Tuesday 17 January 2023

2022 Season survey results

Finally, here are the results of the Frontale Rabbit 2022 Season survey. I don't think I'll be getting any more responses, but if I do, I'll do my best to somehow add them. This year we had a couple of sets of answers from non-Frontale fans which I'm quite pleased about. In the situations where their answer seems a bit strange from a Frontale point of view, I've added a note that it's a non-Frontale opinion just to avoid confusion. As always, in the interest of openness, I'll let you know what my response was too. 2022 was a season where we achieved absolutely nothing, so it comes as no surprise to find that the answers were not as positive this time round. Fingers crossed that 2023 will be better. I think that judging by our current lack of reinforcement and pre-season injury crisis, those crossed fingers might have a lot of work to do!

1. Game of season


A runaway winner here and it was our last minute victory over eventual title winners and ever-irritating neighbours YFM. As far as I can remember, it wasn't actually the greatest of games but it did show a rare example of Oniki changing something instead of just ploughing on with the same old stuff relentlessly. It's always nice to beat your local rivals and even better to do it in the last minute. Shame it eventually didn't count for anything though and instead was basically just us prolonging our agony and keeping our ultimately pointless hopes alive for a bit longer. Thinking about my answer, it's difficult to remember many positive games this year in an absolute ocean of mediocrity, (and occasional uselessness). I might say Avispa away as it was my first singing game for a long time and it was great to have that back again. In a fit of pettiness I'm tempted to say my choice was our 4-0 victory against Gamba as it was the game where Terada was nominally in charge instead of Oniki but to be honest, I think I had the most fun in the pub after the YFM game so I'll go with that too. Other games mentioned were Shimizu home by two people, in both cases because it was the only game they were able to attend, Sapporo at home and Vissel Kobe vs YFM in the ACL (which is obviously an answer from a non-Frontale fan, but given that YFM lost, I feel it's one us Frontale fans can also enjoy!

2. Player of the season

WINNER - Ienaga Akihiro

Before my vote is added it's a dead heat with Taniguchi and Ienaga tied for top spot. One person described Ienaga as 'timeless' which I think is pretty accurate. I hope he'll be back and banging next year, and perhaps he'll be able to do even better if he gets a bit more rest. Other players mentioned were Wakizaka a couple of times and Tachibanada. Oh, and Mateus of Nagoya Grampus (not a Frontale fan answer). When I was asked for my three players of the season by the J Talk Podcast I said Ienaga, Marcinho and Sung-Ryong (who I think saved us on numerous occasions). I'm surprised no-one voted for Marcinho so you might think I'd go for him. But, given that Taniguchi has abandoned us for the dizzy heights of the Qatar league, I'm instead pettily going to go for Ienaga in order to deny Taniguchi the joint prize. Yes, I'm a big old sulky baby.

Stop the presses, one late vote for Ienaga meant it's a clearer victory for him.

3. Goal of the season

WINNER - Jesiel vs YFM (home)

Getting a non-Frontale fan answer out of the way first, one was Everaldo's overhead for Kashima against Cerezo. The clear winner amongst Frontale fan respondents was Jesiel's last minute header against YFM at home which finished off our game of the season very nicely. Certainly the significance of the goal was greater than the actual goal itself.

In second place we have 'nothing stands out' which perfectly sums up 2022, I think. Behind that we have a load of goals which all got one vote. They were...

Ienaga Akihiro vs Gamba Osaka (home)

Miyagi Ten vs Gamba Osaka (away)

Kobayashi Yu vs Consadole Sapporo (home)

and my answer...

Seko Tatsuki vs Sappporo University (home)

I just feel like Seko has had a tough season, not particularly due to anything he's done wrong but more in the way that new signings sometimes have to put up with a very quiet first season with us. I hope that he could enjoy his goal which was a great strike. Fingers crossed he can push on next year. All in all, some quite nice goals, considering how mediocre we were in 2022.

