So here we go with the long-awaited, (possibly), answers to the 2020 season survey. Perhaps there's not so much we can learn this time as many people were deprived of the opportunity to actually go to games. Hopefully the situation will be better in 2021. That's pretty optimistic of me to say so though... We had something of a rarity this year as one of the FC Tokyo Kai Guys answered the survey. I was expecting their answers to all be rude and trolling but they actually answered the questions genuinely. There are only a couple of their answers that are a bit strange in the context of a Frontale fan survey so I'll point those ones out when I mention them. As always, thank you for your responses and thank you for reading this. Go Frontale!
1. Game of season
The runaway winner here was unsurprisingly the 5-0 home win against our nearest title rivals Gamba Osaka which clinched the title for us. Guess that after a terrible game away at Oita where we had the chance to win the league this was quite a bounce back. It could have won either for the fact that it was the game where we won the league or the fact that it was a thumping win against a close rival, but to have both in one game was a real bonus. Also mentioned were the pair of 3-1 wins home and away against noisy neighbours Yokohama F Marinos, the Emperor's Cup Final, the 5-0 home win against Shimizu, the 3-0 against Nagoya at home, the comeback from 2-0 down in the final league game against Kashiwa and the 5-2 win at home against Cerezo, ('railroading the then-2nd placed LotinaBus with vintage Kazama-taka really put the league on notice'). Personally, I think I'd also go for the Cerezo game as they are a long time bogey team for us and people were raving about their strong defence before the game. Lovely!
2. Player of the season
Another runaway winner here, ('Let's be honest, he was the real league MVP'). Others mentioned were Kengo, Ienaga, Noborizato and Morita. I'd be inclined to add Jesiel but it seems churlish to not go with Mitoma as he really changed a lot of games for us.
3. Goal of the season
Two goals received multiple mentions so we'll put those first and then afterwards I'll list all of them and hopefully the videos should start at the right point. Think there are a few in here that have been mentioned more for their significance more than quality. I'm going to agree with the first one mentioned though. Wonderful run, lovely nutmeg and unselfish pass for an easy finish against disliked opposition!
Kobayashi (Mitoma super assist) - vs Yokohama F Marinos (home) 18/11/20 League match 28
'This goal came in added time while leading 2-1, on a counterattack off a Marinos corner kick when we easily could have killed the game off rather than trying to score in spectacular fashion. It was emblematic of a season in which Oniki gave his team an ultimatum to score three goals per game at a minimum, and often spoke of having an obligation to entertain fans of both Frontale and Japanese football at large.'
Mitoma - vs Gamba Osaka 1/1/21 Emperor's Cup Final
Oshima - vs FC Tokyo (away) 8/7/20 League match 3
Mitoma - vs Yokohama F Marinos (away) 5/9/20 League match 14
Kobayashi - vs Vegalta Sendai (away) 22/7/20 League match 6
Jesiel - vs Yokohama F Marinos (home) 18/11/20 League match 28
Nakamura - vs Shimizu S Pulse (home) 29/8/20 League match 13
Kobayashi - vs Urawa Reds (home) 16/12/20 League match 33
4. Disappointment of the season
Not being able to go to games / Corona virus issues
Guess it's not surprising given the huge shadow that Corona virus cast across this season that its effects take the top spot. Personally speaking, I ended up going to a surprising number of games and even came to enjoy the Covid-era style supporting more than I thought I would be able to. In a season where we generally played so well it makes sense that our occasional lapses were mentioned. The loss to Oita Trinita and drawing against Sagan Tosu were pretty poor. The former as it spolied potential title celebrations and the latter as it spoiled a possible record of having beaten every team in the league in one season. Kengo not being able to get on the pitch in the Emperor's Cup Final was mentioned too. Apparently one respondent thought that our 4-0 victory away at FC Tokyo was the disappointment of the season (yes, this was the answer from the FC Tokyo fan). My answer agrees with one other response, which was the Levain Cup semi-final defeat to FC Tokyo. We were absolutely rubbish in this game and it was particularly annoying that my villain of the season did the damage. And finally a mention for us not qualifying for the ACL and missing the chance for this team to play in it. 'Unfortunately the greatness of this team may be diluted in memory with the reduced crowds and not having played in the continental cup (although the bubble tournament was nothing to write home about). Who knows if they can catch lightning in a bottle again next year?'
