Friday 29 June 2018

Neto to Nagoya

Another day another player departure. I don’t know if these are the proverbial rats leaving a sinking ship or whether these are players we don’t need and want to get rid of. There’s probably not as much to say about Neto’s departure as Okubo’s, but I’ll write a few words about it anyway.

It’s often said that Neto has a great relationship with Kazama and it’s certainly true that he’ll be able to earn a lot more with moneybags Nagoya. It’s a bit concerning though that he’d want to leave a team (kind of) challenging for a second consecutive title for one that could quite easily be back in J2 come the end of the year. How good a relationship would it need to be? Or maybe it could be a not so good relationship with Oniki. Entirely speculation on my part, but after Okubo, I’m starting to create conspiracy theories. Personally, I think we’ll miss him. He has been a crucial part of our midfield since he arrived and I don’t think we have another player like him. It’s definitely true to say that he’s been used a lot less this year and was no longer one of the first names on the team sheet. Whether this is because he was unsettled and planning to leave or whether Oniki just thought we had better players available I don’t know. Either way, I think I can go down the blame Oniki route, as has recently been my style. It can’t be a great motivator to see your place in the team being taken by a youngster in their first season. Morita is definitely a talent, one for the future and has put in some great performances already, but I’m not sure I’d be picking him over Neto. But now we don’t have any other option. Hopefully Oshima will return to us from the World Cup unscathed and untransferred. If he does somehow catch another club’s eye and leaves, we could be very short in that area of the pitch. Hopefully, this is the last of the big name departures. Any more, and you’d have to start believing something rotten is going on. If we had a replacement lined up, I guess that would put a different spin on it but I don’t know if we’ll be getting in anyone in. I noticed a J League club had put in a bid for a Brazilian defensive midfielder called Willian Arao (I think), but the player turned the move down (I think). Hopefully that wasn’t us lining up Neto’s replacement and letting him go before the new player’s deal was confirmed.

Anyway, good luck Neto! You’ll certainly be missed by me and I think by the team, in terms of your presence on the pitch.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Okubo to Jubilo

Thought I’d better write something about this. Somehow it’s unseasonably turned out that this blog post title sounds a little bit like the chorus of a Christmas carol. This news came totally out of the blue for me and I’m sure that’s the same for many Frontale fans. Apparently the reaction has been mixed. Some understand him wanting to move somewhere where he can play a bit more regularly, some think it’s for the best as he’s a bit past it, some are angry about it after his ‘triumphant’ yet somewhat humble return to us this year, where he expressed his love for the club. My feelings are somewhat mixed and possibly not what you might expect after my thoughts on him towards the end of the season before last. I’ll try to keep this reasonably brief...

Firstly, this move shows what a ridiculous transfer his return was in the first place. Ridiculous given that we had just won the league and his previous last games with us and much of his time at FC Tokyo showed him to be not even half the player he once was. Sadly, time catches up with all of us. I was surprisingly quite positive towards him when he returned though. He seemed to have the right attitude and seemed aware that he wasn’t just going to waltz back into the starting line up at a team that were reigning champions. Whether this impression is true or not is another matter. The transfer was clearly much more for show and for an element of the fan base than it was for footballing reasons. I seem to remember, possibly inaccurately, that the chairman was talking about either improving the training facilities or getting Okubo back with the league win prize money. Perhaps this suggests that transfer originated from further up the chain than the manager, which is a bit concerning to be honest. I don’t know how things have worked out financially, but from a footballing point of view, it wasn’t exactly great business.

