Cerezo Osaka 2 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale
I’m fine! I’m totally fine! After last week’s disaster, we had a whole week off until the latest disaster that was this game. In that time I decided to stop worrying and getting upset so much about the state of our season and instead just get on with having as much fun as I could at the games we go to. And it’s a bit of luck really! If I were still getting angry I think I might have picked up quite a few new grey hairs and a rise in my blood pressure from us losing again, throwing away a lead again, conceding late again and starting the game with some players playing well out of position again. As the ever entertaining Kawasaki Frontale FR said on Twitter when the team announcement was made, ‘Why change an un-winning team?’. (My translation, other possibly more accurate ones available). It was a very amusing point that I quite enjoyed, but the surprising thing was that Oniki did actually change something in spite of the starting members being the same. Oniki has finally worked out, (although, I should add that it’s the second time he has worked it out, having previously worked it out but then apparently having forgotten it), that Chanathip on the left doesn’t work. He swapped him and Tono around, so that although we had too left sided attackers on the bench, we instead started with Tono in that position. No such luck with Oniki attempting some kind of sneaky starting line up announcement mind games with the left back position though, as we once again decided against playing a left back there and instead went for a central midfielder. To be fair to Tachibanada, I thought he did alright in this game. He was targeted again, as it seems he will be by any team who come up against us when we’re playing someone so out of position. But I think we definitely lack something going forward with him there though. Especially if we have someone who is also out of position playing ahead of him. Therefore, It was no surprise that we didn’t have much luck going down that wing. To be honest though, we didn’t have much luck attacking in any way really. We scored from a set piece, which makes a nice change from relentlessly conceding from them, but as has been the case throughout the numerous shuffling of players whilst at the same time stubbornly refusing to change the approach or tactics, whoever plays up front doesn’t really have many opportunities to do anything. With most teams their players would probably be eager to start the game. But I would imagine that any attacker starting for us would instead beg to be put on the bench as they’d have more chance of scoring when coming on for the last five minutes when the usual tactics have been abandoned and it’s just a free for all. People say Oniki is experimenting but I feel that he’s just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, pushing the same 15-20 players around in the same formation, with a few players locked into position, unmoveable and undroppable, meaning the rest of the selections have to be made with proverbially one hand tied behind our back. I guess all of Oniki’s dreams must have come true when we went a goal up as he probably thought it vindicated his slow, dull conservative approach. He probably didn’t feel the same way after the same slow, dull, conservative approach caused us to implode at the end of the game and turn a win into a loss. When Cerezo equalised about 15 minutes into the second half I think the best we could have hoped for would have been a draw as the constant lack of a plan B will never allow us to do anything unexpected. The constant failure of our plan A is probably something we need to address a bit sooner though. Don’t get me wrong, we did ok in the first half, having a few chances, (albeit off-target ones), which undeniably, (in my opinion), was due to not playing so many players quite so far out of position. Equally though, don’t get me wrong if you think I’m saying we didn’t deserve to lose. Four shots in the second half with only one on target… And two more goals conceded from set pieces. So add that to the ones against Jubilo and there’s five points dropped in the last two games, due to our inability to defend. I thought that maybe we were experimenting with zonal marking in recent games. Not sure exactly though. But I’d say that if we are, we might want to do a bit more practice of it or perhaps revert to what we used to do as unlike us, other teams use free kicks and corner to put the ball in the box instead of as an opportunity to add a few short passes to the pass count and get the pass completion rate up. And it does seem that trying to score is a better way of getting points and keeping up with the leaders than competing short passes. But hell, what do I know, eh?
Let’s have a bit of a moan about Cerezo though. They are a very unlikeable bunch spending most of the game either rolling on the pitch or surrounding the ref. The ref was Araki, which recently has meant we are due for a disaster, but perhaps due to my new relaxed demeanour, I didn’t have too much to moan about with him. He even resisted the temptation to give Cerezo a penalty on a VAR review which I could really have seen being awarded, but was delighted it wasn’t, particularly given that the Cerezo fans thought it was a certainty when they showed the VAR replay on the screen. (Nothing like a bit of Schadenfreude when you don’t have anything positive to get excited about when it comes to your own team, eh?). Cerezo though… but anyway, I’ll remain calm. I thought both of their goals could have been given offside as there certainly seemed to be players in offside positions in areas I’d say looked like they were interfering with play, but honestly, whatever. Good luck to them. We are finally getting the results our awful play deserves, so I’m not going to moan too much. I don’t like Cerezo as a team as they historically seemed to be able to outwit us (this year that’s a given, whoever we are playing) and they seem quite a negative bunch. But they did have that beer truck outside the stadium and that made up for quite a lot. Even us not being able to get into the pub we had lined up before the game due to the guy not turning up to open it on time was turned into a positive when it turned out I could drink cheap pints of Passific Brewing’s Sooy outside the stadium.
