Sunday, 17 December 2017

2017 season round up part 2

To follow up my end of the season player comments and season round up, here are all the stats for the year. They are accurate to the best of knowledge, and are for all games played in all competitions. The first half of the season stats are actually for the first 18 league games, so a little more than half of the season due to the summer break coming at that stage. Two yellow card red cards are counted in the red column and not in the yellow column. Also, the man of the match is from my match reports, so a little biased and often contrary but I hope they are kind of representative of general opinion. This is me done for the year. I'll give people a bit of time to answer the survey questions and post about that in early 2018.  Thank you for reading all of these posts and I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year!

Stats by player

ST = games started
SB = used as substitute
US = unused sub
Y = yellow card
R = red card
G = goals
A = assists
MM = man of the match (according to me)

1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (GK)
1st half   ST 25 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 5
2nd half  ST 21 SB 0 US 1 Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 2
Total       ST 46 SB 0 US 1 Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 7

1st half   ST 16 SBUSY 0 R 0 G 1 A 2 MM 0
2nd half  ST 4   SB 7  US 3  Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 3 MM 0
Total       ST 20 SB 11 US 6 Y 0 R 0 G 1 A 5 MM 0

3. Tatsuki NARA (DF)
1st half   ST 16 SB 6 US 4 Y 1 R 1 G 3 A 0 MM 1
2nd half  ST 22 SB 0 US 2 Y 4 R 1 G 1 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 38 SB 6 US 6 Y 5 R 2 G 4 A 0 MM 1

4. Yusuke IGAWA (DF)
1st half   ST 2 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 2 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

1st half   ST 25 SB 0 US 2 Y 3 R 0 G 4 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 21 SB 1 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 4 A 2 MM 2
Total       ST 46 SB 1 US 4 Y 4 R 0 G 8 A 2 MM 2

6. Yusuke TASAKA (MF)
1st half   ST 16 SB 4   US 5   Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 0 MM 1
2nd half  ST 3   SB 10 US 10 Y 1 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 19 SB 14 US 15 Y 1 R 0 G 2 A 0 MM 1

7. Shintaro KURUMAYA (DF)
1st half   ST 26 SB 1 US 0 Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 6   MM 0
2nd half  ST 21 SB 2 US 0 Y 0 R 1 G 0 A 6   MM 2
Total       ST 47 SB 3 US 0 Y 2 R 1 G 0 A 12 MM 2

8. Hiroyuki ABE (MF)
1st half   ST 21 SB 1 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 9   A 6 MM 3
2nd half  ST 15 SB 3 US 0 Y 1 R 0 G 5   A 1 MM 1
Total       ST 36 SB 4 US 2 Y 2 R 0 G 14 A 7 MM 4

9. Takayuki MORIMOTO (FW)
1st half   ST 4 SB 5   US 14 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 3 SB 10 US 14 Y 0 R 0 G 6 A 1 MM 2
Total       ST 7 SB 15 US 28 Y 1 R 0 G 7 A 1 MM 2

10. Ryota OSHIMA (MF)
1st half   ST 16 SB 1 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 1
2nd half  ST 16 SB 1 US 1 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 0 MM 2
Total       ST 32 SB 2 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 0 MM 3

1st half   ST 24 SB 3 US 1 Y 1 R 0 G 13 A 10 MM 2
2nd half  ST 21 SB 3 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 16 A 5   MM 1
Total       ST 45 SB 6 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 29 A 15 MM 3

13. Koji MIYOSHI (MF)
1st half   ST 6   SB 8 US 6   Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 0
2nd half  ST 5   SB 1 US 4   Y 1 R 0 G 3 A 0 MM 1
Total       ST 11 SB 9 US 10 Y 1 R 0 G 3 A 1 MM 1

14. Kengo NAKAMURA (MF)
1st half   ST 22 SB 2 US 0 Y 1 R 0 G 5 A 12 MM 1
2nd half  ST 22 SB 1 US 1 Y 1 R 0 G 2 A 10 MM 1
Total       ST 44 SB 3 US 1 Y 2 R 0 G 7 A 22 MM 2

16. Tatsuya HASEGAWA (MF)
1st half   ST 9   SB 10 US 5   Y 0 R 0 G 7 A 0 MM 1
2nd half  ST 7   SB 9   US 8   Y 1 R 0 G 2 A 1 MM 0
Total       ST 16 SB 19 US 13 Y 1 R 0 G 9 A 1 MM 1

17. Yuto TAKEOKA (DF)
1st half   ST 2 SB 2 US 2 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 2 SB 2 US 3 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

1st half   ST 5   SB 1 US 1 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 22 SB 0 US 0 Y 3 R 0 G 8 A 2 MM 1
Total       ST 27 SB 1 US 1 Y 4 R 0 G 9 A 2 MM 1

19. Kentaro MORIYA (MF)
1st half   ST 6   SB 6   US 13 Y 1 R 0 G 2 A 2 MM 1
2nd half  ST 10 SB 7   US 7   Y 2 R 0 G 1 A 2 MM 0
Total       ST 16 SB 13 US 20 Y 3 R 0 G 3 A 4 MM 1

20. Kei CHINEN (FW)
1st half   ST 0 SB 3 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 1 SB 5 US 3 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 0 MM 1
Total       ST 1 SB 8 US 4 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 0 MM 1

1st half   ST 23 SB 2 US 0 Y 5 R 0 G 1 A 1 MM 0
2nd half  ST 21 SB 1 US 1 Y 4 R 0 G 1 A 3 MM 1
Total       ST 44 SB 3 US 1 Y 9 R 0 G 2 A 4 MM 1

1st half   ST 11 SB 9 US 1   Y 7 R 1 G 3 A 4 MM 1
2nd half  ST 2   SB 4 US 5   Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 13 SB 13 US 6 Y 9 R 1 G 3 A 4 MM 1

1st half   ST 8   SB 0 US 3 Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 9   SB 3 US 3 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 1 MM 0
Total       ST 17 SB 3 US 6 Y 3 R 0 G 1 A 1 MM 0

24. Shunsuke ANDO (GK)
1st half   ST 0 SB 0 US 3 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 3 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 0 SB 0 US 6 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

25. Kenta KANO (MF)
1st half   ST 2 SB 3 US 8   Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 1 SB 2 US 3   Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 3 SB 5 US 11 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

26. Jefferson TABINAS (DF)
1st half   ST 0 SB 0 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 0 SB 0 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

