Thursday, 27 January 2022

2021 season survey results

Here, finally are the results of the Frontale Rabbit Blog 2021 season survey. I have been a bit lax with chasing up answers so it got a bit delayed. But here it is, arriving just after the team went into pre-season training for the 2022 season. Thanks as always to all who took the time to respond. And if you didn’t respond but are reading this, please respond next year and leave any comments you might have about the results here too. Right, let’s get on with this.

1. Game of season

WINNERS - Kashima away (league), YFM home (league), Nagoya away (league)

A three way tie for this, with one outlier. The three games that couldn’t be separated at the top were the away league game at Kashima where we came back from behind and won it late on with a Miyagi goal, the 4-0 away win at Nagoya (‘sent a message to the whole of J1’, ‘Title race over on that day’) and the opening day win against Yokohama F Marinos. I went for this one as I’d got a bit irritated by lots of people saying that YFM were going to win the league pre-season and was delighted when they were absolutely rubbish against us in the very first game. I also had a good view of easily-irritated-but-with-a-crazily-huge-amount-of-self-belief Postecoglou from my seat and it was great to see him watch his revolutionary new tactics that had been raved about get completely dismantled and fail at the first hurdle. It was also probably more fun due to the fact that we weren’t that good. But they were that bad! The only other game mentioned was the AFC game against United City. I presume they meant the 8-0, rather than the 2-0 game and I guess they like goals a lot!

2. Player of the season

WINNER - Leandro Damiao

The clear winner here was unsurprisingly Leandro Damiao. Not much to say about that! Distant runner-ups were Sung-Ryong, who I feel always gets overlooked when it comes to these kind of things, and Tachibanada, who my vote went to. Honestly, I could have given it to quite a few, but I thought that Tachibanada was such a revelation that I gave him the nod.

3. Goal of the season

WINNER - Miyagi vs Kashima away (league)

A clear winner again in this category and it was Miyagi’s goal away at Kashima (‘Ten out of ten’ nice pun!). It was a lovely strike and a very important goal too, rounding off a complete come back from being behind to winning. And also was against a horrible team. 

Also mentioned were Oshima’s goal against Shimizu. I suspect there was some sentimentality about this selection. 


Damiao’s goal against United FC was mentioned, but I’m not sure why. It is nice when they go in off the post though.

A goal of the season poll wouldn’t be complete without a Damiao overhead. So I picked his one against Shonan, which was particularly nice after he had a goal ridiculously ruled out by an Iemoto decision after some Tani moaning. I really enjoyed this one, particularly as it was at the end where we were sitting.

As it’s my blog I’m also going to mention the Ienaga volley against YFM in the first game of the season, with the lovely Yamane assist. I couldn't really decide between this or the Damiao overhead and as it won’t make any difference to the overall result, I’ll choose both.

4. Disappointment of the season

WINNER (?) - ACL campaign

Unsurprisingly the winner of this category was another disappointing ACL campaign. I’m a bit torn though as we were so messed up by injuries when it came to the knockout stage and we’d been so screwed by the draw that I felt that we were destined to go out. So it wasn’t a great shock. Running the ACL close was COVID, which I suspect might cast a shadow over the 2022 season too. My vote is kind of COVID related as it's having to miss some good away trips due to state of emergencies banning away fans. We had a lovely Avispa and Consadole double header arranged with some tourism in between which had to be canceled and I was also denied the opportunity to tick off a new ground and a new prefecture (with good beer...) for the same reason when we couldn’t go to Tokushima. I’d also say that it’s a shame that we still can’t sing, as the atmosphere has taken a bit of a hit without it. But that’s COVID times I guess. Other things mentioned were ‘When Damiao misses a bicycle kick’, losing players to Europe (‘Half the team fucking off!’) and the away performance at Fukuoka which was so bad that when I watched it I was kind of pleased we hadn’t been able to go after all.

5. Villain of the season (anyone, from any team or an official or...)


Quite a few different answers here and I’ll just list them with some quotes. 

- Someone who talked about Chanatip's transfer before the official announcement.
- Oshima’s calf
- Ienaga’s hairdresser. I cannot believe J League’s coolest man went to the barbers and asked to look like Lloyd Christmas.
- Makino
- Pitbull (YFM’s Marcos Junior)

Personally I’d be inclined to give it to the ref Iemoto, who thankfully won’t be able to mess us up with any more stupid decisions in the interest of evening things up. It would also be remiss of me to not mention Postecoglou or Muscat. The former for leaving the J League as if he’d stayed YFM would have been much worse and the latter for his whistling.

6. Best away trip (if you've done one)

WINNER - Cerezo Osaka away

This was a category that was kind of ruined by COVID, as were most things in 2021. There weren’t many votes as not many people were able to travel. I’d normally say Sagan Tosu but even the alcoholic delights couldn’t make up for the rotten performance we put in. One person went for the Emperor’s Cup final which was in 2021 I guess, if not actually the 2021 season so I’ll let it in. There was clear winner, although it only got three votes (which included mine) and it was the away game at Cerezo Osaka in their new stadium. It’s nice that we are a bit closer to the pitch in the new stadium (even if the stand seemed excessively flat) and they now have lots of different beers available outside the stadium. It also helps that we played well and got a good result and also had the Okubo ceremony at the end.
7. Best stadium in the J League

WINNER - Todoroki...

Racing clear this year was…. Todoroki. I think there’s always quite a lot of bias involved in this but I’d agree with the respondent who specified that it should be Todoroki when the stadium upgrade is finished. So, an answer from about at least 5 years in the future but one we can probably all get on board with. You can’t deny the Todoroki match day experience is a good one though, so I understand the answers from that point of view. But really looking forward to getting a bit closer to the pitch. Other stadiums mentioned were Kashiwa Reysol’s, Gamba Osaka’s, Kyoto Sanga’s new stadium (I’ll be able to comment on that one next year I hope!) and Shimizu S Pulse’s. My vote goes to Sagan Tosu’s for the great concrete terrace, lovely colour scheme, proximity to the station and the abundance of alcohol. Made even a terrible game seem somehow fun.

8. Opposition J1 team you like the most

WINNER - Vegalta Sendai

Sendai win this again this year and they got my vote too. I’m sad that I won’t be able to vote for them next year but hope they can get back to J1 soon. Other teams mentioned were Sagan Tosu, Consadole Sapporo, Nagoya Grampus and Shimizu S Pulse. So basically we like a quarter of the league which fits in nicely with our reputation for friendliness. However, one respondent sadly said ‘Finding it very hard to answer this one this year.’

9. Opposition J1 team you like the least

WINNERS - Urawa Reds & Yokohama F Marinos

My favourite question! It was dead heat between Yokohama F Marinos (unsurprisingly) and Urawa Reds (also unsurprisingly, for both traditional reasons and given the way we went out of the Emperor’s Cup to them). I voted for YFM. There were two other teams picking up a single vote and they were the just plain unlikeable Sanfrecce Hiroshima and our Tamagawa rivals FC Chofu (‘FC Tokyo are berks. Their free kick in the last minute against us was hilarious.’) Perhaps FC Tokyo fans might be a bit upset about us not disliking them more, but I think YFM were more dangerous to us so perhaps got the hackles up a bit more. I was quite annoyed with our Chofu rivals conceding eight to YFM though and therefore giving them the scant consolation of scoring more goals than us in the league. But for me it’s just impossible to look past YFM and their obnoxious managers and players (hehe).

