Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 0 Vegalta Sendai
7 more wins! Or to be more accurate 7 more wins barring any massive turn around in goal difference. So, let’s be on the safe side and say 8 more wins. 8 more wins and we will win the league! You could say that this weekend worked out perfectly for us from a results point of view. Cerezo and Tokyo both lost. Although Tokyo lost to Gamba who are now, if you take into account games in hand, our closest rival. Their goal difference is half of ours but of course if we were to lose the required amount of games and they were to win the required amount of games there would be a significant change in our relative goal differences. So, plenty of reasons to be cheerful! But let’s be honest, this was another pretty unconvincing performance. If you want to be negative, and it seems that I am to some extent destined to always be negative, you’ve got to look at this game as another bullet dodged and another hint that perhaps our true level is how we’re playing now rather than how we were playing at the start of the season. More moans on that later. But a win is a win and if we’re chalking off the remaining wins it doesn’t really matter how good the performance was or how unlucky the opponents were. This match saw an increased capacity at Todoroki with almost 9000 present. The area behind the goal at what we’d consider the away end was pretty much empty though. But this was not so surprising given the weather. It had rained for about 48 hours prior to this game and continued to do so steadily throughout the match. Not sure quite how much it affected the game though as the pitch looked fine. An increased crowd didn’t exactly bring increased atmosphere, but this is probably to be expected when no-one can sing. I saw a bit of rogue towel twirling from some people who obviously hadn’t received the memo on that. Perhaps the clapping was a bit louder but it’s still quite a different atmosphere from what we would have expected in previous seasons. I wonder through if some people are quite enjoying this new sedate way of watching. Particularly the pre-match clap along instrumental Shishamo song where we all channel the old people’s home live music night experience, clapping in time and swaying lightly side to side, but not too close to our neighbour for fear of picking up something. We have a few gasps or groans as shots go in or more commonly missed or saved. There’s no singing though and no drumming and a general lack of support. There is only so much you can convey by banging your hands together, particularly in an uncoordinated fashion. Whether some singing might have encouraged us to push on and do a bit better in recent games, I don’t know. Personally speaking, I miss singing and shouting, but there is definitely a type of fan who likes less interaction and a more relaxed game experience. I’m grateful that FC Tokyo's disgusting Leandro didn’t pull any of his fighting moves in our game as I’m not sure I would have been able to suppress my disgust and would have been told off. Anyway, I really need to move on from him and get over it. So here are some bullet points on this game.
FC Tokyo part 2 (kind of) -
Sure the result was different, but the game went a similar way to the FC Tokyo match. Loads of possession from us (60%), more chances than that game but a similar proportion of chances to us and them (21 to us, 8 to them) and very few meaningful ones (only 8 on goal). It’s probably telling that Sendai apparently switched to 4-4-2 for the first time this season, the same formation FC Tokyo used and we had the same kind of difficulties getting near to their goal and putting the ball in the net. Hopefully other teams won’t follow this game plan (I would have said new game plan, but I think it’s what plenty of teams used against us last year). Given that it seems to work in restricting us it wouldn’t be a great surprise if everyone played like that now though, would it? In the FC Tokyo game we could have thought that some of our problems were down to fatigue and Oniki shuffled the pack in this game. New fresh players came in but the same problems were there. Our shooting was terrible again. You could say we were a bit unlucky, particularly Kobayashi who hit the post and went close on a few occasions, but this is a big change from the 5 goals games we were enjoying earlier in the season. To be honest, this game had 1-1 written all over it. 87 minutes of us being well on top but only scoring once and then Shun Nagasawa scoring against us off the bench, like he always seems to do. It wasn’t one way traffic though. Sendai had some good chances and looking at the last quarter of the game might feel hard done by to not have taken anything from the game. Although they did only have one shot on target in the whole game… But the defence held firm, unlike against Tokyo and we seemed relatively blunder free. And pretty much spark free too. So where has it gone? I thought it was down to physical and mental tiredness but I wonder if we have been sussed out by the opposition. It wouldn’t be a great shock as there aren’t many surprises in our play or selection recently. This wasn’t a problem when we were smacking everyone for five each game, but I wonder if we need to have a bit of flexibility for situations which are almost certainly going to come (almost certainly against Hiroshima on Wednesday), when we are stifled and can’t score. The Cerezo game could easily have turned out the same way but for those couple of quick goals which significantly changed the feel and the result. But, at least we won. I think that was crucial given the defeat on Wednesday. We’ve managed to avoid turning one defeat into two, or a defeat and a draw, and turn a blip into something more troubling. But when you consider where Sendai are in the league and where we are, we really should have done a bit more in this game I feel.