27. Shohei OTSUKA (FW)
1st half   ST 5 SB 0 US 7 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 5 SB 0 US 7 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

1st half   ST 4 SB 4 US 7   Y 0 R 0 G 1 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 4 SB 3 US 8   Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 3 MM 0
Total       ST 8 SB 7 US 15 Y 0 R 0 G 1 A 3 MM 0

29. Michael James FITZGERALD (DF)
1st half   ST 2 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 2 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

30. Shota ARAI (GK)
1st half   ST 3 SB 1 US 24 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 4 SB 1 US 19 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 0

31. William POPP (GK)
1st half   ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

32. Ao TANAKA (MF)
1st half   ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
2nd half  ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0
Total       ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

41. Akihiro IENAGA (MF)
1st half   ST 8   SB 6 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 1 A 2 MM 0
2nd half  ST 20 SB 1 US 4 Y 4 R 1 G 4 A 3 MM 3
Total       ST 28 SB 7 US 4 Y 4 R 1 G 5 A 5 MM 3

Most Goals

1. KOBAYASHI Yu - 29
2. ABE Hiroyuki - 14
3. HASEGAWA Tatsuya - 9
3. ELSINHO - 9
5. TANIGUCHI Shogo - 8

Most Assists

1. NAKAMURA Kengo - 22
2. KOBAYASHI Yu - 15
3. KURUMAYA Shintaro - 12
4. ABE Hiroyuki - 7
5. IENAGA Akihiro - 5
5. NOBORIZATO Kyohei - 5

Most Starts

1. KURUMAYA Shintaro - 47
2. JUNG Sung-Ryong - 46
2. TANIGUCHI Shogo - 46
4. KOBAYASHI Yu - 45
5. NAKAMURA Kengo - 44

Most Man Of The Match awards

1. JUNG Sung-Ryong - 7
2. ABE Hiroyuki - 4
3. OSHIMA Ryota - 3
3. IENAGA Akihiro - 3

Most Yellow Cards (Two yellows in one game not counted here but added to the red column)

1. RHAYNER - 9
3. NARA Tatsuki - 5
4. TANIGUCHI Shogo - 4
4. ELSINHO - 4
4. IENAGA Akihiro - 4

Most Red Cards

1. NARA Tatsuki - 2
2. RHAYNER - 1 
2. KURUMAYA Shintaro - 1
2. IENAGA Akihiro - 1

Saturday, 16 December 2017

2017 season round up part 1

Just thought I’d add to my long stream of end of season posts with a few words on some more general stuff. It’s been a bit of an epic year for us and also for me personally. I’ve been to 45 games home and away this year, in three different countries and plenty of different Japanese prefectures. I had a weird feeling before the Levain Cup final where I felt a surge of emotion about the fact that we’d all been on this long journey this year and perhaps we were about to reach our destination. Unfortunately we broke down on a couple of miles before we arrived and were left totally deflated instead of elated. Little were we to know what was coming over the horizon.

Of course, this year will go down in Frontale history because of us taking our first title and that’s what people will remember if for. As usual though, we didn’t make things easy for ourselves. Even though we were in touch with the title race all year, we left it pretty late to take top spot, which to be honest probably made it all the sweeter. Unsurprisingly, I think we thoroughly deserved the title, and not just because we were playing much nicer football than our rivals Kashima, (at least that’s what we would say, and probably explains why there are a proportion of Frontale haters on twitter). But I think we’ve got the stats on our side this time. Firstly, we finished at the top of the table, which does show that over the course of the season we were the best team. In the end the reason for us triumphing was our superior goal difference, and to be honest, it was significantly better than anyone else, and in particular the team who finished with the same amount of points as us. We were the top scorers in the league, and only two goals and two teams off being the team who conceded the least. When you take into account that this figure included games where we conceded five goals to Jubilo and three to FC Tokyo this is more remarkable. Of course, everyone has blips over the course of the season though. I know I shouldn’t feel the need to justify our victory, but apparently I do, so it should also be noticed that we beat our closest rival comfortably home and away this season. In fact we beat most teams. I was under the impression that there were no J League teams we hadn’t beaten this year. I was wrong. We didn’t beat relegated Ventforet Kofu, who we drew with twice. Also FC Tokyo took four points off us in the league and whilst they didn’t ever look like they were going to down, ended up a lot closer to relegation than to any kind of success this year.

As has been the case in previous seasons, it seems that once again our biggest problem is dealing with teams that on paper we shouldn’t have much trouble beating. I think things were a bit better this year than last, but there were still some disappointing results early in the season against Shimizu S Pulse, FC Tokyo, Ventforet Kofu and Consadole Sapporo. Also the away game at Cerezo looked pretty bad at the time, but given where they finished, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as we might have thought. That was a game where we really didn’t turn up, as has been the case a few times this year. Early on, I guess we can put this down to Oniki learning the ropes and us having some unfortunate injuries. But there is still a bit of a feeling that we don’t really have a plan B. We play our way and if it’s not working, we just keep doing the same thing. A few teams worked us out and did a job against us, pressing us at the back and in the middle of the pitch. Normally we could pass our way out of trouble, but in a few games we resorted to kicking the ball long and just inviting them to attack us. There were some attempts at a bit of tactical variation, with us playing three at the back on occasion, but I’m not sure it worked particularly well for us.

I think many people had this year down as one of transition, being prepared to give Oniki some time to get the hang of things. Also, I think it was presumed that the Oniki way would be a bit less cavalier than we were under Kazama, with maybe a bit more strength and stability at the back. The stats half back this up but are also reveal a few surprises. Yes, we did concede less goals this year (32 vs 39) and we did lose less games (4 vs 6). Strangely though, we won exactly the same amount of points this year as we did last year. Last year it was only good enough for second overall, six behind Urawa, who of course didn’t go on to win the league due to the stupid championship system. And we scored more goals this year (71 vs 68). Good luck trying to work out the significance of all of this. There have been times when it’s looked like Oniki is a football genius with us pulling off fantastic wins against good teams, but there is perhaps a lingering suspicion that he might just be a good manager who has been a bit lucky this year. I haven’t been completely convinced by his substitutions, but compared to some of Kazama’s, I’m with Oniki. And of course, I think we’d all rather have a manager who’s learning his trade and is lucky, rather than one who has loads of experience and knowledge, but is cursed by misfortune.

