This could have been a great way to get the season finally started after misfiring against FC Tokyo and Kashima and losing unluckily to Shanghai. A nice victory against our local rivals would have been lovely. Especially as they had started the season pretty well and people were raving about their ‘beautiful attacking football’. However, as often happens when beautiful football and a local derby come into contact, the result was an exciting match, a bit lacking in quality but making up for the lack of quality with a load of grit and fouling. We can’t really complain about the result, as we didn’t deserve to win. Everything was pretty even really, and in keeping with our poor start to the season, the little bits of luck or inspiration that come your way when you’ve been playing well were completely absent from our game. Our cause seemed like it wouldn’t be helped by an injury to Oshima in the warm up, meaning that although he’d been named in the starting line up, come kick off his spot was taken by Ao, who it actually turned out, put in one of our best performances. The ref, Iida was a constant presence giving pretty much every tackle as a foul. There was some pretty tasty play in this game though with Yokohama picking up four yellows, and in my completely unbiased view, deserving a few more. I’d love to check the highlights to find a reason why Yokohama’s late equalizer shouldn’t have been allowed, but I won’t. I don’t really want to watch the highlights and it was probably fine anyway. Of course, I’d have loved to have won this game. Yokohama seem to be a lot better this year. And although they still look very shaky at the back we only managed to score twice against them. Admittedly, that’s the most goals we’ve managed to score in a game so far the season, but they looked a mess and we were unable to take three points off them. This fixture does tend to be a tough one for us though, so I guess it’s not all doom and gloom just yet. But this would have been a good opportunity to send a message to both Yokohama and the other teams in the league. We probably have still sent a message, but it’s a significantly less robust one than we might have hoped to send. Here are some fairly lacklustre and quite many points about the game.
Rotation situation -
Certainly, we’ve had some issues with Oniki’s ‘rotation’ in the past. At times last year it seemed that he thought that making massive changes in one area of the pitch whilst leaving the rest intact counted as good squad rotation. He seemed to abandon this towards the end of the season in the domestic cups, reverting to keeping pretty much the same players starting the games and even making the same substitutions at almost exactly the same time in each game. I’m not sure if this represented a lack of depth in the squad or a lack of ideas as far as Oniki was concerned. It worked out alright anyway, didn’t it? This year, we seem to have started rotating a bit more subtly. Perhaps Saito was left at home for the ACL to save him for this game against his old team. Or perhaps not. Perhaps Damiao wasn’t quite fully fit yet so, in spite of him being our great hope for the ACL, he was left on the bench. But then he played 90 minutes today in spite of looking pretty tired from about an hour onwards. In retrospect, it seems like a bit of a waste of time to take him to Shanghai and then only play him for a couple of minutes. Rotation meant that Kobayashi and Kengo started on the bench in this game. But given his recent form in front of goal, perhaps Kobayashi should have been dropped rather than rested. Anyway, all this is just a long winded way of saying that we apparently still can’t really do rotation. Although considering our performances in the last two games, perhaps we are rotating perfectly, putting it identically mediocre performances in the league and the ACL, with players playing equally uninspiringly in both competitions. Given what we’ve seen on the pitch, it’s hard to tell which competition we’re favouring. Perhaps we’re aiming for disappointment in both.
Consistently underwhelming -
Can we have the old Kurumaya back please? Because this new version hasn’t had a good game for ages. And Morita, we know that you might be attracting some attention from overseas and from the national team. Honestly, you don’t have to try to put them off by pretending you can’t play. I know this is a bit churlish to players who’ve been extremely important for us in the past and I apologize for that. But it’s weird that the two players who’ve attracted the most attention have been so out of form. They are probably our closest two players to the national team, but are making errors again and again. Perhaps it’s case of us expecting more from them as we know they’re great players. Or perhaps something is troubling them. Of course, they’re not playing terribly, it’s just repeated little unforced errors and sloppy passing. It’s a bit weird. Kobayashi has been well off the boil too, but when he came on in this game I though he made a real difference. Whichever way you look at it, we need to get our best players playing like they are our best players sooner rather than later. The longer this winless run goes on, the more it’s going to play on everyone’s mind.