5. Villain of the season (anyone, from any team or an official or...)
Joint winner - COVID-19 & FC Tokyo's Leandro
A tie at the top for the two scourges of all decent people's lives. It was crushingly inevitable that Leandro would score against us in the Levain game given how much he'd annoyed me with his punching and elbowing and Twitter idiocy. I've never liked him and this season he definitely got my vote. Although the super small-man-syndrome cheat Erik and serial moaner Everaldo came close for me too. Probably don't need to say anything about COVID-19, do I? Couple of other honourable mentions for 'the usual diabolical officiating', Kashima's Misao for his petulant red card in the game against us and one other answer I can get fully behind, even if it is a little off-topic from a Frontale pint of view, Boris Johnson. A couple of people answered nobody, which is a lot more diplomatic than I could ever be, but one justified it by saying 'Can't think of any who gave us any actual trouble, to be honest. Even when a unscrupulous opponent or incompetent ref was trying to cheat us, we were usually kicking their asses beyond recognition to the point that it becomes difficult to portray ourselves as the victims :)', which I think is pretty much on the nose!
6. Best away trip (if you've done one)
Obviously this category was going to be a bit of a wash out this year as even when we were able to do away trips there was a distinct lack of atmosphere. I think some answers have been given with previous season's in mind. For example, Sagan Tosu. I always like this trip but the game there this year was rotten. Other mentions were the Emperor's Cup Final and Kashima. Personally speaking, I missed some of my favourites this year and the long trips we could go to often ended up in disappointment on the field, so I'm going to agree with my wife's answer of Kagoshima United vs Gamba Osaka U23. Yes, strictly speaking this isn't really an away trip for us, but given that we combined it with Sagan Tosu away which was a pretty terrible game low on quality, seeing Kagoshima come back from 4-1 down to to win 6-4 was pretty amazing, with six different goalscorers too! All while looking at an active volcano and drinking very cheap Shochu. The weather was even quite nice!
7. Best stadium in the J League
Can't say I particularly agree with this completely but there's definitely a good atmosphere, the experience is usually good and I like the fact that the running track is blue now. Gamba's Suita stadium got a couple of mentions, as did Urawa's Saitama Stadium (both without running tracks. Take note J League teams...). Kashiwa Reysol's stadium was mentioned (I think I've moaned about that stadium a few times so I won't repeat myself), and the new Sanga stadium was too. 'My couch' picked up one very comfortable vote. Oh and someone said Ajinomoto stadium. Any guesses who said that?
8. Opposition J1 team you like the most
Shimizu S Pulse
The votes were spread around quite a bit in this category but Shimizu did get multiple mentions ('Somehow they remind me of Frontale several years ago. If they improve their defence, they can be great'). Consadole got a couple of votes, ('Misha always has zany tactical ideas up his sleeve, but the results recently obviously aren't commensurate with the creative level'). Can't imagine they like us much though, given the outcomes of some of our games in recent seasons. And Vegalta Sendai got a couple of votes, including mine. We couldn't attend the game this year which was a shame but I still have a soft spot for them. Now, moving on to more surprising answers possibly. We had mentions for Vissel Kobe, Gamba Osaka, Cerezo Osaka, Nagoya Grampus, Kashima Antlers, Yokohama F Marinos 'as a neutral I like Kashima and Marinos for their ambitious and cutting-edge football'. Oh, and FC Tokyo (from the FC Tokyo fan naturally). Perhaps this shows that we are a nice bunch of fans.
9. Opposition J1 team you like the least
FC Tokyo, Yokohama F Marinos, Urawa Reds
A three way tie at the top here, so I guess I have casting vote. If you were to press me I might say it's Marinos for me this year, but as I don't like any of these three teams I'll abstain and they can all share the title. FC Tokyo's name was slightly adapted by a couple of respondents but I'll leave that to your imagination, and one respondent said 'They do employ the dirtiest player in the league, and the play can be pretty dull.' Other than these three we had a vote for Vissel Kobe and Nagoya ('They take away our coach and players, and they (IMO on purpose) leak the transfer before our big games. Every year. I like their coach and players, and enjoy games against Nagoya though.')
10. Team you're pleased to see come up
Every answer bar one was Tokushima and the one that wasn't was 'Genuinely don’t know who’s come up
'. Sorry Avispa...
11. Best thing about the J League
I'll just list all of these answers:
- Unpredictability, any team can beat any team in any season.
- Starting free broadcasting on YouTube for overseas fans
- The inclusivity and accessibility. One thing they really got right is to appeal to a broad audience and form genuine connections with club hometowns.
- Prices of tickets and drinks
- Frontale :)
- No VAR
- Could play all the games, most of those with audience last year.
- All of the 18 teams finished 34 games during Covid era
- Safe away trips
12. Worst thing about the J League
Again, I'll just list these with the comments that were made. Normally I'd say the refs but given that VAR is coming next year, I'll probably look back on these pre-VAR days as being magnificent. Perhaps I'll just say commentators who shout too much and pretend they are South American. KOBAYASHI MIDDLE SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!
- Referee standards are woeful in some games. Goals being scored but not given, massive offside margin but let go, etc...
