Sunday, 24 February 2019

Vs FC Tokyo (home) 23/2/19 - J League match 1

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 3. NARA Tatsuki (Yellow card 79')
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro (Yellow card 33')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (Yellow card 66')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro

GK 21. ARAI Shota
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')

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. 




Sunday, 17 February 2019

Vs Urawa Reds 16/2/19 - Super Cup

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 0 Urawa Reds


We’re back! The 2019 season has (sort of) kicked off. At least as far as we’re concerned anyway. In the interests of my sanity and the sanity of my readers, I’m going to try to reform the way I write these posts into a general introduction part, some ‘what we have learned’  bullet points and then a conclusion. We’ll see how that goes, but  it seems clear to me that I’ve waffled on a bit too much in the past, with some of my posts being pretty text heavy and undigestible. Your feedback is welcome and may even be taken into consideration. Whilst last year’s Fuji Xerox Super Cup ‘final’ saw us flicker into life and then immediately extinguish ourselves, this was a whole lot more of a convincing start to a year, even if the scoreline didn’t completely reflect it. We got an opportunity to see some new faces, sing some new songs and celebrate a first cup title and a welcome win at the ‘neutral’ Saitama Stadium against Urawa, whose home ground is the Saitama Stadium. Here’s ‘what we learned’:

New players means new excitement!

- There was quite a buzz about the arrival of Leandro Damiao and it seems that he’s well up for fulfilling people’s expectations. He had a great first game, full of energy, causing big problems for the Urawa defenders and keeper with his pressuring and harrying. It was genuinely quite frightening to see him running towards the opposition keeper who’s trying to get rid of the ball. His goal was a nice one, with a lovely half-volleyed finish with plenty of power behind it. Maguinho had a decent game too, but, I felt, fell victim to some bizarre decisions from the officials. His replacement midway through the second half, Mawatari looked less comfortable, but admitted afterwards that he was quite nervous. I think it showed, and things will presumably only get easier for him from here. No sign of Yamamura or Jesiel, neither even making the bench, so the jury’s obviously still out on them.

Tactical juggling and perhaps even some flexibility!

- Apparently, Oniki spent the off-season in England, watching Premier League games and visiting an Arsenal training session. Interesting… This presumably resulted in us revealing our long overdue Plan B! Although perhaps this Plan B is actually the new Plan A and there still won’t be a Plan B, but who needs a plan B if the Plan A works well? The starting line-up was announced as being 4-2-2-2, with Kobayashi and Damiao up front and Kengo and Ienaga behind them. In reality we started more like last season’s 4-2-3-1 with Damiao being up top by himself. But any thoughts about this being a solid continuation of last season’s formation were soon in tatters. I’m not great with tactics, so I’m not sure exactly what was happening, but it seemed to me that the formation was very fluid. Kobayashi was at times alongside Damiao and at times on the right. Ienaga was all over the pitch, Kengo often back with Oshima as Morita bombed forward. It seems that maybe Kengo and Ienaga have some kind of agreement that while one of them does whatever they want, the other will stay in position. The lack of width is made up for by the fact that both of the full backs were pushing very far forward with Morita, Oshima or Kengo at times dropping back. It was pretty exciting from an attacking point of view and at the same time, we seemed surprisingly solid and well-organized at the back. The only drawback of this formation is the fact that the left side attacking midfield position that we are totally over-subscribed with talent for, and that Ienaga has now nominally been moved into, doesn’t really exist anymore. Perhaps we’re more likely to see Abe, Saito and Hasegawa further in-field and a bit freer when they get a chance. This would probably suit Saito quite well and he did well when he came on. It’s probably a bit early to declare Oniki a tactical genius, but this was pretty promising. Fingers crossed it doesn’t all fall to pieces in a week’s time against FC Tokyo.

New season, same poor officiating

- The ref was Iemoto again, and he still desperately seemed to be trying to prove that he doesn’t favour us since we stupidly cheered his announcement as the ref for our away game against FC Tokyo. Thankfully we were mid-song when he was announced for this game so we weren’t able to worsen the situation. Iemoto trying to appear like he doesn’t favour us can be the only justification for some of the truly bizarre decisions that riddled this game. But of course, I would say he was terrible and didn’t give us anything, wouldn’t I? I found it astonishing that Urawa only picked up one yellow in the whole game in spite of their constant fouling and destroying tactics. Yeah, this is all a bit biased, I guess, but it certainly seemed like we were getting the rough end of most of the calls in the game. Maguinho dribbled the ball up the pitch, through foul after foul, finally being felled just outside the box and Iemoto gave a free kick against him. Can’t really have any complaints about our two disallowed goals. Was furious at the time, my view at the other end of the pitch, directly behind play with perhaps a sub-standard prescription in my glasses clearly indicated two perfectly legitimate goals cruelly chalked off. Being able to watch the highlights proved that both decisions were right, with Kobayashi and Damiao being not perfectly in tune just yet. Can’t wait till they really start clicking!

