Saturday 2 March 2019

Vs Kashima Antlers (home) 1/3/19 - J League match 2

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Kashima Antlers


Looking to kick on from a disappointing performance against FC Tokyo last week, we welcomed Kashima to Todoroki on Friday night looking for our first goal and our first win of the season. Well, mission half accomplished. We scored! I know it’s a bit early still to be calling this a bad start to the season, but leaving aside the Super Cup, we’re starting the year in our usual sluggish way. At least this is how it feels to me. In 2017 our first five league games featured two wins, two draws and one loss. 2018 was three wins, a draw and one loss, So perhaps the figures suggest that the reality is that we don’t start so badly. But both of those years we got our first league win away from home, and the reality is that this year, our first away game is our next one and it’s away at Yokohama. Good time to kick things off, I’d say. We’re overdue a win there. But I’m not exactly brimming with confidence at the moment. Before then, we’re away to Shanghai in what could be our most difficult ACL group game. Have to say, I’m a bit worried about that one too. But it would be lovely to be typing my next league game blog post with two wins under our belt. We can dream, I guess. The fact is, this was a slightly more promising performance than against FC Tokyo, but still a draw with only one goal from a set piece and a clanger of a long ball goal conceded against a Kashima team with a lot of injuries and us with our first choice eleven available. There is clearly work to be done. Let’s hope it’s done soon. Anyway, here’s what we learned from this game.

Kashima are slowly reassembling their beloved Zico but don’t like any other former players

- I know I always make a bad joke about it, but Kashima’s ‘Spirit of Zico’ flag always carries a feeling of a tribute to a passed-away club legend. As I also always like to say, that Zico spirit of petulantly spitting on the ball after conceding a penalty and getting sent off isn’t exactly something I’d want to celebrate. As far as I know at the time of writing, he’s still alive but their new ‘Heart of Zico’ flag suggests that they aren’t so sure and are thinking of making some kind of Frankenstein’s monster player from some parts they have found lying around in the stadium. I’m looking forward to future Kashima flags ‘Buttocks of Zico’, ‘Beard of Ogasawara’ and ‘Hair of Uchida’ as the project continues. I guess Zico is back with the club (or at least was recently. Don't know if he's still there), but similar good feelings were very much absent regarding other former players. Whilst we normally applaud former players (more on that kind of niceness in the next point), Kashima were strong on the booing for both Yamamura and Oniki, as well as the usual booing for our big name players and this time Nara, obviously still reeling for the apparent injustice of him not getting sent off last week. Didn't know they cared so much about FC Tokyo's games.

Frontale fans are on the whole nicer than I am

- This was a thoroughly underwhelming performance as far as I’m concerned, but our fans still sang the players off the field at the end of the game. There is definitely something to be said for this as we should support the team through good times and bad, but after the final whistle yesterday, personally speaking, I just wanted to scoot off home. Yesterday, once again there were way too many bad performances that a nice free kick from Kengo and a point against Kashima don’t paper over I think. Kobayashi’s usual three terrible shots then a goal ratio seems to have increased exponentially. He’s clearly a confidence player and needs to get going this year, and some of his support play was useful, but his shooting has been really disappointing. Morita and Oshima were pretty average and at times pretty awful, giving the ball away time after time. Really out of sorts. Kurumaya and Taniguchi had pretty bad games too and were far too error prone. Ienaga was better than last week but is still failing to reach the heights of last year. Damiao was better but still doesn’t seem to have quite built up and understanding with his teammates. At least he was getting the ball a bit more this game. Mawatari did well but is still a bit raw and Nara had a good game aside form the goal we conceded, which was a bit of a hoofed ball nightmare goal to give away, but can’t really be pinned on anyone in particular. In the face of such mediocrity, it’s surprising people apparently thought we’d put in a good effort, and well done to them for their positivity, but personally I struggle to be so positive.

Who needs goals when you have passes?

