see the reserves get a run out, but there are some positions in which we don’t really have reserves, so I sense we’ll need to find a solution to this problem in the next few weeks before the team all start collapsing.
As mentioned above, Kashima away next. They’re in terrible form, we’re in good form. This suggests to me that we might stumble and mess it up. Clearly the line-up will be different… Hopefully, the line-up will be different. Fingers crossed anyway and maybe it will be a good opportunity to give some youngsters a start. After that Oita at home next weekend and presumably back to the usual line-up. I say back to, but if Oniki doesn’t rotate on Wednesday I guess it will be more ‘on with’ than ‘back to’. Whichever way it goes, let’s hope this lovely run can continue! Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa (on for HATATE 73')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for KOBAYASHI 85')
MF 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for WAKIZAKA 46')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for IENAGA 90+1')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto (on for OSHIMA 73')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
A pretty disjointed game with a lot of errors leaves me with little choice but to once again be hugely unoriginal and give it to...
OSHIMA Ryota - great finish for the goal, some beautiful turns and shields with the ball, and just the usual excellence we expect from him. Lovely!
OSHIMA (Frontale) 48' 0-1
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