Consadole Sapporo 4 - 3 Kawasaki Frontale
I’m sorry this post is a bit late, but… what did you expect? I guess we can be pleased that our 2022 season finally and conclusively came off the rails at a nice away game rather than with us shitting the bed at home. The great advantage of getting a terrible result away from home is that you can at least draw some consolation from the fact that you get a nice day out. Well, perhaps that doesn’t apply to Kashima actually where aside from anything that happens in the game, the best you can hope for is managing to travel the 3km from the stadium car park to the Kashimjingu station in less than an hour or making it onto the expressway in under two hours. Sapporo though is a bounty so great that even probably throwing away the championship, (for about the fourth time this year if I’m being realistic, but notably the first time when YFM actually took advantage of our hopelessness), only puts a slight dent in a nice weekend. This was such a weird game that after riding an emotional rollercoaster for the first ten insane incidents and weird decisions, any remaining setbacks could only be greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and an acceptance of the inevitability of it all. A draw wouldn’t have been any good anyway so I guess we might as well lose in a totally crazy game. Maybe it was even fun to watch a game where we didn’t limp to a 1-1 draw. A couple of weeks ago we toiled away at Nagoya and then when YFM went there whilst we were self destructing in Sapporo they cruised to a 4-0 win. As much as I would like to claim that YFM are shit and don’t deserve to win the league, it’s clear that we’re infinitely shitter and absolutely 100% don’t deserve to even be close to winning it. Right from the start of this season when we somewhat undeservedly squeaked a win against FC Tokyo in the opening game it’s hard to recall moments when we’ve actually played even slightly well. The last two years were all about excitement and attacking and goals and success! This year has been about ridiculous and undeserved good luck, mediocrity at best, blunt attacking and dull and ineffective decision making when it comes to line-ups and performances. About half way through the season when I was teetering on the edge of insanity due to the hopeless stuff that I thought Oniki was serving up I got plenty of stick from people on Twitter. Whether they now agree with what I said about perhaps Oniki not being up to the job, I don’t know. Now that I’m calm I’m not going to make any comments like that. I would say though that unless we change things seriously in the off season we’re going to be facing the same problems again next year. And to be honest Oniki doesn’t have a great record when it comes to changing things does he? If my Twitter bashers had been reading this blog in the second half of last season they would probably have lost their minds. But it’s clear the rot set in a long time ago and even though we’d got ourselves a huge advantage early on in 2021, our end of season games still somehow managed to suck the enjoyment out of winning the league by a massive margin. So what positives could there be to take forward? At least we got to sing a bit this year. It makes a big difference when it comes to how fun watching the matches is. And our season ticket seats were pretty good. It’s a massive bonus that we didn’t have to watch some of the abominations we’ve put in this year from really bad seats which we were stuck in all year. Would be lovely if we could hold on to those seats next year. And if I’m being really snooty, would be nice if our pretty much almost 100% attendance at games could count some way towards us being able to do so. Don’t think it will though as going to games doesn’t actually seem to get you any credit when it comes to getting tickets for games. Anyway, this all looks like an end of season post so far. It kind of is really as we’re definitely done now, but I guess I should talk a bit about the game so let’s do that now.
Pre-game transfer rumours about Marcinho being on the way to Egypt were proved wrong when he was named in the starting line up. Taniguchi and Yamane came back from international duty and got a place on the bench. This meant that Kurumaya magically appeared fit again and started in central defence alongside Jesiel. Because we don’t have any other right backs (in a way that is quite similar to how we don’t really have any other centre backs aside from the usual two) Sasaki started at right back again with Nobori on the left. So two players fresh back from injury in the defence. And two out of the back four playing out of position. Some might counter this by saying that Kurumaya wants to play at centre back rather than left back. I would counter that with the fact that I want to be a successful musician but just because I want it to be true, I can’t really argue with pretty much everyone else in the world having other ideas, particularly those who’ve heard my music. In front of the defence it was pretty much back to normal with exactly what you’d expect. There’s definitely going to be some changes in the next game though with half of our players now either being injured or suspended. But more on that later. In the previous few matches I’ve blamed us being very underwhelming on tiredness. In this game our starting line up hadn’t played for two weeks and looked just as bad. So maybe this time we’ll say… out of practice. Whichever way you look at it, it’s not title winning form. In fact at the moment I’d say we’re on ‘just about avoiding relegation’ form. It’s a good thing we got all those lucky wins earlier in the season. Our passing in this game was awful. Perhaps we weren’t out of practice but had instead been practicing with a beach ball or a hacky sack since the last game. So many of our passes dropped well short or fizzed off at weird angles. Our best chance in the first half came from a desperate hoof out of defence which Marcinho raced on to. At least his pace isn’t something that has been trained out of our team recently. Most of our other skills seem to have been. And of course confidence too. But why would we have any confidence right now anyway? It’s been a case of just about hanging on in the title race mostly. We’ve never looked like we going to have a decent stab at it. I think I said on the J Talk podcast the last time that I was on that we had no chance of winning the league as even if YFM slipped up, there’s no way we’d get to the end of the season without slipping up more. And actually I think that since I said it we’ve had three slip ups in a row. So blame me if you want. We managed somehow to score once in the first half but that was due to us winning a penalty. The replay was shown on the screen in the stadium and