But anyway, it all feels kind of ridiculous to write these kind of things, given that we have just won our first title. I don’t want to kill the buzz that many of us are still feeling. And what kind of idiot moans about the games that didn’t go their way, when they have won the league by relying on another team’s last two results. Me, I suppose! Credit to Oniki and the players for pulling it off. They certainly all know infinitely more about football than I do. We’ve had some terrible times this year, (pretty much all of the defeats were quite painful in different ways, but I guess the depths have to be the two cup defeats at the Saitama Stadium), but thankfully not too many. But there have also been some great days to be a Frontale fan, (big wins over Kobe, Urawa and Cerezo at home, the amazing comeback at Sagan Tosu, two crucial wins against Kashima). Right now, we should probably sit back and enjoy being champions, so I’ll sign off on here, (well, after one more stats post and when I publish the survey results), till we start signing some players and get some news about next season. Right now we can all take it easy. GO (and take it easy for a bit) FRONTALE!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

2017 season survey

Ok, it seems that I lied about only doing two more posts this season. I'm sneaking this one in too. Thought it might be an interesting idea to see what other Frontale fans think about this season so I'm attempting the first ever Frontale Rabbit Blog survey. I have to admit, the questions are not exactly thrillingly original. If you have any questions you think I should add, please let me know and I'll put them in. Please reply any way you want. Leave a comment on the post, send me an email to frontalefan(at)gmail(dot)com, tweet them... any way you can think of really. I'll follow up collating the answers when I've (hopefully) got a few responses. And in the interest of getting as many replies as possible, it's in Japanese too. Thanks!

他のフロンターレサポーターの意見に興味があるので、Frontale Rabbit ブログ初のアンケートを行うことにしました。これ以外にも聞いたらおもしろいと思う質問があったらお知らせください。返答方法は自由 - ブログコメント欄、メール(frontalefan(at)gmail(dot)com)、ツイートなど。返答が集まったら結果を報告します!

1. Game of season

2. Player of the season

3. Goal of the season

4. Disappointment of the season

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

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

7. Opposition J1 team you like the most

8. Opposition J1 team you like the least

9. Team you're disappointed to see go down

10. Team you're pleased to see come up

11. Best thing about the J League

12. Worst thing about the J League

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

14. What's Kengo's role next season? (first team regular, semi-regular starter, sub etc.)


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

2017 Season Player Round-Up Part 3


Weird season for him. Didn’t play much at all and seems to definitely be behind Taniguchi and Nara in the pecking order for the central defence positions. Like Rhayner, fell foul of us having too many Brazilians at times. Always gives 100% but still prone to little lapses in concentration. Totally dropped from the squad after the Levain final clanger which I thought was a bit harsh, but that really was a clanger. Loved seeing him run across the pitch with a Brazilian flag complete with flagpole when we won the Championship.

24. ANDO Shunsuke

Sat on the bench 6 times. Apparently always travels with the team though to every game, I guess in case one of the other keepers gets injured on the way or something. Enjoyed his enthusiastic singing at the supporters’ day.

25. KANO Kenta

Another one leaving and another player loved by the fans. Never quite got going for us, particularly this year, but got a few starts before an injury finished his season when he was probably being given an opportunity to prove his worth. Another guy who gives 100% but also another who probably needed to move somewhere else if he wanted to play any football. Good luck to him!

26. TABINAS Jefferson

No first team action other than a spot on the bench in the Emperor’s Cup. Seems to be quite a character judging by the supporters’ day. Still very much in the one for the future camp.

27. OTSUKA Shohei

Another farewell, and another quiet season. Seems like ages since he got any pitch time and to be honest the writing was on the wall for him from around the halfway point. Mood-maker in the camp and all round nice guy apparently, which is a bit bizarre as he always seems to look pretty surly in photos. Good luck to him!


Only started eight times but felt like more. Another one for the future. Had some awesome games for us and some where he really wasn’t with it, but very young still. Saved our bacon with a goal away at Eastern in Hong Kong and laid on a few assists in one cup game I seem to recall. Much like Taniguchi, will either play centre back or in the defensive midfield position. Will be used and tested more next year I guess.

29. Michael James FITZGERALD

Another weird season, with two starts in the ACL and nothing else, one at centre back and one at right back, the former turning out better than the latter. Then got injured, but nothing was really said about it for ages so who knows? Still very much a mystery.

30. ARAI Shota

No big injuries to Sung-Ryong meant that it was a relatively quiet season for Shota who, as always, did what was required when he was required to. He’s a good keeper, but it’s his distribution that really is why he’s our number two and not really in contention for the top spot. When he played we had to resort to kicking it long, which meant that invariably the ball came straight back at us. I really need to learn the words to his song as it’s one I have to sing every game.

31. POPP William

No first team action this season, which is actually quite pleasing as all our keepers last year had pitch time due to injuries. Still young, so another one for the future.


Same as Popp, no first team action at all, but very much a Kawasaki guy, having come through the youth team. Still young and another one for the future.

41. IENAGA Akihiro

Another player crocked by Urawa in pre-season, although Ienaga was able to take part in the first few games before succumbing. Took a while to settle in and adjust to our way of play apparently, but by the end of the season he was doing great. Surprised how much he tracks back and puts in the dirty work for us. Five goals and five assists is decent for someone in his first season who spent a while out injured. Got a thoroughly deserved second yellow for a dive which hopefully might make him reconsider doing it again. Always seems pretty cool and detached but lost it a bit when he scored his first goal in the rain away against Thespakusatsu. Think that endeared him to a few people. Starting next season all settled in and injury free, who knows what he can achieve?

ONIKI Toru - manager

Not bad for his first season in charge, managing to do what no other manager had done and take a trophy! There are a few caveats though. He inherited the team and the footballing philosophy from Kazama, but he has tinkered with it a little and we seem a bit less cavalier and a bit more solid at the back this year. We still don’t really play very well against the weaker teams in the division though, which is something I think we need to look at, as it almost cost us dearly this year. Not 100% sure he knows completely what he is doing at the moment and made a few really weird selections early in the season. Not helped by injuries at some stages though. But, if we win the league when he’s still learning, maybe that means we have great things ahead. So a solid enough start I guess and if he’s a lucky manager, that works for me.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

2017 Season Player Round-Up Part 2


Pretty decent first season as captain! Top scorer in the league and MVP. Plenty of assists to go along with the goals. Feels like he’s not particularly suited to being the striker but given that he scored more goals than anyone else in the country, the complaint seems a bit harsh. Feel like he played better on the wing with Abe up front but Ienaga becoming a regular starter means that in our best eleven Kobayashi usually played up top. If you want to look for flaws you could say that he needs a few chances to score a goal and he does occasionally miss some sitters. But this year his touch has really shone. Think it was against Sendai where he made space for the shot with a lovely little dab of the ball, completely doing the defender. Hope he can keep things going next year and stay injury free.