However, moving on to my second point, in spite of limited pitch time, Okubo is our joint second top scorer this year in all competitions. Admittedly, that is with only three goals, but he’s scored as many as Chinen who’s had a lot more pitch time. And he has got only two less goals than Kobayashi. Three goals from 8 starts and 9 substitute appearances in total, but these goals included a crucial winner at Nagoya with his first touch when we were struggling to find a breakthrough. I believe he was a useful player to have on the bench to bring on in exactly these situations. His other goals also came from substitute appearances. He was clearly much better from the bench as an impact sub, rather than starting, and definitely was better playing as a striker, rather than in the Kengo role. I’m not sure if that was where he wanted to play or where Oniki wanted him to play, but it was obvious at the end of the season before last that this position wasn’t working for him, so not sure why we tried it again. Which segues neatly into the fact that...

Thirdly, he'd clearly fallen out of favour with Oniki. Recently he’s dropped out of consideration for even a place on the bench it seems. I’m a little worried that the same has happened with Saito. Hopefully he won’t also be leaving. Perhaps Okubo was relatively ok with his role as a bench player, but clearly when even this wasn’t happening for him he probably considered the diminishing time he has left in his career and decided he’d be better off trying to play a bit more elsewhere. Sure, he’s only not been involved in the last three games, but I’m sure he’s more aware of his likelihood of playing than we are. Oniki’s rotation, if you can call it that, hasn’t really worked and now we’re out of the ACL the schedule has possibly cleared a little, so maybe there won’t be as much need for ‘rotation’. But there’s still a lot of games to be played in a short time given the World Cup break has taken a big chunk out of the season this year.

Clearly it’s hard to argue with the decision to leave from his point of view. I don’t know if promises were made and broken, or there has been some kind of disagreement or friction but evidently things weren’t working out for him this year. I think we’ll miss him as an impact sub, but if we were only going to use him in this way and he was expecting more, something had to give. Whether he has slipped further down the pecking order with a possible incoming transfer we don’t know about, or just wanted to get some more pitch time, we don’t know. It does seem a shame though, as he is well liked by a lot of fans and seems to have genuine affection for the club. I wish him all the best with Jubilo. Hopefully he can score plenty of goals against teams at the top of the table (apart from us, of course!).

Wednesday 20 June 2018

2018 Season first half : Round Up

Here is my long-awaited first part of the season review. There probably won’t be a great deal of original ideas and thoughts in here that I haven’t already expressed in my match report blog posts, but I thought it would be nice to put everything together in one easy to read whinge-fest. Not saying it has been a bad season so far. On balance it’s been OK, but there is a lingering feeling, at least for me, that it could have been a lot better. After finishing last season as Champions we had a great opportunity to push on, but it feels more like we’re treading water at the moment. Admittedly,  and perhaps as a response to us winning the league last year, this year’s J1 is dominated by teams playing the tactics we struggle the most against. Hiroshima, FC Tokyo, Cerezo and many others are having some success by sitting back with almost everyone behind the ball and then lumping it forward on the counter attack. It’s certainly not very nice to watch, and for us it’s also not very nice to play against. Under Kazama we would always play with the thought that it didn’t matter how many we conceded as we’d usually score at least one more than the opposition. Oniki has tightened things up at the back a bit and we’re certainly now less cavalier than we were before, but this has made us vulnerable to teams who take advantage of us slowly building attacks, waiting and waiting for the right opportunity and then getting hit on the break after misplacing the 100th pass of our patient build up. After this, the opposition parks the bus and we lose.

We started the season with a total stinker of a Super Cup performance and this was perhaps actually a portent of what was to come in the cup competitions this year. Our ACL campaign was over before it had really begun, with ponderous tactics in the first two losses (apparently. I missed both games, so can’t say for sure). We redeemed ourselves a little in the Melbourne home game, but still managed to seize a draw from the jaws of victory with a last minute penalty given away by Nara. The fact is though that we should have been out of sight by then against a Melbourne side who didn’t really offer much at all. The less said about the Melbourne away game the better. The truth is, for us the ACL was pretty much over at the end of the home game though. Then, we also almost contrived to lose to Sony Sendai of the Japan Football League in the Emperor’s Cup. Whilst I felt confident we’d come back from 2-0 down, it’s a bit of a worry that we got to that stage in the first place. You’ve got to ask some questions about the team selection, especially given that it was during a long World Cup break.

