Another picturesque away trip and another win. That’s five wins in a row in the league now. And although our injury list is shortening, we still have some big name players absent so that’s no mean feat. Kurumaya and Chinen were back on the bench in this game, but there’s still no sign of Kengo, Abe, Ienaga and... Caio Cesar. Of course there will be no sign of Nara for a while as he recovers from surgery on his knee. He’s expected to be back in four months. Interestingly only Ienaga and Nara were actually listed as injuries, so perhaps the others are on their way back and just trying to get fit or maybe Oniki is playing it tough on the returnees and keeping faith with the players who’ve been winning games. I think it would be a surprise if some of these players didn’t go straight back into the team when they are fully fit, but you’ve got to admit that we’ve been playing a bit better with some of them injured. Unlike with the last two years of Shimizu away fixtures, this was a game that was played in decent weather. If anything it might have actually been a bit too warm and sunny. But still we weren’t able to see Fuji as it was a bit cloudy in that direction. In any case, it was another very nice away game experience with plenty of mixing between the two sets of fans and a pretty good turnout from us. I always say it, and to be honest recently it seems that I always say ‘I always say it’, but it’s really nice to have a friendly atmosphere at a game. It really makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. And there probably should be some kind of good feeling between the two clubs as Shimizu had four ex-Frontale players in their matchday squad. I’m sure Elsinho is still fresh in our minds, but alongside him there was also Nishibe, Chong Tese and Kusukami. So plenty of familiar faces. And also plenty of goals, which has been something of a rarity recently. All in all a very enjoyable day! Here’s what we might have learned from this game.
Players stepping up to be counted-
Players stepping up to be counted-
Every cloud has a silver lining. Or perhaps one player’s cloud is another’s silver lining. Can I mangle any more proverbs in this post I wonder? This is all a roundabout way of saying our lengthy injury list is giving people chances and most of them are grabbing them with both hands. I think all of the standout players in this game would probably not be in Oniki's first choice eleven if he had a fully fit squad. Whether you agree with him on this is another matter, I guess. But injuries have gifted Damiao, Manabu, Wakizaka and Jesiel chances and in this game they really made the most of them. Damiao was fully of energy and enthusiasm. He showed great control and strength to hold off two defenders and then run half the length of the pitch before beating another defender to cross for Wakizaka’s goal. The way he brushed off the opposition seemed almost superhuman. He was really up for this game, punching the air after slide tackling a Shimizu defender, always encouraging his teammates and seemed really gutted when a few of his chances went wide. Conversely, he looked really happy at the end of the game. He really seems to care! He totally deserved his goal, and it was an absolute beauty. I won’t bother trying to describe it as it’s something that needs to be watched. Poor Nishibe could have had his head taken off if he’d got in the way of it. Wakizaka grows in confidence every game. Perhaps his first goal for the club was not 100% his goal, but the fact that he managed to get in the right position from a really fast break was impressive. I’m not sure what his goal celebration with Damiao was about. They seemed to be playing tennis. Nice! Jesiel is fast moving up the pecking order of central defenders. Nara’s injury has put him in the picture, the fact that he isn’t registered for the ACL means that Michael James will play those games and therefore Jesiel is getting his chance in the league. I have to say though, that as well as Michael James has played recently, Jesiel looks like he might be the best of all of our defenders. He’s solid, assured and strong. There was a brief misunderstanding between him and Sung-Ryong, but I guess they haven’t played much together and there could be a few teething problems due to language involved. He looks very impressive at the moment though. And finally, on to Manabu. He’s finally getting a run in the side and he is another who is staking a claim to stay in the side in spite of whoever gets fit. Like Damiao, he looks hungry and very dangerous. Let’s hope that form can continue.
Exciting goals, exciting tactics -
We were spoilt by getting two absolute cracker goals in one game, both of them right in front of us. The first two goals did the job, but Oshima and Damiao’s were top notch. The fact that both missed out on goal of the week seems crazy to me, but bear in mind that this is coming from someone who is in no way impartial and the fact that the winner of this competition came from a local rival team’s super-hyped player definitely has some bearing on why I think this. I’m claiming an assist for Oshima’s goal, as I shouted ‘HIT IT!!!’ as he received the ball. It was great to see him shoot from distance again as he hasn’t done so as much recently and he has always been a danger from outside the box. Damiao teeing himself up for a overhead was lovely too. Also lovely was Yamamura’s strength to win the ball and release it to Hasegawa, whose dribble and pass perfectly set Damiao up. A fantastic finish, but also some good team work in the build up.