Positionally challenged bench and logically challenged subs -
The line up for this game came as a bit of a shock, what with the rotation and the change of formation to two up front. But then again I suppose the last starting line up was a bit of a surprise too. Two up front seemed to work ok in this game, but it can’t have been that great as we didn’t win and we only scored twice against Yokohama’s at times shambolic defence. From the announcement of the line up I was a bit worried given the relative lack of options on the bench. Of course the loss of Oshima immediately cut these options further, but even before this happened we had one keeper and six midfielders on there. Of course, some players can play in other positions, but having Hasegawa and Saito on there seemed crazy as they are both competing for the same spot. I guess that it was due to be Saito’s turn, but Hasegawa did well on Wednesday so he also got the nod. When we finally came to use these subs, I wasn’t sure about some of the changes. It’s a shame Ienaga was changed for Kobayashi as he was playing much better than he has recently. But I’m with Oniki on this one, as Ienaga was reaching boiling point and a second yellow looked like a possibility. This was almost like an enforced change to be honest. Changing Nobori also made sense as he looked like he might be struggling a little with a slight injury at times. I think it was a golden opportunity for Saito though. The final sub was just weird. Sure, Morita had been having a bit of a dodgy game, but I don’t understand why Oniki replaced him with Kengo, who himself looked decidedly rusty when he came on. It just seemed like a waste of a chance to mix things up. And another missed opportunity for Saito to come on for maybe Chinen or Damiao who both looked tired. Of course, Damiao scored, so that shows how much I know.
Hate thy neighbour -
It’s always pretty annoying to concede late in the game, especially when it’s with the last kick (or header) of the match, and especially especially when it loses you two points. I guess Yokohama owed us this though after our injury time comeback from one goal down to one goal up a few seasons ago. That was a great time to be a Frontale fan. And it seemed that today was equally good for Yokohama, even though they only rescued a point rather than snatched all three. Whilst a draw was a fair result in this game, the celebrations of the Yokohama fans suggest that they haven’t really enjoyed our recent success that much. For some rival teams’ fans the fact that we still haven’t won in the league this season seems more significant than how their own team is doing. It’s still early days though and Yokohama have only beaten Sendai, who many people are picking as hot relegation favourites, and Gamba, who seem to start seasons worse than we do. Gamba are above us in the table though… And they incidentally are our next league opponents. Something’s got to give in that game
When does a slow start become a bad season? -
Guess it will be pretty soon if things don’t improve. We’re three games in, which is still early, but we can’t depend on us being able to claw back a team well in the lead again this year. We can’t even consider being able to do this till we actually manage to win a game. I said that this game would be a crucial one, but the result has just shifted the crucialness (I guess that’s probably not a word…maybe cruciality) onto the next league game and has also notched the tension up a little. Our ACL loss was a bummer, but it was unlucky and was probably our hardest group game. If we fail to beat Sydney on Wednesday at home (probably our easiest group game on paper) we can start really reaching for the panic button. Bizarrely, given my past feelings, I’m not piling all this on Oniki. There have been too many average and below average performances on the pitch. Hopefully Oniki can motivate us to do a bit better going forwards. Hopefully…
That’ll do I guess. This blog post has already gone on too long. It doesn’t really logically follow, but hopefully throwing away three points against our local rivals will cause us to get ourselves into gear a bit more. Bring on Sydney on Wednesday and you know, maybe we could, like, perhaps win a match. Not promising anything, but surely sooner or later we’ve got to win one, right?
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 58')
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for IENAGA 66')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for MORITA 80')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NOBORIZATO 68')
MF 19. SAITO Manabu
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
My Frontale Man Of The Match
This could have been Damiao’s for two goals. Or Ienaga’s as he had a much improved performance, but his stupid yellow and consequent blood-boiling rage and necessary substitution snatched it away from and handed it to….
TANAKA Ao - wasn’t even supposed to start, but somehow seemed to be better prepared for the game than most of our players. Looked a lot better than Morita in this game and did really well for such a young talent.
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 4' 0-1
JUNIOR (Yokohama) 23' 1-1
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 88' 1-2
OGIHARA (Yokohama) 90+5' 2-2