FC Chofu 2 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale
So here we are, back to being shit again. The signs were there in recent games. Actually the signs have been there all season and a fair bit of last season too, but have been plastered over by the occasional flukey win. I think I said last week that after a performance which gave us some reasons to be upbeat against Avispa, you could see the skills and energy draining out of us as we squeaked to 1-0 wins at Kyoto and at home against Tosu. On Friday at the National Stadium the reservoir was empty and plenty of players were back to being out of sorts. Somehow we managed to score, but by the time we managed to do that we’d already given away two goals and consequently needed something special, which was unlikely as we were playing far from special stuff. In the intervening days I’ve been busy working, so those of you thinking that I’d been putting off writing this are not exactly right. Writing this has been lingering not very near the top of my to do list, getting endlessly knocked down the pecking list by important things like ‘clean the fridge’, ‘look out the window’ and ‘check social media for the third time in five minutes’. In these intervening days I’ve been coming up with a few whinges and just downright rude comments so I’ll do my best to squeeze them all in here.
Takai was absent due to him traveling with the Japan U20 team. Hopefully he’ll do more than just travel with them. FC Tokyo had a couple of players absent too. Because of this we had a mini shuffle at the back with Ominami coming in to partner Kurumaya with Nobori returning at left back. It goes without saying that Yamane played at right back. I don’t know if he’s getting tired, but he had a bit of a nightmare being involved with, or actually more accurately, nowhere near involved in stopping, both FC Tokyo goals and didn’t contribute much going forward so I guess he probably is. The whole of our right side was awful in the this game, Ienaga back to being almost invisible and only noticeable when he tried to do his usual ‘hold the opposition at arm’s length and stop them getting the ball’ thing, although on this occasion it was more like ‘fail to hold them off and just give them the ball’. It can’t be a coincidence that both of their goals came through massive gaps in the right hand side of our defence. To be fair it was a nice finish for the first goal, but we did basically leave him alone to gather his thoughts and take his time to shoot. In the midfield Joao had a bit of a tough time. He definitely wasn’t helped by some of the passes he got whilst surrounded by three or four Chofu players though. He’ll get a break next week as I think he is now banned for one game due to four yellow cards. Also having a break will be Wakizaka who got sent off, and you can’t say there was anything wrong with the decision. Of course I did in the stadium though. We’ve had four red cards already this year, more than we had in the whole of last year, and only one less than we had in the previous three years combined. Also probably missing next week is Ominami, who was taken off as a concussion sub after he was elbowed in the face before he clashed heads with Morishige. More on this later. So we can expect some big changes to the line up in the next game. But that could be handy to be honest as we’re totally shit at the moment. Wakizaka has had a few decent games recently but his set pieces have been terrible. Ienaga shouldn’t start the next match, and angered some fans by trudging slowly off the pitch when we were losing. The way he was playing it was a miracle he remained on the pitch as long as he did. I didn’t even really notice Marcinho was playing. I don’t want o have a go at Kamifukumoto but I don’t really understand why he has so completely replaced Sung-Ryong as our number one keeper. people talk about his skill on the ball but I don’t think that has been particularly useful and it really doesn’t work when he has to kick it a bit longer as normally this results in us losing the ball immediately. Of course it’s impossible to say whether Sung-Ryong would have done any better, but if I were him, I might be feeling a but miffed at the moment. So, once again a lot of players not playing well, and therefor once again I’m going to point the finger at Oniki. Somehow he stumbled on a winning line up against Fukuoka and since then has tried to change as little as possible regardless of the opposition to keep the winning run going. It’s a miracle it worked for three games. It has very much stopped working now. What I don’t understand is why he apparently doesn’t even consider who we are playing when setting the team up. Two things that were apparent about Chofu was that they have a keeper who is extremely dodgy with the ball at his feet and they have a right back who is so old that he’d probably have voted for Brexit. But we didn’t seem to hassle Slowik on the ball at all and even though our fastest player and best dribbler was directly up against Nagatomo I don’t think he ever got the chance to take advantage of the Chofu defender now needing to use a zimmer frame for each game. Add to this the apparent blindness of some of our players when it came to persevering with the whole play it short free kick thing even if the ball needs to dematerialise to go through two Chofu players standing in the way before rematerialising at our players feet. It didn’t work, obviously and we instead just gave the ball away instead. Next up we have YFC away. If we lose that game, Oniki really needs to have a look at himself. Probably the kind of opponents we might want to try to bounce back against after this shit peformance. But at the same time, exactly the type of opponents we would fail to bounce back against.
