Yokohama FC Match Preview 8/8/2020

Gamba Osaka vs Yokohama FC
J1 2020 Round 9
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 8 August 19:00 (JST)

Round 9 of J1 2020 brings us the second of a home double header for Gamba, with promoted side Yokohama FC visiting Panasonic Stadium for the very first time. The club born out of the ashes of Yokohama Flugels currently lie second bottom of the standings, though Gamba would do well not to underestimate them. As ever, feedback and opinions are welcomed, I’ve noticed 60-70% of my readership is from outside of Japan so I’d really like to know how you became interested in the JLeague.

Last Time Out

Gamba succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at home to Kawasaki Frontale in a top of the table clash last Saturday night. In addition to my match report here, please check out this week’s edition of the @JtalkPod where @frontalerabbit and I discussed the game in detail with Ben and Sam (@FrsoccerSam).
You can find it here…

Fresh off a full six days of rest Gamba made only one alteration to their starting lineup with the fit-again Kosuke Onose coming in for Yuya Fukuda in the right wing-back position. Ademilson appears to still be on the casualty list as he wasn’t in the 18-man squad while there was a welcome first bench appearance for off-season signing Gen Shoji, although he didn’t get on the field. In central midfield Yuji Ono kept his starting spot ahead of Shu Kurata while Shinya Yajima and Yosuke Ideguchi switched positions with Ideguchi starting at the base of the midfield and Yajima playing more advanced on the right side.

Gamba had the better of the chances in a pretty even first-half where excellent closing down and defensive structures were the dominant forces. The best opportunity fell to Onose following Yasuto Wakizaka’s suicidal pass across his own box in the 20th minute, Kawasaki ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong was a relieved man to see the Gamba number 8’s shot rebound off his left-hand post. As the half wore on Gamba moved the ball well in attacking areas but created few clear cut chances. Frontale always looked menacing when in possession, however, the Nerrazzuri were up to the task of handling the league’s top scorers and they were reduced to blocked shots around the 18 yard-box and speculative efforts from distance.

I’m not sure what Tsuneyasu Miyamoto said to his players at half-time, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “let’s abandon the tight defensive structure we had in the first half and leave wide gaps between the defence and midfield”, yet that’s exactly what happened. Kawasaki introduced dangerous left-winger Kaoru Mitoma for the scolded Wakizaka at the break which saw Reo Hatate switch to the right flank and Akihiro Ienaga drop deeper. The move brought almost instant reward for the men from Kanagawa. Mitoma fired a warning shot in the 47th minute following slack play by Gamba in the midfield and less than 60 seconds later Masaaki Higashiguchi was picking the ball out of his own net after a neat one-two between Ryota Oshima and Mitoma ended with the former hitting a fine drive low into the bottom left corner to give the home side a mountain to climb.

Gamba rallied for the next 10 minutes or so, but after that they began to fade away and their attacks started to lose conviction. Indeed, it was Frontale who may have felt they should have extended their lead on the break. Yu Kobayashi, who Gamba did a good job of keeping quiet, beat Hiroki Fujiharu to a header but it cannoned off the crossbar and away to safety. Full time Gamba 0-1 Kawasaki.

Yokohama FC went down 2-0 at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima for the second time in 2020, following on from their defeat in the Levain Cup back in February. In truth it was no less than a dominant Sanfrecce deserved. I’m not sure if Hiroshima head-coach Hiroshi Jofuku is a fan of the blog but he agreed with my opinion that Douglas Vieira and Leandro Pereira shouldn’t play together and flanked Vieira with Tsukasa Morishima and Shunki Higashi. That trio plus central midfielder Hayao Kawabe gave Yokohama all kinds of problems in a one-sided first half.

Sanfrecce’s opener came just prior to the water break when Higashi, on the left wing, dinked a ball over the top into the Yokohama FC box, it found Morishima who outmuscled Kensuke Sato, Sato tried to wrestle Morishima to the ground, but on his way down, Hiroshima’s number 10 was able to poke out his right leg and guide the ball past Yuta Minami, 1-0 to the visitors.

Just 15 minutes later Sanfrecce doubled their advantage after a corner kick from the main stand side was only partially cleared and Toshihiro Aoyama floated the ball over towards the back post. Douglas Vieira was left completely unmarked and had time to chest the ball down before firing a slightly awkard looking shot across Minami for his third J1 goal of 2020.

