Kyoto Sanga 1 - 0 Kawasaki Frontale
After a shocking result against Shonan, we held clear the air talks and decided to freshen things up. I’m not sure exactly what purpose these talks achieved as although we seemed to start this game a little brighter we quite soon resorted to the absolute same old shit. Oniki’s reaction to our worst recent performance was to drop Marcinho, the one player who always seems to offer something and replace him with Miyagi, who has really struggled this season. I mean, I haven’t given a man of the match recently because basically no one has deserved it, but if I’d had to, it would have been solid Marcinho for the last however many games. It’s becoming something of a cliche for me to say that the best thing about recent matches is everything apart from the match but once again it’s painfully true. We’ve lost consecutive games for the first time in ages and I can’t say we didn’t deserve to. Once again we were shite. One shot on target in 90 minutes. Add this to the one goal in four games stat and you can see where things are going wrong. Sadly Oniki apparently can’t. When one or two players have a bad day, well, that’s what happens sometimes. When almost to a man the whole team has a bad day repetitively for month after month (yet we still somehow squeak out some results) well, you’ve probably got to look elsewhere. Readers of this blog might think I’m anti Oniki and perhaps they’re right, but I don’t think I’ve been quite as publicly and directly against Oniki as I am now. Please let him resign. If it takes a defeat to a university team in the Emperors Cup on Wednesday to do that, well, that’s fine by me. Of course I don’t ever want us to lose, but surely his time is up. Obviously it would be better for the team and even for my own morale if he could just turn things round, but I can’t see any way that his stubborn conservatism could ever achieve that this year. I don’t dislike him, but we seem to be preparing for a terminal dive down the table with him at the helm. Once again we’ve been helped by a rival, with FC Tokyo beating Kashima. But once again we’ve messed up at the same time. And now YFM have sneaked past both of us into top spot. Some managers take a ragtag bunch of rough and ready players and turn them into a winning team. Some inherit a good squad and system and slowly turn them into an utter bore. Oniki has looked at the flowering young talents in our Frontale garden and has decided to mow them down and replace them with a tarmac drive because that’s more steady and reliable. Sure, we’ve had some good times together, but hey, don’t mention 2019, and don’t mention our ACL campaigns, or our performances in knockout competitions. We’ve now lost four times in the league this year and our current third place spot is hugely flattering. I can’t envisage us scoring again, let along winning. When things are going your way, draws become wins and every ricochet bounces into the path of your striker who slots it home. When things aren’t, the goal posts become impossibly wide and an invisible fence is erected on the edge of the opposition penalty box. We hit the post a few times in this game. But don’t forget Kyoto had more than enough decent chances to win the game comfortably. I’m getting fed up of singling out players for criticism. But the fact is that people are playing way too much and seem to be without any kind of decent instruction or leadership. Players are getting run into the ground as there is no trust in the players that we have to cover for them. And those back up players have hardly played, apart from against a team of kids from China. If Oniki plays the ‘first team’ next Wednesday against Sapporo University I think he should be fired regardless of the result. Maybe the reason he doesn’t choose some players is because they lack experience. But they lack experience because he never ever chooses them even once in a while against perceived weaker opposition. Last time I compared watching us to a kids anti-drugs video, as it felt like our style and performance was an attempt to wean the viewer off being interested in football. After this game I think I’ve been too soft and should more accurately compare it to some kind of masochism or death cult. Perhaps a lot of us fans think that we deserve the worst kind of punishment for things we might have done in the past. Don’t get me wrong, if we were just bad it would still be painful. Instead we flatter to deceive right up until the opposition box. The first half in this game felt like an improvement from Wednesday. Admittedly there wasn’t really any lower place we could sink to. But this was just a false dawn brought on by a new stadium and a fun day out before we got to the stadium. Soon reality came hurtling back and we’d lost another game.
Ten shots, one on target. Of course I can’t blame Oniki for missing those shots, or for absolutely blasting the ball into his own goal, but I can blame him for making a once exciting team play such turgid stuff. I can blame him for sticking endlessly with tired and out of form players. And for only changing the formation when we were already in a lot of trouble and apparently doing so with no preparation and also no apparent concept of how a changed formation might change the way we play. If anyone knows what formation we were playing at the end, please let me know. All I remember is Marcinho on the right and apparently no one on the left. We had plenty of scrambles in and around the opposition box but so low is morale that even when presented with a nice chance we still messed it up. People are moaning about Damiao. I think this is a bit mean and shortsighted. Things aren’t falling for him, but who exactly are they falling for at the moment? It’s the absolute tactical inflexibility when everyone in the league has worked us out that is infuriating. Endless fast breaks from which the ball is returned to our own defence. It’s just the inevitability that is killing me right now. We knew we were going to be shit, the starting line up reinforces that feeling, the first half slightly softened it, but the second half turned it into a granite monolith in the shape of a curly turd. I don’t like openly saying people should be sacked, but ONIKI OUT! Get him out whilst we still are vaguely alive in the title race. It’s too late for the ACL. It will probably be too late for the Emperor’s Cup after Wednesday and too late for the league during the next round of games. I feel like I know Oniki quite well. With our team absolutely grasping for some form and morale, a cup tie against a university side and an upcoming international break… He’s going to play the first team isn’t he? And we’ll lose. Yamane and Taniguchi won’t be able to play on Wednesday I think, but I bet he’ll go with the rest of the usual players with a view to getting them some confidence back and instead will deal another hammer blow to a structural beam in what is already quite a wobbly Frontale house. Get him out!
