Kawasaki Frontale 0 - 0 Shonan Bellmare
In the way that most J League fans treat the Levain Cup like the class weirdo at a school reunion, I’ll not spend too much time on this post. However, that’s not because I don’t think these games are important. It’s more that there’s nothing new to say. Before the match seeing the starting line-up I tweeted that we were going to get a 0-0 draw and we did. I would say this is great forecasting from me, but the truth is that the starting line-up combined with our current utter lack of ability in front of goal, general football skills and confidence screamed out that we weren’t going to score. At the same time, the double defensive midfield and recent tightening up of things at the back screamed we probably weren’t going to concede. And so it turned out to be. Once again I’m going to freshen up the bullet points this week as this really was a game of two (unequal in appearance and length, but in outcome identical) halves. I’m not going to bother with any ref chat as we had the English guest ref and although I had plenty to shout at him about, I don’t really have any legitimate grumbles. Two games into our Levain campaign and we sit at the bottom of the group with one point, two goals scored and three conceded. The competition was supposed to be a chance for some youngsters to get a chance, but knowing Oniki, that always seemed likely to be a bit of a stretch, and now with Tanabe back with us and having to start, (therefore fulfilling the young players requirement), it seems that we’re going with the same old faces who’ve failed to do anything so far this year. Perhaps it makes sense to play them into some form and confidence in an ‘easier’ game, but it hasn’t really worked out like that, has it? Anyway, here we go with two new sections, but basically the same old stuff.
First 70 minutes -
Don’t bother reading this if you’re read any of the other recent blog posts. We were awful again. Tachibanada and Joao in the middle again to sure things up and at the same time totally blunt our attack. I’m thinking that as I have to repeat the same things in every post, maybe I should make a list of them and just cut and paste. We should play one of them, and not both of them if we want to score. More often than not if we play both, we don’t score. The new tactics were back again and were useless again. Yamane moving into the middle might work, but he’s playing so badly this year that it really isn’t. And asking him to do that removes one of our previous best options of attack. It seemed that at times when Yamane wandered to the centre circle to watch the ball move around him like a cat following a laser pointer which it was obviously unable to stop, Ominami moved into the right back spot. This was a new interesting development, but Yamane’s total lack of ability this year meant that this new development wasn’t much use and we were basically playing with 10 men. We can’t shoot for shit. Almost every shot in the entirety of this game was a pea roller cushioned pass directly into the goalkeeper’s gloves. Total waste of time. Marcinho still is off the boil. It says a lot though that the majority of our chances came through him even though he’s out of form. It’s no surprise that Kobayashi didn’t have much luck up front, as much like in our previous game against Shonan, we were basically playing one up front against three centre backs. It didn’t work last time and it didn’t work again. I don’t know how many times Oniki will start with the 4-3-3, find it doesn’t work and them change to a 4-4-2 with about 20 minutes to go. The first half of this game seemed like an eternity. After endless toothless play, I looked up at the clock to see how long we had left till half time and was astonished to see that what had felt like a few hours had only been 28 minutes. I’m sure the rain had an effect on the attendance, but you can’t help but feel that the psychological experiment that we seem to be conducting on our crowds at the moment might also cause some people to decide that instead of going to the ground and taking part in a study on the effects of pointless repetition and boredom on the human mind, it might have been more fun to stay at home. And oh, that lovely repetition, most evident when we try to play a goal kick short to a centre back, which goes back to the goalkeeper and then to the other centre back, then back to the keeper who under pressure has to boot it up the field. At least there was a little variation in this game, as the jeopardy seemed to be increasing each time, with us getting increasingly sloppier and Shonan cottoning on to the fact that we were going to do the same thing over and over, each time slightly worse. I thought we’d probably concede from a cock up in this situation so it was something of a relief to get to the end of the game without doing so. The second half started much the same as the first had finished, Oniki made some subs, using his tactical nous and deciding to not switch the formation and instead keep on going with the utterly ineffective approach that has blighted 2023 so far. Unsurprisingly, it was equally ineffective. In this game I tried to wear my glasses for the first time since COVID started. I’m a part time spectacle wearer and so far haven’t been able to perfect any of the tricks for stopping my glasses steaming up when I’m wearing a mask. I thought that since the masking regulations had finished I might try to do the whole mask under the nose thing and wear my glasses. It didn’t work and to be honest it was a bit of luck, as I think if I had to have watched the game in more detail and were still wearing my glasses, I might have decided to smash out the lenses and grind the broken remains into my eyeballs to free me from watching the tedium. Thankfully I didn’t because around 70 minutes in, after over an hour of utter pointlessness, 4-3-3 was once again ditched.