Our league form has been really weird. Generally speaking, when we’ve picked a good starting eleven, we’ve done pretty well, pulling off some decent victories (Kashima home, Shimizu home, maybe Sagan Tosu away as it’s always a game we struggle with). But there have also been quite a few good scorelines that hide underwhelming performances (Gamba home, Jubilo away). Also there were some games that felt like decent results at the time, but judging by the oppositions’ performances in their other games now look a bit dodgy (Nagoya away, Yokohama away). We never seem to get off to a great start, and although we won this year’s opening game apparently convincingly, the 1-1 draw in the next game at home against Shonan was a much more accurate reflection of how we were playing. The defeats against Cerezo, FC Tokyo and Hiroshima, (terrible refereeing blunder aside), show us failing to get anything from the teams who are around us in the table and could prove crucial come the end of the season. Hiroshima are way ahead of us and it would have been nice to have stopped their run a little earlier. To be honest though, we couldn’t come up with a way to play against them. We can moan about the officials denying us a definite equaliser, but this too is just papering over the cracks of another bad performance.

It will come as no surprise to hear that I find most of this lies at the feet of Oniki. Perhaps he is suffering a second season hangover or people have worked us out, but we have one of the best squads in the league and should not be struggling in so many games. Of course, blips happen and we can’t expect to win every game. And we are still third in the league. But I feel that we are too predictable and have only one way of playing. Of course predictability is fine if it means that you are imposing your style on the opposition and they can’t deal with it. It’s not so good if most of them have worked out how to play against us and we don’t have any response. When we have a go at teams we have been a lot more successful, yet when we play ‘big teams’ or local rivals, we seem to start the match with an inferiority complex and struggle to impose ourselves. Oniki’s team selections have been at times baffling. He doesn’t seem able to grasp the complex of rotation, changing huge chunks of the team whilst leaving other intact, rather the gradually moving the squad through the first team. I’m also not a fan of his man management, giving quite a few players the cold shoulder and calling some out, whilst ignoring the errors of some who are presumably his favourites. His subbing of Wakizaka felt just cruel. Let’s be honest, his substitutions are often a little baffling, seemingly unaffected by considerations of where players play best or where we are having trouble. Of course this is all just my opinion, and I am far from qualified to comment, given that I know next to nothing about football tactics. I just hope that he knows what he is doing and I am proved to be an idiot, as at times it has seemed that he was just lucky last year, and doesn’t have what it takes to be ‘lucky’ this time around.

To conclude this whinge-fest, I’d give us a B- so far this year. We’re in touch, which is the main thing, but truth be told, we’re a bit lucky to be so, and Hiroshima need to have some kind of collapse if we want to retain our title. There’s definitely room for improvement and it would be a huge disappointment if this talented collection of players were not able to achieve what they are capable of. Football goes in cycles, so we need to make sure that we are making the most of the good times and therefore have something to get nostalgic about when the bad times come. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that we can get a bit more consistency and play better so that we deserve the wins we’re getting and wipe out the soft defeats. Go Frontale!

