Tuesday 12 July 2022

Vs Gamba Osaka (home) 9/7/22 J League match 21

Kawasaki Frontale 4 - 0 Gamba Osaka

We won a game! Which might make you think I have a lot to write about in this blog post. Also, we did it with Oniki absent as he was a COVID close contact. You might think that I would jump on these two things and draw out a connection. That was the old Frontale Rabbit though. Now I’m calm, and I’m sure that every time I say that you become more certain that all this talk of calmness is purely self delusion and deep down I’m in turmoil. There could be some truth in that, but I think I actually have been able to emotionally take a step back and not worry too much about us having a bad season whilst one of our biggest rivals has a good season. Although typing that sentence has caused a little bit of ire to rise up in me, a Kevin Muscats inspired bit of acid reflux perhaps. This was a good weekend to win (saying that, when exactly is it not a good weekend to win…?), as both Kashima and YFM drew. Muscats’ charges came very close to losing but sadly Cerezo were so worn out from their ‘heroics’ in beating us that they couldn’t hold on. So were back to seven points off top spot with one game in hand. I still stand by the fact that the title is gone. Would be lovely though if both of those draws could bring on a shocking loss of form for both our Kanagawa neighbours and Japan’s most remote football team. We can dream, I guess. We’ve got nothing coming up this week… because we’re out of both the ACL and the Emperor’s Cup, falling at the first hurdle in the former and at the second in the latter. That will give us some time to get our one COVID afflicted player back, (perhaps Oshima judging by who was missing without explanation), and give Oniki a time to get some negative COVID tests in and come back to get working his magic again. I’m not going to draw too many conclusions from this result as there were way too many aspects of the game which would make any kind of analysis a bit pointless. I’d love to say that this was our first look at Terada Frontale as our assistant coach stepped up into the main position for the game. There was quite an amusing collective intake of breath and outpouring of ‘eh?’s around the stadium when his photo and name came up, possibly quite a few people thinking that they’d missed some news of a resignation. But I think anyone who imagines that Oniki didn’t pick the team and decide on the tactics and subs is probably deluding themselves. Oniki watching at home had the luxury of perhaps some different camera angles and probably a dining room table on which to spread out multiple magnet boards. Quite what he thought when we won comfortably in his absence, I’m not sure. But I think it must be akin to declining an invitation for a night out due to work commitments and then seeing loads of Instagram stories showing your friends seemingly having a much better time because you’re not there. If it was Oniki who picked the team, and I’m 99% sure it was, he’s learning some lessons from his recent mistakes. Admittedly a lot slower than some other people have. I think many people, myself included, thought it wasn’t a good idea to play Chanathip on the left and Tachibanada at left back and so it proved to be. He fixed the former self-created problem in the previous match and dealt with the latter in this match. If that was only due to Oshima being unavailable, well, I’m not sure it was the right reason, but the outcome was right. Sasaki was back at left back and had a good game, I think. Tachibanada was back where he belongs and unsurprisingly played a lot better than he did at left back. I feel like Oshima is wasted in the defensive midfield spot but Oniki does seem to pick the players first and then squeeze them into the same old formation. So with our glut of midfielders there’s always going to be some square pegs in round holes. The other big change was Marcinho coming back in to the starting line up on the left, which is also something plenty of people thought we should be doing. And it worked. And Damiao up front looked happier and better too. Perhaps Oniki’s presence has been weighing on the squad somehow and his absence relaxed people a bit. If this is true, I’m not sure it bodes very well for when he’s back in the stadium. But hopefully getting a good result in this game should have blown away some of the cobwebs that had formed in our recent horrible run.