10. Team you're pleased to see come up

WINNER - Kyoto Sanga

Only two teams coming up and Kyoto got a few more votes than Jubilo (‘I like Endo and Germain’).  I’m looking forward to going to both away games next season but I couldn’t really answer this as I think I would have preferred any of the other teams in the J2 promotion race to have come up if I’m being honest. Not sure why exactly.

11. Best thing about the J League

I’ll list these as they were mentioned. This question always makes me feel warm inside. Not sure what I’d add really.

- ‘Every player, staff, supporter did their best to play and watch football safely in this COVID era.  There were very few exceptions.’
- ‘Having every game live on DAZN, that’s been useful these past two seasons.’
- ‘Peaceful’
- ‘All of the 20 teams finished 38 games during Covid era.’
- ‘Kawasaki Frontale - in general’
- ‘Cheap tickets, cheap alcohol, open seating typically’
- ‘Homegrown talent, connection to the community, the Halloween costumes on Frontale guys in the October games’’
- ‘I love the energy of the supporters and generally good nature of the players.’
- ‘Welcoming locals’
- 'The multitude of matchday food options'

12. Worst thing about the J League

Again I’ll list them. I think I’d have to agree with the referees answer to be honest. But would agree that players leaving to play ‘at a higher level’ and actually playing at a lower level is quite annoying.

- ‘Losing players to Europe’
- ‘Nothing’
- ‘Most of the J League clubs do not disclose the term of contracts.’
- ‘Referees’
- ‘Tracks at stadiums’
- ‘Pitbull’

- ‘That it's going to be a bastard to follow from England.’
- 'The horde of smartasses who make a living out of ridiculing the league'

13. Trophy you would like to win the most next year


Was an exact split again, this time between the ACL and the league but one late vote tipped it towards the ACL. We have unfinished business in the former and have a three-peat to chase in the latter. I’ve gone for the latter. But we definitely will have something hanging over us till we do well in the ACL. There were two other answers, one of which was ‘All of them’, which I can certainly get on board with, and the other was the Club World Cup, which I don’t think it’s possible for us to play in till 2023 at the earliest. But hell, it would be nice if we could somehow win it anyway.

14. What’s your view of Oniki?

Every year my criticisms of Oniki get increasingly ridiculous as he continues to win things. I would say though that I think he’s still very lucky and I can’t believe we got away with our lack of defenders again this year. I also think that in spite of what people say, I still don’t feel like he’s got the hang of rotation. With more big name players in our squad next year, (in the attacking areas naturally, not at the back…again…), I think he’s going to have to get a bit better at it, or there are going to be some upset players. Apparently though, everyone loves him. Not sure how that could 100% be the case though after the total isolation of Hasegawa and Joao Schmidt after they missed ACL penalties on the Ulsan farmer’s field of a pitch. Here are other people’s answers quoted as they were given. The final answer was given by a man in case you were wondering.

- ‘I think he's a great motivator.  I want him to try using more players though.’
- ‘On a par with Pep Guardiola’
- ‘He is our good brother’
- ‘The best of the best’
- ‘Football was not as sparkling as as last year, but somehow he managed to still win J1, without Kengo, the departures of our 2 stars mid-season, and Oshima injured. He impressed me. Now build us a team for the Asia.’
- ‘Awesome’
- ‘Good but still psychopathic elements’
- ‘I’d let him sign my bare breasts.’
- 'A promising early-career manager and a work in progress, as he would tell it'

15. If you could have any J League player sign for Frontale, who would it be?

I always like this question but at the same time struggle to answer it as I usually feel we have plenty of players who already don’t get a fair crack of the whip. Given that I always talk about how short we are in defence you’d imagine I’d go for a defender. But for some reason instead I’m saying Ayase Ueda, as he just seems to be too much of a nice person to have to be imprisoned in the middle of nowhere at a horrible club. Here are the other players mentioned.

- Esaka Ataru ‘I love his passes’
- King Kazu
- Honma Shion
- Mateus
- Iniesta ‘(after Rakuten go bankrupt and his family want to stay in Japan)’
- Cristiano Ronaldo (?!)
- Elsinho
- Araki

16. Which former Frontale player would you most like to see us re-sign?

WINNER - Kaoru Mitoma

The runaway winner was some guy called Mitoma, who let’s be honest, probably isn’t thinking of coming back to Japan just yet. There were a couple of votes for Nara, which I’m obviously delighted about and would be great I think, but I don’t think I could put him through it. Also mentioned were Ao, Miyoshi and Elsinho and a late vote for Itakura. Personally speaking, I honestly don’t know. I guess it’s a good thing that we have plenty of choice now. Well, at least if you are in favour of our players leaving for other shores. I’m a bit torn about that though.  

17. What’s your prediction for next season?

Generally speaking, there seems to be some confidence that we’ll win the league. I never make predictions so I’m not going to get involved. There were some doubters though with a couple of people thinking the league will be tough. Notable comments are listed below which include some more general stuff too.

- ‘We will win the league title, and another one maybe.’
- ‘Probably 1st but I think it’s gonna be tougher.’
- ‘Chanathip will play an active part!’
- ‘Difficult to win the J League title’
- ‘J1 champion again / fingers crossed for the ACL’
- ‘Strong start to the season, leveling off in the last quarter and then a strong push to the championship’
- ‘I think we might be fucked by the player turnover finally catching up, but I've said this before and obviously don't know what I'm talking about.’
- 'Coast to the league title before recharging for the ACL final in Feb 2023!'

18. How do you feel about us having lots of players leaving for Europe?

This is a tough question for me. I don’t think we can or should stop them if they want to go, but I definitely agree with those that say that some of the moves seem at best to be sideways and are probably actually backwards steps. I’m slightly nervous that we now seem to be becoming a team that has a lot of players departing which isn’t going to make things easy in the future. I wish them well though, although in the case of Hatate, I hope he does very well, but his team loses every single game. Here’s what everyone else said:

- ‘I believe they should go if they want to.  It should be good for them (and Japanese football in the future).  But at the same time I hate to see them go.  I miss them so much.’
- ‘I think we should put up more of a fight to keep them, especially during our mid-season.’
- ‘I am in favour of their transfers if European clubs pay us right transfer fees.’
- ‘gambling’
- ‘As inevitable it is, I’d like them to jump in Europe for better teams than random German second tier / random EPL’s Belgian satellite club / 2-teams league’
- ‘They need to play in better leagues. Not Belgium second divisions. And only go if they are going be a superstar’
- ‘Didn't we lose too many at once?’
- ‘Miserable. I suppose it's good for them personally, but a blow for the team. Maybe it helps Japan national team, but I'm also cynical that players on the European teams get preferential treatment when there are solid J league players that could make the cut. Looking forward to seeing Mitoma at Brighton though.’
- ‘Fair enough’
- 'It's part of life as a footballer and I'm personally happy that they are visibly growing on and off the pitch, irrespective of their destination. Would be nice to get more money for them but it's not like the club runs on a gigantic budget in any case.'

