Friday 24 August 2018

Vs Shonan Bellmare (home) 22/8/18 - Emperor's Cup 4th round

Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 1 Shonan Bellmare 

Wednesday night saw us back at the Todoroki for our last 16 Emperor’s Cup game against local rivals Shonan Bellmare. We’ve toiled through our previous games in this competition this year and a pretty weird team selection with numerous players out of position contributed to a first half full of more toil. This was effectively a reserve team from front to back. Nara was involved again after his ‘injury’. I use the inverted commas as I suspect it could have been more a case of Oniki flexing his pettiness muscles again. His last appearance was in our loss against Urawa, where I thought he was the only one of our defence who came out of the game with any credit. He always seems to be Oniki’s scapegoat though. Sure there were rumours about him being injured, but none of the sites who talk about these things seemed to think he was. He didn’t look particularly happy last night, cutting a real dejected figure before, during and after the game. The same can be said about Edu, another popular Oniki target, who has probably recently forgotten that he is a footballer, being so far from any match day involvement. 

Tasaka was also back, another person who was hung out to dry after one mistake in Super Cup. He was put on the bench against his hometown team Hiroshima last week and then jumped right into the defensive midfield position and the captain’s armband. Not sure if he’s had his position switched again (previously from attacking midfield to right back, now perhaps to defensive midfield), and whilst he certainly didn’t look very comfortable in the middle he did his best. Aside from Tasaka out of position in the middle, we had Hasegawa on the right on his significantly less favoured foot and Suzuki at left back (ditto). It will come as no surprise to find that this apparently random team selection had some problems getting anything going in the first half. We attacked quite a bit, had some half-chances and a lot of possession, but were undermined by confusion over positions and roles. Also, the fact that we were playing with two strikers (Chinen and Akasaki), two wide players and two deep sitting midfielders meant that there was a big area in the middle of the field which nobody really seemed to be sure if they were supposed to be covering or not. Naturally we gave away a weak goal to ramp up the pressure a bit. Shonan weren’t offering much, but a fast break with a ball down the channel past Takeoka who was probably caught a little too far forward left them with an easy cross to the middle of the box, where they had loads of players and our two centre backs were static, leaving them with a simple headed finish. We weren’t passing well and looked wobbly at the back and non existent in the middle of the pitch. Put simply, the first half was total rubbish for us.

Thankfully, the second half brought some hints of normality back to the game. Takeoka was replaced by Morita with Tasaka going to right back. This definitely calmed things down a bit and we took control of the game. Almost immediately we were level and it looked like it might have been through Michael James. It was an own goal, but Michael James was definitely involved stretching out a leg and missing, whilst the player who was clearly fouling him headed into his own net with his eyes closed. Nice delivery from Shimoda! This transformed Michael James as a player. He started to look comfortable on the ball and strong in the tackle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play so well as he did in the second half. But to be honest, I guess we haven’t seen him play much at all really. Tasaka was also a lot more at home and had a decent second half. Manabu was a constant threat running at their defence and poor Hasegawa was doing the best he could, way out of position, running loads and not quite getting that little bit of luck he needed. He’s another player who can’t be too delighted with the pitch time he’s getting recently. There’s probably a few around in the squad at the moment, and whilst it’s hard to keep everyone happy, I can’t help think that a little bit of rotation might help. Although of course we know that Oniki is not exactly a rotation expert. It wasn’t long till we were ahead and much to the delight of most of the crowd it was through Saito. After missing a total sitter against Tosu it was nice to see him get off the mark, squeezing a powerful shot home from a tight angle off the keeper.

It wasn’t all one way traffic though and Arai had a make a great triple save from some Shonan pressure with the ball ricocheting around the box and Shonan having a shot bounce over off the bar. It’s weird, as probably everyone who’d struggled in the first half redeemed themself in the second, (apart from Takeoka, who’d been taken off). We rounded off the victory with a penalty won and put away by Chinen. Shonan we’re pushing forward for an equaliser so we were finding plenty of space going forward. We probably could have scored more, with Suzuki in particular really looking dangerous after the introduction of Nobori for Hasegawa saw him moved to his preferred right wing position. At this stage I don’t think we had any players playing out of position. What a surprise that we did a bit better! All in all, it was a decent win in a game of two halves. I don’t know how strong Shonan’s starting line up was, but it was more than a match for our random first half selection. When Oniki used our subs to unwind the huge tangled knot of players out of position we did pretty well. You just have to question why he decided to jumble things up in the first place. It points in some way to the unbalanced nature of our squad and you can’t really say anything much has been done to remedy what has looked like a problem since pre-season. We’re still woefully short of cover at the back, particularly given that Oniki’s grudges normally involve defenders. Let’s just hope that we can make it through to the end of the season with no major injuries. In his ‘hero interview’ Saito said something good about us pushing on to win in three competitions now. It was great to hear him say it, but you've got to think that our lack of options in defensive areas will come back to bite us if we do keep progressing on three fronts. Oniki has a lot of thinking to do, as his opening plan for this match was a bit of a disaster. I always bemoan the fact that we have no plan B. This was an attempt at a plan B, but a failed one and I think we’d be better off sticking with plan A and rotating some players if we can manage it. I fear for our squad next year if Oniki just ploughs on as he is. There are a lot of players who don’t look too happy, have reason to be so and must be considering their futures with us. Whilst it’s great to be at the club that are reigning champions, if the extent of your involvement is high-fiving the players leaving the changing room at the start of the match, you might start to wonder if you actually are a footballer at all. And if the whims of your manager are such that the smallest slip-up could propel you miles away from the first team whilst some of your colleagues could kick him up the backside and blast the ball into their own net without fear of any kind of censure it can’t help the relationship between the manager and some of the players.

In the interests of introducing a little variety on here, I’ll skip the usual positives and negatives this time. I actually quite enjoyed the much shorter blog posts I was doing when I wasn't able to go to matches so I'll try to keep things briefer in the future. Probably shorter posts are a lot more readable too! I think I’ve gone a little overboard with the moaning this time, and nobody wants to hear me keep banging on about the same things every week. Although in my defence, we’re having the same issues come up quite often. Instead, I’ll skip straight to saying that next up we have Vegalta Sendai at home in the league on Saturday and after that Gamba away next weekend. Let’s hope we can keep the pressure on Hiroshima who have Cerezo and Kashima (those games sound like a riot of exciting attacking football, eh?). Our next cup action comes the Wednesday after the Gamba game and is away to Kashima in the Levain. Fingers crossed we can pick up some more wins! Go Frontale!


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (Yellow card 73')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 37. SAITO Manabu
FW 9. AKASAKI Shuhei


GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for HASEGAWA 77')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for SHIMODA 88')
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa (on for TAKEOKA 46')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
My Frontale Man Of The Match

It’s hard to say anyone really came out of the first half with any credit, apart perhaps from Manabu who was giving it a go. The second half gives me a few options though. Morita coming on changed the game, and whilst he did well as usual, I think the positional reshuffle was more responsible. Tasaka had a good second half, Michael James looked solid and Shimoda’s set pieces gave us real cause for optimism. However, I think I’m going to split it between...

SAITO Manabu & SUZUKI Yuto - Manabu was a constant danger and it was great to see him get his first goal. He offers something we don't really have in our regular starting line up too. And Suzuki did an admirable job at left back, and then was very dangerous going forward when moved to his favoured position. He’s maybe still a little raw, but his forward momentum is a great asset!

OGAWA (Shonan) 15' 0-1
OWN GOAL (Shonan) 47' 1-1
SAITO (Frontale) 54' 2-1
CHINEN (Frontale) 87' (PEN) 3-1


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