Kawasaki Frontale 4 - 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Once again we bounced back from a terrible performance with a decent one. The problem however is that we’ve had way too many awful performances this season. It’s long been a cliche that we struggle against teams lower down in the league and we play better against teams at the top. So it should have come as no surprise that we lost twice to Shonan this year and beat Sanfrecce twice. After that second Shonan defeat I think quite a lot us we’re pretty frustrated with Oniki’s perpetual failure to even slightly change a team that is doing well but playing way too many games in a short period and is running out of steam fast. Given that we had a week between the Shonan debacle and this game I predicted he wouldn’t change anything unless he really had to and that was exactly what happened. It seems that both Kurumaya and Nobori are injured at the moment so Sasaki came in at left back. To be honest I should give Oniki some credit for not going back to Tachibanada there, particularly as he really wants to play him and Joao Schmidt at the same time and is happy to shift players out of position to accomplish that. The rest of the starting line up was the same as the one that sucked big time last weekend, but on this occasion didn't, as they had had a bit of a rest. And unsurprisingly a team that isn’t totally knackered did better than one that is. Oniki has brought unprecedented levels of success to Frontale, but I think it’s undeniable that he still doesn’t know how to rotate. And this inevitably catches up with us. We have Nagaoya away on Wednesday and Kashiwa away on Saturday. I wonder who’ll play those games? I suspect it will be the same players again. Quite when they’ll break down again, who knows, but one midweek off doesn’t really allow complete recovery to preseason freshness I’d guess. So, we might end up struggling again. And although I realistically think that the league is over, if we want to keep any tiny glimmer of hope alive, we have to win every game. YFM have played their game in hand and dispatched Shonan with ease in stark contrast to how we did against them. I hate to praise them, but they look far less likely to slip up than we do. They don’t seem to make a mess of games against relegation contenders and they’ve got plenty of them coming up. So we sit three points behind them with a significantly inferior goal difference. Just imagine what might have been, If we hadn’t shot ourselves in the foot quite so many times this year…
Apparently Hiroshima rested a lot of players for this game with only half of their first choice players starting the game. Not sure why they would have done this… oh actually maybe they watched out last game! That would make a lot of sense. Even with a weakened line up they started well and we were under the cosh from the start I thought. We were playing like a team who were tired and had for some reason, (perhaps a reason like a terrible recent performance), lost all confidence. Hiroshima seemed to want it a lot more. They were defending and attacking in numbers and seemed well organised. They even had me longing for the old days when they were utterly boring and quite ineffective. I think they’ll do really well next year. Already a bit worried about that. In response to their attacking threat we seemed to be going for a safety first approach of possession at any cost, making sure that we kept the ball, usually by passing it backwards. Our inability to do anything with a free kick other than pass it less than a metre to the player standing behind the taker is endlessly irritating. I was in a bit of a bad mood at the start of the game watching all of this. But then we scored, a bit against the run of play and suddenly everything became fun again. It wasn’t the cleanest of finishes from Ienaga, but it was a lovely assist from Sasaki and hopefully it should give him some confidence back. In his post match comments Sasaki said what has become something of a mantra among some of our players recently, something along the lines of that he saw this as his last chance for us. We constantly hear that Oniki is a great man manager and a really nice guy, but there does seem to be a streak of cold fear running through anyone who manages to get a start as they seem to feel that if they don’t do really well, they’ll be finished. And it’s not surprising I guess as the only way the team gets changed recently is if someone gets injured. Competition for places is generally considered to be a good thing, but it seems that we don’t have that when it comes to the starting lineup and instead, the only hope for a non-starting member is to get themselves onto the bench, play their five minutes they’re handed at the end of the game and be ready for when a player in their position gets injured. I don’t want to pick on any players in particular, but when you think of people who’ve had a bit of a dodgy season this year, like Kobayashi, Miyagi etc. you’ve got to wonder how they’ll ever be able to get back into form. They occasionally get a start but if things don't go their way they’re hauled off early and it’s back to the usual players. Even in the cup games we weren’t really rotating and we went out of all of those competitions very early. It’s a bit of a worrying situation. I’m sure they can’t be happy. And I’m also sure they have something to offer. But a lack of opportunities piles the pressure on them for the limited chances they get and because of the pressure they struggle even more.