19. How was VAR for you?

A surprising split here, with some postivity creeping in but negativity just about winning. I’m still of the opinion that we were much better off without it and if it were up to me, I’d get rid of it entirely immediately and maybe replace it with goal line technology. Here’s what everyone else said.

- ‘I don’t love it at all.’
- ‘Shite, hate it.’
- ‘I hope it will continue’
- ‘Some people complains about VAR, but I think it's necessary.’
- ‘VAR is still killing the football I like.’
- ‘Maybe Getting better???’
- ‘ok’
- ‘Ratfuck’
- 'No major qualms.'

20. Any other comments

This part isn’t for me to answer, but thanks to those who said nice things about the blog. Actually, that was only one person…  😿 (Make that two with the late added answer! 😺)

- ‘Honestly it has been a bit difficult for me to enjoy football in this pandemic era.  Last year I could go to Todoroki only once; I saw almost all games at home. This year I already bought season tickets, and I want to go to Todoroki many times.  I hope the situation will get better, and everyone can feel safe and enjoy the games.’
- ‘Come back to Kawasaki, Nara-chan!!!’
- ‘Let’s pray for Oshima’s leg and general good health’
- ‘Good that all seats were reserved this year’
- ‘Your blog rocks.’
- 'Keep it up! Looking forward to the season and hope we can chat more Frontale, on here, on Spaces or a pod maybe.'

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

2021/22 Players in and out

Today we have some information and some dodgy photos, (screenshots from the official club new season ceremony, hope that’s not a problem...), on the players that are joining us this year and the ones who are leaving. There’s not a great deal of info available on some of them so please excuse me if there’s not much of interest but I’ve done my best. The 2021 season survey results will be up soon-ish and then we can get on with the new season I guess.


15. Asahi SASAKI (DF)

179cm tall left back signed from Ryutsu Keizai University, (former team of Morita and Tsukagawa), who can apparently also play at centre back and it is thought can be trained to play at right back too. Guess Oniki likes players who can play in many positions so he has this in his favour. At the same time, Oniki isn’t a big fan of playing young defenders so I imagine he won’t be getting much pitch time in 2022, but am interested to see how he develops.

16. Tatsuki SEKO (MF)

Right-footed central midfielder signed from Yokohama FC. He was one of their players of the season last year and was also their captain. Seems to be able to play anywhere in the middle and can fill in at right back too, so finally we might actually have some cover there. Only scored once last year but got seven assists, and you have to take into consideration that was in a YFC team that didn’t score that much. Played for 64 minutes against us for Meiji University in the Emperor’s Cup in 2018 in a game where they deserved a lot more than they got. Looking forward to seeing how he gets on and where he’ll be playing.

18. Chanathip SONGKRASIN (FW)

Our first Thai player (I think…), signed from Consadole in what was apparently the biggest transfer ever between two J League teams. Clearly there are more than just footballing reasons for the value of this transfer. Chanathip’s presence will give the club a huge boost financially, and hopefully he can contribute on the pitch too. In the past I did feel that maybe he would be a good fit with us as he’s good on the ball and likes to attack. He also seemed to have a good relationship with Kengo. If we want to be negative, in recent seasons he’s had some injury issues so maybe he’s going to be another Oshima. But from a positive point of view, he’s done pretty well in a Consadole team that hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, so hopefully in a system that suits him, he’ll really be able to shine. And you’d think he would fit in well, as if there was one team in the J League where an attack minded not very tall player would feel at home it definitely would be with us! Not sure exactly where he’ll be playing but I’m sure he’ll be involved. And it's starting to look like we’re trying to assemble a nice guys 11, as him and Damiao in the same team will ensure high level likability for us. Maybe.

22. Yuki HAYASAKA (GK)

Was a special designated player, (think that's what it is called), last year which meant he had a squad number but didn’t get any match day involvement which isn’t surprising given that he’s a keeper and even our second choice keeper was hardly involved. Ex-Frontale youth player so a familiar face but left us briefly to go to Toin University (where Issaka, Tachibanada and Yamane all went), before rejoining us properly this year. Again, unlikely to get much involvement but good luck to him.

25. Renji MATSUI (MF)

The most well known fact about our new number 25 is that he has a famous sister who is a singer, actress and model. Like Hayasaka he was a special designated player for us last year but this year has joined properly from Hosei University. Has also played for the Japan U23 team so has some pedigree. Although that was only for two contrasting games. One, he stayed on the bench, and the other he was captain and scored twice. Plays in central midfield, and predominately further back so will be up against Tachibanada and Joao Schmidt in 2022 unless we change our system. But his international goals might suggest that he can do the business further forward too.

26. Takatora EINAGA (FW)

Forward signed from Kokoku high school. Not the tallest, so should fit in well with most of our other forwards! Not sure where he plays or much about him at all to be honest. Apart from the fact that he has a pretty full on first name (Hawk Tiger). Not sure if this is reflected in his playing style.

28. Taiyo IGARASHI (FW)

Forward promoted from our U18 team. Saw him play once and was quite impressed with him. Think on that day he was playing slightly behind the front man but was involved all over the pitch perhaps in an Ienaga way. Looked very comfortable on the ball and scored a very nice goal. Again, probably one who will have limited opportunities this year but wouldn’t be surprised to see him involved at the end of a few games and if he can make an impact, maybe a bit more often than that. But there are a lot of forwards in our squad now who will all be hoping to do that.

29. Kouta TAKAI (DF)

Late addition to the squad from the U18 team. Played at centre back in the same game that we saw Igarashi in and I thought he looked pretty good. He is VERY tall (194cm).



After not getting much time on the pitch in 2021, Zain has gone on loan for the season to Yokohama FC. Hopefully he can pick up some experience and come back stronger. Good luck to him


Pretty much the same as Zain so I’ll pretty much just cut and paste. After not getting hardly any time on the pitch in 2021, Kaito has gone on loan for the season to J3 Fujieda MYFC. Hopefully he can pick up some experience and come back stronger. Good luck to him


Was unlucky in 2021 in that after he transferred on loan to Gainare Tottori they changed their manager which seemed to limit his opportunities somewhat. For the 2022 season he’ll be on loan at Nagano Parceiro where he’ll hopefully get more of a look in. Good luck!


Some expected Miyashiro to come back to us for the 2022 season after he’d done pretty well at Tokushima Vortis in 2021, where he played 32 games and scored seven times. The fact that he’s been sent out on loan again might discourage him, but the fact that it’s to another J1 club, (Sagan Tosu this time), is encouraging. I think he is considered a serious prospect for the future with us, so it makes sense for him to be playing games and gaining experience. Good luck!


I don’t think Ao has mixed feelings about his transfer to a team fighting relegation in the German second tier but I think that unless he leaves for a better team at the end of the season it’s not going to be a great move for him. But then again I am bitter. Seems to be involved in most of their games. Officially he’s at Dusseldorf on a loan, but I don’t expect he’ll be coming back to us any time soon.


Transferred to Brighton in the English Premier League and then immediately went out on loan to Royal Union St Gilloise in the Belgian top flight. Has been involved with most of their games and has scored five times, including one hat trick. I’ve heard he’s being played as a wing back though which might not exactly be the European dream he was hoping for. His time in Belgium is almost certainly just to get the necessary points on his footballing visa to be able to play in England next season. Not sure if that will be with Brighton or whether he can expect another loan period before then.


