Thursday 6 April 2023

Vs Urawa Reds (home) 5/4/23 Levain Cup group stage game 3


Kawasaki Frontale 0 - 0 Urawa Reds

Back home again after last weekend’s excitement and we’re back to the 0-0 games again. So was the Consadole game just a freak result? Perhaps, but then again Consadole games are always slightly freakish events so we were never really going to be able to learn a lot from it about where we are at the moment. As this game was 90 minutes of wild excitement, … oh hang on, that should have said ‘mild excitement’, this is not going to be a massively long post. As we left the ground, once again having failed to score, I checked the Flashscore app to see just how many chances we’d missed and was a little shocked to see that neither team had had any shots in the second half of the game. A little shocked but not massively surprised. The app later updated itself and I found out we’d actually had quite a few shots in the second half. But the shocking thing is, when I saw no shots from either side I found it perfectly plausible. This was another game with lots of play in the middle of the pitch, Frontale still working on that perfect artistically created goal, but once again failing to score it. Recently we’ve really gone back to the stage of our play being like a work of art, carefully created and crafted for display in a well curated museum. I’m not sure yet whether the work of art comes from the latticework of passes, triangles of passes repeating at a slightly more acute angle each time resulting in a beautiful kaleidoscopic image. Or is it some kind of large scale artwork where every blade of grass is coloured when a backwards or sideways pass touches it until the whole pitch is covered? Or is it just some kind of performance art piece, a comment on the ultimate futility of life, we are born (kick off), we live fulfilling no purpose (the game) and then we die (the final whistle), the result being that absolutely nothing has changed or been achieved? Perfect nihilism! The fact that this 0-0 didn’t feel that bad is clearly more of a sign that my expectations have dropped down a few more levels rather than any improved performance. I think we would have failed to score if we’d played for another 90 minutes to be honest. 

Once again we reverted to the old 4-3-3, which once again failed to deliver the goods. But this was pretty much a reserve team out against an Urawa reserve team. We made ten changes from the last match and the only player who remained in the starting line up was Yamane, who let’s be honest will always remain in the starting line up if at all possible as long as Oniki is in charge. It was nice to Damiao get his first start back after injury. The fact that we failed to score with him up front in the middle suggests that it’s not a personnel problem, it’s an approach problem. With our 4-3-3 the starting striker pretty much never scores. This year, pretty much no-one ever scores, but we’re still mostly sticking with it. Oniki has in the past talked about playing the ball around at the back to draw out the opponents. We were doing this again, but it seemed like the actual reason for drawing out the opponent hadn’t been communicated, so as we’d draw the Urawa strikers in, we’d play the ball a few meters forward and they go back to trying to draw them out again as if the drawing out was the ultimate aim. Wakizaka was back and looked lovely on the ball and was passing well. Sadly his set pieces were awful and his shooting similar, missing two good chances. We had Kozuka on the pitch too but didn’t try letting him take some. It was nice to see Einaga back again, after having only played, (I think), 45 minutes in the whole of last year during which he managed to score. And it was great to see Takai make his home debut too. I thought the defence looked fairly solid in this match again. Back to that lovely defensive solidity, along with the lack of attacking ability that always seems to come with it. Any hopes of the Consadole game being a new dawn were clearly unfounded. We’re still a long long way away from being any good. And then after the match we had a protest banner from the main supporter group against the chairman. The main gist of it was that since he took over we’re losing our connection to the community and that important staff members are quitting. Not sure if the protest would have been made if we were banging the goals in and winning games, but if what they are claiming is true, it is a bit of a worry as we are rightfully proud of being a community club. Perhaps there is some bad feeling amongst the staff of the club about the new guy’s leadership and the stink is passing itself through to the coaching staff and squad too. That would certainly explain how lacklustre we’ve been this year. But I dunno, from my position of relative ignorance it’s difficult to say. I wonder if he will respond to the supporter’s claims. I hope he does and it solves all of our issues. Don’t say I’m never optimistic!

A few words on Urawa. Ito is still a diving cheating arsehole. He was felled by a waft of fresh air near the corner flag and looked like he’d been seriously maimed. Thankfully for him he managed to make a full and surprisingly quick recovery once he hadn’t got the whole of our team sent off. Or even a free kick. Their fans are still excited by the thrill of being naughty ‘lads’, ‘boys’ or ‘garcons’. We had a group of four of them walking along the length of the back stand home area wearing shirts and holding aloft their towels, presumably looking to irritate and provoke someone, but thanks to the nature of our fans, failing to do so. Feel like the stewards probably could have done something, but at the same time, that would also probably be what the attempted agitators would have wanted, so perhaps it was a good idea to just let them feel like they hadn’t even been noticed. Ideally we would have scored whilst they were doing their promenade, but we’re pretty shit this year so that was unlikely. I didn’t think Urawa looked particularly good. Certainly not like a team that had won four in a row. But I guess this is not a team made up of the players who’d won four in a row. You know I love niche references on here, so I’m pleased to be able to make a joke about the Abyssinians album title and say that Urawa’s approach was less ‘Forward On To Zion’ and more ‘Pass it back to Zion’. But yeah, we weren’t much better than them when it came to making chances and attacking and we weren’t any better when it came to scoring goals. Normally I moan about the ref when I’m talking about the opposition, but to be honest, I have no complaints really about Kawamata. Of course, during the match I had plenty but right now, the only thing I can say is that he seemed happy for Suzuki to hold the ball in his hands for ages and at one stage gestured to him to get on with it rather than penalise him for holding on to it for too long. But that rule is way down the list of things people want enforced I’d guess, so there are clearly more important things to sort out first. But yeah, well done ref. If only some of the big name refs could officiate in a similar way. But I guess the big name refs are more concerned about retaining their big name status. 

So on we trot. Still no wins at home in 2023. We’re dealing with the Levain Cup like we do with the ACL, making an absolute mess of the group stage for no apparent reason. Three games played, two points, two goals scored and they were both in the game we lost. Perhaps Oniki just can’t do cups. It certainly seems to be the case. But to be honest this year, he can’t really do the league either. It seems like a strange thing to say, but I hope the supporters group’s protest has some effect and I hope it shakes things up behind the scenes a bit. Especially if the behind the scenes stuff is what’s causing us to be so crap at the moment. On we go to the weekend, when we travel to Gamba Osaka for a league game on Sunday. I imagine the line up will change quite a bit, but I’m not sure we’ll be back to playing the strikers on the wings. But we did score in that game though, and if you disregard that game we haven’t scored at all in the other last four games. Perhaps Oniki will surprise us with some brave selections and new tactics. But the real issue is whether the approach can change, as I think that’s holding us back more than anything at the moment. Still. Since perhaps the middle of the 2021 season. Fingers crossed, eh?

DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 29. TAKAI Kota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. SASAKI Asahi
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 49. KOZUKA Kazuki
FW 26. EINAGA Takatora
FW 30. SEGAWA Yusuke

GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
DF 15. TANABE Shuto
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for KOZUKA 73')
MF 17. TONO Daiya (on for EINAGA 73')
MF 18. CHANATHIP (on for WAKIZAKA 80')
FW 20. YAMADA Shin (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 64')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for SEGAWA 80')

My Frontale Man Of The Match
Hmmm, another 0-0 means that it probably can’t go to anyone whose job was connected to scoring. With that and my usual sentimentality in mind, I’ll give it to…

TAKAI Kota - solid debut for him. That’s about all there is to say really, but well done.



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