Yokohama FC made a triple change at the break with Kazunari Ichimi, Kyowaan Hoshi and Tatsuki Seko replacing Yusuke Minagawa, Masakazu Tashiro and Kensuke Sato, this also brought about a switch in formation as the first half’s 3-5-2 became more of an orthodox 4-4-2. Sanfrecce inevitably sat back which allowed Yokohama FC to have their most dominant spell of pressure in the opening 15 minutes of the half and despite decent touches from Ichimi, left-winger Yusuke Matsuo and centre-back Yuki Kobayashi, the best they had to show for it was left-back Yutaro Hakamata’s shot straight at Keisuke Osako from the edge of the box. Meanwhile at the other end, Higashi nearly embarrassed Minami with a fine lob from inside his own half which hit the Yokohama crossbar. The final 30 minutes rather meandered and petered out leaving Sanfrecce comfortable 2-0 winners.

Tactical Notes

Gamba made a positional switch against Kawasaki with Yosuke Ideguchi starting at the base of the midfield and Shinya Yajima on the right, I’m not sure why Miyamoto made this change, but I have two theories. One, to allow Yajima to track the dangerous Ryota Oshima and two, to give Ideguchi a sort of rest from his heavy workload of high-pressing and protecting the centre-backs. I’m not sure either hypothesis stands up to scrutiny, though. First of all, midway through the first half, Yajima and the more attack-minded Yuji Ono switched sides, throwing my Oshima theory out the window, then later on after Yajima and Ono switched back, Yajima and Ideguchi reversed roles before the midfield musical chairs stopped and everyone was back to their original spot at the start of the second period. Yajima’s two poorest games this season have come in the more advanced right-side role, granted this was against, for me, the two best teams in the league, Kawasaki and Cerezo. I’d prefer to see Yajima start at the base, Ideguchi on the right and Ono and Shu Kurata to rotate on the left in future matches.

This leads me to my next point, a lack of depth in central midfield. With the summer transfer window now ajar, this is the one area I feel Gamba need to address. Yajima and Ideguchi are the only orthodox volante players we have who are in their prime, Yuki Yamamoto, Kohei Okuno and Ren Shibamoto all have potential, but possess a combined total of four J1 appearances to date, while sadly 40 year-old Yasuhito Endo’s legs have gone meaning he is only really effective in games where Gamba can be expected to dominate for long spells with little resistance from the opposition. It seems unlikely that we can break Leo Takae’s loan deal with Machida Zelvia and we have been linked with South Korean midfielder Ju Se-jong, currently in and out of a struggling FC Seoul side. Personally I’d love to see a move for someone like Ryota Nagaki of Kashima or Hidemasa Morita of Frontale, but both are very unrealistic targets for a number of reasons. How about, Yushi Hasegawa? Daiki Matsuoka? Mitsuki Saito? Yusuke Kobayashi? Rikiya Uehara? Let me know what you think.

Finally, in this tactical look at Gamba, we once again saw Onose and Usami link up as a forward pairing in the second half of last Saturday’s game. This is the first time it had been tried since it was abandoned midway through the Levain Cup encounter against Kashiwa back in February. It does engineer a way for Onose, Fujiharu and Fukuda to all play together while giving Kazuma Watanabe a well earned break and Onose is probably closer in style to Ademilson than Watanabe is. However, for me it is the third best option in attack after Usami-Ademilson and Usami-Watanabe.

Yokohama FC have discarded the 4-2-3-1 formation which saw them promoted to J1 this year and have instead opted for a 3-5-2 system (exactly the same as Gamba) since the re-start of the league in June. They’ve also largely ditched their famous gang of late 30 and early 40 somethings in favour of youngsters who they hope can develop into solid J1 players. With no relegation this year, I 100% support this way of thinking and wish them all the best with it, though obviously not in this match.

Interestingly despite starting the match with Hiroshima in their preferred 3-5-2 shape, they changed to 4-4-2 for the second half, and while it looked more effective at first glance, it should be remembered that Sanfrecce essentially had the game sewn up by half-time. Yusuke Matsuo who featured on the left-wing last year is now learning the ropes as a wing-back and along with his counterpart on the right, Maguinho, provides Yokohama FC’s main attacking threat. Matsuo had a couple of decent runs last week, though his positional discipline is questionable as he has a tendency to cut inside and even move over to the right while on attack. In central midfield, Takuya Matsuura was often found almost out on the right-wing in the first half against Hiroshima and this created space for Hayao Kawabe and Toshihiro Aoyama to dictate possession for the visitors. While, in attack, Yusuke Minagawa started but was replaced after 45 minutes by Kazunari Ichimi, who of course can’t play against his parent club. Ichimi looks to be their best striker, so his non-appearance this week is a cause for Gamba optimism. Young Koki Saito is nominally either Minagawa or Ichimi’s partner in attack, though in reality, we’re likely to see him drop off and sit just behind.

