Kawasaki Frontale 0 - 0 FC Tokyo
After the relative high of last week’s Super Cup victory, here we are back to reality with a pretty dodgy league opening game. It always seems to take us a while to get going at the start of the season, but I think some of us thought we’d got that particular monkey off our back last week, along with the ‘not doing well in cups’ monkey. But no, it’s still there. It was a bit of a weird day for results all over the J League. None of the teams I tipped to be fighting it out for the title won, which either shows that the results were crazy or I have no idea what I was talking about. Probably a bit of both. FC Tokyo were a surprise, looking a lot better than Urawa did last week, a lot better than they did last season and a lot better than most people expected. They pressed and hassled us and were better than us in the first half. The windy conditions didn’t help, but you’d imagine it wouldn’t have been so much of a problem for us, given that we usually keep the ball on the ground. The ref didn’t help either, although many people will read this sentence and think I have lost my mind. I’ll go into that more later. We looked shaky and out of sorts for most of the match. Passes went astray, defenders were left flat-footed as ball after ball went either over the top of them or behind them down the wings. Either we had a terrible day or they’d done their homework on us. Once again, probably a bit of both. Anyway, here’s what we have learned from this horror show.
Refs and linesmen are still useless, but sometimes that helps
- FC Tokyo fans were justifiably furious with Murakami for not sending off either or both of Kurumaya and Nara for second yellow card offenses. I have some sympathy for them as if either player hadn’t received their first booking I’m sure they’d have got one for the later challenges. I think, and of course I would say this, that Nara’s foul which is being shared all over the internet looks a lot worse in the gif that it did in the flesh. I think it’s a reflection on how rattled we were that these kind of challenges we’re going in. But I think aside from these two major let-offs for us from the ref, he gave everything else their way. We had a stonewall penalty turned down in the second half when an FC Tokyo defender clearly handballed in the box, preventing a cross making it to our waiting player. Apparently this year the clubs are able to score the refs after the game. Pretty sure he got 0 from FC Tokyo, but I hope we have him a bad score too. FC Tokyo didn’t help matters with a lot of play-acting and diving but neither did we, with some downright clumsy and pretty dodgy tackles. We should probably have ended up with 9 players on the pitch, but that would have required some knowledge of the rules of the game from an official so I guess it was never going to happen.
Oniki probably isn’t sure about who our right back should be
- Once again we started with Maguinho and once again he was replaced by Mawatari after not really doing anything wrong. Certainly there were plenty of players who were playing a lot worse on the pitch. However, Mawatari coming on did seem to really give us a boost. He looked good going forward, much more comfortable on the ball than he did last week and was even taking corners later on. I have a feeling that Oniki might go with him ahead of Maguinho in the next game. His introduction coincided with our best period of the game with us creating chance after chance and really putting the under pressure. But…
We were pretty toothless up front
- Along with the defensive frailties mentioned above and the huge gaps we were leaving at the back, I think perhaps the most decisive factor in this game was our rotten finishing. Apparently we got half of our 14 shots on target, but I can’t really remember us testing their keeper. Kobayashi seems to have replaced his usual three clangers then a goal system with a less fruitful seven or eight near misses or soft shots straight at the keeper with no goal at the end of it. Damiao seemed totally isolated, the ball never really reaching him, a shadow of the player he looked last week. I don’t think we can blame the conditions, but I’d love to, because otherwise, we don’t have much to hang on to. Sure there were a lot of less than average performances, but we really should have troubled their keeper at some stage.
Super new tactics are maybe not so super. Or maybe not new tactics
- In the last post I was excited about what I saw to be our exciting new free flowing liquid midfield tactics. Perhaps it was due to a lot of poor performances, but it seems that the liquid midfield has dried up. It didn’t help that our usual talismen (can I pluralise talisman?), Kengo and Ienaga were both very ordinary for most of the match. Our pushed forward full backs meant that there was loads of space for FC Tokyo to run into. Kubo was giving us plenty of grief in these areas. People have been waxing lyrical about him on twitter, presumably wanting to take a break from Nara-hating, but the main clip I’ve seen of him ‘owning’ Ienaga is of a dribble, beating a few players, resulting in A CORNER! Amazing! He’s clearly a big talent, but I think we should probably remember that FC Tokyo only had six shots in the whole game and only one on target so you can dribble all you like, but it’s all a bit pointless if you don’t score. Yeah, he hit the post with a nice free kick, but the goal only counts if the ball goes in between the posts I believe.
So yeah, were the new tactics actually the old tactics but with a bit of pre-season rustiness? Or was this week the rusty one? Or are FC Tokyo actually pretty good this year? One things for sure, it probably doesn’t matter what tactics you play if there are so many bad performances in one team in the same match.
Diego Oliveira runs funny
- It’s probably a stupid point, but when he wasn’t rolling around on the floor the most noticeable thing about Diego Oliveira was the fact that he looks like he’s always running down a steep hill, arms flailing, just about managing to stay upright. But not as fast as that sounds obviously.
The blue running track
- Looks nice! But also looks a bit like water. And of course, it'd be much better if there was no running track at all, but guess that can't be helped.
This was a weird game. I went away feeling like we’d lost, but instead we’d just stunk the place up and managed to still get a point. Aside from one exhilarating 10-15 minute period in the second half, we were rotten. We really need to avoid another performance like this. I know goals and wins build confidence and that brings good results, but we probably should have had some confidence from last week’s performance and result and it appeared to be lacking. For the second game in a row, we’ve limited the opposition to one shot on target, which shows that we must be doing something right. I think we skirted a bit close to the edge on this occasion though. I know I have a tendency to go from euphoria to despair from moment to moment, but this was another dodgy start to a league campaign. Last year we beat Jubilo in our opening fixture, but if I remember rightly, the scoreline flattered us. This season, instead of the usual Shonan Belmare at home second fixture we’ve had for the last couple of years (possibly not 100% true, but that’s what it feels like), we have Kashima Antlers visiting next Friday, a team who suffered a shock defeat against newly promoted Oita in their first game. Hopefully we can get things sorted and maybe even score a goal! Our team now has an embarrassment of attacking riches on paper. But as we know, football is played on grass, not on paper, so we’d better start performing how we would hope to perform as soon as possible!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 26. MAGUINHO
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki (Yellow card 79')
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro (Yellow card 33')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (Yellow card 66')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (on for MAGUINHO 55')
MF 19. SAITO Manabu (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 73')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for NAKAMURA 81')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
My Frontale Man Of The Match
If this were a disappointing performance of the match there’d have to be mentions for Nara, Taniguchi, Kurumaya, Morita, Kengo, Ienaga and Kobayashi. So, well over half of the team. Sung-Ryong had very little to do but made one crucial intervention after a potentially calamitous Taniguchi header back to him fell woefully short. Maguinho and Damiao are excused as they’re still settling in. Guess that leaves Oshima, who was quiet but unlike most of his teammates, didn’t do anything stupid. This would be a bit of an underwhelming selection though, so instead of that I’ll give it to…
MAWATARI Kazuaki - Not sure he played the best, but his introduction coincided with our best period. He looked like he was up for it and even took a corner! (Which unfortunately failed to beat the first defender. Must have been practicing with Kengo!) Have a feeling he’ll start the next match, which seems tough on Maguinho, but that’s Oniki’s way I guess.