Not particularly happy in my spoilt brat way about my 2021 shirt player transferring to a Postecoglou team but hey ho. Perhaps he’ll end up getting a title but as with Ao, I’m not sure it’s a massive step up in terms of level from the J League. Especially for 10/11ths of the games he’s going to play. I’ll grudgingly wish him luck, but if that could coincide with a total disaster for Postecoglou that would be perfect for me!

Kyung-Tae LEE

Returned to South Korea to do his military service without ever getting a look in with us. Hope it was a worthwhile experience for him. Perhaps we’ll see him again one day, but I’m not sure.


Perhaps the biggest departure of the off-season. The writing appeared to be on the wall for him after he didn’t have any involvement at all after his penalty miss against Ulsan in the ACL. But then again, I thought I’d probably writing the same thing about Joao Schmidt and he’s stayed. Feel a little sorry for him as he got injured when he was playing amazingly at the start of the 2020 season. Since coming back he hasn’t quite got back to his previous heights and couldn’t take advantage of the departure of Mitoma. Feel that he probably needs a new club and a new start to get his career going again, but am sad to see him go. Good luck to him at Yokohama FC in J2 next season. I suspect he’ll have a great year and will be back in J1 sooner or later, whether that is with YFC or someone else.


Has now returned to Brazil after being on loan at Yokohama FC for two seasons. Never thought he really got a fair crack of the whip with us but clearly it doesn’t make sense for us to have a foreign player who was presumably on decent wages sitting on the bench or more likely in the stands while Oniki played Yamane till he drops. Feel like we need to slightly apologise to him as I don’t think he did anything wrong and wish him all the best back in Brazil.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

2021 Season Competion Round-Up


I’ll keep this post fairly brief as I’ve again left it a bit too late and the details are fading and also, probably a lot of what I’ll say here will have been said in previous posts. This will be divided into four sections for the different competitions we took part in and will basically be a few words on how we did, the reasons why things happened like they did, and maybe a few other comments.


You can’t complain about a season where we won the league by 13 points, won the most games, got the best goal difference and conceded the least goals. If we’re being really greedy, it’s a shame we couldn’t have got a couple more goals and have ended up scoring the most too. Losing only twice is pretty amazing, but without wanting to sound like a brat, it’s a real shame we lost those two games as I thought we could have gone the whole year without losing. Our first loss away at Avispa was pretty annoying. Their goalscorer should have been sent off long before he scored in my opinion, and it was a game that we dominated when it came to possession but both teams were in a ‘can’t shoot for shit’ period that we sometimes slip in to. Three shots on target out of 15 suggests that we would have been lucky to score. Their ratio (2 out of 9) was pretty similar but one of their two shots happened to be an audacious wonder strike, the type of which could only come from a player who knows he was having a lucky day from the fact that he was still on the pitch. It probably should have been a 0-0 really, I don’t think we deserved to win it, but neither did they really, but these things happen. The other loss also came in Kyushu to our usual recent bogey team Sagan Tosu. They were the only team we failed to beat last season, and hungover from winning the title in the previous game and delighted by the guard of honour they gave us, we put in a limp performance and they raised their game. Thanks to alcohol it was still a fun day out though. At least until Jesiel got injured. I think in the last two years we have  missed our two best chances ever to go the whole season unbeaten. Next year I think the title race will be a lot tighter than it was in the last two years. Perhaps we could have done it this year if we’d managed to keep Mitoma and Tanaka but to be honest that was never really going to happen. The ACL group stage in a bubble in Uzbekistan was a bit of a disruption for us and we definitely wobbled in all competitions after coming back to Japan and having to quarantine. The Avispa loss came at a time when Taniguchi was injured (from playing in midfield in the Emperor’s Cup…) and was around the time that almost everyone who played in that position picked up at least one semi-serious injury. As I say every year, I hope we can get some cover there for next year. I always say this but now have some vague evidence to support the statement I guess. All in all it didn’t quite feel as exciting as last year. We played four more league games this year but still scored seven goals less than in 2020. But we did concede three less too, so perhaps we slid back to something a bit more defensive. Certainly we had to rely on some late winners or equalisers this year and it was nowhere near as comfortable. I fancy that next year will be even trickier so fingers crossed for our hopes.


Once again it seemed a bit crazy to even bother holding the ACL in its usual form given the state of the world and the pandemic. But perhaps like the Olympics, some tournaments being made to go ahead is apparently more important than concerns for people’s health and safety. The group stage being held in Uzbekistan took a signifcant lump out of the middle of our season and flying back with Gamba apparently caused a few people to get COVID. The Chinese teams sending their kids added an extra layer or strangeness. I know I always say that Oniki doesn’t like to change things, but the fact that he played lots of different players, giving some of them their debut in our group games suggested that a couple of the teams we were facing were very weak. As did the scorelines, I guess. We coasted through the group with a perfect record only conceding three times in six games and scoring 27. And in doing so were rewarded with an away game at Ulsan Hyundai who had also won their group with a perfect record. I don’t think either team was particularly happy but given that there were 5 groups in the Eastern section, two group winners were always going to have to face each other and it was just our luck to get that draw and to even have to play the one legged tie at their ground. Add to this the fact that our central defender injury crisis was really kicking in when it came to our knockout stage match, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps we weren’t getting the luck of the draw in this competition in 2021. The game was pretty dire with only 2 shots on target from each team in 120 minutes and then the pitch disintegrated under our penalty takers (I feel particularly bad for Hasegawa as you could almost see him sink as he went to take his kick and that ended up being the last thing he did for us before he left). Apparently the ref could have changed ends half way through given that the penalty spot had to be replaced after every kick but he chose not to, presumably wanting to get things over and done with after a turgid 120 minutes of football and perhaps also feeling that people slipping over during their run up was perhaps in keeping with the general standard of the match. But both teams had to deal with the same situations so I’m not really moaning. It just felt like it wasn’t meant to be. Which was presumably a delight for rival J League fans. I don’t necessarily want to say that there are still some question marks over our performances in knockout competitions, but the next two sections might reinforce that idea…

Emperor’s Cup

This was once again a bit of a disaster for us in 2021. We were taken to penalties after falling behind to J3 Nagano and J2 JEF in consecutive rounds and scraped through. Then more comfortably got through against J1 pair Shimizu and Kashima before coming up against another brick wall of fate against Oita in the semi-final. This was a game that it was impossible to be too upset about losing. Unlike against Ulsan where we’d been shit and then had a penalty shoot out nightmare in horrible conditions, we totally dominated Oita for most of the game but came up against Frontale old boy Takagi in the Oita goal who seemed to have decided to have the game of his life and managed to stop pretty much everything in amazing ways. We had 41 shots and three quarters of them were on target. When in the shootout one of their penalties hit the post and bounced in off Sung-Ryong’s back it became truly evident that fate was in charge and against us, and whatever we might do we weren’t going to get through. It was a real shame that Tsukagawa missed as he’d done pretty much nothing for the previous few months and probably saw it as a good opportunity to remind people who he was. Still getting to the semi finals wasn’t bad considering how we’d struggled to get past J3 and J2 opposition in previous rounds.