Congratulations to FC Chofu who apparently won the World Cup, Nobel Prize, Best In Show and Oscar for best direction on Friday. At least you’d imagine that is what had happened the way they celebrated. Even though we’re having our worst season in years, at the moment we’re still ahead of them in the league though. Which is truly shocking. They definitely wouldn’t have won the Oscar for special effects though as their pre-game ‘entertainment’ was one of the most cringeworthy things I’ve ever seen in a football stadium. When people across the world think of Tokyo they perhaps think of a huge urban metropolis, a 24 hour city with cutting edge technology. When FC Chofu’s commercial team think of exciting Tokyo they think more of Guns N Roses’ ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ and early noughties club bangers with some flame cannons that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the set of the TV show Gladiators. It was good to see that Roger from the local Eikawa was able to knock off early and make the long trek into Tokyo from Chofu to do the stadium announcements. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the National Stadium. Please turn to page 17 of your textbooks and consider signing up for our six month payment plan and get one month of lessons for free!’. I’m convinced that after the ‘DJ’ finished, (I couldn’t see where they were, but I can almost certainly guarantee that it was some prick in an FC Chofu shirt with one of those mixers for digital music, occasionally twisting the treble and bass knobs of a channel that wasn’t being used), Roger announced proudly ‘Thank you DJ Crap!’ If that was indeed what he said, I was in total agreement. The whole turn the lights off and only light up your team huddle thing was also unbelievably naff. But those flame cannons though… jeez. Maybe also wasn’t a good idea to turn the lights off but forget to tell your fans to bring light sticks. When Roger flicked the switch to turn off the lights, (I presume it was him who did it, multitasking), the stands almost up to half way were lit up in light blue. I guess that even when you try to play your home games a bit closer to civilization, it must sting that you still can’t fill up the stands in a city of 14 million people. The only possible solution - MORE FLAMES AND FIREWORKS! ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was as laughably quiet as it always is. FC Chofu just seem to have fans who aren’t at all loud, and perhaps aren’t really that interested. Best get Roger to turn up the music a bit louder then and if he can just raise the fader on the right there’s some prerecorded singing on there. But don’t overdo it though or it will be obvious.
On to their players! Diego elbowed Kamifukumoto totally off the ball early on. I was angry at the time, but not as angry as I was when I saw the replay on DAZN and you can clearly see him have a quick look before he accidentally bumps into Kami with his elbows out. And elbows were quite the story of this match. Certain players in red and blue must be more arachnid than human as they seemed to be able to find an elbow available whatever the angle. Morishige’s was perhaps the nastiest. Poor him, hurting his elbow when he took out Ominami who was trying to head the ball. I’ll discuss the wonderful ref’s reaction to this incident in the next section. After the initial assault which left Ominami bleeding and probably concussed, Abe and Slowik piled in to shake a dazed player on the floor with a head injury. They should both be arrested! Credit to Tokumoto for pulling Abe away before he could do too much damage. Not only has Tokumoto got an amusingly retro haircut, he also seems to have some old-fashioned decent humanity too. As for Higashi and Nakagawa, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of players who go down so easily. I really don’t know what happened to Nakagawa in our youth team all those years ago, but he seems to be on a mission to aggravate us as much as is humanly possible since then. And perhaps what ever it was also can help explain his haircut, as the only other possible reason I can think of for it could be deep-seated self loathing. For once I agree with the FC Tokyo Kai Guys who have said that Higashi is a useless specimen. Perhaps they might have a different opinion of him after this match though. I don’t think there was a single two minute period in the game when either he or Nakagawa weren’t on the floor rolling around clutching some part of their anatomy whilst gurning after a waft of air knocked them to the ground. Perhaps it was a hangover from the flame cannons or something. Or they got dazzled by some pyrotechnic or drone display. Both of them could find a way to get ‘injured’ even when locked inside a padded cell.