13. MIYOSHI Koji

High hopes for him before the season but this year has been a bit of a write off for him. He really hasn’t pushed on and staked a claim for a place. Only started 11 games and came off the bench for just nine so he hasn’t had a wealth of opportunities to shine. Definitely gives us something we don’t otherwise have, as he seems an out and out striker, always looking to shoot or score rather than pass, like most of his teammates do. Still young, so one for the future, but probably needs to be forcing himself into Oniki’s plans a bit more if he wants that future to be with us.

14. NAKAMURA Kengo

Another cracking season and pleased to see that he has finally got his hands on some silverware after sticking with us for years now. Age is perhaps catching up with him a little but you wouldn’t know it, playing 44 games this year with not so many off days. Whether we can rely on him to do the same next year, I’m not so sure. Decent goal return and loads of assists demonstrate that he’s still giving a lot to the team though.

16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

Probably our best dribbler and another good option for us up front. Seems to do better coming on as a sub rather than starting and more often than not has a good eye for goal. Somewhat unfairly criticised for his Levain cup final performance, he’s someone you want running at goal rather than running down the wing and crossing. Third top goalscorer this season with relatively few starts shows that he’s a real asset.

17. TAKEOKA Yuto

A season beset by a couple of bad injuries means that there’s not much to say about him this year. Can remember him having the pregame double-song-injury-comeback-thing on two occasions this year. That’s about it really.


If he’d been fit all year we’d have walked the league I reckon. Maybe. We definitely missed him at the start of the year after he’d been crocked by Urawa pre-season. Has scored some great goals and really gives us an attacking threat up the right. Well deserved his place in the team of the year. Wonder if he’s going to continue growing his hair. It’s getting quite epic. And wonder if perhaps he’ll get some offers from other teams. Very much hope he stays.

19. MORIYA Kentaro

Oshima’s injury was a good opportunity for Moriya, although I suspect he wouldn’t chose to play in that position if he was picking the team. Made a good fist of it though. Scored probably two of the best goals of our season, both hit in classic Moriya style, from way out and dipping and swerving. Looking towards next year, you’ve got to imagine that he needs a few injuries to other player to get more than a handful of starts though.

20. CHINEN Kei

Another one for the future, but had a few opportunities to show what he’s worth. Looks like he’ll be the big man striking option, (although I seem to remember discovering that he’s not actually that big). Apparently learning a lot from Morimoto. His two goals weren’t the most beautiful of strikes, but they were both at crucial times. Which is maybe the kind of thing we need. Looking forward to seeing more of him next year.


Another great season. Picked up plenty of bookings and still can’t really shoot very well, but we really missed him when he was absent. Still trying a few showboat passes, which are great when they come off, but very frustrating when they go wrong. Had a few dodgy games when he seemed totally out of sorts, but dominated games on plenty of occasions. Seems to be getting forward a lot more recently, which makes his lack of shooting ability all the more of a shame. Apparently Nagoya are after him. Hope he stays.


Sad to see him return to his parent club but probably made sense for everyone. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t quite get going, due to limited opportunities and an apparent natural ability to irritate referees into booking him. Seemed to scare the opposition when he had the ball and got fouled a lot, but never really got the free kicks he deserved. Like Neto, wasn’t that good at shooting, which was probably more of a problem in his position. Was really loved by the fans and seemed to really love the club. Good luck to him!

Monday, 11 December 2017

2017 Season Player Round-Up Part 1

Like last year, this the first of three parts, where I give my thoughts on how people did this season. So, here you are, squad numbers 1-10. Parts 2 and 3 to follow soon.

1. JUNG Sung-Ryong

Awesome season for one of our most important players. Saved us on numerous occasions. We wouldn’t have won the league without him. Feel that he probably should have been in with a shout of being in the team of the year, but it wasn’t to be. Excellent at making saves and a crucial part of us building attacks from the back. We never do as well when we kick it long, so his sweeper skills are vital for us.


This year Nobori finally proved his song right. He ‘got goal’ and it was a crucial one away at Kashima. He’s probably not going to force his way into our starting line up but he’s a vital squad member coming on as a sub and covering for injuries.

3. NARA Tatsuki

Cemented his place as a starter this year. Really seems to care about the club and is 100% committed. Perhaps has a tendency sometimes to roll around on the floor after being fouled but maybe this is just youthful exuberance. Got a couple of reds but the ACL one was a complete joke so won’t hold it against him. After a few long term injuries, it’s good to see him have a season where he was involved a lot.

4. IGAWA Yusuke

Quiet season for Igawa and his last one with us as his contract has been terminated. It’s a shame as he’s been with us a long time, but realistically speaking, he’s wasn't going to get much, if any, pitch time next season. Unlucky for him that his last game was one where he was played totally out of position in the ACL. A real early blunder from Oniki. Good luck to him!


Another good year for Taniguchi. He seems to now be our first choice centre back and has in the last few weeks got another call up to the Japan national team. Feel like he also was unlucky to not get named in the leagues best 11. Kashima conceded one less goal than us but took both of the centre back spots for some reason. Taniguchi has chipped in with the goals too, eight this season. And when he was called on to play in the Neto role away against Hiroshima he did a good job. That’s apparently actually his preferred position, but I think he’ll be a playing a crucial part in our defence for the foreseeable future, unless he leaves to move elsewhere.

6. TASAKA Yusuke

Maybe not the season he was dreaming of as he hasn’t been able to play as much as he might have wanted or probably in his preferred position. Provided crucial cover for Elsinho who was injured at the start of the season, but realistically doesn’t stand much chance of displacing him permanently. His versatility means that he’ll always be a useful player to have on the bench. Whether he’s satisfied with that is up to him I guess. Extra marks for picking up a yellow card whilst on the bench!