Urawa: pride of Urawa

- I recall once being greatly amused by a Boston Utd flag which instead of having the expected ‘Pride Of (insert county)’ merely went with ‘Pride of Boston’ presumably realizing that Lincoln City or Grimsby Town had more claim on being the pride of Lincolnshire. Urawa have a similar flag, but I think in this case it’s probably more a case of the rest of Saitama being embarrassed by them. Leaving their supporters legendarily dubious politics and love of hooliganism aside, neither supporters or team left the stadium with much credit. I don’t know if it was because we played well, but Urawa looked very very ordinary, managing only one shot all game. Apparently they’d only played one pre-season game before this, which if it’s true is a bit bizarre. Presumably most of their pre-season training was spent perfecting fouling and I’ve got to give them credit, they were well drilled in that respect. As for the fans, as per usual (as far as I’m concerned), they were pretty quiet. I always say the same thing, but if they want to, they can make a lot of noise, but they seem to not be bothered most of the time. Although they piped up during the national anthem, which was a bit weird but not altogether surprising. Guess they are ‘patriots’. The other bizarre thing they did, apart from booing relentlessly the same few of our players they always do, was give Kurumaya a round of applause as our team was announced. I know he rejected an offer from them in the off-season, so perhaps the whole ‘treat ‘em mean, keep em keen’ thing works for them.

So, all in all, reasons to celebrate and reasons for cautious optimism. I never like to get too excited about things as I’m afraid of jinxes, but I’m looking forward to next weekend and seeing if we can pick things up from where we left off in this game. I guess if you’re looking for some doom and gloom, I could probably say that we only scored once in a game we pretty much dominated. In the second half things perhaps weren't as exhilarating as in the first, but we did actually score and there were new partnerships and relationships being built all over the pitch. Considering how poorly we normally start the season this either means that we’re going to be totally unstoppable, or we’re reversing the normal trend and will start well and then do a Hiroshima when it comes to the crunch. We should remember that this game with its multiple subs and rustiness all over the pitch is not a real indication of how the season will start. But at the same time we should consider that one-off games or cup competitions are the things that we normally mess up the most, so perhaps that monkey is off our back now. If we’d lost we’d probably be saying it doesn’t matter, but are now giving it added significance as we won. Whichever way you want to look at it, let’s enjoy another ‘title’ if you can call it that, enjoy sending out a message to our rivals this season and enjoy the thought of Leandro Damiao charging at the opposition defences equally committed, whether he has the ball or not. Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 66')
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (Yellow card 27')

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for KURUMAYA 14')
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for KOBAYASHI 88')
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (on for MAGUINHO 70')
MF 19. SAITO Manabu (on for NAKAMURA 70')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 79')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao (on for MORITA 79')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Yeah, it’s a glorified friendly, yeah, people are rusty and there are new faces to integrate. But I’m still going to award this. Don’t think anyone had a bad game but there was probably one stand out performer, especially if you judge these things by the sprint count, a stat that Japanese football broadcasters seem to be obsessed with. So, it goes to…

LEANDRO DAMIAO - Bossed the Urawa defence with his power and drive, constantly chasing apparently lost causes, willing to shoot and scored an absolute blaster half-volley that wouldn’t have been stopped even if there was a player in the way. Bravo! (Please don’t get injured…). 26 sprints.


LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 52' 1-0


Sunday, 3 February 2019

New player songs 2019

New players = new songs. I'll be butchering some of these in a few weeks I guess.


Jesiel, Allez Allez Allez!
Jesiel, Allez Allez Allez


Damiao, Oh Oh Oh Oh
Damiao, Oh Oh Oh Oh

17. MAWATARI Kazuaki

La la la, la la la
Mawatari Kazuaki
La la la, la la la
Mawatari Kazuaki


Maguinho, Vamo! Vamo!
Maguinho, Vamo! Vamo!
Oh Oh Oh Oh, Maguinho!

30. MIYASHIRO Taisei

Miyashiro Taisei,
Misete yarouze!
Goal e buchikome!
Miyashiro Taisei

34. YAMAMURA Kazuya

Otoko Yamamura, Tatakae Yamamura!
Yume o orerato, tsukamoze
La la la la la la la, La la la la la la la!
Yamamura koko de, buchikamase

(the last line got changed halfway through the season for some reason)


Oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh,
Caio Cesar,
Oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh,
Caio Cesar!