To sum up, Yokohama FC will probably adopt a similar formation to Gamba and use the same tactics of playing out from the back and pressing high up the field to try and force opposition mistakes. Unfortunately for them, I’d say along with Shimizu, Tosu, Oita, Sendai and Shonan, they form the league’s weakest teams, so hopefully Gamba will be able to bounce back from last week’s defeat.

Statistical Noise

Gamba Osaka

*Gamba have never lost to Yokohama FC, although to date there have only been 4 league games played between the two. Both J2 matches back in 2013 finished tied while Gamba won one and drew one with last-placed YFC in 2007.
*In 4 home games so far in 2020 Gamba have only had less of the ball than Sanfrecce Hiroshima and are currently averaging 51.7% possession at Panasonic Stadium.
*Currently 17 players have started league games for Gamba this season while 4 (Patric, Kurokawa, Yamamoto, Matsuda) have only made sub appearances. This total of 21 players used is the third least in the league, while 17 starters is the fourth smallest tally in J1.

Yokohama FC

*YFC have failed to score in their last 3 league outings against Hiroshima, Urawa and Yokohama F.Marinos. Their last goal was Masakazu Tashiro’s 59th minute equaliser against Kawasaki in round 5 meaning they haven’t found the back of the net for 301 minutes.
*17th place Yokohama are currently owners of the league’s worst defensive record after shipping 18 goals in 8 games (though 9 of these came vs Kawasaki and Yokohama F.Marinos). Their 7 goals scored makes them the second weakest attacking team in J1 after Sagan Tosu (Gamba’s next opponents – 5 goals – 2 scored and 2 assisted by 20-year old Kaisei Ishii – sign him up?)
*This is just Yokohama FC’s second season in J1, their last was back in 2007 when they were able to take just 16 points from 34 matches, a total that has only been worsened by Sapporo (2012), Oita (2013) and Tokushima (2014) since J1 switched to 18 teams (all three finished with 14 points).

Team News

Gamba Osaka

Generally good news for Gamba on the injury front with Gen Shoji and backup ‘keeper Jun Ichimori now back in contention. Shoji played 64 minutes of the 1-1 draw at Oita in the Levain Cup in midweek while Ichimori got a run out for Gamba U23 against Nagano Parceiro last Sunday. Kosuke Onose also returned from a minor niggle in the game with Kawasaki, though doubts persist about the nature of Ademilson’s continued absence, hopefully it is just a precaution. The non-appearance of centre-backs, Shunya Suganuma and Ryo Shinzato against Oita seems to suggest that both are currently injured.

Yokohama FC

Experienced goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan is still out after receiving a nasty facial injury against Vegalta Sendai last month, while as noted above Kazunari Ichimi can’t feature as per the terms of his loan agreement. These are the only certain absences I know of, however, right-winger Katsuhiro Nakayama, an important figure last season, hasn’t featured for several weeks. Left-sided defender Takaaki Shichi and vice-captain Kosuke Saito have been out of the J1 squad for a few matchdays, but both played in the 1-0 win at Sagan Tosu in the Levain Cup on Wednesday. Additionally veterans such as Masahiko Inoha, Calvin Jong-a-Pin, Daisuke Matsui and the prolific in J2, Ibba have seemingly been frozen out of Shimotaira’s league selection plans due to the absence of relegation this year.

Know Your Opponent – Yokohama FC

Head Coach: Takahiro Shimotaira – Appointed 14 May 2019 – Record P 37 W 20 D 9 L 8 F 60 A 43 Failed to Score 8 Clean Sheets 11

GK #18 Yuta Minami – 40-year old stopper who like his head coach was once at Kashiwa Reysol. He’s regained his starting spot from the injured Rokutan and is surely enjoying what must be an unexpected J1 swansong.