Maybe this is why I’ve come away from the game in such a reasonable mood. Obviously, I don’t want us to lose, but somehow when you’re just about squeaking results after terrible performances and everyone in the world is telling you you’re doing great, it does start to feel a little bit confusing and a lot undeserved. Now I approach every game thinking we’ll probably lose, barring any major overhaul of our utterly out of date and not working for over a year now tactics. So when we lose, it’s just like life is progressing in the way you’d expect and there is nothing to get angry about or over excited about. Of course, if we play a rival who I particularly don’t like and get a totally undeserved win, then that’s all the better and definitely worth getting excited about! So don’t expect to see me self-flagellating if we scrape a sneaky win in an important game. But to be honest, we don’t have any important games left now. I said a while ago that the league title is gone and I think this result has emphasised that. We have a Levain Cup double header against Cerezo coming up in about a month which is our only realistic chance of winning anything this year. In 2019 we just about squeaked to the title in that game and it put a tiny bit of undeserved shine on what was otherwise an awful season. I don’t want us to lose, but I don’t particularly think it would be helpful for any kind of success in what is everyone’s least favourite competition to take any attention away from our utterly awful 2022 season so far. We’ve lost five games out of 19 so far this year. In our terrible 2019 season we only lost six all year. I saw a Frontale fan on Twitter say that you’re not a real fan if you say we need to sign a new goalkeeper or striker, or if you say Oniki should be sacked, or if you say we’re going to J2, or if you say we should cancel the fan event and do extra practice. I think this is utterly wrong, but at the same time I kind of agree with some of the sentiments. I don’t think we need to sign any players we just need some new ideas. I don’t think we should sack Oniki, but I wouldn’t mind if he resigned. I do think he’s out of ideas and really struggling, as you can see in this DAZN screen grab, just after they scored their winner.
(By the way, his reaction to their goal was to bring on Yamamura. I’d like to tell you where he played, but I’m not sure we really did anything after he came on. Way too late basically). I don’t think we’re going to J2. I stand by my prediction that our final game of the season against FC Tokyo will be a battle for 7th position in the league. And I don’t think we should cancel the fan event. What’s the point of extra practice when there aren’t any new ideas? And a fan event in such an awful season could have quite an intriguingly awkward atmosphere that would make it a very interesting experience. I’ll finish by saying, as I’ve said many times before, and with the usual caveat that I know nothing technical about football, that the players aren’t the problem, the lack of ideas is. We started with a central midfielder at left back with a left back on the bench (Sasaki’s morale presumably has taken another massive knock in this game though as he gave away the free kick that they scored from. I think Oniki could definitely be doing a better job of protecting the younger players. I’m sure Sasaki didn’t feel great after he got dropped after his own goal against Kyoto then got replaced by a central midfielder. This game won’t have helped, but we’ve been relying on him too much this year anyway. Admittedly Nobori has been injured for a long time after picking up something early on in the season. The big problem though is that our other main left back is playing in central defence… because our number one central defender has been injured for almost a year now… and we all knew he’d take a long time to come back… but no-one thought to sign any cover. We do have other central defenders but it seems that there’s more chance of Oniki changing our approach than there is of him playing one of them ahead of a central midfielder or a left back in there instead. Very long bracketed section there. Sorry). We started with a right midfielder playing on the left with two left midfielders on the bench. Not sure in what situation both of them could be used. Oh! Actually I am, because of course Oniki did it, giving Marcinho a brief go on the left before bringing on Miyagi and moving Marcinho out of position to the right. Well I suppose if plenty of others are going to be playing out of position, why not move our recent best attacking threat (who incidentally hasn’t started any of our last four games…) and play him out of position too. Our starting line ups seem to be a mess, with our initial subs being used to correct the mistakes made in the starting line up. And then the other subs are just used to not much effect, just replacing like for like, or more likely replacing like for ‘kind-of-like-but-not-really-someone-who-plays-there-but-who-knows-maybe-something-will-work-out’. All good fun!
Next up Frontale 0-0 Sagan Tosu on Wednesday. This is a joke I have done on Twitter already so apologies for the repetition, but as I said there, I’m not sure we have it in us to bring home even our most predictable of all annual results this year. (This part is now out of date as the game has been postponed due to a COVID cluster at Sagan Tosu… WHICH MEANS WE WON’T LOSE!!! REJOICE!!!). No matter how bad things go this year, I can’t see Oniki being under any pressure from the club. I do hope he’s putting himself under some pressure though. As far as I can tell, he needs a clean sweep of his tactics. Just bin all of them and start again. Play players in the right position. Try to attack a bit more and a lot more quickly instead of trying to slowly pass the ball all the way to the goal line. Maybe occasionally try a cross instead of always dribbling the ball into the box and attempting to transmute and pass through a wall of defenders. We’ve definitely got good enough players. I don’t think we’ve had good enough leadership though. But I’m not getting upset and overexcited anymore. I do however totally defend other people’s right to do so. I don’t think it’s a particularly good look for anyone to lay down what ‘real fans’ do though. Everybody has different circumstances and wants different things from their fandom. For some it is just to see their favourite player running around on the pitch and take lots of photos of them and wave at them after the final whistle. I think blindly accepting the way things are done is dangerous though. If we don’t question authority, authority can do what it wants. I know that Oniki has nothing to gain from us absolutely shitting the bed this year. In fact he probably has a lot to lose when it comes to his reputation and future job prospects. Frontale fans are generally a nice and tolerant bunch I think. But it’s wrong that just because Oniki has done well in the past we shouldn’t be able to suggest he’s not doing at all well right now. So, yeah, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I’ll probably disagree with lots of them, but now I’m so calm that it’s all just like waves on a beach, washing over me as we concede another goal from a set piece. Least I get to the pub early as it means we can bolt out of the stadium immediately after the final whistle! Go Fron... actually GO DRINKING! (if you want).
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 8. TACHIBANADA KentoMF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 18. CHANATHIP
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 19. TONO Daiya
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for KOBAYASHI 79')
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi (Yellow card 90+1') (on for TONO 67')
FW 23. MARCINHO (on for WAKIZAKA 67')
FW 24. MIYAGI Ten (on for CHANATHIP 79')
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for TACHIBANADA 90+5')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
I’m not going to do these till we’re not so rotten
TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 36' 0-1
FUNAKI (Cerezo) 59' 1-1
JEAN PATRIC (Cerezo) 90+2' 2-1