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Gamba Osaka vs Kashiwa Reysol 1 October 2022 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Kashiwa Reysol
2022 J1 Season Round 31
Saturday 1 October 2022
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Kick Off: 16:00 (JST)


Gamba aren’t quite ready to order drinks at the last chance saloon, but they’re getting darn close in the wake of their controversial, gut-wrenching loss to near neighbours and fellow strugglers Vissel Kobe. As if to compound matters, their next fixture sees them welcome J1’s best away side, Kashiwa Reysol, to Panasonic Stadium as they seek to snap a run of 3 consecutive home games without scoring. The visiting Sunkings are 6th in the overall standings, 6 points off 3rd place and ACL qualification, despite a recent run of 6 outings without a win. Only a victory here can lift the Nerazzurri out of the drop-zone and with clashes against the likes of Marinos and Kashima looming large on the horizon, 3 points is really non-negotiable if they are serious about staying up. Reysol looked sharp and focused in their most recent game, a 1-1 home draw with defending champions Kawasaki and should they be able to re-produce that kind of performance then they’ll fancy their chances in this bout. The Ao to Kuro, on the other hand, must channel their frustration from the Kobe loss into an unwavering desire to defeat Kashiwa this Saturday, whatever the cost. It’s the first match at Panasonic Stadium with singing allowed for over 2 and a half years, could the home support perhaps nudge the VAR Gods into providing a dramatic plot twist and coming to Gamba’s aid, or is that just delving way too far into the realms of fantasy?

Tale of the Tape



Hiroshi Matsuda lined up in the opposite dugout from his former apprentice Takayuki Yoshida during the Hanshin Derby at the Noevir Stadium, how did he get on tactically? Generally pretty well in my book. It definitely wasn’t beautiful, free-flowing, attack-minded football, but until the intervention of referee Koei Koya in the final 10 minutes of the contest, it looked like Matsuda-ball was set to bring the Nerazzurri a priceless 1-0 victory which would have seen them move up to 13th in the standings, behind S-Pulse only on goal difference. Alas, it was not be and I’ll be honest as soon as Yuya Osako’s spot-kick hit the back of the net, his later injury-time winner became inevitable in the context of Gamba’s season. ‘The worst is yet to come’ was the thought running through my head as we entered second-half additional time and so it came to pass. I don’t even really blame the players as VAR overturning the no penalty decision without ‘clear and obvious’ evidence to do so (much more on that in the Gamba section below) simply crushed their spirits in the wake of the much publicised VAR inspired heavy losses against Kashima (h) and Kawasaki (a). Matsuda has got a wealth of experience developing promising youngsters on his CV, but he’s clearly been brought in with the sole remit of keeping Gamba in J1 no matter how ugly and defensively his side plays. Unfortunately that likely means no more Yamami, Nakamura or Sakamoto until next season with Brazilian giants Leandro Pereira and Patric leading the line, Musashi Suzuki coming off the bench hoping to use his pace to stretch tired defences and fellow gas-man Ryotaro Meshino being replaced for the final 15-20 minutes by returning talisman Takashi Usami. Under Matsuda’s tutelage, the players appear to know exactly what they are supposed to be doing, something which was absolutely not the case during the previous regime, so that’s one step in the right direction at least. Wait a minute, I’ve written about 20+ lines of text in this section and have barely mentioned a stat, so let’s finish off with some of them shall we? A few months back I said judge Tomohiro Katanosaka on Gamba’s xG difference and with 30 out of 34 fixtures now in the can, the Ao to Kuro’s figure is still sitting at -0.50xG per game, a number that hasn’t really budged much all season, and certainly suggests relegation is the most likely outcome for the club. More positively, across the past 5 matches of Matsuda’s ‘442 zone defence’ © DAZN, Gamba are giving up 12.6 (7.0 on target) shots per game to opponents which compares with 15.8 (9.2) overall, though at the other end of the field they’ve only been attempting 10 (5.4 on target) shots across that same run of fixtures versus 11.2 (6.2) when considering all 30 games to date. Four of Matsuda’s six matches in charge have seen an xG for total of less than 1 and all outings apart from the 2-0 win at Nagoya have been xG losses, granted the Fukuoka game was only by 0.02, so basically as close as you can get to an xG draw. There’s not much solace in the stats for Gamba fans, and this might not be what you were wanting or expecting to read at the conclusion of this section, but for me it’s down to pure luck from here on out. Opposition own goals, red cards, lack of effort due to having nothing other than pride to play for, they could all play a big role in whether the Nerazzurri sink or swim.