RCB #29 Kyowaan Hoshi – In his first season as a pro following a winter move from Komazawa University, Hoshi is one of a number of Yokohama FC players benefiting from the freedom of no relegation this year. He’s started all but one of the post lockdown league games.

CB #4 Yuki Kobayashi – Despite only turning 20 last month, Kobayashi has the look of a far more experienced player. Currently on loan from Vissel Kobe, he appears to be exactly the type of ball playing centre-back that the men from Hyogo will be hoping to build their defence around for years to come. Kobayashi had a decent loan spell with Machida Zelvia in J2 last year and also played twice for Vissel back in 2018 when he was still a high school student.

LCB #26 Yutaro Hakamata – A bit of a bolter in this year’s Yokohama FC lineup, left-back or left-sided centre-back Hakamata only played 14 times during YFC’s promotion campaign, but is being given more game time this season. I guess his coach, in a similar way to Miyamoto, relishes his versatility as he is able to play in three separate positions competently depending on the game situation.

RWB #3 Maguinho – Right-back / wing-back who joined on loan from neighbours Kawasaki Frontale last off-season after playing just 8 J1 games in 2019. Despite that, he managed to score twice and earned plaudits for his attacking play if not so much for his defensive capabilities. He’s one of YFC’s main attacking threats this year.

RCM #7 Takuya Matsuura – Vastly experienced player with over 200 J1 games to his name, mostly with Jubilo Iwata. He missed a lot of 2019, but is now back as a key cog on the right side of Yokohama’s central midfield triangle, though he can essentially operate anywhere across the middle.

DM #8 Kensuke Sato – A one-club man, holding midfielder Sato joined from Chuo University back in 2009 and is now approaching 300 league games for Yokohama. This is his first shot at J1 football and like many of his team-mates he’s found the going tough, it’s a toss up whether it’ll be he or Tatsuki Seko who starts on Saturday.

LCM #30 Kohei Tezuka – A loan signing from Kashiwa Reysol last close season, left-sided central midfielder Tezuka had an interesting start to his pro career with Onehunga in New Zealand back in 2015. After returning to his homeland with Kashiwa Reysol the following year, he never really established himself as a regular starter across four seasons in Chiba and will be relishing the opportunity he currently has with Yokohama.

LWB #37 Yusuke Matsuo – Yokohama FC’s main attacking danger in my opinion, Matsuo helped himself to 6 goals and 5 assists in 21 J2 matches in 2019 while on a special designated player contract from Sendai University. Indeed he actually played against YFC in the Emperor’s Cup last July. This year he’s made the switch from left-wing to left wing-back and seems to be coping well.

RCF #16 Yusuke Minagawa – The man likely to replace Ichimi for this game after also playing the first 45 minutes against his former club Hiroshima last Saturday. 186 cm tall Minagawa has a mediocre scoring record in J1 and his best ever season was spent on loan at then-J2 side Roasso Kumamoto in 2018 where he found the back of the net 11 times in 41 appearances.

LCF #23 Koki Saito – The great young hope for Yokohama FC fans, Koki Saito, not to be confused with the similarly named Kosuke Saito in midfield, doesn’t turn 19 until next Monday but is already in his third season as a pro. He can play either as a central striker, just off the main forward or on the left-wing. Has been tipped for international honours in the future.

Other Options – As laid out in the team news section above, Yokohama FC’s army of veterans including defenders Masahiko Inoha and Calvin Jong-a-Pin, midfielder Daisuke Matsui and Norwegian attacker Ibba have all been left out as Shimotaira has opted to develop youth during this unique campaign. That leaves us with centre-back or defensive midfielder Masakazu Tashiro as a potential starter ahead of Hoshi or Hakamata while as mentioned earlier, former Meiji University midfielder Tatsuki Seko could take Kensuke Sato’s slot. Left-sided player Eijiro Takeda is more likely to play off the bench, but remains a possible starter while veterans Leandro Domingues, Shunsuke Nakamura and even Kazuyoshi ‘King Kazu’ Miura could see some game time. Yuki Kusano, a young forward who struck four times in eleven J2 games in 2019 after joining from Hannan University in Osaka is perhaps a more realistic alternative.

Predicted Lineups

Match Prediction

I always have slight trepidation coming into banana skin games like this. Everything says Gamba should have too much for Yokohama FC, but as we’ve seen many times before in football, anything can happen. With that said, I’m in pretty confident mood and will go for 2-0 Gamba.


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