Sunday 21 April 2019

Vs Shonan Bellmare (home) 19/4/19 - J League match 8

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 0 Shonan Bellmare

Another win! Amazing! And against one of our usual bogey teams! And a local rival! And Leyton Orient won! And Yokohama (the apparent kings of the J League 2019, according to some) and Vissel Rakuten (perhaps my new most hated team) lost! What a time to be alive! It’s fair to say that weekends like this don’t come around very often so we should enjoy them to the fullest. Let’s not mess around here and get this blog post over and done with quickly. Here's what we might have learned from this game:

Green shoots of recovery… for 20 minutes or so... but maybe I'm being stupid -

It’s fair to say that this feels like it’s a been a pretty rotten start to a season. I say ‘feels like’ because looking at the past couple of championship winning years this is actually the same start we always make. In 2017 we had 13 points after eight games. In 2018, it was 12 points at the same stage. After this win we’re on 13 after eight games and things are looking a lot better than they were a couple of weeks ago. Admittedly, our wins have come against teams that people might expect to be languishing near the bottom of the table come the end of the season. This is a strange contrast to previous years, when these are the kind of teams we really struggled against. Perhaps Oniki has worked out a system for defeating teams who really look to stifle and defend against us. It didn’t work against Cerezo though. But this points comparison with previous seasons and another win has made me feel a lot more positive about what was, aside from maybe 20 minutes in the first half and some odd flashes of excitement in the second half, a pretty dull game and a pretty average performance. But again, perhaps my choice of words hints at some kind of progression as we’re now putting in average performances instead of terrible ones. We were under some real pressure from Shonan for periods of this game. And if we hadn’t got a couple of nice goals, one with a lovely assist from Nara, (who has been putting in some great through balls recently), and one an absolute belter of a finish from Abe, we might have been hanging on for a draw at the end of this game. Of course this is a kind of ridiculous thing to say - if we hadn’t scored twice we might have drawn. But again it wasn’t a dynamic attacking performance from us. But yeah, maybe some progress.

Different week, but same old changes -

Our still lengthy injury list seems to not be such a big problem recently as we’ve won a couple of games. And I’m going to try to not moan excessively whilst we’re winning. But I still think we’re missing a trick with our substitutions. They seem pretty formulaic, something I think I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, and very rarely seem to have any purpose other than to kill time. Perhaps Mawatari is still being nursed back to full health so can’t play 90 minutes. A sub in our left wing spot seems to happen every game, mainly due to us having way too many players who can play there. Hasegawa did pretty well when he came on though. The final sub is the baffling one which Oniki seems to do a lot recently. Take off the main striker and replace him with pretty much anyone who could do with a bit of pitch time unless they are a striker. I wonder what Leandro Damiao is thinking when for the last few games, Chinen has been replaced up front with a midfielder. I can’t see any change of formation happening on these occasions. You would have thought that we might want to play our most high profile signing a bit more to be honest. He’s scored a few in the chances he’s had, but seems to have completely dropped out of contention for a start in the league. I'm not saying he should start ahead of Chinen (more of that in the next point), but Oniki seems to not want to put him on the pitch at all. As with Maguinho, Caio Cesar and Jesiel, our Brazilians seem to be an option only for when all other options have been exhausted or for when a game is pretty much over. You’ve got to wonder if Oniki had anything to do with the signings of these players. You could probably say the same for Saito and Yamamura too. Even with an injury crisis, plenty of players seem to be nowhere near contention and when they get a chance, it’s for the shortest possible time, giving them no chance to get some minutes under their belt and settle in.