- Australian coaches
- The league's ambitions are too modest, especially framed in commercial terms. Young players should be able to make real money; big multi-million transfers like Olunga should be regular annual occurrences; the J.League should be unabashed in its intent to be the flagship domestic league of the continent, and to be at least equal to any league outside of the top 5 in Europe.
- Tracks at stadiums
- So much merch. For everything. Every occasion. And it’s all overpriced, like the kits.
- Lack of intensity in some games...snails pace footy!
- Lack of exposure in the media
- Non-reserved seats (this season made me realise how life could be easy if all the seats were reserved)
13. Trophy you would like to win the most next year
The votes were split maybe two thirds ACL, one third league and one vote for 'Let’s take them all this time.' (I know that doesn't add up perfectly but you get the idea). Personally, I think we need a good ACL campaign to shut some people up. But I think winning the league is generally speaking still my priority but let's put the ACL moans to bed.
14. What’s your view of Oniki?
Once again, I'll list the answers. They are mainly positive but there's some variety. Personally, I'm a bit confused. At the start of the year it looked like we'd be super-rotating but we ended up only using 22 players, one of the smallest totals in the league. And an obvious lack of defenders almost bit us in the backside. But, you can't argue with the success he's had this year though. Next year will be tougher and we'll see how he manages. I think I've been noticeably quieter with my Oniki bashing though recently.
- Smart management this season with rotation and keeping players fresh. Nobody adjusted to the rules this season more than he did and the margin of victory shows that.
- What a step-up this season. I’m surprised and thankful. Curious to see how he can improve because next year will be way tougher.
- I think he is still perfect for the team. There is no hint of stubbornness or ego with the man, only a firm commitment to the values of the club, winning every point and scoring every goal available, and a growth mindset displayed by the coaches and players alike. I wasn't very optimistic for this season, especially after seeing many of the veterans look totally washed up last year, but Oniki came in with a revamped tactical setup (a "European" 4-3-3 with counterpressing) and a ruthless knack for leveraging the COVID-19 circumstances (5 subs, squad rotation) by bludgeoning opponents with sheer quality. You and some other fans (typically of other clubs) questioned his decision not to bring on Kengo on January 1st, but one could say that Oniki was the one manager with the personal capital to pull that off as well.
- If he’s not actually brilliant, then he’s exceedingly lucky. And I’ll take lucky.
- Need you ask? King of Kawasaki
- I think last year I answered to this question "he should be replaced." I was totally wrong. I love him!
- In 2019 I criticised him, but now I have to apologise to him
- Strategist as well as motivator
15. If you could have any J League player sign for Frontale, who would it be?
A few names mentioned here and in the next question are a little out of date due to me asking the questions a while ago and only compiling the answers now. Sorry! Two votes for Mateus means he takes it. Lots of other names mentioned though, so here we go with the full list of answers:
- Langerak, to put it him on the bench
- Mateus from Grampus or Everaldo especially would be amazing. Hotaru Yamaguchi for the midfield.
- Mike Havenaar
- Jay Bothroyd, ~50% for the Twitter banter.
- No one would get in our starting XI.
16. Which former Frontale player would you most like to see us re-sign?
And that's without my vote! I think I might go for Itakura actually as Oniki never gave him a chance. Can't imagine given the trajectory of his career that he's going to come back any time soon though. I think Oniki burnt his bridges with Nara and I wouldn't blame him if he never wanted to come back to us.
- It’s too late for Chong Tese unfortunately, so Tatsuki Nara. Better being our 3rd central defender in a big schedule season than freezing his ass in Kashima Stadium stands.
- The weird thing is that some of the most successful European exports from Frontale never really had a career here. Itakura would be terrific, for instance. Takefusa Kubo was also briefly in our setup. The biggest splash would be Hulk - as far as I can tell his return to Europe hasn't been finalized yet?
- Mitoma. (Joking...I hope. Okubo.)
- Best question I’ve heard in a long time. Miyoshi
- Nara Tatsuki
- Nara Tatsuki
- Abe Hiroyuki
17. What’s your prediction for next season?
Some long answers here which I will copy in full. Thoughts seem to be split between super optimism and sight pessimism. I don't like to make predictions as I'm scared of jinxes so I'm going to skip this question. I'll start with the pessimistic answers, move through medium optimsim, peak with super optimism and then put some a couple of non Frontale related things.
- It’s about time for us to shit the bed.
- The only way is down
- It will depend on how long we can keep Ao and Mitoma, but without Kengo and Morita + the ACL it’s already gonna be a complicated season. I think we will still win one trophy at the end of the season, but I don’t know which one.
- Frontale start strong, falter mid to late season, limp to victory or 2nd place in the league.