Tactically, we seem to have returned to the 4-2-2-2 that we used and seemed to work so well against Urawa in the Super Cup. Admittedly, Urawa might not have been particularly in form at that stage, and recently we have been playing against teams near the bottom of the table, but having Morita and Oshima sitting in front of the defence, Kobayashi and Damiao up front and Manabu and Wakizaka in between the four of them is working well. They are not restricted to just playing like wingers, often doubling up on one side, sometimes playing through the middle. Their roles seem very flexible and their high energy style of play seems to work well in this formation. Hasegawa was equally as effective when he came on, so it seems like in spite of the injuries we’re spoilt for choice at the moment. It was also good to see Yamamura get a bit more of a chance. He played for 30 minutes and was probably more in the Kengo role (with us switching back to more of a 4-2-3-1) than when he has come on further forward recently. I think he did really well and deserves to get some more time on the pitch soon. Problem for him is that almost everyone is doing well at the moment. Morita didn’t have the best of games, but he did improve as the game went on. I wish he’d stop trying flashy and showy passes though, as when inevitably they don’t come off, we look a bit cocky, stupid and also put ourselves in danger. But yeah, I don’t want to be mean to him, as aside from a few blunders he did ok.
Another manager bites the dust -
Once again a defeat to Frontale has put an end to an opposition manager’s employment. Jan Jonsson got the sack after this game. The fact that some of the Shimizu fans were applauding Damiao’s goal might suggest that some of them were hoping for a big defeat in order that he got the boot. I like to think it was just good sportsmanship though. It’s a shame for him, as for large parts of the first half they caused us some problems, and if we hadn’t scored just before halftime, I think the second half would have been very different. But football matches change on small things, and we never really looked in any danger in a second half where we looked pretty lethal and probably could have scored more. It always seems surprising to me that a loss to Frontale seems to sometimes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for opposition coaches. The fact that we have won the league for the last two seasons seems to not matter. Perhaps we are still perceived as a small and not so dangerous team. Plenty of people lost to us last year, so maybe teams shouldn’t be so surprised if it happens to them.
Apologies this post is a bit of a mess. If I were well organised I would probably use some of the time traveling home from these away games to write down some thoughts before I forget most things about the game. However, sadly I use the time after the game before the journey home to enjoy the local booze, so the journey itself becomes pretty unproductive. Our next game is coming up on Friday, at home against Nagoya and this forms the start of a little run of potentially tricky and quite important games. Nagoya are doing well at the moment. As are our following league opponents Oita who we visit the weekend after. In between these two games we are away in Sydney for our make-or-probably-break final ACL group game. So there’s plenty of travel coming up for the team and the fans. It will be interesting to see who Oniki chooses to send to Australia. Whilst we still have a chance, it’s out of our hands so perhaps he’ll send a semi-strong team to see if they can get our side of the job done and save some bigger names for Oita. It could be a good way to reintroduce some of those recovering players back into the team, but it would be a shame to break up any momentum we are building. Big decision time for Oniki I guess. I haven’t been able to moan much recently, and long may that continue! Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 19. SAITO Manabu
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 21. ARAI Shota
GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for NOBORIZATO 86')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for KOBAYASHI 58')FW 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 25 TANAKA Ao
DF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for WAKIZAKA 64')
Loads of good performances and a couple of cracking goals make this a really difficult decision. As he’s really starting to show what he can do, I’d love to give it to Manabu. Four different goal scorers don’t help me narrow it down either. But perhaps slightly bizarrely given the scoreline, I’m going to give it to...
JESIEL - started really well and seems to somehow still be improving. I think he could be very difficult to dislodge from the starting eleven if he keeps these kind of solid, strong and tidy performances up.
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 23' 0-1
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 45' 0-2
OSHIMA (Frontale) 80' 0-3
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 90+1' 0-4