- We passed, and we passed, and we passed again. Occasionally we’d shoot, but not very well. Passes are all well and good, but goals win games and in 180 minutes of league football so far this season, we haven’t troubled the opposition keeper much. I know our style is a patient kind of football, but we need to make our players more willing to shoot sometimes, particularly when we have the ball on the edge of the opposition box. We’re way too predictable at the moment, trying to slowly work the ball into the penalty area and then walk it into the net. Mawatari starting seemed to lead to us crossing the ball into the box a bit more which was nice. Sadly no-one got on the end of any of them. With the game delicately poised at 1-1 and with two Kashima players on the same side of the pitch booked, I would have though it would have made sense to get Saito on to run at them a bit and commit them to making tackles. But instead we persisted with the same tactics. We had chances, but we didn’t put them away. No goals from open play yet…

Oniki’s not afraid to make changes, but maybe he actually is

- The introduction of Mawatari shows that Oniki isn’t afraid to make some changes in our starting line up. I don’t think Maguinho had done anything wrong in particular and could feel a bit aggrieved to be dropped right out of the matchday squad but Mawatari did seem to briefly change things against FC Tokyo and did well in this game too. I couldn’t argue with the starting line-up to be honest. The problem I have though, is that we will probably persist with players who are not playing at all well whilst leaving people on the bench and in the stand who are chomping at the bit for an opportunity to show what they can do. I also feel that yesterday’s subs ignored the players who were stinking things up and failed to address the problems we were having. Kurumaya probably deserved to be subbed, but when we were desperately trying to get a winner, changing the two full backs seemed a bit of a weird decision. I’m not going to get on Oniki’s back this early in the season as I feel he’s being let down by some poor performances at the moment. But, I hope he pays attention to some of the stinkers that people are having. It would be a bold move to leave out some ‘big names’, but it might be what we need to do to get things moving.

The referee…

- He seemed to actually have a decent game! Of course I disagreed strongly with many of his decisions in the way that only a hugely biased fan could, but yeah, well officiated Sato. It makes a really nice change to not be moaning about this for once.

Yeah, so I’m a bit pessimistic about this game, and a bit worried about the away ACL game against Shanghai and next weekend against Yokohama, against whom if we can’t score, we really have got some issues. Perhaps we’ve been a bit unfortunate to have to start the season with a couple of derbies and a game against Kashima, as we need a bit of momentum to build up. But in both of our league games so far we’ve had good periods where we’ve attacked and attacked but have failed to score. I’m not sure about removing Damiao so early, but perhaps he’s not completely fit yet. I wonder what happened to those new tactics we used against Urawa. Were Urawa just really bad? Were those tactics just a lucky mistake? We’ve now got a big name striker with some pedigree who’s on a big wage, so we should probably be giving him the ball a bit more often and encouraging him to shoot a bit more. I’m very concerned that some people are saying we should use him as a super-sub and bring Abe back, presumably putting Kobayashi back up front. Kobayashi hasn’t exactly been troubling the keeper so far. I think maybe Oniki is picking the players first and then trying to fit them into the system. Ienaga on the left doesn’t seem to work very well and for periods in this game, Kobayashi was playing there with Ienaga switching back to the right. When we have so many players whose position is on the left that seems a bit strange. If we’re going to stick to this starting eleven, I’d much rather Kobayashi pushed further up alongside Damiao and Kengo and Ienaga had more of a free role to roam across the pitch behind the strikers. But I’m no tactical expert (clearly), and it’s probably more important for our players to stop playing so badly before we start tweaking the formation and tactics. A decent result against Shanghai would probably steady the ship a little and bring some confidence. A bad result would probably have the opposite effect. Our next league game is probably more significant though. If we could get five points from three games things would feel a lot better. If it were two or three points, we could be looking at a longer slump. Fingers crossed. Actually, everything crossed I think. 


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (Yellow card 66')
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for KURUMAYA 86')
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 69')
MF 19. SAITO Manabu
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for MAWATARI 85')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Not a great deal of choice with far more bad performances than good ones. I don't like to always give it to the goal scorer but with it going to Mawatari last time and in spite of a solid performance it would be a bit of a reach to give it to Nara after we conceded that goal, I guess it has to go to...

NAKAMURA Kengo - lovely free kick and a much improved performance from last week. Still lasting 90 minutes which is encouraging and even if he's not quite reaching the heights of previous years yet, had a solid game.

NAKAMURA (Frontale) 9' 1-0
ITO (Kashima) 21' 1-1


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