Coming into the competition at a late stage always feels a bit like cheating. Particularly if you’ve messed up the ACL whilst getting a bye for the group stage of the Levain. In the first leg with Tanuguchi injured we started with Jesiel and Kurumaya at centre back, both of whom left the pitch injured before the 90 minutes were up. We ended up with a centre back paring of Yamamura and Noborizato. We didn’t play particularly well, the pitch was horrible and so was the ref. But we got a dubious penalty (I wrote in my post, I can’t remember it to be honest). To come away with a 1-1 draw in the away leg was something of a miracle really but probably only really delayed the inevitable. In the following game we went with Yamamura and Tanabe at centre back but Oniki withdrew Tanabe at half time. Yamane was away on international duty so we ended up with a bit of a mess of a line-up and in the end probably got what we deserved (a 94th minute equaliser which gave them the tie on away goals). Similarly to the Oita Emperor’s Cup loss it was difficult to feel too upset about the result as not only was this game in the middle of our big mid-season wobble but also everything seemed to be going against us when it came to luck and again it felt like it just wasn’t meant to be.

All in all, a bit of a weird year. The league was fun, but not as exciting as last year and it felt like we’d regressed slightly maybe, particularly when it came to exciting football. It really doesn’t help when you lose two starters mid-season though. And it does seem that this is what’s going to be happening to us more and more often now, which is a bit worrying. We’ve got a great plan A which works pretty well most of the time, but you still have to think that we need a plan B. Oniki’s limited experiments with 4-4-2 haven’t really seemed to work but I think he probably needs to make them work for next year. In league games perhaps it’s ok if you plug away with plan A relentlessly, usually ending up with at worst a draw. But in knockout competition I’m not sure we still have what it takes to change a match and grab something in a stalemate. It can’t have come as a surprise to see us struggle to break though a defensive Ulsan in the ACL when we failed to do the same to Nagano and JEF in the Emperor’s Cup. I used to moan a lot about Oniki, but that seems a bit ridiculous given the success he’s had. So don’t take this a moan, just a suggestion that maybe he needs to take his management to another level for us to be able to deal with situations that aren’t going our way. Anyway, we won the league and we’ve got another star for the kit, which will also have the benefit of irritating some opposition fans. Let’s hope we can step it up a little next season in what is going to be another packed schedule.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

2021 Season Player Round-Up Part 3

The third and final part of the players 2021 round up, from Tanaka Ao (who is that again?) to Oniki (yes, I realise he's not a player). General season round up to follow in the next few days.

25. Ao TANAKA (MF)

Another mid-season departure but one who seemed so desperate to leave that he was happy with the German second tier. I have no idea about the level of that league, but the fact that his team is 13th out of 18 might suggest that he will need to attract another team’s attention to get to play in the top flight any time soon. Seems to be involved in their games though and thanks to him now playing abroad, has been much more involved in the Japan national team as playing overseas seems to be the first criteria when it comes to being selected under Moriyasu. He was fifth on our list of assists for the season and this was only from 19 games. I’m sad that he left and wish him well, but can’t help feel that being involved in a relegation battle in 2. Bundesliga might not really be the step up from J1 title winners that he thinks and has said it is.

26. Kaito KAMIYA (DF)

Another player who has perhaps been cursed by my towel purchase. Thought he was a future centre back for us but got his first time on the pitch at left back against Yokohama FC. Made another couple of appearances in ACL group stage games but has otherwise been wholly absent. Not sure if he needs a loan spell to get some experience or whether he’s just on the edge of getting some more pitch time. Impossible really to comment on him with the little we’ve seen of him. I quite like his hair though.

27. Kenta TANNO (MF)

Another season of sitting on the bench. Definitely the second choice keeper and only got involved for a single ACL group game when Sung-Ryong was fit, but played five games when our number one was injured. Thought he did pretty well in those five games, four of which we won, but is unlikely to get a start without further injuries or a big increase in Oniki’s desire to rotate.

28. Kazuya YAMAMURA (MF)

Good season I think. Much like Kurumaya, who he partnered in central defence on more than a few occasions, perhaps suffers from his versatility. Got a bit more of a crack in midfield this year though and loved it when he was ranging forward with the ball even when playing at the back. Was outstanding at the back against a dangerous YFM team at the end of the season when he had to come on early for the injured Kurumaya. Three goals and no bookings too which is pretty good. Hope he is happy with his intermittent involvement and wish that Oniki, if he is going to rotate at the back, would do it a bit more freely, rather than it being one of two sets of centre backs. The injury to Jesiel might mean that he’ll be getting some early season starts.

30. Shuto TANABE (DF)

Was thrown in at the deep end in central defence against Urawa in the Levain cup due to a defensive injury crisis (who could have predicted that, eh?) and was somewhat unfairly withdrawn at half time which can’t have done his confidence much good. Aside from that, got one half in the ACL group stage. He’s very young and centre back is a position that Oniki is quite picky about so his lack of opportunities is not so surprising maybe. Hopefully he’ll get more chances next year and then we might actually have some cover in the middle at the back.

31. Renji MATSUI (MF)

No involvement at all so maybe he’s next year’s Tachibanada. But Tachibanada doesn’t have a sister that’s a former member of an idol group, an actress and a model as far as I know, so he’s not last year’s Matsui.

32. Yuki HAYASAKA (GK)

No involvement and I have no idea if he has a famous sister.

40. Kyung-Tae LEE (GK)

No involvement aside from taking part in the Halloween dressing up thing. Has now returned to Korea to do his military service. Whether he will be back afterwards, who knows.

41. Akihiro IENAGA (MF)

Made the J League team of the year and was once again a very important player for us. 10 goals, four assists and a lot of game time show that he’s not particularly slowing down as he gets older. Probably has a somewhat unique position in the team as when he plays on the right up front he actually plays wherever he wants but when others play there, they tend to stay there. Also was the only survivor out of the ACL penalty missers. Had his usual couple of streaks where he wasn’t quite himself and had some off games, but you can’t easily replace his quality. Hopefully we can get a few more seasons out of him, influencing and teaching the younger players, before he retires and opens his cafe. Oh, and his special pre-game stretching routine never gets old, and in fact seems to get more involved and more entertaining month by month. Bravo!

47. Reo HATATE (FW)

Tough one for me to write as I have his name on my 2021 shirt. He had a great season, at least when he played in the midfield or up front, and did a creditable job at filling in at left back when he had to. Felt like he was slightly undroppable though and on some occasions when he was playing badly at left back, it was always someone else who got the hook and he moved position. But this speaks volumes about his flexibility. His tears when we won the league and at the end of the Oita cup defeat told us what we probably already knew - that he was going to leave us. It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed he did it to join up with an ex-YFM manager at Celtic, who is once again splashing the cash and buying loads of players to show what a good manager he is. Much like Joao Schmidt, I wish him all the best but somehow hope that this can be combined with his team losing a lot. Will certainly be a difficult player to replace.