Last 20 minutes -
Ah, those glorious last 20 minutes! We still failed to score, but at least it was a little more exciting, and a lot less frustrating. With Yamada and Miyashiro up front together, (something I called for in a recent blog post), Segawa on the right and Tono on the left we finally looked like we wanted to make some chances. Of course we didn’t take them, but at least it prevented us from all leaving the ground utterly depressed, instead leaving quite downcast instead. I’m not sure why we have to play awfully in a system that doesn’t work for the first 70 minutes of every game though. If we look back at almost every game this year, (I could say this with more confidence if I actually did look back at the games, but to be honest, I can’t really be bothered to check, as why would I want to relive such misery?), we’ve been useless in our opening 4-3-3 formation and have only done anything when that plan is abandoned. There was a Twitter post from the J League English account about ‘Oniki time’, noting that we have scored our goals late on. I think it could easily have been renamed ‘after Oniki’s opening tactics have been abandoned time’. I guess in the last few years we’ve been spoilt a bit by having some nice matches to watch. It’s an established fact that you stop appreciating nice things if you have too much of them. Maybe this season is the universe giving us some grounding. By subjecting us to stuff that is so pointless when it comes to both getting results and entertaining that it seems more like modern dance than football, we can then appreciate some nice football when it eventually comes. Perhaps at the next game I should wear headphones and listen to music during the game and then I might understand better the reasons behind so much backwards and sideways passing when I listen to the intended accompaniment simultaneously. Anyway, hang on, this was supposed to be the positive section. Truth is though that even in the last 20 minutes we still couldn’t score. Actually, still couldn’t shoot, so it’s no wonder we couldn’t score I guess. So, will Oniki ever start a game with 4-4-2, or do we always have use the original plan which gets screwed up and thrown away with less than a quarter of the game to go? Nobody ever notices Oniki going back to the rubbish bin after the game, rummaging around and retrieving the original plan and taking it home to iron out the creases so that he can present it as a new plan at the start of the following game.
So where do we go from here? -
We go to Hokkaido so at least we’ll have a nice away trip, once again probably only slightly tarnished by the football match. Oniki clearly isn’t having much fun at the moment. His post match comments seemed to suggest that he thought we were making good chances but couldn’t take them, which is undeniable. He said that we need to work on our attack, which is absolutely so fucking obvious it isn’t even worth mentioning. He didn’t seem to say anything about the formation though. Frontale Twitter seems to be again focusing on nonsense like our goalkeeping situation. Both keepers are doing fine now as far as I can tell. It’s just the other players in front of them where we have the problems. So quite why people are debating whether Sung-Ryong or Kamifukumoto should start, I don’t know. You can’t say Kamifukumoto’s apparent better ball skills helped us in this game or that the tactics to draw out the opponent by flirting with disaster along the back line worked. So I wish people would stop asking these questions. Likewise, the people who respond to any criticism of Oniki by saying something like ‘but who would replace him?’ seem pretty deluded. I have a slightly off-colour comparison for this situation but I think I have so far refrained from stating it publicly. If you’re really interested, contact me privately. After my Twitter meltdown last season, I’ve stopped calling for Oniki to resign or be fired. I think he’s not up to the job, but clearly anything I say isn’t going to change the situation. I don’t think anything will change the situation to be honest. At least not till the end of the season. I’d love him to turn things around, but he’s clearly wedded to some things that really aren’t working. Perhaps if you try to hammer a nail into the wall with a banana you might eventually get the nail slightly in by luckily finding an unusually hard part of the banana, a soft part of the wall and a lucky angle, but when you hang up your sign saying ‘come and get you free bananas here’ on the nail, you’ll find that instead of having free bananas you’ll just have a pile of yellow mush and a top level slip hazard. 10 shots on target in the last 270 (plus additional time) minutes of football. No goals in the same time. No win in five games, and only one win all year which came about with a huge portion of luck attached to it. One point out of a possible six in the Levain and five points out of a possible 15 in the league.
Next up, as mentioned before, Consadole away, a team that Kobayashi always scores against…. But this is 2023, when no-one scores. Last season’s game there was an unmitigated disaster. They score goals… we don’t. It’s not looking particularly positive is it? Bet it will be pretty much the same starting line up as in this game. And probably the same opening 70 minutes till the wonder tactics are abandoned. But at least it’s a nice trip! After that, we’ve got a home Levain game against Urawa who seem to have come into a little bit of form after a dodgy start to the year, and then an away game in Osaka against Gamba the following Sunday. Way too many Sunday games this year for my liking. Maybe I should offer a prize for anyone who can spot all of the things that I mention every bloody week in this post. But at the same time, maybe we should all get a prize if we watch these games. I certainly don’t know how they managed to get three minutes highlights out of this match for the video below. Anyway, onwards and… probably not upwards. Onwards and sideways and back to the goalkeeper!
GK 99. KAMIFUKUMOTO Naoto
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 3. OMINAMI Takuma
DF 15. TANABE Shuto
DF 15. TANABE Shuto
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
DF 5. SASAKI Asahi (on for NOBORIZATO 87')
MF 17. TONO Daiya (on for WAKIZAKA 56')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
FW 20. YAMADA Shin (on for KOBAYASHI 56')FW 30. SEGAWA Yusuke (on for IENAGA 72')
FW 33. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for MARCINHO 72')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Dunno really, the defence did alright, Kamifukumoto made a spectacular save. The midfield looked solid yet uninspiring as I expected. But we can’t score for shit, so it’s all a bit immaterial really. So, whoever really but not Yamane, who had another shocker.