The new season is fast approaching so it’s definitely time to put last year to bed and look forward to 2020. With that in mind, here are the results of my 2019 season Frontale Rabbit survey. As always, thank you very much to all who took part and gave me their answers. It seems that 2019 wasn’t the brightest of years but people still found some positives and highlights. Cheers!
1. Game of season - Levain Cup Final
In a slightly disappointing season, it's no surprise to see that most people opted for success. The runaway winner in this category was the Levain Cup Final, which whilst undeniably being an exciting game, was a bit too nerve racking for me to choose it. Aside from the final, but still on topic, one person mentioned the semi final victory at home against Kashima which was a lot of fun given the opposition and how much we dominated them towards the end of the game. Also mentioned was the other trophy we took last year, the Fuji Xerox Super Cup game against Urawa, with the comment 'I thought "Wow we're super this year! We will definitely win several titles!" (Of course I was wrong.)' I can definitely relate to that. My choice, and it was one shared by a couple of others, was the Tamagawa Classico away at FC Tokyo. They were looking pretty strong at that stage and we totally walloped them. Very satisfying! Guess this shows that even if it eventually leads to nothing, it's still a lot of fun to hand your local rivals a pasting on their own patch. Just wish we could have done the same to Yokohama...
2. Player of the season - Tanaka Ao
I'm with the majority here who said that Ao was the standout. Guess it's no surprise as he won the J League young player of the year and is one of the few national team hopes we have. Personally, I thought he was head and shoulders above everyone else, but not everyone agreed. There were single mentions for Oshima, Abe, Wakizaka and a couple of votes for Kobayashi.
3. Goal of the season - Leandro Damiao vs Shimzu away
Call me a cop out, but I'm following the majority on this one too. Leandro Damiao's overhead kick was so absurd, so powerful and so close to us away fans on what was a very enjoyable away game that I had to vote for it. Other than this goal, the vote was very split so consider them all joint second place. The fact that all three goals from the Levain Cup final were mentioned shows that it's not always the look or skills of the goal but often the significance that counts for some people. Likewise Kobayashi's goal away to FC Tokyo. Oh and there was one respondent who simply said 'No standouts for me this season'. So, here they all are, hopefully starting at the right point in the video:
- Leandro Damiao vs Shimizu away, league
- Leandro Damiao vs Chelsea
- Abe vs Sapporo, Levain Cup final
'Abe-chan broke the curse of the team which couldn't get any goals in the cup final'
- Kobayashi vs Sapporo, Levain Cup final #1
- Kobayashi vs Sapporo, Levain Cup final #2
- Kobayashi vs FC Tokyo away, league
- Hasegawa vs Kashima Antlers away, league
- Oshima vs Shimizu away, league
4. Disappointment of the season - last home game of the season vs Yokohama
Lots of different answers, but, I guess inevitably, with a slight Marinos theme running through them. The last home game of the season was the only thing that picked up multiple votes, but many of the things mentioned were quite similar. Certainly that 4-1 home defeat to our local rivals effectively handing them the title was a bit of a low point! Add to this one person saying 'Marinos being good'. Other things mentioned involved players not playing, ('Damiao not getting enough opportunities', 'Oshima’s summer injury'), more general under-performing from us ('Second-half collapse!', 'Lots of ties', '4th in J1'). I'd probably add us conceding a ridiculous amount of late goals in games, but given that I agree with all of the things that have been mentioned so far, I'm going to echo what one respondent said. 'Honestly I can't choose one because I was disappointed too many times on too many things...' Think that just about sums it up!
5. Villain of the season (anyone, from any team or an official or...) - Oniki (!)
Yikes! I didn't really expect Oniki to run away with this category but he picked up half of the total votes and that didn't include me (I'm trying to be a bit nicer to be honest, but I totally understand!). Also getting a vote was 'The roulette wheel Oniki uses to determine the starting 11', which I guess effectively counts as one more vote for Oniki. In second place, proving that our fans are very nice people was 'I can't choose one'. Also mentioned was Arano of Consadole Sapporo for his general arse-like behaviour and 'aggressive attitude on the pitch'. And one vote for that most popular of villains Makino of Urawa 'he looks like a James Bond villain to me!'. I'd love to give my vote to referees, but they didn't seem as disastrous this year as previously, perhaps because most of our problems were of our own making. I predict next year's winner will be VAR though. My vote goes to Bueno of Kashima, who made my blood boil on a few occasions. He really is a total toerag. Delighted he won nothing last year. Oh, and I almost forgot, but there was one mention for the twitter user @bellmare_en who seems to delight in hating us, but loses his rag if someone says anything to him. If the person who voted for him wants to make themselves known, I'll let them do that, (and I bet they will!), but I'm not going to snitch.