Toru ONIKI (Manager)

Can’t argue with a manager winning four league titles in five years really. But the middle year total collapse might cause some worries. But this is supposed to be about 2021. This year we had a bit more competition when it came to the title but Oniki stood strong and did what he does and we came out comfortably on top. He is apparently well liked by the squad and his record speaks for itself. Some might say that we still can’t perform in cup competitions. The results might agree with this but I’d say that we were a bit unlucky to go out on every occasion in 2021. Which is surprisingly positive for me! Against Oita in the Emperor’s Cup we just came up against a keeper that would never be beaten and when one of their penalties goes in off the post and the back of the keeper’s head you can’t really blame the manager. In both the ACL and Levain we were undone by the same injury crisis. Although our lack of centre backs didn’t seem to cause us too many problems at the back, you’ve got to think it undid us going forward and cost us in those games. Perhaps this crisis comes in part from Oniki’s reluctance to rotate, which has been mentioned time and time again by me on this blog and even in these player round up posts. I think it’s probably something he needs to work out how to do if we want to compete on all fronts again next year. As we saw when centre back after centre back started succumbing to injury, there’s only so long you can continue pushing the same players before something gives. But it seems that Oniki is desperate to win every game, so it makes sense that he wants to play his best players all the time. Perhaps we could also do with a plan B. But equally, when the plan A works pretty well, maybe you’re inclined to stick with it. I’ve moaned about Oniki in the past, but to be honest, I’m an idiot and he knows a lot more about football than I do. And you can’t moan about his record. Next year is the big test though. Another compacted season with plenty of games in plenty of competitions is going to be a challenge and we have the thought of the three-peat of league titles in mind. I’m sure we can all remember what happened last time we were in that position. Fingers crossed for 2022! And well done Oniki!

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

2021 Season Player Round-Up Part 2

Part two of the 2021 season round up. Today it goes from Yamane to Miyagi. Part 3 tomorrow.

13. Miki YAMANE (DF)

Another great season for Yamane with plenty of international recognition and unlike some of our other players who were called up, he actually played a few times! Again included in the J League team of the year and this year also got the fair play award as he didn’t get a single yellow card in 47 appearances, which is pretty amazing for a defender. The fact that he played 47 times is a bit of a problem for us though I’d say. The only occasions he dropped out of the squad were when he was on international duty or for a couple of ACL group games against very weak teams. So to be honest, he hasn’t had a break at all. We definitely need to give him a bit more rest next year. Hopefully he will still be with us, as people have talked about him possibly catching the eye of other clubs. Only two goals this year suggests that he’s been defending a bit more than in previous seasons, but he does still turn up as our player who is furthest forward on numerous occasions which is always quite amusing but also a little scary. 14 assists too! Great season.

15. Zain ISSAKA (MF)

Yamane’s international call ups were Zain’s big chance this year. It didn’t quite work out though. I thought he did pretty well in his first start against Yokohama FC but perhaps Oniki didn’t agree as the only times he was involved after that when Yamane was available pretty much only came in the ACL group games. I guess it’s tough when you have a J League Best 11 player ahead of you and a manager who doesn’t like to change things much. Don’t think he really got all the opportunities he might have been able to get but to be honest, there were quite a few occasions when we left it pretty late to get the job done in 2021 so didn't have the option to bring on some youngsters for some experience. Going on loan to Yokohama FC next season so hopefully will get some game time under his belt as I feel what he really needs is experience. Good luck to him and hope he comes back stronger and better!

16. Tatsuya HASEGAWA (MF)

Another victim of the ACL penalty curse, never even being slightly involved after the ground moved beneath his feet as he went to take his spot kick. And now won’t be involved again as he too is moving to Yokohama FC, but for him it's a permanent transfer. Feel a bit bad for him as his Frontale career was irreparably damaged by an injury last year and the emergence of Mitoma. Even after Mitoma left and on the occasions he was involved this year, he could never quite recapture the great form he was in at the start of 2020. With Miyagi and Marcinho ahead of him in the pecking order it makes sense for him to move. I hope he tears it up at YFC and can get back to J1 as soon as possible. Not sure if I am to blame for his decline as I have a Hasegawa towel and most towels or shirts I buy seem to cause the related player to have some misfortune and/or leave us. That was a while ago though. Good luck to him!

17. Kazuki KOZUKA (MF)

Bit like Tsukagawa, Kozuka didn’t really get much of a crack at this season. Signed with some expectation from Oita he came into a packed midfield and never quite found his spot. Feel like he could have been played a bit further forward, maybe in Ienaga’s spot as he seemed much better when attacking. He made five starts but was never really able to get a run of appearances and get into his rhythm. Got a goal in the ACL group stage and what looked like it might be an important assist in the Emperor’s Cup semi final against Oita. Hopefully 2021 was, for both him and Tsukagawa, a stepping stone to getting a bit more involved in 2022.

18. Kaoru MITOMA (FW)

There’s not much to say about Mitoma that hasn’t already been said. The fact that he finished up as our third top scorer even though he left half way through the season says a lot. He’s going to be difficult to replace but hopefully Miyagi and Marcinho can get somewhere close to Mitoma’s level. He seems to be doing reasonably well in Belgium and presumably will get enough games to be able to join Brighton properly next year. Brighton is a team I don’t like so I’m not exactly ecstatic about that but good luck to him. I wonder if he might have another loan spell to a Championship side before he gets a proper go at Brighton through.

19. Daiya TONO (FW)

A decent first season with us and showed a lot of promise I think. Feel like his effectiveness is dulled a little when he’s put in midfield but if there’s one thing Oniki likes, then that’s versatility it seems, so I’m sure Tono will be involved a decent amount in 2022. As we expected he seems to have a good eye for goal. However, along with his seven goals he also got seven assists though, which I think shows how useful he’s going to be. Nice work!

20. Kei CHINEN (FW)

After returning from a loan spell at Oita in 2020 where he was in and out of the team, Chinen came back and the same happened to him at Frontale. But at least he won the league this time round. Probably needed an injury to Damiao to get a run in the side but even then would find himself up against Kobayashi for the middle striker spot. When it came to replacing Damiao, Chinen seemed at times to be preferred to Kobayashi though as maybe he’s more of a like for like change. There is some talk of him moving to JEF. I don’t know if that would be on loan or a permanent transfer. That would certainly leave us a bit light up front, considering Miyashiro has gone on another loan, this time to Sagan Tosu, but you can’t help but feel that it might be better for him in the long run. I like him though and feel that if he’s happy with his cameo appearances and if Oniki maybe rotates a bit more he would be very useful for us. Eight goals from six starts and 26 sub appearances is a pretty decent return. But I can understand if he feels he could play a bit more elsewhere.

21. Shunsuke ANDO (GK)

A pretty regular season for Ando, who never seems to get the chance to be involved. A clear third in the pecking order of keepers and given that Oniki very rarely changes things and very, very rarely changes the keeper unless he has to, you’ve got to think that his best chance to get involved would be an injury to one of the two ahead of him. Sat on the bench seven times and probably traveled with the squad as an emergency back-up on many more times, Ando’s position shows how tough it is when there is only one player in your position that plays each game. Think he is well liked by the fans though if that is any consolation to him.