7. KURUMAYA Shintaro

Great year for him. He’s now moving towards being a serious contender for a regular national team spot and at the moment is the only one of our players who is getting picked for the real Japan team and not the one when they choose J league players only. He also has played loads of games. For a period this season he was the only player who’d played every game. This is perhaps due to a lack of cover in his position, but also speaks volumes about his importance to the team. He has consistently created chances and goals this year whilst keeping up with his defensive duties. Unsurprisingly made it into the J League team of the season. The only blot was his sending off against Urawa in The ACL, which was perhaps a little unlucky, but difficult to argue too strongly against. I suspect he will move overseas at some stage but hopefully not too soon for our sake.

8. ABE Hiroyuki

A great first season for him. Took a little while to settle but soon grew into one of our most dangerous attacking options. Feel like he plays better up front with Kobayashi on the wing, but he’s done well on the left too. This year he’s broken his record goal tally, finishing up with 14 altogether. Also he’s never been shy of contributing defensively. When he arrived I think he was a little worried about being out of Kansai, but now it really seems like he’s settled in well. And just got called up to the national team for the first time!

9. MORIMOTO Takayuki

Another weird season for him. He’s a useful option for us, giving us a bit more muscle and bulk up front but has been a bit inconsistent when he’s been called on. Scored a perfect hattrick against Shimizu in the Emperor’s Cup and has chipped in with some important goals. Has also been mentoring and advising Chinen which could be his most important contribution to the team right now. Think he’d have to move on to get regular football, but if he’s happy with his current role, I’d be more than happy for him to continue with it. Chinen looks to be his natural replacement but is still a little raw, so we still need Morimoto, I reckon.

10. OSHIMA Ryota

Decent season somewhat disrupted by injury due to Kobe’s rotten pitch. Has a nice partnership with Neto in the middle. Doesn’t seem to shoot as much as he used to, which is a shame. Surprisingly strong for a small guy and his tackling is getting to be as good as his passing. Had a few dodgy games, but still a crucial piece of our jigsaw.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Vs Omiya Ardija (home) 2/12/17, J-League match 34

Kawasaki Frontale 5 - 0 Omiya Ardija

I don’t really know what to write for this blog post. This was an amazing day and a great way to finish the season. After the disappointing end to both our Levain and ACL campaigns it was fantastic to take a title that I think the majority of us would have preferred to win. This was a pretty tense day and it was difficult to focus on our game. Consequently, this will be a post light on detail regarding the actual game and packed with hyperbole and excitement. I’m going to write a season round up post soon(ish) so I’ll speak more about the year in general in that post. Here I’ll try to concentrate on what happened on Saturday. Oh, and apologies. I think the photos are worse than normal on this post.

It was a nice day for a game of football with the chilly temperatures being canceled out by bright sunshine. The stadium was packed with Frontale fans and Omiya also filled their section for what will be their last game in J1 for a while. At the start of the day, both teams were lying one place off the edge of the league, us, one off the top and them, one off the bottom. So on paper this should have been an easy game for us. But we never deal particularly well with games that we should have no problem with. We also had to deal with the potentially trickier matter of Kashima needing to be prevented from winning their away game to Jubilo. Our superior goal difference meant that a win for us and a draw for them would see us crowned champions. But they always seem to grind out a 1-0 when they have to. They failed to do this at home against Kashiwa the previous weekend and this gave us a glimmer of hope and perhaps turned up the heat a little on them. But they are Kashima and don’t choke in the way that we do. It helped perhaps that Jubilo had a slim chance of getting into the ACL if they won the game. Anyway, back to our half of the deal. We started with the same eleven and bench as we did at Urawa. We didn’t exactly dazzle in Saitama but we got the three points. Today the result was more dazzling although the details of the game are already a bit of a mystery to me as it was hard to concentrate given the potential outcomes. We made a great start going a goal up through Abe after just a minute. This took the pressure off a bit. Omiya were playing ok but didn’t look like they’d be able to take any of the chances they were making. They did a good job of getting the ball to the right areas but then either lost it, or blasted it over the bar or wide. Not sure what has gone wrong for them this year, but I guess losing Ienaga to us was a blow. We were doing better, controlling things and making chances but I felt that everyone was trying to set up Kobayashi. Presumably the top scorer chart was something that was on the player’s minds. This is probably the last detail I remember about the match. I’m not a particularly superstitious person, but when it comes to football it’s easy to find significance in the smallest of things. After some rotten Saitama stadium games I decided to not wear my shirt and go with my Frontale t-shirt instead. After we won that game, it meant that I’d have to repeat it for the Omiya game. I also never like to go to the toilet during the game in case I miss a goal. On 45 minutes I decided to break this habit as I felt that us getting a goal and me missing it would be a worthy sacrifice in the circumstances. So, yeah, I’m claiming credit for Kobayashi’s first goal. As I joined the queue for the toilet the crowd noise grew as an attack progressed and the ball hit the net. So, two up at half time and time to check the Kashima score. Still 0-0. So far so good. Also Cerezo hadn’t scored which meant that Kobayashi was catching Sugimoto in the top scorers chart. The other scores weren’t shown at half time on the big screen. I guess some people didn’t want to know.

For the second half, I didn’t particularly want to be staring at my phone constantly refreshing the page with the Jubilo Kashima game on it. I vowed to only check on 15, 30, 40 and 45 minutes. It was still difficult to concentrate on the game though as there was a big knot in my stomach. My second half notes are non-existent. Kobayashi scored again on 60 minutes pretty much sealing our side of the deal. Omiya weren’t going to come back and score three. This goal came from another Ienaga assist (the one I missed was too). Kobayashi was now equal with Sugimoto. Kashima were still drawing. All good… Similarly at 75 minutes. Omiya had made a few subs but both teams were going through the motions a little. We won a penalty for a foul on Kurumaya around the 80 minute mark and the celebrations in the crowd for winning the penalty showed that the fans were also aware of what was going on in the top scorers chart. Naturally, it was Kobayashi’s to take, and he put it away pretty confidently. Now we had something else to be pleased about when the inevitable Kashima winner came around. The goal prompted a few substitutions from us. Tasaka came on for Elsinho shortly afterwards. Then, after Neto was fouled in the middle of our half, he was replaced by Moriya. Not sure if this was due to him being unable to continue, but he walked off the pitch and celebrated pretty comfortably later, so maybe it was planned before the foul. Then, on 89 minutes Hasegawa came on for Abe. Omiya got a second yellow red card shortly afterwards, some more rancid icing on their rotten cake of a day. I love seeing Frontale score plenty of goals but you had to feel for the Omiya fans who were seeing their relegated team signing off in quite a disastrous fashion. The fourth official signaled five minutes of injury time which seemed a little unnecessary as both teams were probably done for the day. This was five minutes of me refreshing on my phone, counting the minutes off without knowing how long Kahsima and Jubilo would be playing for. Still no goals. Still plenty of tension. Substitute Hasegawa wanted to keep things exciting. Ienaga played him through and he comfortably finished at the near post. His celebration turned into delight in the crowd. The ref blew the whistle in our game and apparently at Jubilo too around the same time. The impossible had happened and we’d snatched the league on the last day. There’s a good video of the closing moments here. There were plenty of embraces, high fives and tears in the crowd. Finally we had an opportunity to throw those blue streamers from the stands. As our league victory was confirmed on the screen we also learned that Kobayashi had taken the top scorer award. Quite a day. Unsurprisingly the celebrations were lengthy and exhilarating. One of my personal favourite moments was seeing Edu and Rhayner running to the crowd to pick up some Brazilian flags and then Edu cavorting across the pitch with his flag which was still attached to its pole.