4. Disappointment of the season

WINNER - our ACL campaign

Plenty to choose from when it came to disappointments in 2022 and our ACL campaign and the two Shonan games were neck and neck and right up there for me too. A late vote gave it to the ACL. Other things mentioned were Damiao's season (probably the only way was down from 2021, but I'm not sure if they meant that he didn't play well, or he got injured. Or maybe both), Oshima's physical condition (poor guy, hope he stays injury free in 2023), not winning a title, YFM winning the title, Nagoya postponing our match for 'disloyal reasons', the Sapporo away game and the one word answer Taniguchi. I presume this final one was referring to his departure rather than his play in 2022. I agree with all of the above, but I think I would probably say that the really disappointing thing was that we had the players to win the league and multiple opportunities to win the league, but just kept slipping up over and over again. And our football was often really dull in 2022. As I think I said in a blog post, watching Frontale was a fun experience in 2022 apart from when the match was actually taking place. Maybe I like travelling and going out more than football... It's clear that in 2022 the football didn't really get anywhere near challenging the pre- and post game experience when it came to fun.

5. Villain of the season (anyone, from any team or an official or...)

WINNER - Nagoya Grampus

The postponement of our away game due to slightly dubious reasons mentioned a few times in these answers took to the top spot. I'm inclined to agree as it clearly seemed to work out quite nicely to their advantage. Personally speaking, if cancelled we could have only got a tiny proportion back of what we'd paid for this game's expenses so decided to go ahead and make the trip anyway. Other answers were #1 J League hate figure Yuma Suzuki, ('hate ppl who flop so looking at you Yuma Suzuki'), our numerous injuries, the ref who sent Taniguchi off, COVID regulations, Cerezo Osaka fans (can't remember what they did, someone please remind me), Kevin 'the whistler' Muscat (who to be honest, I find much less objectionable than Postecoglou), Marinosuke (!), the somewhat mysterious answer '❤️' and our 'front office', which is one which I can really agree with. I don't know how much of our recruitment is down to Oniki and how much is out of his hands, but starting the season with our best defender long term injured and thinking that two players playing out of position would be enough cover is pretty disgraceful. This year we might be about to make a similar mistake but this time up front with both Damiao and Kobayashi now starting the season with injuries. But amazingly we signed a defender! Oh... but we also lost one of our every presents. For my answer, I don't want to say Oniki as I think he's doing his best, but I will say Oniki's inflexibility to make it slightly less personal. We constantly bored on with the same tactics, never looking like we had any other ideas, never really changing personnel and pretty much getting what we deserved. After a mid-season personal meltdown I decided to stop caring so much and found that going to matches was a lot less stressful if I didn't get annoyed about the same old shit every week. Not sure how long I'll be able to keep that going in 2023 if Oniki doesn't come up with something slightly different anfd significantly better.

6. Best away trip (if you've done one)

Only a few answers and no clear winner which is probably understandable given that COVID was still having an effect on J League activities. The majority had not made any away trips at all but the few games that were mentioned were Shimizu, (which I agree is always a good one), Sapporo 'although we lost', (which I agree is always a good one and was improved immensely this year by the new Hop Kotan Sapporo taproom), and Thailand away to watch Consadole and Frontale after the end of the season, (which was mentioned by a non-Frontale fan! Bravo!). I feel like I need to say Sagan Tosu away as I always do, not for the match, but always for the fact that I get smashed at the game on the selection of shochu they have available, a drink that I otherwise never drink, but now is an integral part of Sagan Tosu away for me. Of course, as is par for the course for us at a Kyushu away game, we didn't win and got a player sent off. There was one late vote for Kobe away, which was a great one as we snatched a not completely deserved win at the end. That's my spin on it though, rather than the person who voted for it.

