Monday 24 April 2023

Vs Urawa Reds (home) 23/4/23 J League match 9


Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Urawa Reds  

After the confidence boost of Wednesday when we handsomely beat a J2 team’s reserves and youth players in a competition that they probably don’t care much about, we were back to drawing ways against Urawa at home in the league in this match. It’s a bit strange as immediately after the match I wasn’t feeling particularly negative about the performance. We’d been a bit lucky at times, (a feeling that was greatly enhanced by seeing some replays later on), but had also come close to winning the game ourselves when Joao Schmidt’s blast came back off the post and hit Nishikawa’s back. Sadly the rebound wasn’t strong enough to go into the net. A little inspection of the stats also started to undermine any slight good feelings about the game. At the time of writing, (Monday lunchtime), I’m pretty sure that we were extremely lucky to get a point in a game in which we once again played pretty badly. The post game manager and player comments again said the same thing, with plenty of mentions of us needing to be more positive in attacking, but with zero evidence of that being reflected in team’s play, week after week. With over a quarter of the season gone, we sit on nine points from nine games, still without a win at home in the league. Guess if things continue like this we’ll finish on 34 points, which should be enough to avoid relegation in a season where only one team goes down. However, if YFC beat us in our upcoming away game against them it would certainly make things a bit squeaky. And I think Oniki’s position might start to look slightly wobbly. I still don’t think he’ll leave this year, but I am now fairly confident that we’re not going to improve significantly under his leadership and have at best a mid table finish to… look forward to? He really should have left at the end of last year. Admittedly it wouldn’t have been on a high, but it would have been on a higher high than he will probably leave us now. Damn you Moriyasu for getting lucky at the World Cup. Damn you Kashima for not firing your useless manager and poaching Oniki. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I dislike him, but I think he’s not going to leave in a better position than us narrowly finishing second in the league after totally fucking up every cup competition. I wonder if the Kazoku have to some extent strengthened his position by coming out in support of Oniki but criticising the chairman. After face to face apologies in several matches from the chairman, you’ve got to think that the last thing he wants to do now is something that will upset the main supporter group and the fans at large. And it does seem that amongst people in the stadium support for Oniki is still quite strong. But for how long, I’m not sure. A defeat against YFC would certainly swing some people’s opinions. And it’s only a matter of time till people are really sick of how bad we’re playing. No team has a divine right to always do well and play well. But as I’ve said before, we’re currently doing terribly with a decent squad, and after every match reflecting on what we’ve failed to do but apparently forget all of this reflection by the time the next game comes round.

We’re still going with 4-3-3, perhaps buoyed by the fact that we scored a few goals with it against Shimizu and indeed scored in this game with it. I’ve long been saying I’d like to see it ditched, but to be honest, I’m pretty clueless when it comes to tactical matters. What is more important to ditch as soon as possible is the ridiculously elaborate build ups. We had loads of possession early in this game but as usual failed to turn it into chances. It seemed on this occasion that Oniki was using Wakizaka to cover Ienaga’s position, leaving Ienaga to wander where he wanted to. The goal did come from Ienaga getting in round the back in the position he nominally plays in, but until he assisted, he’d once again been pretty quiet. Perhaps this is something to do with what is my biggest current beef with Oniki. After Wednesday’s positive result it seemed that Oniki was going along the lines of ‘you did well, so you can keep your place in the team’. Maybe. Kamifukumoto started but only faced two shots against Shimizu so perhaps Sung-Ryong could feel slightly aggrieved. Wakizaka scored twice in the Shimizu game so started this one. Tono too. And Seko and Joao Schmidt kept their places. At the same time though, Yamada and Sasaki who’d played well on Wednesday were dropped. So it seems a bit like mixed messages to be honest. I’ve often said that Oniki in 2023 is randomly trying out combination after combination and tweak after tweak to try to find a winning formula but then continuing to change things even when we win. One thing he is sticking with is the regular refrain about how we need to shoot more and attack more dangerously. And also sticking with apparently not telling the team to do so. Eight shots with only two on target. I feel like he’s tried out more midfield combinations than we’ve had shots on target this year. An auto translation of Wakizaka’s post match comments came up with the gem ‘It’s really pathetic that we keep playing games like this over and over again’, which is pretty accurate but I’m sure it was not so direct in the original Japanese. An apt summation of Frontale’s tactics in 2023 though.