It was particularly nice to see Rhayner there as it had been announced the day before that he was to return to his parent club. It’s sad, but it probably makes sense as he has shown signs of good stuff but hasn’t quite made the mark we might have hoped. He’s certainly well loved though and it was fitting that he was the one to lead the Vai La after the presentation ceremony. The presentation ceremony itself was a bit of a let down as they’d clearly sent the trophy to Shizuoka. Understandable I guess, but not sure why they couldn’t make some kind of plastic mock up or something rather than having us celebrate by raising a piece of cardboard with a picture of the trophy on it. But still, we’ll take it. It didn’t happen on our 20th anniversary as people had hoped, but we’d saved it a year and won it fair and square, rather than through the ridiculous play off system they used last year. Great times!

Positives and negatives. Ah, forget it. We won the league! There’s not much else to say! It may have only been on goal difference, but this goal difference was 17 better than the next team. We had scored the most goals, we were only 2 short of conceding the least and we’d comfortably beaten the second placed team twice. YEAH!

Next up, a satisfying break. Next Sunday there’s a title winning parade around Kawasaki. But other than that, guess we’re all going to enjoy what we’ve achieved and enjoy the break. Oh, and probably a lot of self-indulgent enjoyment, watching and sharing videos on the internet. There seem to be plenty of Frontale haters on twitter and I can’t imagine this is going to change their opinions in any way, but to be honest, I’m just going to try to ignore them and enjoy the moment. Like I said above, I’ll do some season end posts on here like I did last year and this year I’m even going to try a little fan survey to see what people thought about this year. We’ll see how that goes. Normally I’d finish with a Go Frontale! but on this occasion I’ll alter it a little and end with GO (enjoy your victory and the well-deserved break) FRONTALE!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for ELSINHO 82')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 89')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for NETO 84')

My Frontale Man Of The Match
Yeah, I know this is a bit of a cop out to award this twice in one match, but hell, I've done it before and I'll probably do it again. Ienaga deserves a mention again for the multiple assists and to be honest everyone did a good job, although after we were a couple of goals ahead there wasn't actually that much for them to do. But for the somewhat unlikely way he managed to get a second trophy we weren't expecting, it has to go to...

KOBAYASHI Yu - Three goals in the final game to go from joint second to first in the scoring charts is a pretty amazing achievement, but well deserved as he had loads more assists than any of the other contenders. Congratulations!

The whole squad - Not only for this game of course, but for the whole season. We've had plenty of injuries and suspensions this year and many players have been called on to do their bit. Seems like we have a group of players who get on really well and at times have played some amazing football. Bravo to you all!

ABE (Frontale) 1’ 1-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 45+2’ 2-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 60’3-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 81’ (PEN) 4-0
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 90+6’ 5-0     


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that last year's highlights got wiped when the broadcaster got changed, I'm going to stick with the official J League ones. But you can watch the longer highlights here if you want. And we have that extra footage video again at the bottom.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Vs Urawa Reds (away) 29/11/17, J-League match 33

Urawa Reds 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

The season is fast drawing to a close. Our limp Emperors Cup exit to Kashiwa means that we’ll be done pretty early this year. Whether that will be with our first ever title or with another couple of second places to add to the disheartening stash of them we must have stowed away somewhere in the bowels of the Todoroki, only time will tell. Wednesday night was another crunch game, needing a win to set up another crunch game for Saturday. It would be fair to say that we don’t have a great reputation for dealing well with crunch games, but this time we prevailed, perhaps in the interests of making any failure on Saturday just that little bit more painful. But it was third time lucky at the Saitama Stadium this season and our fight continues to the final match of the season. As far as Saitama Stadium experiences go, this was for the most part pretty much as expected. Urawa seem to still be obsessed with highly camp and hugely naff pre-game music, whilst at the same time still trying to perpetuate a hardmen hooligan image with their Union Jacks (anyone know of any actual connection they have with the UK apart from a love for the worst aspects of English football in the 80’s?). The one big difference though was that their usually awful support (sing very very loudly for five minutes then spend the rest of the game booing), after the usual highly suspect start of reserving their biggest boos for our only Korean player, actually were cheering their team on. Perhaps they were still on a high after their unlikely but I guess I have to say deserved ACL victory. The few Urawa fans I’ve spoken to have said that they’d quite happily give us the three points if it meant that we stop Kashima from taking the title. I’m not saying this is an accurate representation of the majority of Urawa fans views, but perhaps it wouldn’t be that surprising, given that they had nothing to play for in the league any more. Of course you wouldn’t expect this to be echoed by the club itself. But, as it turned out, it seemed that the fans seemed pretty keen to beat us, whereas the club were maybe not so convinced, fielding a significantly weakened team, with a few of their big names on the bench just to keep things respectable. One last thing that should be mentioned pre game is that there was a significant tribute to Arthur Maia with his song being sung on a few occasions and his shirts in evidence on the bench and in the crowd.