the Consadole fans roared thinking it was about to be overturned but it looked pretty clear cut to me. I have no idea what their players were moaning about. But perhaps that were aware of what a flaky ref we had and how likely he was to fluff decisions. Ienaga put the penalty away beautifully though and we took a highly undeserved lead. The possibility of him winning the golden boot is about the only thing we can hang on to for 2022 now. We let them back into the game just three minutes later though after more calamities all over the pitch helped them attack and then an attempted block from Kurumaya was basically the perfect cushioned pass for their unmarked player to collect and side foot home. I’m not blaming anyone in particular though. There was an equal level of shitness on display from pretty much everyone. And then six minutes later they had a penalty which looked a bit soft but was probably fair enough after a couple of quick passes from a deep defending Consadole took out pretty much all of our team and left Sasaki (who let’s not forget was playing right back but had to cover Nobori who clearly wasn’t fit enough to make it back himself) having to try not to foul a player who was definitely looking for any excuse to go down. Out of the four defenders we started with, I think Sasaki was the only one who wasn’t shite in the first half yet once gain he was the scapegoat and was the one who was removed at half time. Oniki seems to be on a one man mission to destroy his confidence as thoroughly as possible. Small margins change games though. We hit the post twice in the first half and if both of those had gone in, the game would clearly have had a different feeling. But when you’re down on confidence these things just don’t seem to go for you. My feeling at half time was that it was possibly one of the worst halves from us I’d seen in a long time. Three of our back four looked like they were on a different planet, Tachibanada and Wakizaka were not shining again. I really hope we don’t continue with playing Tachibanada further forward as it has rarely worked but the fact that it did on one occasion means that Oniki is now wedded to the idea. Well, he won’t be able to do that in the next match I guess… So a defence playing badly and a non-existent midfield… losing 2-1 at half time was probably what we deserved. Or actually probably a bit more than we deserved.
I’m very conscious as I start writing this bit about the second half that it is Wednesday already and probably the reason I’ve put off writing this post for so long is that I totally can’t be bothered to do it. Well, and I’ve been a bit busy too, but it’s mainly the former if I’m being honest. So let’s get this out of the way quickly. I should also say that the second half was so packed full of incident that any attempt to go into it in any meaningful way would take thousands of words. So let’s keep it brief. Although I’ll probably fail on both accounts. Sasaki got hooked, presumably for giving away the penalty. Yamane came on and once again looked like he couldn’t really be bothered. We scored twice. Although the ref did his best to not notice us scoring about three times when we put our second goal in and we only got it after VAR presumably shouted ‘erm… are you not going to give one of those obvious goals?’ in his ear as Consadole attacked. Quite how their players had the cheek to say it wasn’t a goal, I don’t know. And whoever the petulant little shit who hurled the ball into the ground when the ref stopped the game was should have got a yellow as far as I’m concerned. I guess this brings up an interesting question about what would have happened if they’d gone up the other end and scored as it seems they were going to. That would have really heated things up a bit further. Can’t expect Okabe, a ref who is clearly underqualified for his job to know what to do in that situation. There were so many VAR calls in this game about incidents that he hadn’t seen or had given the other way. I wouldn’t have minded one of the VAR guys coming out and swapping jobs with Okabe as he didn’t seem to have a clue. When both mangers, both sets of players and both sets of fans are astounded by a ref’s shitness you’ve got to think he’s had a bit of a bad game. But to be slightly fair, there was a crazy amount of action in this game, hence his crazy amount of mistakes. If there was just a medium amount of action I guess he would have made only a medium amount of mistakes. People might say that these kind of things prove why VAR is great, but I’d say after seeing it used so many times in one game, that I might prefer it if we just had a ref who didn’t fuck up every decision and then we could all have gone home a bit earlier. Tachibanada’s red card was probably fair enough, given that if someone is ahead of you and you even skim their shirt they are going to go down and you’ll get sent off. Although Xavier, a man who is clearly trying to make up for the thinness of hair on the top of his head by cultivating as thick a beard as possible definitely left it till he was in the box before he tripped on a blade of grass and flew through the air. I guess he didn’t intend to clatter into Sung-Ryong and effectively render us keeper-less and out of the game at the end of his dive but that was the result of his theatrical tumble. Of course Okabe gave a penalty and had to once again be corrected by VAR. At this stage we basically needed to keep Consadole from shooting as Sung-Ryong was practically immobile due to what I think was a knee injury. Of course this was the one game where we’d used all of our subs up early… This was mainly due to injuries though. Both Kurumaya and Jesiel had to leave the pitch injured. From the way they’d played I think they also might have entered the pitch injured at the start of the game. Sung-Ryong looks like he won’t be able to play the next game either. Tachibanada will be banned because of the red card. There are more talks of Marcinho going too. So finally we’ll see some ‘rotation’ from Oniki. Maybe a bit like the rotation he was doing in the second half of this game where he went with Tachibanada at left back Nobori in the middle with Taniguchi and Yamane at right back for a while. Then we conceded and he put Yamane in the middle and Nobori at right back. Weirdly we actually played alright at the end of the match though. Of course the defence was a mess, but it had been all match regardless of its make-up. We were at least attacking a bit. But we didn’t score. At least it was a bit more fun than the first half though. And with each consecutive disaster it became clearer to me that we weren’t going to get anything from the game and it actually made it a bit easier to actually just sing and support and just watch the insanity unfold.