Tuesday 19 June 2018

2018 Season first half : Player Stats

Much like the referee stats in the previous post, the general lack of data means that there’s not a great deal to take from these early season stats. I’ve done my best to get them right, but please accept my apologies if I’ve made any mistakes. These stats relate to all our games, including the league, ACL and Emperor’s Cup. There are a few things of note in here. Firstly, I was surprised that Okubo and Chinen ended up so high on our goalscorers chart, but I guess this reflects more on the fact that we’re spreading the goals around. You could also say that we’re not so free-scoring as we were last year (although I haven’t checked this, it certainly feels that way). Assists are affected by the same lack of goals, but Abe ends up top, showing that there’s a lot more to his game than putting the ball in the back of the net. After him, it’s not so surprising that Ienaga and Kengo are up there. My man of the match awards are also well spread around, but it comes as no surprise to me to see Ienaga coming out on top. He’s been consistently great this season. Long may that continue. Some bizarre team selections have skewed the appearances stats, particularly Oniki’s attempts at ‘rotation’. But it should probably also be noted that there are some players who seem to be getting the cold shoulder a bit too; Neto perhaps, Nara earlier in the season, Edu. However, injuries also probably contribute to some players not being up there, (Kobayashi in particular). On to the bookings, again we can see that the foreign players seem to pick up bookings more regularly than the Japanese ones. Admittedly, Neto and Edu play in positions that require a lot of tackling, but it’s a surprise Edu is joint top given how few games he’s played. Equally, Manabu has got two yellow cards with not a great deal of pitch time which is a bit of a surprise. And Nara has not been booked at all in fourteen starts and one sub appearance! Speaking as a big Nara fan, I didn’t expect that. So, yeah, obviously there will be a lot more to consider at the end of the season, but I hope this stats have been of some use or interest.

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)
ST 18 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 1 G 0 A 0 MM 0

ST 7 SB 6 US 4 Y 0 R 0 G 1 A 1 MM 0

3. Tatsuki NARA (DF)
ST 14 SB 1 US 4 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

4. Yoshito OKUBO (FW)
ST 8 SB 9 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 3 A 0 MM 0

ST 22 SB 0 US 1 Y 2 R 0 G 2 A 0 MM 0

6. Yusuke TASAKA (MF)
ST 3 SB 1 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

7. Shintaro KURUMAYA (DF)
ST 19 SB 0 US 0 Y 1 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

8. Hiroyuki ABE (MF)
ST 15 SB 3 US 1 Y 2 R 0 G 2 A 4 MM 1

9. Shuhei AKASAKI (FW)
ST 1 SB 2 US 2 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 0

10. Ryota OSHIMA (MF)
ST 16 SB 2 US 0 Y 1 R 0 G 0 A 2 MM 1

ST 12 SB 4 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 5 A 2 MM 0

14. Kengo NAKAMURA (MF)
ST 14 SB 3 US 0 Y 1 R 0 G 4 A 3 MM 2

16. Tatsuya HASEGAWA (MF)
ST 6 SB 8 US 7 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 2 MM 2

17. Yuto TAKEOKA (DF)
ST 4 SB 2 US 9 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

ST 16 SB 1 US 2 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 1 MM 0

19. Kentaro MORIYA (MF)
ST 6 SB 3 US 9 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 0

20. Kei CHINEN (FW)
ST 10 SB 6 US 6 Y 0 R 0 G 3 A 0 MM 0

ST 15 SB 1 US 0 Y 3 R 0 G 2 A 2 MM 2

22. Hokuto SHIMODA (MF)
ST 1 SB 0 US 2 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

ST 7 SB 0 US 9 Y 3 R 0 G 1 A 0 MM 0

24. Shunsuke ANDO (GK)
ST 0 SB 0 US 3 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

25. Hidemasa MORITA (MF)
ST 10 SB 9 US 4 Y 1 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 2

26. Jefferson TABINAS (DF)
ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

27. Yuto SUZUKI (FW)
ST 1 SB 3 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 1 MM 1

28. Yasuto WAKIZAKA (MF)
ST 1 SB 1 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

29. Michael James FITZGERALD (DF)
ST 1 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

30. Shota ARAI (GK)
ST 5 SB 0 US 19 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

31. William POPP (GK)
ST 0 SB 0 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

32. Ao TANAKA (MF)
ST 0 SB 0 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

37. Manabu SAITO (MF)
ST 2 SB 5 US 0 Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

41. Akihiro IENAGA (MF)
ST 19 SB 1 US 2 Y 2 R 0 G 3 A 3 MM 3

Most Goals
2. NAKAMURA Kengo - 4
3. CHINEN Kei - 3
3. IENAGA Akihiro - 3 
3. OKUBO Yoshito - 3