Kashiwa have certainly exceeded the expectations of most external observers this year, spending the entirety of the campaign in the top 6 when many expected them to be embroiled in a fight for survival similar to what their hosts this Saturday are currently enduring. They’ve been quite a streaky team in 2022, boasting runs of 3 and 4 wins in-a-row, as well as losing 3 on-the-bounce on two separate occasions. After opening up the year with 9 victories and 30 points from their first 17 games, they’ve since descended slightly from those dizzy heights, winning just 4 times and accumulating only 15 points from their most recent 13 outings, not bad, but it is form that has much more of a mid-table feel to it. The Sunkings have lost 8 of their last 10 matches on xG (they’ve won 1 and drawn 1 of the other 2), and the 4.13xG Reds put up against them in round 29 is the highest recorded in J1 since I started keeping data at the beginning of 2021. Six goals conceded from an xG of only 1.4 in the home bout with FC Tokyo was a bit more unfortunate, though kantoku Nelsinho will not be at all amused that his charges’ 40 goals conceded is the worst of everyone inside the top 10 and indeed is only 4 fewer that Gamba have let in. Other stats suggest that Reysol have had a knack of coming out on top in extremely tight contests this year as they are only outshooting their opponents by 0.3 (0.5 on target) efforts per game while registering 45.3% ball possession, down from 47.1% in 2021. They have upped the intensity of their work, however, recording 183.8 sprints per game (25.9 more than the Nerazzurri), which is an increase from 174.4 twelve months ago and this may have been a pivotal factor in their renaissance. Regarding individual players within their ranks, Matheus Savio was someone I highlighted prior to the match back in May and though things haven’t been going quite as swimmingly for the Brazilian lately with no goals or assists in his most recent 9 league outings as well as a potential bout of Covid in August, he’s enjoying a fine season overall nonetheless. Savio ranks first in J1 for through balls (115), chances created (78) and last passes (56), he’s also 8th for shots taken (58), 9th for shots on target (16) and 10th for dribbles (70). Defensively he’s put up some decent numbers too, sitting in the division’s top 15 for blocks, interceptions and possession recoveries. Ahead of Savio, young attacker Mao Hosoya has been a revelation and while his exertions with Japan U-21 in Europe over the past fortnight may necessitate a bench start on Saturday, he can be more than pleased with his season to date, registering 8 goals and 4 assists while listing 3rd in the J1 shots on target rankings with 22. His development has really come on in leaps and bounds this year, which will probably lead to an overseas move within the next 12 months. Hosoya is just in the embryonic stages of his professional career and while that statement certainly doesn’t ring true for Yuki Muto, the former Sendai and Urawa hitman has also been a key cog in the Reysol attacking wheel in recent months. The tag ‘super-sub’ most definitely applies to him as to date he’s bagged 7 goals and 2 assists from 15 appearances, with a grand total of only 4 starts (4 of his goals and 2 assists have come from sub appearances). I’m postulating that Muto might well partner Douglas in attack from the start on Saturday with Hosoya getting introduced in the second-half, the million dollar question is, what effect, if any, would that have on their forward play?



First Match Recap

Gamba’s 1-0 win away to Kashiwa in mid-May was one of those classic J.League results that defied any sort of rational analysis. Despite coming into the tie fresh off the back of a home victory over Vissel Kobe 6 days prior, the Nerazzurri had since been struck down with a Coronavirus cluster which, in addition to their lengthy injury list, left them with high school 3rd graders Harumi Minamino and Rikuto Kuwahara on the bench to make up the numbers. The Ao to Kuro had a go early doors with Hiroto Yamami’s lob as close as they came, unfortunately that strategy led to them being cut open on several occasions and in truth they were pretty lucky to go into half-time level. Things tightened up considerably in the second-half and Gamba were able to pick up a smash-and-grab victory courtesy of Dawhan’s close range effort after Reysol failed to clear a corner properly. Hiromu Mitsumaru’s header struck the frame of the Nerazzurri’s goal in the final minute of additional time meaning Gamba returned to Suita with all 3 points, a result that moved them up to 10th in the standings. How the Nerazzurri would love to get the rub of the green this Saturday afternoon in the same way they did on that late spring evening in Chiba.