6. Best away trip (if you've done one) - Sagan Tosu
This was close, but my vote basically tipped it from being one vote for everything mentioned to a Sagan Tosu win. Has to be Sagan Tosu for me partly due to the wide range of alcohol available, the great view of the pitch and proximity to the action and perhaps due to it being a trickier one to get to and therefore seeming more special. And in 2019 they had patatas bravas too, but guess this will not be there next year after both the Spanish manager and Torres have left. And I met Matty Ice (Gold Chain) there for the first time, so that was also a big highlight! Also mentioned were Vegalta Sendai (which I love, but missed this year), Oita (fun, but the bus was terrible (these are my thoughts by the way)), Sapporo (but this vote was split with Matsumoto (close second for me too) and Sagan Tosu), Kobe, the Levain Cup Final and the Chelsea game in Yokohama.
7. Best stadium in the J League - Todoroki
A runaway winner and it's a victory for our home stadium. I'm not convinced myself, but the atmosphere is pretty friendly and good, and painting the running track blue has made a big difference. We played horribly there last year though... Aside from this, there were a couple of mentions for Gamba Osaka's Suita stadium and one for the Saitama Stadium. For facilities, I'd probably have to agree with the Suita, but I really liked Matsumoto this year for the mountain views, passionate fans, local beer available and the fact that it snowed and I got sunburned in the same few hours. Something for everyone!
8. Opposition J1 team you like the most - Vegalta Sendai / Vissel Kobe
I was quite surprised with the range of responses on this, but only two teams took multiple votes. I voted for Sendai as I still enjoy the relationship between the clubs. But shocked by Kobe being up there, but I guess their recruitment policy makes people interested in them. Also mentioned were Consadole Sapporo, Shimizu S Pulse, Oita Trinita, Gamba Osaka and Matsumoto Yamaga.
9. Opposition J1 team you like the least - Yokohama F Marinos
No surprises here, although perhaps if FC Tokyo hadn't crumbled again, they might have got a few more votes. In joint second place were Urawa and Kashima with one respondent commenting 'but this season Nara is there OMG'. Kobe and FC Tokyo both got a vote too. I can't decide, so I'll give a fifth of a vote to all of the above, as they all seem to have at least one player who I really detest and most seem to play well against us.
10. Team you're disappointed to see go down - Jubilo Iwata
A runaway victory for Jubilo, which makes me think that most of the people who voted for them must never have tried to get back to civilisation from the Yamaha stadium after an away game! Guess they had Moriya and Okubo last year too though. I went for Matsumoto along with a few others. I know there are only two options in this category, but I was surprised so few went for Matusmoto. I really enjoyed that away trip and will miss it this year.
11. Team you're pleased to see come up - Yokohama FC
A pretty even split in the vote with Yokohama just edging it, perhaps due to their veteran bench warmers. One person went for both. I'm going for neither as both look like being away trips that are tricky from the point of view of tickets and comfort and unexciting from the point of view of travel. I was pretty much hoping any of the other top 10 J2 teams made it instead. Never mind, eh?
12. Best thing about the J League - the atmosphere
If I interpret the meaning of this widely it was a runaway winner. Lots of mentions for the atmosphere and other comments such as 'being nice to away fans', 'safe stadiums and cute mascots', 'peaceful', 'supporters', 'reasonable prices tickets (and drinks)', which I'd say all really come under atmosphere. I'd say my vote goes for that too. There were a couple of mentions of the football style that seems to be becoming more popular recently, 'some teams like Marinos, Kobe and Cerezo have adopted a European style', 'offensive style of team strategy is getting popular in J.League.' Maybe we could try some of that attacking next year!
13. Worst thing about the J League - referees, running tracks, uniform/kit prices
The old favourite answer to this, referees, was back again in top spot, but was joined at the top by a few people mentioning both the replica kit pricing and the running tracks and a solitary mention of seating/queuing issues. I'm not sure what my answer is to be honest, but will once again predict VAR will run away with this next year. Also, I wonder if increasing numbers of foreign players allowed in a starting line up is going to take away some of the character and charm of the league and will make it an uneven playing field with some teams being able to throw money around and buy success. Oh, and I think dynamic pricing is pretty stupid too.
14. Trophy you would like to win the most next year - League
Most people said the league and I totally agree. If we don't at least make a better challenge for it we are going to get left behind. We also need to show Yokohama that they aren't as good as they might think they are. The only other trophy mentioned was the Emperor's cup 'to complete the domestic set'. Sorry Levain, people don't like you so much since we won you. I'm really looking forward to those group games though!