7. Best stadium in the J League

WINNER - Todoroki

Definite homerism on this question as usual. The overwhelming majority of people voted for Todoroki. Other stadiums mentioned were Sagan Tosu's Ekimae Fudosan, Urawa's Saitama stadium, Gamba's Suita stadium, Kyoto's Sanga stadium and Shimizu's Nihondaira, which will be sadly missing from our 2023 schedule. Notably all of these are stadiums without running tracks. One answer which combined the two prevailing types of responses was perhaps my favourite one, the 'Future Todoroki Non-athletic Stadium'. I liked this mainly due to it being an answer from a different time. I'm certainly looking forward to it, but perhaps not the fact that I will be very old when it's finished. Oh and my answer? I always say Sagan Tosu for the booze, easy access and that nice terrace behind the goal.

8. Opposition J1 team you like the most

JOINT WINNERS - Consadole Sapporo & Sagan Tosu

I went with Sagan Tosu as in spite of us always getting horrible results against them, you can't help but like a team that constantly produces great young players and manages to prevail in spite of them being snatched away all the time. If they could somehow bring back the patatas bravas to the outside stadium food selections, they would be even better. Pretty unlikely I'd imagine though. I think Consadole probably got votes due to their relentless attacking positivity. They also had a pony in the stadium at the away game so kudos for that. Other teams mentioned were Kashiwa Reysol a couple of times, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, (which I think is a first, and perhaps due to them not being so boring anymore), Kyoto Sanga and 'I don't know' and 'no-one'.

9. Opposition J1 team you like the least

WINNER - Yokohama F Marinos

It's no surprise YFM won this I guess. Local rivals, and they had the cheek to win the league too. I think they were almost as average as us in 2022 so it hurt that bit more when they beat us to the title. My answer is 100% YFM. Aside from YFM, there were the usual mentions for Urawa and Kashima but in second place behind YFM were Nagoya, presumably thanks to their dubious cancellation of our game with them bending/breaking/not being aware of the COVID rules. It wouldn't have been such an issue if we hadn't been so awful in the rearranged fixture in Nagoya. And I guess it stings a bit that we messed up in our COVID game at Urawa where we had four goalkeepers in the matchday squad but which wasn't canceled. I said at the time that I hoped that it didn't come back to haunt us at the end of the season and it kind of did. Although there were plenty of other slip ups that we made. One amusing comment about Nagoya which suggests it's not all bad feeling about their COVID cancellation is 'It's not the team or the players, I just don't like the city of Nagoya'. Our other local rivals FC Tokyo weren't mentioned at all, which they probably won't be too happy about. Neither were Shonan Bellmare, who we contrived to lose to twice. A win in either one of those games would have got us the title. We didn't deserve to win either match though.

10. Team you're pleased to see come up

WINNER - Albirex Niigata

This question has gone slightly off-piste this year as I normally intend it to mean who are you happy to see joining J1 from J2. But some people have answered it from the point of view of a wish list. Next year, I think I'll split it into two questions as I think both are interesting. For me, it's Albirex Niigata as it's a great away trip that we haven't been able to do for a few years. Yokohama FC is less exciting for me, although I do like their stadium, (but not the walk up the hill to get there). I probably would have preferred any of the teams who were in the playoffs to have made it as all would have been fun away trips. But I'm pleased for Hasegawa to be back in J1. Respondents were split with a few more saying Niigata than YFC. On the wish list front, we had mentions for Blaublitz Akita, Venforet Kofu, Roasso Kumamoto, Fagiano Okayama and Ehime FC. In this category, maybe I'd like a Shikoku or Tohoku team in J1 again, purely from the point of view of away travel.

11. Best thing about the J League

Here are people's comments quoted. For me, I think it would be that it's fun and the match day experience, particularly for away games is great.