I say a good result, and of course a 4-0 win is a good result, but another aspect of this game which complicates any analysis is the fact that Gamba were down to ten men within seven minutes of the game starting. It was unlucky for the player who got sent off, as there didn’t seem to be any intention and it was clearly an accidental studs into nuts collision but I think intention is not supposed to be taken into account anymore in these kind of decisions. And a tackle to the tackle which could result in the recipient not being able to reproduce and therefore contribute to our youth system in the future has probably got to count as dangerous play. I thought it was a red at the time and was moaning about the fact that only a yellow had been given when Iida got called to the monitor at the side of the pitch to have a look at it. If it had been Nishimura in charge I think he probably would have kept to his initial decision and red-carded the VAR and AVAR guys instead. But Iida had a look and as the replays were shown on the screen the blue light sticks that lots of fans have for evening games switched to red ones. It was quite amusing to be honest. So Gamba were down to ten men very early on. Thankfully we’d scored before this happened so we have something to cling on to when we are inevitably accused of only being able to beat ten men. I have to say that the fact that we actually managed to go on and score some more goals was actually a surprise though, as we are usually notoriously shit when our opponent has a player sent off. It seems that things just aren’t going Gamba’s way this year (or perhaps for many other recent years too). Losing a player when you come up against a team who are in rotten form and who people are grabbing points off left, right and centre. Usami committing his future to the club and then getting seriously injured shortly afterwards. I’m sure there are plenty more examples too. But one team’s misfortune is another team’s bonus and this was probably exactly what we needed. Sorry Gamba fans. Our first two goals were set up and scored by the two Brazilians that Oniki has been so reluctant to play recently, each of them providing one and scoring one. Ienaga, perhaps due to Damiao being back in the team got a dose of overhead fever and out Damiao-ed Damiao, who actually later tried to set himself up for one, but couldn’t find enough space. And Wakizaka got one too which he probably deserved after almost being the victim of a very public and unwanted on-pitch sterilisation. Some might think that us scoring five against Consadole and then four in this game could signal that we’re finding some form again. This analogy works best if you ignore the three awful games between those two results and also ignore the facts that we played pretty much 90 minutes of football with an extra player in this game and that we scored three goals in the last five minutes of the Consadole game. (Although it would probably be more accurate to say that Consadole gave us three goals in the last five minutes of the game). But who cares about performances when we’re getting results? Actually I do a bit, and I’m sure some others do too. Oh, and yeah, we aside from these two games we haven’t been getting results either. So way too early to start proclaiming a return to form probably. But nice to have a bit of fun for a change. And nice to see us continuing to attack for the whole 90 minutes instead of sitting on a slim lead. But as I’ve said already, it’s impossible to know how much of these differences are due to Terada or the absence of Oniki, or maybe Oniki just changing things up a bit. I’ve criticised Oniki a bit in the past and have come to feel a bit guilty about doing so in spite of my belief that the criticism is legitimate. It would be pretty immature if I put all of the good things in this match down to him not being present. I’m pretty sure he was still very much in control. So credit to him, credit to Terada for doing a great job and credit to the players for playing a bit better and making the experience a lot more enjoyable than it has been recently. Oh! And Nobori and Chinen back on the bench and recovered from their injuries. If Jesiel comes back too soon we could have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Fingers crossed we don’t try to just squeeze the eleven best players in the squad into that same old formation we always use, totally ignoring where people actually play.

Next up, Nagoya away at the weekend. I haven’t been to this fixture for a few seasons. I think the last time it was possible for away fans to attend I was in the UK so I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with the bars in Nagoya. Sadly the game is in Toyota though, so my reacquaintance with Nagoya’s bars will be after a lengthy train ride back into Nagoya after the match. Hopefully some places will still be open. Nagoya aren’t doing much this year. Their previous defensive solidity seems to have been smashed to bits with the arrival of Hasegawa. We’ve had some enjoyable away game Tamagawa Classicos with him in charge of FC Tokyo so it could be a fun match. But then again, 2022 is a season that does its best to surprise and disappoint, so it’s probably more likely that we’ll follow up a confidence boosting victory with a confidence obliterating defeat. Fingers crossed we don’t. And how lovely it would be if Sagan Tosu and Vissel Kobe could also both have nice victories on the same weekend. As much as I’d love seeing Vissel change their slogan to ‘The biggest club in J2’ for 2023, I’d quite like them to do us a favour too. Fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed. 

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 70')

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for YAMANE 78')
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (on for WAKIZAKA 83')
MF 19. TONO Daiya (on for CHANATHIP 66')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for MARCINHO 66')
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya

My Frontale Man Of The Match

I’m a bit out of practice with these. My first thoughts were Damiao and Marcinho, but then Ienaga’s overhead kick… and lots of other people did well. And Tsukagawa came on! But all of this was against ten men, so let’s leave it for another week. I promise I’ll concentrate harder next time.
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 6' 1-0
MARCINHO (Frontale) 20' 2-0
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 30' 3-0
IENAGA (Frontale) 36' 4-0


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