Most Assists
1. ABE Hiroyuki - 4
2. IENAGA Akihiro - 3
2. NAKAMURA Kengo - 3
4. HASEGAWA Tatsuya - 2
4. OSHIMA Ryota - 2

Most Starts

1. TANIGUCHI Shogo - 22
2. IENAGA Akihiro -19
2. KURUMAYA Shintaro - 19
4. JUNG Sung-Ryong - 18
5. ELSINHO - 16
5. OSHIMA Ryota - 16

Most Man Of The Match awards

1. IENAGA Akihiro - 3
2. HASEGAWA Tatsuya - 2
2. MORITA Hidemasa - 2
2. NAKAMURA Kengo -2

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

1. EDUARDO - 3
3. ABE Hiroyuki - 2
3. IENAGA Akihiro - 2
3. SAITO Manabu - 2
3. TANIGUCHI Shogo - 2

Most Red Cards

1. JUNG Sung-Ryong - 1

Wednesday 13 June 2018

2018 Season first half : Refs


Seeing as I'm tagging the refs on my posts now, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at their stats in the games they've refereed that we've played. Of course, these stats are not exactly meaningful, as we have been so inconsistent this season, that even the best ref could still have taken charge of one of our losses. Just thought it might be of some interest. In a hugely unscientific way, I hereby announce that the worst ref in the J League is Tojo, (no arguments about that after him and his officials' disastrous officiating of our loss to Hiroshima, with the goal ridiculously ruled out for offside. I've heard he's been demoted to J2. Poor J2!). We are winless under the officiating of Nishimura, (who I personally think is hugely overrated as a ref) and Fukushima, (took charge of our Super Cup game only, and can't really be blamed for that rotten performance), but both have only taken charge of only one of our games. The 'good' refs for us are Iemoto, Iida and Ueda who we have perfect records with (the former two for two games each and the latter for just one). Given the lack of games in this first 'half' round up, there's not a great deal that the stats say. Hopefully, they'll be a bit more telling at the end of the season.

G - Games refereed
W - Wins
D - Draws
L - Losses
Y - Yellow Cards
R - Red Cards

G 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 Y 3 R 0

G 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 Y 0 R 0

G 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 Y 1 R 0

G 2 W 2 D 0 L 0 Y 0 R 0

G 2 W 2 D 0 L 0 Y 2 R 0

G 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 Y 1 R 1

G 2 W 1 D 0 L 1 Y 3 R 0

G 1 W 0 D 1 L 0 Y 2 R 0

G 2 W 1 D 0 L 1 Y 2 R 0

G 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 Y 1 R 0

G 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 Y 1 R 0

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Vs Sony Sendai (home) 6/6/18 - Emperor's Cup 2nd round

Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 2 Sony Sendai

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of this post. I’ve managed to fill the World Cup break with a few too many time-consuming non-football events and last week was a particularly bad but enjoyable cluster of them. The lateness of this post also has contributed a little to its vagueness. Usually I make do with a few notes, replays of the goals and significant events and my memories. Sadly this time due to the extra time between the game and me writing this, the memory part has faded a little. So, this will probably be a bit more general than usual. Oh, and there's a distinct lack of photos. Blame the rain maybe.