- Great managers (Petrovic, Puig, Skibbe). Players have more talent than MLS games are enjoyable to watch. They play w/ talent versus physical/flop unlike concacaf. The atmosphere of the stadiums w/ chanting
 - Food
- Oniki
- Supporters culture
- Mascots
- Everything Kawasaki Frontale
- Safe away trips
- General lack of shithousery from a watching point of view
- Peaceful
- Amazing supporters (most of the teams)
- Safe stadiums

12. Worst thing about the J League

I would say a few things, some of which are mentioned below. Players leaving for a supposedly higher level for little or no money is unsurprisingly annoying for me. The referees are still awful. And there's a been a real increase in the amount of know-it-alls on Twitter, but I suspect this is a problem of society and Twitter so it seems a bit harsh for me to blame the J League for it. Again, here's what the people said. 

- They are not maximizing their potential. Instead of reaching a global audience they'd rather increase their reach into SE Asia. Good players will be sold for no fee and increase of ASEAN players does not make J League better
- Annoying fan policing on the internet
- Muscat
- J league without song of supporter it's been too long
- COVID rules going on too long
- Referees
- Unreserved seats
- General lack of shithousery from a wanting to win point of view
- It's too expensive to watch on DAZN
- Clubs not making any money from their star players transferring to Europe
- I want to sing chants.
- DAZN considers J League not attractive.

13. Trophy you would like to win the most next year

WINNER - The league

Around 65% of respondents said the league and I agree with them. The other 35% said the ACL, but I think it would be a miracle given Oniki's record in knock out competitions.

14. What’s your view of Oniki?

The most interesting question for me, unsurprisingly. I have complicated feelings and wish we'd won the league in 2022 as I think then he might have left on a high. Instead he's stayed and I think that he's equally likely to bounce back or completely trash his reputation next year. Hopefully the former. You can't deny his success, but at the same time, I think even the most ardent Oniki-ites would have had some doubts in 2022. Here's what people said. 

- 'Undisputed great manager, but needs a few new ideas'
- 'Legend, 2nd place with that squad was arguably a greater achievement than winning the league.'
- 'Great Director, but I think team need more rotation for reserve players'
- 'I trust him'
- 'Please call JFA'
- 'Lucky'
- 'Does the business with minimum of fuss'
- 'Should rotate more and give younger players a chance, also should have more than one tactic available. Otherwise seems like a very nice guy. I thought he stuck to same members too much, but after seeing our Thaiand and Vietnam tour, I realized he was right (at least last season).'
- 'The best of the best in spite of no trophy'

15. If you could have any J League player sign for Frontale, who would it be?

Just a list of names for you here with one comment.

- Alexander Scholz (Urawa)
- Kikuchi Ryuho (Vissel Kobe)
- Higuchi Yuta (Kashima)
- Ogawa Koki (Yokohama FC)
- Machino Shuto (Shonan)
- Handa Riku (Gamba)
- Thiago Santana (Shimizu) 'would suit this team, replacing Damiao'
- Usami Takashi (Gamba)
- Koizumi Yoshio (Urawa)
- Eduardo (YFM)

16. Which former Frontale player would you most like to see us re-sign?

WINNER - Mitoma Kaoru

Not a massive shock, considering how he's currently making an impact in the Premier League. Extremely unlikely though for quite a few years, I'd say. Perhaps with that in mind, a few people went for Miyoshi, which could be more likely. We do have a certain shirt number free... One person said Tanaka. And another said the 'Saginuma brothers' nicely getting in both Mitoma and Tanaka in one go. There was also a mention for Nara. And it didn't come from me, although I can get behind it. And one person said Itakura, ('Now we need a good defender!') which is a really good point. I wasn't sure who I'd say till I saw that last answer and the more I think about it, the more I agree with it. And there was a late vote for Morita too.

17. What’s your prediction for next season?

A mixture of responses with a mixture of positivity and negativity here. I'll list them all below, but personally speaking, I think it's going to be a long and tough season with not much fun, unless Oniki surprises us with some new ideas. Taniguchi leaving is a big blow and our incoming players don't exactly look like a response to a previous season that was a complete flop. We'll see, I guess. Here's what people said.