Gamba Osaka


VAR Verdict – Hopefully this is the last time I write about refereeing and VAR this year, though I won’t hold my breath. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I was left extremely angry by Koei Koya’s decision to overturn his call of no penalty during the vital Vissel vs Gamba clash prior to the international break, angrier than it’s really healthy to be after a football game, something that I recognised in the aftermath and I actually ended up messaging an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, so at least some good came out of it. However, back to my point, I pose the question to you dear reader, what is the purpose of using VAR in football? If it’s to bring consistency and clarity to the decision making process while at the same time only fixing clear errors by the on-field officiating team then it has failed on every account since it was introduced into J1 full-time at the start of the 2021 season. When Patric was given a straight red card following Yuma Suzuki’s play-acting on the opening day of the 2022 campaign, the reasoning given as to why VAR couldn’t overturn the decision was because Patric acted aggressively towards Suzuki so it technically wasn’t the wrong call. However, the referee that day dismissed Patric because he thought he’d struck Suzuki in the face, an act of aggression probably scoring an 8 or 9 on a 10 point scale, while in reality he likely said something a little nasty and tickled his opponent’s tummy, which would rank as a 2 or 3 in terms of aggression. With that in mind, Koya’s initial decision was to give a foul against Kobe’s Yoshinori Muto for a high boot with studs up. The replays showed it wasn’t as bad as first thought, but just like the Patric decision, the original judgement wasn’t technically completely wrong. Additionally, Fukuda and Muto go for the ball and make contact with each other, at the VAR booth the referee chooses to only consider Fukuda hitting Muto marginally before Muto hits him, ignoring the position of Muto’s boot and also his potential initiation of the contact. It’s not clearly a penalty and not clearly not a penalty, therefore it falls into a grey area and with the initial decision being no penalty, the best Los Millonarios should have got was a drop ball in my view. I know this is a Gamba blog and I’m biased, but the likes of Shohei Ogura and former J1 official Masaaki Iemoto (not to mention fans of other J1 teams) have weighed in with similar opinions to mine and I’m yet to hear anyone say it was clearly or definitely a penalty to Kobe. If I was Gamba I’d contact the J. League and ask for a written explanation as to why the decision was overturned. Sure we’re not going to get the last 10 minutes replayed or anything, but it would be nice to make the league squirm as they try and wiggle their way out of the mess they’ve made for themselves. It was interesting to note that at the same time as Vissel vs Gamba, FC Tokyo were hosting Kyoto Sanga in the first ever J1 match officiated by a female, let’s hope that opening this role up to an additional 50% of the population leads to greater openness, consistency and clarity in decision making going forward. Rant over…and breathe.


Above is an artist’s impression of the Vissel vs Gamba game
The Ultimate Warrior = Gamba Osaka
Ravishing Rick Rude = Vissel Kobe
Bobby The Brain Heenan = Referee Koei Koya

**Note – Let me just add that I know Vissel had a poor decision go against them away at Shonan and Gamba are certainly not the only team in world football to fall victim to questionable officiating. Also, I personally bear Vissel Kobe no ill-will, Kobe is a beautiful city that I recommend you visit now that it’s been announced Japan will properly re-open it’s borders…woo-hoo!!**

Saito vs Dawhan – Of course after Yuya Osako’s controversial penalty levelled things up, the same player inevitably won the game in injury time (remember what I wrote about him in the match preview?) The fact it came from a counter attack, which wouldn’t have been happening with the score at 0-1, made it all the more infuriating for me (as did Osako’s voice in his post match interview, he sounded like a decent bloke and I was hunting for a scapegoat). Anyway, for a Gamba squad and support beaten down by a campaign of errors, poor performances, last gasp equalisers and winners given up and a succession of VAR decisions going against them, it was understandably all a bit too much. At the final whistle, Mitsuki Saito took aim at central midfield partner Dawhan for not taking one for the team and giving away a cynical foul in the lead up to Osako’s winner. Dawhan has previous for this in the build up to Leandro’s effort to give FC Tokyo a 2-0 lead at the Olympic Stadium and to defend the Brazilian slightly here, although referee Koya was praised in certain quarters for allowing an advantage, he would certainly have evened things up a touch had he blown prematurely for a free-kick 25-30 yards away from goal. Saito took to social media soon after the match to set the record straight that he and his team-mates have not given up and remain committed to avoiding the drop to J2. Dawhan, for his part, seems to have kissed and made up with Saito and was seen posting ‘interesting’ home training videos on Instagram. Stand-in captain Genta Miura also deserves credit for his role as peace-broker as well as getting properly stuck into Koya in the wake of the penalty decision, something he’s been accused of not doing enough in the past, particularly in the away game against Sapporo last season.