We need to talk about Kaoru -
Have to admit, I quite like this subtitle. Again I feel this game was influenced by Mitoma who started and then stayed on the pitch for quite a long time. Unfortunately, the influence wasn’t so positive once again. It has been a common theme recently that Mitoma, either from the start of the game or from the bench starts fairly brightly but then fades very quickly. I don’t want to blame him too much, but for long periods of this game it was almost like we were playing with ten men such was his anonymity. He did provide the assist for Kobayashi’s goal, somewhat undermining my point. And also it’s definitely true that he’s a marked man now, probably featuring in every opposition team’s pre-match tactical plan and therefore could be getting marked out of games. But this doesn’t really explain why he can start so well and then fade so badly. His dribbling is great obviously, but his passing after a dribble has recently invariably been straight to the opposition. I don’t know if there’s any confusion tactically or whether it’s just that he has one trick and that’s it, but when you look back on how good he was at the start of the season it’s clear that something is up. Perhaps he was disappointed to not get a move to Europe whilst the transfer window was open. I’d hope that this isn’t the issue, but if it is he needs to realise that he’s not going to get one on current form. In this match he seemed to spend a lot of time in the middle of the pitch and all the attacking on the left hand side was done by Kurumaya. I don’t think he was particularly effective in the middle. I’d like to see Oniki swap our wingers from time to time. I always enjoy a mid-game side switch and it would definitely give a left back something to think about. I wonder though if Oniki is too wedded to what I am guessing is his plan of having a left footed left back and what seems like a right footed left winger and the reverse on the other side. I say ‘seems like’ as I can’t say for sure which foot people prefer as I often forget to watch carefully and am apparently too lazy to check properly, but I’m pretty sure Mitoma is right footed and Hatate is left footed. Switching them would give defenders something to think about as perhaps we’re a bit too predictable on the wings recently. I feel bad bringing up Mitoma again, as he’s young and in his first real season, but I really think that anyone who is bigging him up at the moment is doing so on the evidence of earlier in the season rather than recent performances. I dunno, am I being unfair or expecting too much? Hopefully he can turn things around soon.
Weird subs -
Somewhat connected to what I said above about Mitoma, the subs were a bit weird in this game. I was fully in favour of the starting line up. Well almost fully in favour, as I would have thought that if you’re going to play Diogo who has a hell of a cross on him, you might have thought it would make sense to play the bigger Damiao in the middle rather than Kobayashi. But Kobayashi had a reasonable if unlucky game, as is his wont sometimes. Not bringing on Damiao until the 81st minute though didn’t really make sense I thought. Particularly as Kobayashi seemed to be suffering from a bit of a muscle problem after stretching for a few shots in the previous ten minutes or so. Hopefully it’s just a fatigue thing rather than any injury. Our first subs came fairly late in this game in the 67th minute and I was totally shocked to see Hatate go off and Mitoma stay on. Mitoma started the season amazingly whilst Hatate took a while to find his feet but I’d say that Hatate is by far more dangerous at the moment. This season some of Oniki’s substitutions have worked perfectly, but in this game I was left a bit confused by most of them.
Other stuff -
The usual throwaway stuff here. Does anyone know what is going on with that thing we do when we have players kneeling down in front of the wall when we’re taking a free kick? Perhaps it’s to block the keeper’s view of the ball. Perhaps it’s a distraction. Perhaps it’s merely for the entertainment of the crowd and to give them something to consider. Things went to the next level in this game when we did it and Sendai ‘retaliated’ by putting a player of their own kneeling down behind the wall. All a bit of a mystery to me to be honest. But then again, I think Kengo did hit the bar from that free kick so maybe it did work in a way. Or maybe the Sendai player kneeling behind the wall was intended to make Kengo aim just a little too high and that worked. Who knows? Second stupid observation from me is regarding the items of headgear Ao, or should I call him OW! (see what I did there?), wore either side of halftime after getting booted in the head. The initial bandage was great as it looked like a baldy wig with my poor eyesight. (Oh, that’s another question, how do people stop their glasses from steaming up whilst wearing a mask? As I only wear my glasses at games I forget to work on non-steaming tactics in between matches so I’m not sure how it is done. Again, probably something that could be found out with a internet search...). The fact that the blood began to seep through his first layer of bandages meant that he needed to leave the pitch for a second application. I wondered on Twitter as to how many layers you could get before upsetting the ref. Or is it ok to start a game with a massive bandage afro giving you a big surface area and advantage for winning those contested headers. Could you tape some kind of shield made our of bandages into the other bandages and extend your height too? All definitely worth considering. His second half headwear was even more amusing as his head had been transformed into what looked like an extended and slightly pointy fez. Definitely the style winner in this match. Of course Ienaga was the coolness winner though as he always is. Shortly after he came on he ran through for a high ball perhaps lost sight of it and it bounced off him and rebounded perfectly to another of our players. Such is his high skill level that he now can make crucial passes without even thinking about it or even trying. All while probably chewing gum and maintaining his hair style. Truly a god!
Next up is Sanfrecce Hiroshima away on Wednesday. They’re not doing great this year therefore will probably beat us easily. They are certain to employ the same kind of anti-football tactics that FC Tokyo and Cerezo did. Let’s hope we can get a Cerezo style result rather than an FC Tokyo style one. We really need to find our shooting boots again as being restricted to one goal by Shonan and Sendai has taken the shine off some of our previous shellackings. After that it’s Nagoya at home the following Sunday. Hmmmm. I’d love six points from these games (obviously…) but they don’t look particularly easy so fingers crossed. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. DIOGO MATEUS
DF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 30. HATATE Reo
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa (on for OSHIMA 74')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for KOBAYASHI 81')
FW 19. SAITO Manabu (on for HATATE 67')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto (on for MITOMA 81')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for NAKAMURA 67')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Despite it being a fairly uninspiring performance I feel there are a few candidates for this for once. Taniguchi and Yamamura were both pleasingly solid at the back (the late attacks for Sendai were down the other end of the pitch so I couldn’t really see them, so maybe I’m wrong). Diogo really deserves some more game time but with Yamane in good form he might be unlucky but this was another good performance from a player who’s had minimal chances this year. Kurumaya had a good game too. Oshima always brings solidity in the middle and perhaps goes unnoticed. But, I’m going to give it to….
TANAKA OW! - Yes, I really did do the same joke again…. Got a gusher of a cut from a boot to the head but in spite of that was still pretty classy in this game I thought. Made the occasional fluff, but on the whole did exactly what was expected of him, all while sporting some amazing cranial adornments!
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