- J1 Champions!
- Jung Sung Ryong to come running out of his box at some point, do a flying karate kick, miss the ball, take the player out and get a red card. Trademark move.
- 'Taisei Mayashiro is top scorer'
- 'Taniguchi changes his mind (please)'
- 'J1 title back, out early from every cups'
- 'League title'
- 'Top three minimum but failure in cups.'
- 'It'll be the season for raising'
- 'Kamifukumoto will be a god in goal (if he actually plays)'
- 'I don't see a good future.  Morita, Mitoma, Ao, and Hatate left, and we haven't found their alternatives.  And now our captain Taniguchi left.  Without him, can we do better than last year? I don't think so.'
- 'Marinos or Kawasaki will win the J League title'

18. How do you feel about us having lots of players leaving for Europe?

This is a tricky one for me. I want them all to stay with us but understand that they have other goals and ambitions. The thing that annoys is that many of them go for little or no transfer fee and that basically we seem to be becoming a team who brings through talented players and loses them quite quickly and cheaply. And it is irritating where some of them go. I'm not sure the Scottish Premiership is actually a higher level than the J League. Likewise the second tiers of other European leagues. I guess because Moriyasu and the national team seem to place so much emphasis on players playing overseas it makes sense for talented J League players to go to play in countries in perhaps weaker leagues as it will help them get into the national team. But anyway, what do I know? Here's what other people said.

- 'Presents a big challenge obviously, but I just want to see them do well over there.'
- 'They should leave at the end of the season, not mid season. And if they go it should be for big bucks.'
- 'Sad but acceptable'
- :(
- 'I like when they rule the World Cup but I’m sad for Hatate.'
- 'Good for them'
- 'Can't really be helped but would be nice to hold on a little longer. Looks like Waki and Tachi will stick around another season? Bonus'
- 'Every players have their lives'
- 'Don't let players leave in midseason for a second division team and demand more money if they really want to leave'
- 'I believe players should play in Europe if they want to. But I miss all the players who left for Europe, and honestly I'm tired of thinking "Is he leaving too?" when I see good young players. And about leaving for Qatar, I just hate it. (The country is not the issue. It's about the level of the league.)'
- 'I am in favour of their transfers if European clubs pay us right transfer fees.'

19. How was VAR for you?

Yeah, maybe it means that more decisions are correct but I still feel that the delays and disruption totally destroy a lot of the fun of the sport. Add to that the fact that even when something is reviewed in the J League the decision doesn't always seem to correspond with the laws of the game and that it seems that having extra refs just presents more opportunities for someone to drop a clanger. I'd be delighted to get rid of it and just have goal line technology instead. I can't see it being abandoned now though, which is a real shame for me. Here's what the people said, and it seems that plenty of people feel differently from me.

- 'No big issues'
- 'Still shite, bin it.'
- 'I think in J league working better than some league in Europe'
- 'overused '
- 'Still hate but it’s 1 millimeter to change'
- 'OK'
- 'Unsure. Seems to be a hindrance sometimes, then helps get something important right (eg. Mitoma/Tanaka at WC!). Needs more work, faster, more open/explanation.'
- 'I like it'
- 'It just takes too long and there were quite a few bad mistakes, but I still think it can take some pressure off the referees and save some bad initial decisions'
- 'Not about J-League but the World Cup, I love VAR for Mitoma's one millimeter.'
- 'I want to hear conversations between referees and VAR.'

20. Any other comments

As ever, this question is mainly added to try to elicit some praise or encouragement for myself. Even though it is somewhat self-indulgent, here are the responses.

- 'Here's to another title run!'
- 'Awesome blog, I didn’t have DAZN this year so I watched highlights and read your blog.'
- 'Have a good year for Frontale and fans'
- 'Allez Frontale!'
- 'Keep up the good work!'
- 'Come back early, Damiao!'
- 'Thanks for the entertaining blogs and keep it up for the upcoming season! :)'
- 'Sorry now I'm too pessimistic, but Taniguchi shock was too big.  I hope my prediction [for a bad 2023 season] won't be right.'

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