Sunday 2 September 2018

Vs Gamba Osaka (away) 2/9/18 - J League match 25

Gamba Osaka 2 - 0 Kawasaki Frontale

Ugh. Where to start with another horrible performance. If you’re pressed for time, remember everything negative I’ve said in recent blog posts and remove the bits where we have any decent shots or manage to scrape an underwhelming result. This was a game where Oniki’s first choice eleven failed to turn up, almost to a man, and we were devoid of any hint of excitement or spark of passion. A game against a big name team in horrible form and in the relegation zone always looked like it could be a banana skin. We always struggle against teams at the bottom. Of course we don’t have any divine right to win these games. But you’d hope for the many supporters that had spent plenty of money on traveling to the game and on accommodation that the team would at least show up. In the interest of preserving my sanity, I’ve attempted to keep this reasonably brief. If you’re not into hearing the same old whinges, which I believe are proving increasingly accurate week by week, I’d suggest you stop reading now and go and find something better to do. Save yourself! Bring on the bullet points:

- In spite of us having around 60% of the possession and around 50% more shots, we conceded two ridiculously soft goals from corner kicks, which apparently disappointed Oniki. Not as much as it disappointed us! Both times we had multiple opportunities to prevent the goal and failed.
- We had around ten shots, none of which threatened in any way. I don’t understand why we can’t seem to combine shot accuracy with power. It always seems to be one or the other. Every one of our ‘shots on target’ went straight at the keeper. I don’t think he had to dive at any point in the game. Kobayashi seems to recently be alternating between being unstoppable and deadly or utterly toothless from game to game. Today was obviously the latter.
- Don’t want to single him out though, there were rotten performances all over the pitch. Morita had another mare, Taniguchi and Kurumaya always looked to be a couple of seconds away from a catastrophic mistake. Elsinho again looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. Ienaga was error prone, Kengo anonymous. Oshima got injured again, possibly ruling him out of the national team next week, again.
- But, and I realise you were expecting me to say this, the real stinkers once again came from Oniki. Kobayashi alone up front had no chance against three Gamba centre backs. Apparently Oniki didn’t spot this. Somehow, we seemed to be getting overrun in all areas of the field. Perhaps the players are tired, as it’s the same people playing every game. Perhaps it’s a morale thing. It does look like they’re enjoying their football as much as we’re enjoying watching it. Oniki doesn’t have a plan B and has by now probably alienated so many squad members that even if he did have a plan B, he wouldn’t have the players to implement it. The Oshima injury meant he needed to make a change. Instead of replacing him with the natural replacement sitting on the bench, (Shimoda), he brought on Manabu and totally shuffled everyone’s positions. Does he have so little confidence in Shimoda? If so, why is he on the bench? I guess the reason is, and I apologise as I know I’ve said this numerous times before, the players he’s going to bring on appear to have been set in stone before the match. Having to deviate from one of his usual changes (time-wise and replaced-player-wise) must have made Oniki really uncomfortable. Almost as uncomfortable as Kengo would feel playing in the defensive midfield position... To be fair to Kengo, he was a lot more noticeable when playing alongside Morita and he did his best, but it’s such a waste to have him there. On 66 minutes Oniki finally seemed to spot Kobayashi being outnumbered up front and brought on Chinen for Kengo. He gave it a go, but it was too little too late. From the moment we conceded the first goal and Gamba and their ball boys started time wasting (7 minutes in), it seemed apparent that we could play for days and probably still not score. Suzuki coming on for Elsinho reduced the chance of us being reduced to ten men, given Elsinho’s early first half yellow, but honestly speaking, I don’t think that would have changed things much. Our attacking couldn’t have got much worse and we really only had to defend against long ball counter attacks (which we seemed to be doing ok at, possibly more due to the low quality of these attacks more than anything else) and set pieces (the less said about them, the better). The game ended with the usual total mess up front, with so many shuffles being made that no one seemed to know where they were supposed to be playing. One final ridiculous image showing the depths we’ve reached was the fact that Oniki seemed to finally realise that Kurumaya is better at left back, switched him there and Nobori into the middle and pushed Taniguchi up. So now the excluded from the squad centre backs sitting at home get to see that the 1.68m wide player is probably also now ahead of them in the centre back pecking order. Of course all our changes had already been made by this stage but it did reek of Oniki totally running out of ideas and just slinging mud at a wall in the hope that he’ll somehow create a masterpiece. It didn’t. We were just left with a pile of mud and a dirty wall.

This post has gone on too long so I’ll wrap it up. Nine points behind Hiroshima (although with a game in hand, against a local rival in a slightly precarious position, so eminently losable...), the league looks to be finished for us unless the robotically tedious Hiroshima implode. We’ve played so badly at times this season and so underwhelmingly at other times, that we don’t deserve anything in the league this year, much like we didn’t deserve anything in this match. Our next two games against Kashima, away on Wednesday and then ‘at home’ (at FC Tokyo’s ground), next Sunday could see us out of Levain Cup at the first time of asking. Which would then leave us with just the Emperor’s Cup, a competition where we’ve struggled to beat a JFL side and were taken to penalties by Mito’s reserves. I believe that as long as Oniki is in charge, we’ll continue to toil and bore our way to mediocrity. I’d much rather we won the treble and then Oniki was snatched away to manage another J League team, but if our abject failure on four fronts gets him the boot, then I guess there will be a small silver lining in a season of massive cloudy disappointment.


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO (Yellow card 26')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for NAKAMURA 66')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for ELSINHO 77') 
MF 37. SAITO Manabu (on for OSHIMA 41')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

As I said above, there were far more candidates for a clown of the match if I were doing one (of course 🤡niki would have taken it). One tiny redeeming feature of this almost 100% rotten game prompted me to give it to…

NOBORIZATO Kyohei - when moved to centre back (LOL) committed himself a lot better than any other defensive player on the pitch had done. Always gives 100% and was running right to the end.


WATANABE (Gamba) 7' 1-0
FABIO (Gamba) 54' 2-0


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that a previous 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.


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