So what’s gone wrong this year? I got roundly mocked for suggesting it was Oniki but I think there’s still quite a high element of truth in that. We didn’t bother signing any defensive cover before the season and instead have been using two players who aren’t centre backs in that position repeatedly. Our fluky results in some games have apparently blinded Oniki to the absolute bluntness of our play. We’re just really boring most of the time and have creative players who are being encouraged to just pass the ball sideways and backwards. I know we’ve lost some very good players over the last few years but new players who have been brought in have barely been given a chance to show what they might be able to do. Instead it’s a few minutes here and there and Oniki’s favourites keep their place no matter how badly they are playing or how few shits they seem to give. One benefit of writing this post so late is that I got to listen to what the J Talk Podcast thought about how we’ve shit the bed this year. They said that one problem has been that no new talent has come through this year. As I said above I think this is more due to Oniki never changing than us not having any talent. Think about Seko for example. He was perhaps Yokohama FC’s best player last season but with us has been played out of position relentlessly, given only a few minutes at the end of games, sometimes when we’re desperate, causing him to lose even more confidence. I don’t know if Oniki will play him a lot more next year after he’s completed what seems to be the usual one year bedding in period that players need before Oniki notices them. I don’t know if Oniki or Seko will even be with us next year. People might say the Chanathip hasn’t produced what we expected but that’s due in the most part to him usually being played well out of position in order to preserve Oniki’s preferred midfield trio. Joao Schmidt has played well in the defensive midfield role. So has Tachibanada. So play one of them there and put the other one on the bench. They can take turns. Don’t play them both. Perhaps get some cover for the positions we don’t have any cover in. Perhaps drop Yamane occasionally when he really looks like he can’t be bothered. Perhaps don’t be so fucking conservative with team selections and tactics all the fucking time. Oniki is terrified of losing it seems, so he’ll always play who he considers to be his best players regardless of form or condition. But we’ve been losing and drawing a lot anyway, so why can’t we be a bit more exciting and lose and draw in at least a slightly more entertaining way? We now have three home games and an away game at FC Tokyo left, so the only recent benefit of watching Frontale (going to some nice and interesting places) is now over for the season. Sorry fans of Chofu, but I don’t think it really counts as a trip to an interesting place. Even if they get a horse wearing their kit on the pitch before the game and at half time it still won’t rival the delights of Sapporo. Would go some way to doing it though, I suppose.
Next up, Shimizu at home in what is effectively a dead rubber, but which given the massive changes we’ll need to make might actually be a fun game to watch. It will probably suck though. And we’ll most likely have to go to the pub after the game avoiding Twitter as they’ll be some jubilant YFM fans having fun. Fair play to them though. Their team doesn’t fuck up against relegation contenders anywhere near as much as we do. Right from the first game of the season it was clear that we no way deserved to win the league this year. I hope this introspection and self-awareness has got through to certain people at the club too. Many teams would love to be in our position, but with the talent we have available, to perform quite so badly as we have is something of a perverse achievement. 2022 for us has been something like a hammering in a nail race, where we’ve been holding the head of the hammer and hitting the nail with the handle. Yeah, you might be able to get it in eventually, but it won’t have been much fun, it won’t have been anywhere near as effective and you’ll probably have knackered both your hand and the hammer in the process.
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento (Red Card 84')
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (Yellow card 58')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for KURUMAYA 81')
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (on for JESIEL 57')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 57')DF 13. YAMANE Miki (on for SASAKI 46')
MF 19. TONO Daiya (on for CHINEN 77')
FW 24. MIYAGI Ten
My Frontale Man Of The Match
YAMAMURA Kazuya - had nothing to do with the game, probably wasn't even in Hokkaido, which considering how bad we were, is a great advantage.
IENAGA (Frontale) 30' 0-1 PEN
FERNANDES (Consadole) 33' 1-1
KOROKI (Consadole) 41' 2-1 PEN
CHINEN (Frontale) 60' 2-2
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 69' 2-3
XAVIER (Consadole) 83' 3-3
OGASHIWA (Consadole) 90+12' 4-3