So, our first Emperor’s Cup game of 2018 and it was against Sony Sendai who it seemed wouldn’t put up too much of a fight, but actually gave us a bit of a scare, taking a two goal lead before we managed to grab a victory late on in the game. It was a rainy evening in Kawasaki and we named another slightly bizarre team. Given the long break and the apparent quality of the opposition you would have thought we’d go with a second string selection and send the first teamers away on holiday, but once again Oniki surprised, with quite a few first team regulars, whilst at the same time handing the crucial Kengo role to Wakizaka, who’s previously only had a brief appearance as a substitute. Once again, Neto was nowhere to be seen. There are rumours about him going to Nagoya which would be a huge loss for us. He apparently has a good relationship with Kazama and you’ve got to imagine doesn’t get on quite so well with Oniki, who seems to only begrudgingly include him and often leaves him out for the hugely promising but still pretty green Morita. If you’re reading this Neto, (as if...), please don’t leave! I would also have thought this would have been a good chance to give Saito some more pitch time. Perhaps he was rushed back a bit too soon, but you’d have to say that this would have been a decent opportunity for him to get more into the swing of things and perhaps even get his first Frontale goal. It’s good though for Sony Sendai that they were able to line up against some big names, as I’m sure that’s what they would have been hoping for. Looking back it’s easy to say, but I did question Oniki’s thinking at the time. It looked a bit like a hint of continuity with just enough unfamiliarity to make things a bit of a mess. Presumably during regular training, a lot of these players are on opposing teams, as whenever I’ve been to watch it, we usually seem to pretty much play the next game's starting eleven against the rest of the players. This weird selection also looked like it might be a mistake when Taniguchi went down with an early injury. This is exactly the kind of game where we don’t need to be losing an important player to a stupid injury. Especially at centre back where we’ve been short since the start of the season. Oniki always seems to have a grudge against at least one of the four we have, freezing them out for the smallest mistake whilst leaving the bigger names in the squad alone whatever they do.

Anyway enough about the selection and a little about the game. Right from the start it was clear to see that unsurprisingly, we were technically quite a bit better than them. We were moving the ball around nicely and had a couple of decent early chances, one from Wakizaka which went agonisingly just wide. Sony Sendai seemed pretty up for giving us a real game, running all over the pitch and closing us down. They were playing in a way that we’ve rarely seen recently, trying to play attacking football with a lot of energy, rather than sitting back and hitting the ball long for quick counter attacks. And they took the lead. It was pretty sloppy stuff from us with Edu missing a tackle and Kurumaya absolutely nowhere and then the cross missed by Taniguchi. Unsurprisingly, this goal seemed to shake us quite a bit. It was certainly unexpected. Equally unexpected was the fact that they didn’t sit back after scoring and were still coming at us. 15 minutes later they scored again and this threw us into a real mess. This time a long Taniguchi cross-field ball was seized on by a Sony Sendai player who Kurumaya seemed completely unaware of. Arai could have done better with the shot too. We’d been struggling a little at the back, Kurumaya was having a dodgy evening, along with the rest of the back four to be honest. Oniki responded to these defensive problems by subbing Wakizaka. Way to give him some confidence on his first start, Oniki! Not sure why he couldn’t wait till half time, especially to change something up front, given that the problems were mainly at the back. To be honest, it was just baffling and another example of Oniki apparently being completely unaware of any kind of mental effect this kind of substitution might have. Someone who is probably all too aware of that is Chinen, who was the player who came on. He’s really experienced Oniki’s fickle moods recently, going from starting member to dropping out right of the squad on a weekly basis. The change moved Ienaga into the Kengo role and Abe out on to the right, out of position again, (great work again Oniki). I really have started to wonder if he actually thinks these substitutions through or just picks the names he fancies swapping. We were a bit of a mess after the first goal but more of a mess after the weird sub. There was some booing at half time which is pretty unusual for us, and whilst I don’t agree with booing your own team, particularly during the match, I can totally understand why people felt the way they did. I was still fairly confident we’d be ok, but the substitution made me wonder if we were on some kind of self sabotaging mission in the cups this year. Could probably have said the same about our performances in a few of the league games too though.