Super Chinen -

I made a prediction last season I think, that perhaps Chinen would leave us to play in Europe at some stage as it seemed to me that European clubs normally like to sign young Japanese forwards and let them rot in their reserves. There was some amusement at me trumpeting Chinen as a future star at that time, and to be honest, later in the season, I could kind of understand the amusement. Skip forward a season though and he’s in hot form, four goals in four league games, voices on twitter saying he should be called up for the national team and someone even describing him as the new Osako. It’s amazing what a few goals can do! Long may he continue this run of form. He definitely deserves to keep his place at the moment, and if that means a big money Brazilian can’t get a game, then that’s fair enough. Apparently he has said he’d like to finish his career at Frontale, which either suggests he’s really happy here, or that he’s considering coming back to us after a spell in Europe is done. He may not have the skills and control of Kobayashi, but he always seems to give 100%, has recently found a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and is finishing nicely. And let's be honest, if he's putting the ball in the net, that's a lot more useful for results than having great ball skills. He also has a bit of grit about his play. Yesterday he chased down a defender near the corner flag, won the ball in a tussle and managed to pass it to a Frontale player whilst on the deck. I haven’t described this particularly well, but what can I say, I’m not a writer. Believe me, it was much more impressive than I made it sound. It’s unfortunate for Damiao that Chinen is playing so well, but I don’t think that’s going to make any of us hope that he has an off-game and Damiao comes in. Whether he’ll play against Ulsan is an interesting conundrum. He didn’t last time, and some might say we are specially using Damiao in the ACL, but I really don’t understand that logic from a tactical point of view and I think it points towards us not knowing what our priorities are this year, and possibly also not being able to decide what our best team is.

Sloppy Shonan team and surly Shonan fan -

Acceleration! This seemed to be a decent season slogan for Shonan at the start of this year as they were doing pretty well, had a big new financial backer and were presumably looking to push on. Not sure that’s really happening though. They looked pretty sloppy against us. Perhaps the local derby thing got to them. It certainly seemed to fill a certain one of their supporters on twitter with some rage. They did have some good periods in the game though. But too many passes were misplaced for them to pose too much of a serious threat. The stats of the game were pretty even in all respects, so I guess it has to go down as us taking our chances and them not doing so. But three shots on target for each team in 90 minutes probably points at the overall quality of the match.

The Iemoto saga continues -

One quick final mention of the ref, who was our old friend Iemoto again. We still have an absurdly good record in games with him in charge. Even though, after some of our fans cheered his announcement in the away game at FC Tokyo last year, he seems keen to even up the score slightly. Once again, I thought he tried a bit too hard to make himself look like he wasn’t favouring us. I don’t think he does, and now I’m sure he’s veered the other way, giving most decisions to the opposition. It was an interesting performance, with him overruling decisions from both linesmen after a bit of whinging from Shonan players. There was one particularly confusing decision for me. Around 26 minutes Kobayashi broke through on goal and was brought down from behind by the last defender. Kobayashi thought it should have been a penalty but it was just outside the area. If it had been in the box, the yellow card he showed would have made sense under the double jeopardy rule (penalty and yellow rather than red). Outside the box though, it surely had to be a red, unless my understanding of the rules is either wrong or outdated. In any case, it wasn’t given. Perhaps if it had been a red we might have been able to go on and get a few more goals. As it was, we seemed to turn off our attacking after our slightly unexpected second goal. Under Oniki we do tend to play a bit more conservatively, which grudgingly I have to admit is probably a good thing if we want to succeed.

So, two wins on the trot and we now sit above Yokohama in the table, who are apparently just an awesome-amazing-change-the-way-football-is-in-Japan-super-attacking-wonder team. Or maybe they’re still like they were last season. We’re seven points off top spot, which is a big gap so early in the season, but is by no means unbridgeable if we keep improving. I’m a broken record with regards to whinging about Oniki, but I think I’ve not been too unfair so far this year, but if we keep on winning and even start playing well, he’ll make me look increasingly stupid over the coming months. I’m happy to take that. Next up, Ulsan at home in the ACL, which is something of a make or break game, and then Vissel Kobe away at the start of Golden Week. Couple of wins in these games and I would be very pleased indeed. Go Frontake!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 70')
DF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for MAWATARI 64')
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for CHINEN 85')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya

My Frontale Man Of The Match

There were a few candidates for this, in spite of it being a fairly average game. Kobayashi was given the worst score of the whole team on a Japanese football website, but I think he was one of our better players. Sure, he didn’t score and didn’t have so many chances, but his approach play was great and some of his turns were quite exhilarating. Nara was solid at the back and once again a good creative option for us, providing a lovely assist. Chinen keeps on scoring and as long as he’s doing that he’s doing his job. But, even though they apparently only had three shots on target, I’m going to give it to....

JUNG Sung-Ryong - solid game, pulled off some nice saves, relieves pressure with some good distribution and did well from their set pieces. Also was his 100th league game for us. Bravo!


ABE (Frontale) 21' 1-0
CHINEN (Frontale) 37' 2-0


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