Anyway, what’s going on here? We won this game easily so I should be a bit more optimistic I guess. It felt like we’d got a bit lucky in the first half but the stats disagree. The stats for both halves were actually pretty similar to be honest, showing us in the ascendancy. But the second half definitely felt a lot more comfortable. I guess a lead means the opposition need to take some more chances, which in turn gives us some more chances. And the more we score the better we feel and the more the opposition have to attack, so the more space we have. It was a bit of a surprise to get four through. And a bit of a surprise to see Chinen get the ball off Ienaga for the penalty. Ienaga has been pretty deadly from the spot so I wasn’t delighted to see someone else take it. Apparently Chinen asked, Ienaga refused, but let him take it after he'd asked a couple more times. To be fair to Chinen, it was a good penalty, and hopefully will give him some more confidence and gave me the chance to use my #goalmaChinen hashtag again. But I demurred as it was a penalty. But credit to him. It went in. Also surprising was the fact that a week after we lost a game because we were dead on our feet and bereft of fresh ideas, Oniki decided not to make any subs till the 82nd minute, perhaps hastening the next ‘dead on our feet’ onset. Two games in the next seven days makes this even more bizarre. And the fact that we were three goals up and fairly comfortable on 70 minutes. It’s obviously not a good idea to completely break up the momentum when we’re doing well and perhaps he had one eye on the improvement in goal difference that we’ll need to have any chance of overhauling YFM. But you know, scoring lots of goals in this game doesn’t mean much if we go on to lose one of the next two games because we’re knackered.
It was just really weird. Add to this the fact that we were having a Thai themed day and there were a significant amount of Thai people in the ground. I also saw a few people wearing Vietnamese T-shirts, so maybe the theme was wider than I realised. Anyway, there was the Thai ambassador taking a penalty against a Thai kick boxer before the game, a big Thai flag on the pitch before the game, a Thai singer playing a couple of songs at half time, a Tuk Tuk driving around, presumably some Thai food at the food stands, oh and I almost forgot a Thai player on the bench. But Oniki was never going to cave to such sentimentality and give the Thai fans what they wanted. Chanathip was used as one of the final subs in the 92nd minute and just about got a half touch of the ball before the final whistle went. I’m not sure what’s happened to him. I don’t think he’s been injured but he’s definitely faded out of the picture slightly. I thought he was starting to play well before this happened but then again what do I know really? I do know that Oniki’s slightly psychopathic tendencies seem to be back again and even at the end of what was a great victory, his weirdness with subs and especially his fervent desire to not give the Thai fans what they wanted left a bit of a weird taste in the mouth. Perhaps it’s a power move to show that he picks the team and that his way is the way we’ll go rather than bowing to any kind of normal human emotions. I think however at 3-0 up with us coasting, by not bringing on Chanathip till just before the final whistle you could change the word ‘power’ for the word ‘dick’ in the previous sentence and stop it there. But yeah, he’s a football manager and I’m a guy who likes nice things to happen to people, so what do I know?
So, even when we win well against a good team I manage to sour the mood. Before I do the usual next up part it would be remiss of me to not say that the ref was rubbish again, totally living up to his reputation of being an official who gives nothing. But when you win 4-0, moaning about the ref is even more unedifying than usual so I’ll stop that kind of talk here. This was a fun game and a confidence boost for us (at least the players who were on the pitch for the the first 82 minutes), with a weird taste in the mouth ending. If that’s the way it has to be till the end of the season, well, who am I to argue? If we carry on with this lack of rotation though, I don’t think we’ll need to be paying attention till right up to the end of the season. YFM have Kyoto and Consadole next and I’d say there is zero chance of them messing those games up in the way that we might when they come up in our schedule soon. We have Nagoya on Wednesday and personally, it will be the second time we’ve gone to Nagoya for this game this year. The first time they cooked up some excuse to get it postponed and have been fined for doing so. We couldn’t cancel our trip without losing lots of money so just went anyway. I guess we’d take three points as a reasonable compensation for that inconvenience so I hope they’ll oblige. This time in Nagoya we’ll hopefully have a game to watch. I would say who knows what team we'll see, but I think the realistic answer to that is that most people know which team it'll be. Let’s just hope we have a Hiroshima home type performance rather than a Shonan away type one.
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 4. JESIEL (Yellow card 8')
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for CHINEN 83')MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for WAKIZAKA 90+2')
MF 18. CHANATHIP (on for IENAGA 90+2')
MF 19. TONO Daiya (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 83')
FW 24. MIYAGI Ten (on for MARCINHO 87')
MF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
MF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
My Frontale Man Of The Match
This is all getting quite predictable recently (aside from last week when I gave it to a player in a different match). Sasaki did well coming back into the team. And in the second half they all looked decent. But there are two players who seem to consistently perform on a higher level. So once again it’s going to go to…
JOAO SCHMIDT and IENAGA Akihiro - just looked like they were on a different level than everyone else again. Long may it continue (although as Joao will be potentially be lining up against his old team on Wednesday, what’s the betting that Oniki won’t play him and once again assert his dominance in a totally unnecessary way?)
IENAGA (Frontale) 34' 1-0
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 59' 2-0
CHINEN (Frontale) PEN 68' 3-0
IENAGA (Frontale) 78' 4-0
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