Six wins in a row and looking good. Presumably now our form and results will come crashing down thanks to this bit of optimism. Also, next up we’ve got a tough game against Gamba Osaka, the team right behind us in the table. But more on that later, we should probably deal with this game first. This was another socially distanced football experience. The same restrictions were in place as for our last home game so there was plenty of space between reserved seats, no singing or shouting, and acts of clapping extravagance were restricted. But once again it was fun. Perhaps more fun as once again we decided to gift the opposition a head start. Not as big a head start as against Sendai, but considering Shonan had five shots in the whole game and looked to be playing for a 0-0 it was supremely generous for us to let them score with probably their first shot. Lovely finish, but the striker was in acres of space. As I said in previous posts, if the requirement for being able to watch exciting attacking play with plenty of goals is conceding a soft goal every game, I think we’d all take it right now. Frontale football is fun again! And yes, I know this is leading up to a huge jinx so I’ll add the caveat ‘at the moment’. Fingers crossed though, eh?
Oniki made some interesting changes for this game, once again choosing to shake up the midfield with Shimoda and Morita coming in and Oshima and Ao dropping to the bench. Up front there were changes too. Hasegawa seems to still be injured as he was absent from the match day squad. Into his spot on the left came… Hatate, one of our few right footed attackers. But bearing in mind that Ienaga is left footed and has cemented his place on the right there probably was some of the same thinking behind it. Seemed slightly strange though as Mitoma has definitely caught the eye more in previous games. Perhaps he is being saved for the super sub role though. Up front in the middle there was the probably justified return of Kobayashi with Damiao dropping to the bench. You can’t really leave out a guy who has scored twice from the bench in consecutive games so I think he deserved his start. And at the back, Jesiel was back, which is a bit of relief. This meant Kurumaya dropping to the bench and Nobori continuing at left back. It does seem that Oniki has his ideas about rotation and they don’t really stretch to the whole squad or all of the positions yet but things seem to be working at the moment. I have to say, this was a bit of a hats off to Oniki game as far as I’m concerned. I think I would have made almost all the same decisions as him with regards to starting members and subs, so naturally I'm delighted. Once again, the subs changed the game and it was a brave move to bring on Miyashiro as well as Damiao but it paid off. I suspected that he would not give Damiao the same chance from the bench that he has recently given Kobayashi, but he did. There is something slightly weird going on with us recently. It seems that whoever starts the game up front has a bit of a stinker or is generally unable to get involved. I have no idea why this is, and when the same thing happened to previously prolific Kobayashi in this game it was something of a surprise. Perhaps we just don’t get space up front till the second half in games. Perhaps it is the change of personnel that causes some confusion and creates space and chances. Who knows? But right now it’s working so all credit to Oniki for this. Hopefully we won’t always have to go behind before we crank it up a gear, but it certainly makes it more exciting. I have to say there was a bit of an above-prohibited-level cheer yesterday when we equalised and then went ahead. All the goals were kind of smash and grabs with us making and putting away our chances very swiftly. It was nice to see Mitoma score his first league goal and consequently get himself a new song. When we might actually be able to sing it is another matter. Yamane has bagged another and piles forward with the enthusiasm of someone who has perhaps in the past felt sad about being a defender. He’s an interesting player and he’s not at Elsinho level yet, but the fact that he’s already got a couple of goals from right back is definitely a bonus. Certainly he seems better going forward than defending but as I mentioned above, all of our conceded goals seem to have been where everyone was in a bit of a mess so I’m not going to point the finger at any individuals. Once again, Mitoma just looks like a beast when he comes on. Perhaps we’re keeping him on the bench to preserve his super sub ability or perhaps to distract other teams’ attentions but you’ve got to think that we should just make the most of him whilst we have him as I suspect he might move on to bigger things at some stage. I’ve said that about a few other players though and that hasn’t exactly happened yet. A few final thoughts on this game before I go onto more general things. Shonan defended in numbers, nominally playing three at the back, but you could probably say it was more like eight, with a line of five and then three midfielders just in front of them. This meant that we had loads of possession as every time they cleared the ball it would inevitably come back to us due to the massive gap they had in the middle of their shape. But they did a good job of stifling us in the first half. Perhaps our openings came from the fact that they changed things at half time and attacked a bit more. Certainly the goal gave us a kick up the backside and after that it was lovely to watch. I think we had a shot cleared from behind the line and a pretty solid penalty turned down in the first half, but I’m not going to moan and I’m just going to merely mention them. If we start to struggle I’ll be right back on the backs of the officials but for the time being, it’s lovely not even mentioning them.
Before I round this up I just wanted to mention a few things that I have found interesting this year so far. Recently it has really felt that we were not getting started till the second half of games. I went through and added up when we’re scoring and conceding goals and my feeling was pretty inaccurate. In the eight games we’ve played including the first Levain cup game, we’ve scored 11 in the first half and 14 in the second half. As far as conceding goes it has been three conceded in the first half and four in the second half. The Tokyo game really tipped the balance in favor of first half goals. But then the Yokohama FC game perfectly tipped it back in the other direction. So nothing really to mention here I guess but this does serve to demonstrate that we’ve scored absolutely loads of goals already. I also had a feeling that we’d really been spreading the goals around and with this my feelings proved to be a bit more accurate. We’ve scored a total of 25 goals already and they have been spread amongst 10 different players which is pretty good. If this continues it’s going to be a really fun year!
So, as previously mentioned, next up, Gamba away which will prove challenging. The league is very confusing this year, so I don’t think we’ll really know how we’re playing till quite a few more rounds of fixtures have been played. But certainly this weekend’s game will give us an idea. This is normally a fun away trip so its a shame we won’t be able to do it but never mind, there’s always next year. Let’s hope we can enjoy another good result on Saturday evening! Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for IENAGA 66')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for WAKIZAKA 58')
MF 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for HATATE 58')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for KOBAYASHI 66')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao (on for SHIMODA 85')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Something of a left field selection today considering we scored three nice goals and conceded one by letting an opposition striker have loads of space, but I’m going to give it to…
JESIEL - delighted that his injury wasn’t serious. This game saw him back to his best and at heights that I haven’t seen him reach yet this year. Strong in the tackle and distributed the ball well, he’s a crucial part of our success and long may that continue.
ELYOUNOUSSI (Shonan) 57' 0-1