15. What's Kengo's role next season? (first team regular, semi-regular starter, sub etc.) - Semi regular starter
This question is obviously difficult to answer with him currently recovering from a serious injury. Personally speaking, I think a lot will depend on how well we are doing in his absence. Most people see him as being a semi-regular starter but with some caveats, 'I'm anxious for his comeback'. A few have gone further and suggest he won't be playing so much even when fit, 'A leader off of the pitch', 'Back up for Yasuto. Cup match member is interesting idea.' And some are sticking with Oniki and the big Kengo fans in the crowd, 'Kengo will be a first team regular until his legs fall off', 'First team regular (wishful thinking? or no legitimate replacement?)'. If I have to take a shot in the dark, I think he'll be a semi-semi-regular starter or a sub. I don't think we need him as much as we did in 2019 and I'm not sure he'll be able to give as much on the pitch either, but his presence in and around the team will be very important. Let's just hope that we don't have a horrific start to the year and Oniki throws him in too early in desperation. I have a feeling that 2020 might be his last season as a player...
16. What’s your view of Oniki?
Guess this isn't exactly the kind of category where you have a winner, so I'll just cut and paste the answers.
- Keep forcing me to think nothing
- Last chance
- I love him, but to be stronger, I'm afraid he should be replaced.
- In my opinion, he should have left the club in 2019, although he gave us the Levain Cup trophy.
- Trophy winning machine, love the man.
- I’m tired of him
- Wait and see what he does this season
- GOniki!! Like “Go Away!” not like “yeah let’s Go Oniki!”
- Older brother
And my favourite of all the answers
- I listen to whatever Neil says!
17. If you could have any J League player sign for Frontale, who would it be? - Elsinho
Not sure what this says about the judgement of our leader, but the name mentioned the most was one of the players deemed excess to requirements by Oniki last year. I would have said Elsinho at the end of last season, but I'm up for giving the new guys a chance to prove their worth there. As it has taken me a long time to get this blog post together some of the following answers may now be not so accurate/necessary. Other names mentioned were Arano Takuma, Nakamura Kosuke, Nakagawa Teruhito, Furuhashi Kyogo, Eric, Mizunuma Kota, Nishi Daigo, King Kazu and Moriya Kentaro and Mawatari Kazuaki (hey, I know those last two guys...). Plenty of names on that list who I definitely wouldn't like joining us, but have to grudgingly admit that they would probably helps us out a lot!
18. Favourite Frontale song/player song - Frontale Rabbit
(I'm going to put links to the songs as I mention them rather than embedding them all). Yeah, I know this looks like a fix again, but Frontale Rabbit came out on top. Others mentioned included some player songs (Kengo's, Wakizaka's, Oshima's, Yamamura's, Kurumaya's), and some team ones (Avante!, the Shishamo one (Ashita Mo), and 'the one when we are winning convincingly - dunno the name' (apparently it's Carnival)). I have a soft spot for the Shimoda one to be honest as I like the arm waving.
19. What’s your prediction for next season?
Comments here ranging from concise to lengthy and positive to negative. I've decided to mix up the order for fun. Personally, I'm holding my breath as I think it could go either way depending on who we play and how we play tactically. I wasn't really looking forward to the 2020 season to be honest, but recently I've got a bit excited about it as I think we will get a good look at our future. I suspect we might lose Ao mid season. Just hoping it's all a bit more exciting on the pitch than 2019.
- Hope Yasuto is acting like Kengo behind Yu. Of course Damiao is also highly possible instead of Yu. I think Oniki will use them case by case. 4-3-3 like Barcelona or Pep style formation could work well in Kawasaki in this year. But if so, I wanted to see Ko Itakura in the anchor position!
- No title
- It will be a very difficult season. Last season was difficult, too, and furthermore, Nara, Abe, and Arai have left; few experienced players have joined. I'm worried so much, but still I'm looking forward to go to the stadium again.
- Domestic treble
- Top 3 in the league + one cup final
- The next season will be more severe.
- Young players will probably succeed
- A disappointing finish, but we'll see some promise from the younger players
- Emperor's cup title!
- Rebuilding year; disappointment!
20. Any other comments
This is where I normally give msyelf a pat on the back by posting nice things peoole have said about me, but no-one really did this year... Oh well. Oh, and I didn't write these things about Nara. But I could have.
- I miss Nara-chan...
- I look forward to the result.
- Oniki please take a new role in the Frontale offices and give your coach job to someone else. I want to see exciting Frontale football again.
- New kit is boss
- I'm so sad because Nara, my favorite player, has left us. I still miss him (and Abe & Arai) a lot.
- My expectation this year is how Frontale can mix new comers into the team. I am expecting them to be accountable within this season. I hope we keep growing with home grown players.