Maybe the break out success of the season. Was in the squad last year but never made it to the match day squad, but this year has been involved in about 2/3 of our matches and towards the end of the season was an automatic selection in the anchor role. It does seem that we have a player break through like this each year which is a very welcome thing. Much like one of his predecessors Morita, he’s been experimented with at right back on occasion but has really come into his own in the defensive midfield spot. Also like Morita seems to be great at tackling and passing. I wonder how long we can hang on to him. Scored a hattrick in the ACL and got a couple of other goals and a couple of MOTM awards from me, and to be honest, probably deserved more. Can’t wait to see how he does in 2022.


A late addition to the team, coming in to replace Mitoma after it seemed that Hasegawa’s time with us was up. Took a little while to settle in to our style but by the end of the season was playing great. His dribbling and speed work well and he seems stronger than his stature might suggest. Once he worked out where people were going to be he just got better and better. Only involved in 13 games but scored once and got three assists which is a decent return for someone in a new country, a new team and a new system. Has signed a new contact for next year. Lovely!

24. Ten MIYAGI (FW)

Much like Marcinho, Miyagi’s job seemed to be to replace Mitoma and fill some big shoes. Perhaps his age and potential put him ahead of Hasegawa but he did at times suffer from the same issues as him when it came to dribbling perhaps too far and not being able to get a good pass in. But he’s very young. Seems to be very willing to shoot and also seems to be very good at it, which is very welcome! Great winning goal against Kashima saw his standing sky rocket, but probably needs a little more time till he’s hitting the heights we hope from him. Great prospect though! Only seven starts and 13 sub appearances but got three goals and two assists in his debut season. Nice work, and very promising!

Monday, 3 January 2022

2021 Season Player Round-Up Part 1

As usual, I'm going to write a few posts about all of our players' 2021 season. This is part one and it goes from Sung-Ryong to Kobayashi. Parts 2 and 3 following in the next couple of days.

1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (GK)

Another great season for our number one. And it’s been a bit of a slog for him as he’s played a crazy amount of games, Clearly he’s our first choice and for good reason. Hasn’t showed any real signs of his increasing years and hopefully should be good for a few more seasons. The fact that he got the most man of the match awards from me suggests that he’s had to play some good stuff to get us over the line on more than a few occasions. Personally I think he was robbed not getting into the team of the year as he conceded the least goals in the league and that was in a team that doesn’t just play ultra defensively. But I guess there was such a backlash after Langerak didn’t get it last year so he was bound to get it. Definitely one of my players of the season.


Nobori seems to be somehow getting better with age. If it wasn’t for his injury early in the season, he would probably have got a lot more starts. The only one of our regular back four who didn’t get in the team of the year, which seems pretty harsh but then again they did swerve actually picking a left back in that team, so maybe that was why. Still only 31 despite seemingly being around for ages. Hopefully he has a few more years in him as Kurumaya now seems to be a back up centre back as far as Oniki is concerned. Definitely seems to be undervalued or go unnoticed by some, but has been an integral part in all of our recent success.


A weird first season for one of my favourite new signings at the start of the year. Was more involved at the beginning of the season but seemed to pick up numerous head injuries which kept him out of the squad and led to him drifting out of Oniki’s plans slightly. Always gets stuck in which I love. It’s great to see a more physical player in our midfield. Perhaps this explains his head injuries! Astonishing that he didn’t get any yellow cards as he’s made some important fouls for us. Sushi Football on Twitter told me that might be the case when we signed him, saying something along the lines of ‘he fouls a lot but never seems to get booked’. Feel like he could have had a bit of a better go of things rather than just having a few late five minute cameos. But then this year was pretty much a season of not much change when it came to line ups. Fingers crossed for 2022!


Another one who is definitely a contender for our player of the season and must be one of the first names on the team sheet. (Although to be honest, it seems that Oniki keeps the same team sheet and just erases people who are injured rather than starting with a new team sheet each time). His injury came at a stage of the season where it was thankfully less devastating for us, but I was still quite pissed off with him being brought on at that stage of a fairly meaningless game. The injury however might have helped us secure him for another season though and I’m pleased that he’s extended his contract with us. Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that he had such a good season as he is always so consistent. Crucial part of our 2022 season so hope he’s back from injury near the start of the season.


Our captain has had a pretty good season I think, with a lot of appearances and a national team call up. I think he’s played really well in defence and can’t really be blamed for Oniki always trying him in midfield, which has almost without exception, been a bit of a disaster. Given how few defenders we have in our squad I would have thought it might be best to not try to convert any of them to midfielders. Only got one goal this year, but obviously that’s not the main reason he’s on the pitch. Only one yellow card in the whole season for a central defender is also pretty amazing really. Another player who picked up an injury when being used unnecessarily (in midfield naturally), but of course I was always going to moan about that. A great 2021 and a well deserved inclusion in the J League best 11.


Weird season. Started as the big signing and great hope to replace Morita. Settled in very quickly and was doing a great job I thought. But slowly drifted out of Oniki’s plans, like Brazilian players sometimes tend to do. One of the players who after missing a penalty in the ACL round of 16 on an absolute mess of a pitch, seemed to be almost completely shut out of the squad. Apparently going on loan to FC Tokyo next season which is a bit baffling, but it is said that he is on a big wage with us, and if he’s not going to be playing very often, I guess that makes sense. Bit of a shame how things worked out though. Good luck to him if he moves, but good luck in the way that I hope he plays well and succeeds, but obviously we don’t want FC Tokyo doing too well. Well, apart from when they play our rivals.

7. Shintaro KURUMAYA (DF)

As mentioned above, now seems to be a back up centre back rather than a contender for left back. Surprised to see he made 25 starts in 2021 as it felt like he wasn’t involved that much. But I guess the centre backs were playing in the one area that Oniki did switch sometimes. And there also were quite a few injuries in that department. Kurumaya picked up a couple of injuries and I’m slightly worried about the one he got against YFM and not sure how serious it was. If he’s happy with how much he’s playing, I’ll be delighted to have him with us next year as his versatility is a big bonus. Perhaps in a way this is a disadvantage for him when it comes to getting starts as having him on the bench covering two spots makes a lot of sense.

8. Yasuto WAKIZAKA (MF)

Played the majority of our games in an ever changing midfield, scored six times and assisted eight times. In a similar way to Oshima, at times he goes slightly unnoticed by me when I’m in the stadium watching the games. I decided to redress the balance on one occasion by keeping a close eye on him and feel like I cursed him somehow as he didn’t play very well when I was focusing on him. Perhaps that’s true of other people watching too, which might be a good thing when it comes to us being able to keep hold of him. There has been some talk of him getting Kengo’s shirt number next season, which if it happens would be a huge honour and perhaps some encouragement to ignore any overtures from overseas. But the fact that he made the best 11 suggests that maybe it’s just me who manages to sometimes miss what he’s doing.


After a quiet settling-in first season and then a great second season, Damiao has had a blinder of a third season with us. In the league, he’s scored three more goals in five less appearances this year compared with last year. And has knocked in numerous goals in cup games too. But the huge amount of assists this year can’t go unnoticed too. The fact that not many of the goals were penalties and a lot of them were overhead kicks and back heels shows just how much of an exciting player he is. And he also seems to be a lovely guy too. Thoroughly deserved to get the golden boot and the J League MVP. Delighted he extended his contract with us. Let’s hope he can do even better next season!