Once again we were finally able to field our best eleven. It wasn’t exactly convincing against Gamba but it did the job, and the same could be said about this performance. Once again Oniki persisted with Kobayashi up front and Abe on the left and once again Abe wasn’t as effective as he is when he plays up front. I think he’s still trying to find some form after his injury. Kengo seemed to be playing pretty far forward, almost looking like the front man at times. We dodged a bullet early on when Sung-Ryong pulled off a great save from a close range shot. Urawa were really pressing us and consequently Oshima and Neto’s opportunities to get forward were limited. It was a pretty lively opening with chances at both ends. Urawa really weren’t taking theirs though. On 15 minutes we went ahead and it was through Kobayashi. I’m sure Koroki, sitting on the bench was delighted to see him equal his tally in the scoring charts. Sugimoto is still a couple of goals ahead though. Ienaga made the goal wriggling past a couple of Urawa defenders right on the edge of the pitch and then putting in the perfect cross for Kobayashi to slide the ball home from. It was a pretty exciting moment and almost certainly the highlight of the game for us. Great work from Ienaga, although he was helped by some absolutely hopeless defending by Urawa. Cue 80 odd minutes of hanging on, something which we haven’t proved particularly good at. Oshima and Neto picked up a couple of early yellow cards. No idea why Oshima got one and the replays I’ve seen don’t seem to help me much. Neto’s was more understandable. I think he took the ball but maybe also took a bit too much of the player at the same time. The ref wasn’t bothered by (my new favourite Urawa hate figure) Nagasawa’s elbow to the throat of Oshima in the previous challenge though.  Urawa seemed to have free range to kick us all over the pitch. I’m going to go easy on the ref though as I’m sure people are getting sick of my moaning and also by the look of some videos of an incident in the second half he might have really given us a let off by not awarding a penalty. The first half wasn’t great, but we were looking reasonably solid. Nara was doing a good job at the back and whilst they may have had more of the ball and more chances we had the goal and the crucial lead.

The second half started with no changes to personnel or the pattern of the game. They were still on top but failing to seriously trouble Sung-Ryong. We were under the cosh though and whilst we weren’t reaching ACL levels of desperate defending, we were at times resorting to sitting back a bit too much and waiting for counter attacking opportunities. It was a bit of a dangerous strategy, especially given that both Neto and Oshima, who were having to do a lot of defending, were both on yellow cards. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that we’re picked up a few double yellow red cards recently. This was how the majority of the second half went. Urawa attacks being dealt with pretty well by Taniguchi and Nara and us having the occasional breakaway counter attack. We had opportunities, but they clearly had the better ones. I was surprised to see that according to the stats Urawa only had one more shot than us. It felt a bit more like an onslaught, but perhaps we were mostly cutting out the attacks before they had a chance to shoot. It was far from comfortable though. Our second half subs seemed to be done with an eye on running down the clock. Nobori on for Abe, (who was perhaps tiring a little) on 78 minutes and then Tasaka on for Kengo, and Morimoto for Kobayashi, both in injury time. Unlike in the ACL we were able to see the game out though and consequently set up a final day of the season cliff hanger. It was a far from pretty game to watch, but it ended up being an effective performance. I’m not rushing to watch the highlights, but I’m enjoying the three points.

Positives and negatives. The fact that we’re still alive going in to the last game of the season has to be the most important thing. Kashima have what is not an easy game against a Jubilo team who have an albeit slim chance of qualifying for the ACL. Hopefully it will provide them with enough of an incentive to cause an upset. I guess the other big positive has to be the relative defensive solidity we showed. I’m not saying things have changed particularly, but we did the business, on this occasion at least, through decent performances from Nara, Taniguchi and Sung-Ryong who made one great save and a few  more routine ones. Things didn’t exactly work perfectly at the other end of the pitch and we weren’t exactly blessed with chances in this game, but I think perhaps the circumstances overshadowed the performance. Not going to go too deep with any negativity, but it wasn’t exactly a convincing performance, not showing the kind of things we’ve been able to do at other stages this season. 

Next up, Omiya at home, tomorrow. I’ve pushed things to the limit a little with getting this post out on time before the next game but if you’re reading this I guess I managed it. I think on a few occasions this season we never could have imagined that we’d take it to the final day. I wish it was in our hands, rather than us having to depend on Jubilo, but if we manage to pull it off, I can’t imagine we’ll be complaining much. For the final time this year, GO FRONTALE! 


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 29')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (Yellow card 15')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 2.  NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for ABE 78')
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for NAKAMURA 90+1')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for KOBAYASHI 90+4')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Like I said above, it wasn't a particularly stand out performance up front, but the defence did a decent job. Somewhat counter-intuitively, but somewhat in keeping with what I've just said, I'm giving it to...

IENAGA Akihiro - did really well for the goal, putting in the perfect cross for an easy Kobayashi finish, but I'm giving it to him for the fact that on numerous occasions in the second half he made crucial defensive contributions deep in our own half. I don't feel that kind of thing is usually associated with him, so well done Aki!

KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 14’ 0-1


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that last year's highlights got wiped when the broadcaster got changed, I'm going to stick with the official J League ones. But you can watch the longer highlights here if you want.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Vs Gamba Osaka (home) 18/11/17, J-League match 32

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 0 Gamba Osaka

So, we’re still alive. But it’s surely a matter of postponing the inevitable. Kashima’s victory over Urawa the day after our Levain Cup disintegration (a game due to be played this weekend, but moved because of Urawas ACL progress), left us with a seven point deficit with three games remaining for us (and two for them). There's a possibility that we could still take the title, but it's one which is hanging by the tiniest of threads. It’s pleasing that we could keep things alive though, especially after the disappointment of two weeks ago. Personally speaking, I was very happy to have a couple of weeks break. It’s bad enough losing a cup final, but to do it in the lacklustre way we did really diminished my desire for this season and for football in general. But, naturally as the days passed I did find myself looking forward to being able to go to another game. So we were back at the Todoroki again, and playing in the rain again, although nothing like as bad as the game at Kashiwa thankfully. Actually, we shouldn’t forget that there is one title we’re running away with this year. We lead the chart for most games played in the rain. To get all literary on you, it’s hard to ignore that there might be some kind of pathetic fallacy going on here. The rotten weather at Kashiwa coincided with us really losing touch in the title race, (although it was almost certainly those conditions that contributed in a big way). And also in this game, with a Frontale fan base who have been put through the ringer recently, trudging back to perhaps futilely cheer on their team again with consistent drizzle perfectly mirroring the way we’re ending the season. Anyway, enough of the literary allusions.