So the general consensus seems to be that the players are mostly pricks, and the club is one of the tackiest organizations around, whose only solution to a total lack of atmosphere at their games is to throw money at getting in the latest technology, and then employing in the cutting edge fashion of 2003. Perhaps that’s how they came up with the opening ceremony idea. They asked AI to come up with a plan with the prompt ‘totally cool and really quite super pre-game entertainment…. with fire’. There was definitely some kind of alien weirdness to the whole thing. But maybe that’s just the way they like to do things. FC Chofu is that video of the Microsoft guys dancing at the Windows 95 launch. FC Chofu is a group of salaryman with their ties around their heads doing air guitar to a musical section of Top Gear. FC Chofu is a right wing ex-newsreader mayor. FC Chofu is being expected to get to the office early, stay late and then go out with your boss and pour them drinks. FC Chofu is hostess bars where you pay a 1000% mark up on a bottle of champagne you don’t want to drink, in order to have it opened and poured for you by someone who is your daughter’s age and would have nothing to do with you if you weren’t paying for her company. Quick, someone set off the flame cannons again.
It was Nishimura, who has been alright for us recently but really shat the bed on this occasion. No arguments about the red card, (which let’s be honest, was for a foul he hadn’t even given a yellow for, until VAR notified him, so I guess he got that wrong too), but he was just useless for the rest of the game. I don’t know if he has a large amount of shares in a company that supplies flame cannons or something, but he clearly seemed to be leaning one way in this game. Ominami got a yellow card for getting elbowed in the face by Morishige. Nishimura was so useless that Joao looked like he was going to smash him in the face at one stage, and to be honest, if he had, I’d fully support our Brazilian hero. He bought every dive from Higashi and Nakagawa and so often was the game stopped that it seemed to be more like American football than football. I don’t know when he’ll retire, but surely the writing has to be on the wall for him. And I can’t imagine many fans will be disappointed when he does.
Don’t get me wrong, all this moaning about Chofu and Nishimura shouldn’t detract from the fact that we 100% didn’t deserve to win this game. Lots of lovely possession again! Not much fun again… Even our usual reserve tactic of playing better when we’re down to 10 men ran out of steam towards the end of this match. 2023 is a season of short sharp shocks to our system. The real shock is that we aren’t paying attention to them though. If we win next week we’ll be back to being all fine again, until the post win buzz has drained slowly away over the course of the following two or three games and then we’ll get hammered by someone. (Looks like that will be either Vissel or Sanfrecce). Well, that’s if we actually manage to get a little positive run going again. All of this just keeps the doubts far enough out of most fans minds. You can’t say that most of the players aren’t trying their best. It’s just that there is no plan and are no new ideas. It’s like Oniki luckily packed his paintbrushes and it ended up being an art exam, but the following week he’s trying to write a 1000 word essay with the same brushes. And then the week after, seems totally perplexed that he has to make a bird house and the brushes don’t work well when it comes to hammering the nails into the wood. But our beautiful passing art project continues. I say beautiful, but it’s more about getting the pass numbers up, rather than anything aesthetic. Lovely lovely completed passes. Sideways, sideways, backwards, sideways, and then release the tension with a possession losing hoof up the field. If we lose to YFC, well anything is up for grabs. By which I mean we’ll be totally fucked. And it wouldn’t be a great surprise, as we’ve already lost comfortably to the team who are currently at the bottom of the table. Blimey.
GK 99. KAMIFUKUMOTO Naoto
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 3. OMINAMI Takuma (Yellow card 90+5')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (Yellow card 90+1')
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT (Yellow card 45+3')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (Red card 52')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 33. MIYASHIRO Taisei
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for IENAGA 75')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for SEKO 59')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for MIYASHIRO 75')
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for OMINAMI 90+7')
FW 17. TONO Daiya (on for MARCINHO 59')FW 20. YAMADA Shin (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 82')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Absolutely without a doubt it has to go to…
JUNG Sung-Ryong - the only player in the match day squad who had nothing to do with the result. Bravo!
JUNG Sung-Ryong - the only player in the match day squad who had nothing to do with the result. Bravo!
TOKUMOTO (Chofu) 12' 1-0
ABE (Chofu) 25' 2-0
MIYASHIRO (Frontale) 39' 2-1