10. Ryota OSHIMA (MF)

A season plagued by injuries is something that is commonly mentioned when rounding up our number 10’s year. This year it went to another level though with him only making 5 starts and 10 substitute appearances in the whole season. Started the season injured, came back in time for the ACL group stage, and then got another big injury before he could even leave quarantine after the ACL when he pulled something taking a corner away at JEF in the Emperor’s Cup. Much like Jesiel’s injury, it looked serious almost immediately. And much like Jesiel, he got his serious injury after coming on as a sub. Still managed two goals in his limited time on the pitch and showed his class when he made it back to playing after the second injury. If we can keep him injury free in 2022, (and admittedly that’s a big if), he looks like he could have a great season. Fingers crossed.


Felt like a quiet year for Kobayashi as unsurprisingly Damiao took centre stage. It was hard to argue with Damiao starting most of the games so it left Kobayashi in a tricky spot. It turned out though that he played a similar amount of games to the previous season though, so perhaps the feeling that he wasn’t as involved is slightly false. But then again we did play more games due to the ACL. His return of 13 goals from 15 starts and 27 sub appearances shows his value. Especially when you consider how important some of those goals were. He was definitely a super sub on more than a few occasions. I really feel like he could play more on the right but I’m not sure that’s where he wants to play. Him and Ienaga both getting older suggests that it might be a good idea for them to share that position a bit more next season. If we could ever get a 442 to work, that might also be an option for him. But you can’t say it’s been a great success on the occasions we’ve tried it. He’s Frontale through and through, so I hope we can get him involved a bit more and that he’s happy with the part he’s playing.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

2021 season player stats

Here are your player stats for 2021. Please accept my apologies for any errors in here. I've put them together looking at loads of game stat pages and by using a pen and paper so I might have got distracted along the way and made a mistake or two. They are stats for all games in all competitions.

Given that we had the ACL this year quite a lot of the numbers are higher. The stats are also probably slightly skewed by the weak teams in the ACL group stage where we got quite a few more goals than would normally be expected. The fact that Mitoma was our third highest scorer and Tanaka our fifth highest assister even though they both left mid-season probably goes some way to explaining why we weren’t dazzling so much in the second part of the season. Damiao sitting well clear at the top of the scorers chart and in second place on the assist chart shows just how great he was this year. In the end Kobayashi got exactly the same number of starts this year as last, which was a bit of a surprise to me. He couldn’t quite match the same goal scoring heights but I think that could be said about everyone apart from Damiao really. Probably the only other thing that is worth mentioning is the man of the match awards. Due to the fact that once again because of COVID we weren’t able to go to as many games as we might have hoped to and that I don’t give a man of the match award when I’m not at the game, (and to be honest didn’t give it a few times even when I did attend this year), the man of the match figures don’t go a great deal further than what makes the top 5. It’s a shame though that ‘Steam train, Shochu and Nihonshu’ were only able to shine in the away game at Tosu and couldn’t show what they can do on more occasions. Sung-Ryong and Jesiel being right up there again shows just how good they are in my eyes. Long may their good form continue!

ST = games started
SB = used as substitute
US = unused sub
Y = yellow card
R = red card
G = goals
A = assists
MM = man of the match (according to me)

1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (GK)
ST 47 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 5

ST 35 SB 3 US 2 Y 2 R 0 G 0 A 4 MM 0

ST 1 SB 20 US 4 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

ST 36 SB 7 US 3 Y 6 R 0 G 2 A 1 MM 4

ST 36 SB 5 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 3 MM 2

ST 33 SB 2 US 0 Y 5 R 0 G 2 A 2 MM 1

7. Shintaro KURUMAYA (DF)
ST 25 SB 18 US 5 Y 2 R 0 G 1 A 1 MM 0

8. Yasuto WAKIZAKA (MF)
ST 40 SB 9 US 2 Y 1 R 0 G 6 A 8 MM 2

ST 39 SB 9 US 5 Y 1 R 0 G 31 A 10 MM 4

10. Ryota OSHIMA (MF)
ST 5 SB 10 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 1 MM 0

ST 15 SB 27 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 13 A 3 MM 0

13. Miki YAMANE (DF)
ST 47 SB 1 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 2 A 14 MM 0

15. Zain ISSAKA (MF)
ST 4 SB 1 US 5 Y 1 R 0 G 0 A 1 MM 0

16. Tatsuya HASEGAWA (MF)
ST 15 SB 15 US 6 Y 1 R 0 G 2 A 1 MM 0

17. Kazuki KOZUKA (MF)
ST 5 SB 7 US 10 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 1 MM 0

18. Kaoru MITOMA (MF)
ST 17 SB 7 US 3 Y 0 R 0 G 12 A 4 MM 0

19. Daiya TONO (FW)
ST 15 SB 23 US 9 Y 0 R 0 G 7 A 7 MM 1

20. Kei CHINEN (FW)
ST 6 SB 25 US 7 Y 0 R 0 G 8 A 0 MM 1

21. Shunsuke ANDO (GK)
ST 0 SB 0 US 7 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

ST 26 SB 17 US 4 Y 1 R 0 G 5 A 0 MM 2

ST 11 SB 2 US 1 Y 2 R 0 G 1 A 3 MM 0

24. Ten MIYAGI (FW)
ST 7 SB 13 US 4 Y 1 R 0 G 3 A 2 MM 0

25. Ao TANAKA (MF)
ST 19 SB 2 US 0 Y 1 R 0 G 1 A 6 MM 0

26. Kaito KAMIYA (DF)
ST 1 SB 2 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

27. Kenta TANNO (MF)
ST 6 SB 0 US 47 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

28. Kazuya YAMAMURA (MF)
ST 14 SB 17 US 2 Y 0 R 0 G 3 A 0 MM 1

30. Shuto TANABE (DF)
ST 1 SB 2 US 1 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

31. Renji MATSUI (MF)
ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

32. Yuki HAYASAKA (GK)
ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

40. Kyung Tae LEE (GK)
ST 0 SB 0 US 0 Y 0 R 0 G 0 A 0 MM 0

41. Akihiro IENAGA (MF)
ST 39 SB 12 US 2 Y 2 R 0 G 10 A 4 MM 2

47. Reo HATATE (FW)
ST 38 SB 0 US 0 Y 3 R 0 G 6 A 2 MM 1

Most Goals

2. KOBAYASHI Yu - 13
3. MITOMA Kaoru - 12
4. IENAGA Akihiro - 10
5. CHINEN Kei - 8

Most Assists

1. YAMANE Miki - 14
3. WAKIZAKA Yasuto - 8
4. TONO Daiya - 7
5. TANAKA Ao - 6

Most Starts

1. Sung-Ryong JUNG - 47
1. YAMANE Miki - 47
3. WAKIZAKA Yasuto - 40
4. IENAGA Akihiro - 39

Most Man Of The Match awards

1. Sung-Ryong JUNG - 5
2. JESIEL - 4
4. TANIGUCHI Shogo - 2
4. TACHIBANADA Kento - 2
4. IENAGA Akihiro - 2
4. WAKIZAKA Yasuto - 2

Most Yellow Cards

1. JESIEL - 6
3. HATATE Reo - 3
4. IENAGA Akihiro - 2
4. NOBORIZATO Kyohei - 2
4. KURUMAYA Shintaro - 2

Most Red Cards