A few words on the ref and opposition. I was slightly astonished to hear the Urawa fans actually sing in this match, even when they were behind. Their fans are always over-hyped and praised for the amazing atmosphere they create. The truth is, and yes I’m aware that I say this every year, usually if things aren't going their way, they are petulant booers and that’s about all. Maybe it was the upcoming ACL final that got them in a good mood. Or perhaps the new coach having a bit of success. He’ll probably be fired after winning the ACL but not finishing in the top 3 of the league. Astonished as I was about them singing, I was equally amused to see them boo their own players as they came out to warm up. For some reason their training gear top is light blue and on seeing some light blue coming out of the tunnel, Japan's premium booers started heckling, before realising that it was their own players running towards them rather than the opposition. I work in Urawa, teaching English to Urawa's kids. I find most of my students to be bright, intelligent and nice young people. But perhaps these qualities aren’t shared with their local team’s supporters. Their team had more possession in both halves, more shots in both halves, many more dangerous attacks and should have had a penalty, so looking back a draw was a great result for us. It shouldn't distract us from the fact that we were crap though. Similarly, Tanimoto the ref was also not up to the job. In the past I’ve complained about him being out of his depth and once again that proved to be the case. For the majority of the match he gave Urawa everything, them getting a foul every time we tackled them as they tended to fall over and roll around quite a bit. Bizarrely, I think Urawa fans would also agree he was awful after he failed to give them a penalty. To be fair though, it was referred to VAR who somehow also thought it wasn’t a penalty. Which is great as it gives me an opportunity to say that one of our other usual enemy refs Iida also made a shocking mistake. Add to this the fact that the mistake was in our favour and you’ve got a jackpot as far as I’m concerned. Opportunity to say how woeful the officials are but saved from a penalty by their woefulness. Bingo!

I can’t believe I’ve written this much without mentioning the main excitement around this game which is surely the birth of a … well, I’m not sure what, offspring maybe, of Cabrera and Rikuzentakata’s mascot Takata No Yume. The… erm… baby was delivered on to the pitch by drone surrounded by a gospel choir signing ‘Oh Happy Day!’ after a video had explained how a turnip and a cat (I think) had reproduced. Of course the Urawa fans booed this whole thing as well, preserving their tough guy status because of course, they are Urawa fans. For me it was a bit of a highlight to be honest. And not just because the football purists in the red end hated it. It was certainly more fun than watching the game and it’s nice that the link between Frontale and Rikuzentakata has been strengthened. Presumably the Urawa fans aren’t in favour of us having any kind of post earthquake relief work connection with the town. Keep any kind of politics out of football, right? Well unless it’s racial politics or nationalism in which case, get on Twitter and start abusing and hang up a banner in the entrance to the real supporters zone. After seeing plenty of far right parties campaigning for the recent elections I’m totally sick of these kind of idiots, and even if it’s a small minority I’m still going to call them out about it.

Next up, Fukuoka away on Saturday and then Kyoto away on Wednesday. A lovely golden week double header trip which should nicely distract us from what’s going on on the pitch. I think in the last post I was saying it would be nice if we could finish golden week in the top half of the table but I think right now I’d settle for us not dropping any further down. We’ll see whether Oniki rewards those who played well in this match with another start or punishes anyone who didn’t play well. Who knows who will be on the bench even. Segawa might be injured as he’s nowhere to be seen. But Kobayashi and Damiao have both disappeared too. As we tick off game after game with no real improvement, (although Oniki did say that this game was a step in the right direction), you’ve got to wonder who he’ll pick next to start and who he’ll decide to exile. One things for sure if Avispa play three at the back we’ll do our usual thing with only playing one striker in the middle who gets completely outnumbered whilst we boss the possession and pass stats, before succumbing to a sucker punch late counter attack goal. Lovely!

DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 29. TAKAI Kota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 17. TONO Daiya

GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
DF 3. OMINAMI Takuma (on for TONO 85')
DF 5. SASAKI Asahi (on for NOBORIZATO 73')
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for WAKIZAKA 73')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for SEKO 61')
FW 20. YAMADA Shin (on for MIYASHIRO 73')
FW 24. MYOGAN Toya

My Frontale Man Of The Match
Little bit tricky today. Could have given it to Yamane as I feel like I’m always quick to criticise him but slow to praise him and he’s been playing much better in the last couple of games. Maybe next time though as I feel I have to give it to…

Meikaboo - the offspring of Takata No Yume and Cabrera was the real highlight of the game. And praise from the drone pilot who provided the assist. I guess the spelling of their name isn't right, but I'm trying to make it a bit clearer as to how it's pronounced.

WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 48' 1-0
LINSSEN (Urawa) 81' 1-1

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