- 2nd but depends on ACL scheduling. We saw ACL2020 teams struggle this past season because of the sheer bollocks they went through with the constant rescheduling. ACL depends on Korean teams(Ulsan look to be rebuilding, Jeonbuk look unchanged) QF should be manageable, I don’t see Chinese teams being an issue but expanded format make work against you with travel though I somewhat expect a bubble again for ACL2021.
- ACL & J1 double, a bit of a struggle in the latter half of the season after losing Mitoma and Ao.
- Win more than one title.
- League + one cup It would be great to win ACL but it would be difficult
- Amazing season!
- Shimizu will get their act together and improve
- Covid will lead to suspension of games.
18. How has Covid era football been for you?
Personally, I thought it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Certainly, the games lacked a bit of atmosphere but I think our fans got their act together towards the end of the season and it was quite fun and hopefully motivating for the team. I like five subs and am pleased we're keeping that for next season. And now I'll let the people speak for themselves. Here are their answers
- (FC Tokyo fan answer) Debating season ticket renewal for 2021 due to system used refunds was dreadfully slow. Not certain if things get worse but still likely to renew. Watching most of the games at home is definitely different and the few games with limited capacity I went to were so bizarrely quiet(you could hear the generators humming)
- Heartbreaking and painful
- A welcome respite from the monotony of sheltering at home.
- Interesting, lots of tv watching of soccer
- Terrible. What a grump I’ve become.
- Awful, I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for watching games. Cant stand watching games with 0 fans in the crowd.
- In this disgusting situation, football has been my hope. I could go to Todoroki only a few times, and I was nervous whenever I was there. Nevertheless, when I see or talk/think about football, I'm so excited and happy. I hope the situation will get better, and we can cheer and sing Avante and Vai Lá De Frontale together.
- I miss stadiums full with supporters.
- Some interesting new discoveries including hearing the players voices on the pitch
- I didn’t attend a single game this season, but we turned game days into events with family members and cooking and lots of booze
- Sad not to be able to sing/shout but on the positive side it was good that all seats were reserved
19. What do you want Kengo to do next?
Youth team coach
Seems the majority want to keep him very much involved. I think if he gets involved in coaching there is always a danger of him tarnishing his legacy but I'm sure he's aware of this. I don't think anyone expected him to become a FRO (Frontale Relations Organizer), probably because it was a position created just for him. Very happy to see him still involved and hope he can have a nice rest whilst considering his next move. Haven't posted the multiple answers that just said youth team coach, but here are the other answers.
- Either DAZN pundit or remain as a coach to youth team. Very rare you get a player like him of such loyalty.
- Resting, coaching the kids/youth, then the 1st team
- I guess it's a foregone conclusion that he'll pursue both coaching and media work, given his gift for communication. He loves European football so it'd be nice for him to get some experience overseas as well - supposedly he majored in "English literature" at Chuo U but how much he can actually speak is uhhh an open question. haha.
- Coach Japan Olympic team
- Become a talento.
- Assistant Manager, learn from the best in the business
-Commentator for dazn & coach of young players. In the future, after a lot of experience, Frontale head coach.
- Instructional commentator for TV for newcomers to learn about football
- Coach and do that “Getz” pose for every Frontale goal
20. Do you welcome VAR being introduced next year?
Personally speaking, I really don't want it. The time taken to make decisions interrupts the excitement of the game and often the decisions still remain kind of baffling afterwards. Interestingly, the ref Iemoto is apparently against VAR being introduced and says that even with it, there are still differences of opinion. If the refs don't want it, (although, admittedly this is only from what one ref has said), I can't imagine it's going to be of any great benefit. I don't want to sacrifice the excitement of us scoring a goal for the knowledge that ever single offside decision in a game was 100% correct. Here's what other people said.
- Given our recent seasons, yes😂 (FC Tokyo answer)
- Hell no
- Just do it with as little fuss as possible.
- Hmmm not too sure how I feel about VAR sometimes
- No sir, I don’t.
- No way
- I hope VAR helps referees not to make mistakes, but I'm afraid VAR is too rigid.
- Yes, absolutely!
- Necessary, but a heavy burden for referees
- If used properly, yes
- Against - not be able to celebrate properly after goals
21. Any other comments
Thank you to the peoole who said nice things about my blog. I know it looks like this question is just an excuse to solicit compliments. As balance, I won't paste them here. Here are the other things people said.
- This year has been quite hard but even if I couldn’t go to the stadium, I was lucky enough to see my favorite club crushing the other teams one after the other every 3-5 days on TV after the re-start, and it was my light in this worldwide pandemic era. So thanks to everybody at Frontale for this season.
- It was a terrible year, but at the same time, fantastic year for us Frontale fans.
- 今年も楽しみにしています！ --------- I hope Nara-chan comes back to Kawasaki :)
- It was great to get to see the Emperor’s Cup at the national stadium but the view from the first tier behind the goal wasn’t great.