The second half started much the way the first had finished. Sony Sendai still seemed to have more players than us, being all over the pitch, pressuring us everywhere. Presumably they’d tire at some stage, but we really needed to get back into the game quickly if we wanted to not be on the end of a giant killing. Thankfully Hasegawa put us back on track fairly early in the second half. It was the second decent headed chance he’d had in the game and this one he put away. Another lovely cross from Ienaga. We were on the road back to some kind of respectability. Presumably not wanting to let any momentum build, Oniki made another substitution shortly afterwards. Nobori was the one coming on, which made sense as Kurumaya was really not at the races. Perhaps after his last storming appearance showing Nishino what he was missing, he’d now retreated into disappointment about not going to the World Cup and consequently lethargy. I joked that he’d probably instead remove Edu and put Kurumaya in the middle. I was astounded to see him do exactly that. Clearly Oniki has a big problem with Edu. After the game he commented he was frustrated that all of our attacks were breaking down at Edu and he couldn’t stand watching it anymore. Perhaps he had seen something I had not noticed in the slightest but I’m not even sure our centre back is really supposed to be building attacks. I thought they were supposed to do the defending. We did start to get something going though, but I think this was mainly due to Nobori being on the pitch rather than Edu being off it. Nobori and Hasegawa we’re combining well down the left and we were making good chances. Our second goal was a well placed shot from Elsinho after Ienaga had a shot blocked. We had 25 minutes to try to complete the turnaround. They were reduced to trying long shots but to be honest, they’d scored from one of them in the first half, so we couldn’t be too complacent. Chinen was having a good game. He definitely gives us a bit of clout up front and had a lovely overhead attempt which unfortunately didn’t go in. Abe also slammed a shot off the post. The winner came worryingly close to the end for us and heart-breakingly close to the end for them. It was another well placed finish from Ienaga after some nice work from Suzuki who had replaced Abe in what was the only rational substitution we’d made all evening. While I celebrated it wildly as if we’d just staged a cracking comeback in the cup final, I did feel for Sony Sendai. They’d done a great job against us but just ran out of steam at the end. They’d played much better football than some of our J1 rivals (not necessarily technically, but certainly aesthetically). We were through to the next round where we’ll play Mito Hollyhock away. I’m looking forward to a trip out there to tick off a new ground.

I’ll speed through some brief positives and negatives. Positives, we’re through and scored some nice goals. Negatives, we made really hard work of it. Some of our big name players seemed to have their mind elsewhere and put in limp performances. But the big one has to be Oniki again. The first two substitutions seemed a bit illogical, changing an attacker when the defence was all over the place and a defender when we were trying to push on a bit. Hopefully he hasn’t done any lasting psychological damage to Wakizaka, who by no means deserved to be subbed after 38 minutes. And it doesn’t seem very professional to so directly point the finger at Edu, particularly when it relates to an attacking problem. With substitutions, he seems to get an idea in his head and go ahead with it without any really thought as to how it might affect the team as a whole and seems happy to persist with playing players out of position in order to make some kind of change that only he feels is necessary. I don’t know if it’s just me who feels like this, but he just doesn’t seem like he completely knows what he’s doing and seems keen to point the finger at individuals whilst being oblivious to any of his own mistakes. As I said on twitter after this game, we won this game in spite of our manager, rather than because of him. I think you could say the same about quite a few of our results this year too.

Next up we have the next round of the cup away to Mito Hollyhock on July 11th. After that we’re back in league action, away to Consadole Sapporo the following Wednesday. In between now and then we have the World Cup. I have to admit I’m finding it a bit hard to get as excited as I usually do about it though. Oh, and I’ll put up some mid-season posts soon.


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for EDUARDO 59')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for WAKIZAKA 38')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for ABE 86')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Many more average and bad performances than good ones in this game to be honest. Morita did a decent job, Ienaga was his usual excellent self, Chinen is regaining some confidence and Abe toiled away out of position for a large portion of the match. Just feel like it should go to…

HASEGAWA Tatsuya - Nice finish for his goal, and showed what problems he can cause the opposition when he’s involved in a game. Keep up the good work! 

FUJIWARA (Sony) 18' 0-1
MIURA (Sony) 33' 0-2
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 52' 1-2
ELSINHO (Frontale) 66' 2-2
IENAGA (Frontale) 89' 3-2