This all seems quite Oniki focused. So let’s have a go at some others too. Tanimoto the ref was an absolute disaster, clearly out of his depth, and lacking any kind of control. He didn’t bother to try to stop any Kyoto time wasting (which began in the first minute and lasted the full ninety). When they were making obvious time wasting subs (which, don’t get me wrong is totally fair enough), he demanded a Kyoto player leave the field on the side of the pitch he was on a few metres from the touchline, and just keep waving at the player as he walked right past him, totally ignoring him. And he apparently also didn’t notice the obvious message go round to the ball boys that they should stop throwing the ball back once Kyoto were in the lead. He didn’t however ignore lots of Kyoto diving and rolling around on the floor, all of which got them free kicks. One particularly galling example was when Marcinho (remember, the guy who does nothing according to Oniki, and didn’t start this game…) broke through with the ball by hassling the defender who went down holding his face. A few minutes later, perhaps the same defender, (I dunno, the details are a bit sketchy and watching back on DAZN is driving me potty so I’ve given up), absolutely scythed Marcinho who’d done a smart turn, getting nowhere near the ball. Guess which challenge got them a free kick and which one was apparently ok? Their captain seems quite a detestable person, whining and diving relentlessly and therefore bravely leading and setting an example for the rest of his team. But basically, whatever they wanted from the ref, they got. I read on Twitter that apparently the VAR review for the possible penalty when Sasaki cleared off the line (shortly after clearing into the roof of his own net) went perhaps unfairly in our favour. Which I would say goes to prove my point that the officials were fucking useless but to be honest on the replay I can’t see any way that it could ever have been given. Except by a totally inept referee. So there you go, a lucky escape for us. The basic fact of the matter though is that Cho is a manager who knows how to change tactics to suit the game. Gamesmanship and diving and whining is all a semi-legitimate tactic and if you are the apparent underdog you have every right to use them. It’s just a shame that Tanimoto was quite so blind to them. And it’s a shame that whilst other teams managers have some kind of guile or savvy, our manager has one idea and then after that it’s just randomly shuffling magnets round a board and then failing to even communicate that to the players on the pitch. Definitely luck isn’t with us right now. We hit the post late on (so couldn’t grasp a ‘brave’ draw), and we got absolutely nothing from the ref who definitely should have sent off at least one Kyoto player for a second yellow (I’m looking particularly at you Appiah). But even against ten men, I don’t think Oniki would have had the know-how to turn this game round. I think we actually play even worse against 10 than we do against 11 usually.
So, another awful game. Exactly as predicted. But that’s not saying much as Oniki’s idea of clearing the air and changing things up apparently means keep on doing the same. Thank you to Tachibanada, who’s after hearing the rumours about foreign interest this summer did his best to have an awful game and put off any potential suitors. His tackling was great but I don’t think he could have completed a pass from his front door to out of his genkan in this match. Yamane was alright in the first half but then reverted to recent Yamane form. Everyone is tired though. They need a break. Yamane and Taniguchi won’t get one unless they don’t play whilst on international duty, as inevitably as soon as they are back, they’ll be straight back into the team for further grinding down. Before then, Oniki will play Yamamura and Kurumaya at centre back and probably put Tachibanada or Seko at right back. Which admittedly would be an improvement on playing Seko at left back. And probably keep everything else as it is. Never has that house on fire, drinking a cup of tea meme been more true than it is for us right now. Right up until he starts getting singed, Oniki’s not going to do anything and by then it will be too late. And also by then our title hopes and the fans’ collective mental health will have been irreparably damaged. Honestly, I’m fed up of watching these games. But of course I will still keep going. People might think I’m being spoilt child moaning when things go bad after a few good years, but we’re not a bad team, we’re just being made to be bad by some utterly insane decisions from the top. What would be the ideal result on Wednesday in the Emperor’s Cup? I honestly don’t know. A defeat would put Oniki in real trouble but I don’t think we’d sack him and I don’t think he’d resign. A big victory would paper over the cracks and if it came with what is predominately the first team playing it would give Oniki license to keep doing the same old nonsense when the league returns. I’m struggling to work out what would actually constitute a fun evening at the game to be honest. Every scenario comes with some kind of bad feeling, whether it is towards Oniki or feelings of guilt towards a team of students who suffer the consequences of a bounce back after our worse run for years. To be honest, I think it will be an ultimately frustrating 1-0 win for us, where we once again run into the invisible fence around the opposition penalty box but someone finds a sneaky way through and scores with our one shot on target. And then this rotten situation rolls on to the next league fixture in a few weeks. Which we lose. I should reiterate that the dream scenario for me is that Oniki wises up and turns things around, but I just can’t see it happening. Likewise, I can’t see us parting ways, so basically we’re going to limp our way to the end of this season slowly sliding down the table, occasionally picking up a 1-0 win with a goal going in off the opposition keeper’s backside to bridge the gaps between miserable defeats to relegation contenders. Oh well, at least we have the Levain Cup group stage games to look forward to next year!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 61')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
THE ROOF OF THE STAND WE WERE SITTING IN - made watching the game a bit more bearable, but not much more bearable. At least we didn't have sunburn and heat stroke to add to complete frustration.