Finally, after quite a while we were able to field what would probably be considered our best starting 11. Sung-Ryong in goal, Elsinho, Nara, Taniguchi and Kurumaya at the back, Neto and Oshima in front of them, and a front four of Ienaga, Kengo, Abe and Kobayashi. The bench was made up of Arai, Tasaka, Morimoto, Miyoshi, Hasegawa, Moriya and Takeoka, back from a long term injury for the second time this season. Let’s hope he lasts a bit longer before getting injured again this time. Edu was nowhere to be seen, perhaps being punished for his howler against Cerezo. Chinen and Noborizato also disappeared. Perhaps this has something to do with people’s contracts coming to an end and being given a few last chances to show what they can do from the bench. To be honest though, I’m not exactly sure who is out of contract. Perhaps our bench is chosen by who is performing best in training. I hope it’s at least one of these, as I’m starting to wonder if it’s done slightly randomly. Gamba were apparently missing quite a few regular starters, although judging by their form this year, that might have actually been a good thing for them. The first half started quite brightly for us, but with some echoes of the cup final. We were doing a decent job of building towards chances, but were being thwarted by a packed Gamba defence (I don’t think they had a midfield, just two lines of defenders and a striker), and that old Frontale favourite, appalling finishing. We were in control of the game for the most part, but for some reason, it seemed that we were misdirecting pretty much every pass by a metre or so, always behind the runner, who had to check back, or over or under hit, or just plain inaccurate. I was quite impressed with the way we were winning the ball back though. Neto and Oshima were doing a good job in the middle. Damn, we’ve missed Oshima. Damn you Kobe and your pitch! Kengo seemed to be playing as a striker at times with Kobayashi spending a lot of time on the right wing. It was a bit weird, but it seemed to actually be working ok right up until the part where we were supposed to shoot. There were a few clangers in the first half (and a decent amount in the second too, I suppose...). We had opportunities where it looked easier to score which were hit off target. I think we only got one shot out of twelve on target in the first half and that was a Nara header from a corner. Kobayashi looked like the last game had knocked all confidence out of him and every miss seemed to be draining his spirit a bit more. It seems that the formation which was working earlier in the season with Abe up front and Kobayashi on the right had been abandoned. Perhaps it doesn't work so well for Ienaga, but I would have thought it was worth a go. It wasn’t the most promising of first halves, but defensively we were looking good and Oshima in particular stood out for having a real influence on things.

We came out for the second period all guns blazing. Oniki must have said something at half time as we seemed to be going a bit more direct and made some good early chances. Thankfully we were starting to hit the target too. Unfortunately we seemed to have found Gamba keeper Higashiguchi in very good form. He was saving shots in all manners from all of our front players. True, sometimes these shots could have been hit with a bit more power, but you can’t really take away the fact that he was making some good stops. Gamba in response to us turning the screw slightly, seemed to start time wasting. I guess the way they were set up suggested that they were playing for the draw and hoping to snatch something on the counter attack. To be honest, this was pretty much the story for the majority of the second half. We attacked, we shot, he saved, they took an eternity restarting play. In the past I think we would have been confident that it was only a matter of time before we scored. But now we’re scarred. We were attacking a lot better than against we had against Gamba’s beloved neighbours, but as the minutes ticked on and we squandered more and more chances, I started to doubt whether we’d actually score again this season, let alone in this game. But we did. The goal came late and from a corner, which are somewhat surprisingly now a real threat for us. Kengo sent the ball into the box, it was nodded on by Ienaga and Elsinho was able to prod the ball home through the keeper's legs. Tough on the keeper who'd done a great job up until this point, but I guess there's only so long that any keeper can withstand that kind of onslaught and you can't really say that Gamba deserved to get anything from the game given that according to the Frontale website they only had two shots in the whole game. They did however have a shout for a penalty right at the end of the game. It was down the other end of the pitch from me and I haven't seen a replay. We had a shout of our own in the second half when it looked like there was a clear handball in the box. Neither were given though and the game finished 1-0 to us. The scoreline in no way reflected the game, but at least it was more representative than it would have been if they had won and converted that late penalty. But these things do happen in football, so in some respects we dodged a bullet. On we go, praying for a miracle, but probably already aware that it's going to be second place again.

Positives and negatives. Let’s start negative. Whilst we were making chances our finishing was pretty bad in the first half and not quite good enough in the second. Going by possession, number of chances and just by watching the game we really should have won comfortably. Kengo and Kobayashi were again both not really there. But, switching to the positives, we won and that’s the best we could do. As long as we keep winning we have a chance. Defensively we looked very comfortable. Aside from the odd chance, we were snuffing everything out before they got to our box. Oshima was great in the first half but faded a little later on. Neto did his usual good job and Taniguchi and Nara kept things tight at the back. A big positive has to be the fact that we can now finally field our first choice eleven. Conversely, it’s a shame that it’s come a bit too late in the season for us. This was by no means a great performance, but it was a deserved win. A couple of final positives. I haven’t mentioned the ref, which let’s be honest is something of a rarity and my lack of things to moan about in that respect has to be a good thing. And last of all, Kizuru, the fantastic new mascot of Grulla Morioka made a guest appearance up high in the main stand, waddling and waving from some kind of balcony. I’m hoping this means that he’ll be taking over the Japan national team and then Kurumaya might actually get to play a game for them.

Next up, the Wednesday after next, a midweek trip away to Urawa. I really hate that stadium this year. It’s seems all too likely that it could be the place another title hope dies a death. Three times in one year would be a bit much. Although a win for Kashima against Kashiwa next weekend would mean that it’s all moot anyway. It would be heartbreaking if Kashiwa beat Kashima and then we messed it up in Saitama again. I guess we’ve got used to that kind of thing this year though. The Saturday after that we're back at home for the final time this year against Omiya Ardija, which has plenty of potential to be a dead rubber, as they could be down by then and we could be out of the title race. In any case, where there's life there's hope, so go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for IENAGA 90+4')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 76')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for OSHIMA 87')

My Frontale Man Of The Match
It's a bit weird, as although we dominated the game, it's hard to say that anyone stood out as being above the rest. Elsinho deserves a shout for his goal, Ienaga played well and made a crucial late tackle at right back but also missed a couple of relatively easy chances. So, for that fact that he stood out in a first half that was pretty mediocre for us, I'll give it to...

OSHIMA Ryota - we look a lot better with him on the field. Tackled and passed well and gives us a bit of thrust going forward. Faded a little towards the end, but so soon after his injury that's to be expected. Wish he'd start shooting from distance again like he used to. If only he'd been fit the whole year...

ELSINHO (Frontale) 82’ 1-0


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that last year's highlights got wiped when the broadcaster got changed, I'm going to stick with the official J League ones. But you can watch the longer highlights here if you want. And we have that extra footage video again at the bottom.