Gamba vs Vissel, Japan’s new Grudge Match? – Prior to this season most Gamba fans I’ve spoken to would answer ‘Urawa and Cerezo’ when asked who the Nerazzurri’s rivals were. This may just be me, but I’ve always detected greater passion in their voices when they speak about playing Urawa. As for Cerezo it seems to be more a case of, ‘people in other countries dislike teams from the same city as them so we should do it too,’ rather than something more organic, again though this is merely my personal opinion. Furthermore, although I refer to Gamba vs Kobe as the ‘Hanshin Derby’ and Gamba vs Kyoto as the ‘Keihan Derby,’ in reality I feel that fans of all sides view these clashes more as convenient away days rather than bona fide rivalries. Could the genuine ill-feeling that seems to have developed as a result of the contentious incidents and decisions that crept up during both 2022 league encounters between Gamba and Vissel be the spark which ignites a new ferocious rivalry between two of Kansai’s powerhouses?

Harumi Minamino – On 16 September Gamba announced their first signing for the 2023 season, the promotion of forward Harumi Minamino from their youth setup. Minamino, of course, has been training with the top-team this year on a type-2 amateur contract and has made 8 appearances in all competitions. Able to play as a central forward or just off a main striker, he’s not been seen since the summer additions of Suzuki, Meshino and Juan Alano as well as the restoration of Leandro Pereira to top-team action with the arrival of Hiroshi Matsuda, but he’s an exciting addition who has been talked about in hushed tones by Gamba supporters in recent years, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do once he becomes a pro. Good luck Harumi!

The Beast Awakens? – Speaking of young Gamba forwards, Shoji Toyama broke his 2022 scoring duck with a goal on his 20th birthday in Mito’s home loss to Tokyo Verdy on 21 September. He then followed that up with a fine headed equaliser away to Tokushima last Sunday. It’s been a frustrating loan spell for Toyama with just 12 league appearances in total and only 5 starts, hopefully his recent efforts are the catalyst for him to go on and become the finisher everyone at Panasonic Stadium hopes he can be.

Post-season clear-out – Regardless of which division Gamba occupy in 2023 there are likely to be big changes to the playing staff over the winter. The Higashiguchi vs Tani goalkeeper debate is probably worthy of it’s own segment in a future match preview, but in front of them, the Gen Shoji to Kashima rumours will likely re-surface while backups Ko Yanagisawa and Shota Fukuoka may seek fresh pastures, Keisuke Kurokawa is likely to attract interest from elsewhere and centre-back Yota Sato could return to Suita following his loan spell at Sendai. Speaking of such deals, midfielders Dawhan and Saito are only on loan and will probably leave, veterans Shu Kurata and Hiroki Fujiharu could end their long associations with the club and widemen Wellington Silva, Kosuke Onose and Hideki Ishige may well be wearing a different team’s colours next term. In attack, Leandro Pereira is reportedly the highest earner at Panasta and out of contract at the end of the season so I see him going elsewhere. As mentioned above Harumi Minamino has put pen to paper and he could be joined by versatile youth team captain Rikuto Kuwahara, while a move for a university graduate can’t be ruled out. At present I see the 2023 Gamba squad projecting something like this…

GK: Higashiguchi, Ichimori, Kato, Ishikawa
DF: Takao, Miura, Kwon Kyung-won, Kurokawa, Sato, Kuwahara
MF: Alano, Okuno, Y. Yamamoto, Meshino, Kurata, Fukuda, R. Yamamoto, Nakamura
FW: Suzuki, Usami, Patric, Sakamoto, Yamami, Minamino

* And finally…Gamba held their annual Fan Festa (Festival) at a sun-drenched Panasonic Stadium Suita on Sunday 25 September and it appeared that a good time was had by all in attendance. I was unable to go, but from what I saw and heard, Gen Shoji and Leandro Pereira did a skit together showing that they’ve buried the hatchet following their fiery on-field bust up in the Osaka Derby back in May. Also, even critics of stand-in kantoku Hiroshi Matsuda’s rather agricultural style of football would have to laugh at the players running around the field engaged in a spot of touch rugby!

Team News


A video released on the club’s official YouTube channel showing highlights of training from Wednesday 21 September appeared to indicate that 30 of the 31 contracted Gamba first-team players were in full training. Only Kwon Kyung-won, who was away with his national side did not take part in the session, while potential Covid case Jun Ichimori and long term absentees Takashi Usami and Rihito Yamamoto look ready to go if, and when, their kantoku calls on them. Long-term readers will know this clean bill of health marks quite the contrast with the 2 most recent campaigns and I feel that a good deal of credit should go to physical coach Ryo Yano who joined the club from FC Ryukyu last off season. Finally, Shu Kurata, Keisuke Kurokawa, Kosuke Onose, Patric and Mitsuki Saito are all just a single yellow card away from the one game suspension threshold of 4.

Predicted Lineups and Stats





Kashiwa Reysol

Last year I was one of a number of critics of legendary Reysol coach Nelsinho and it seemed that his days at the Kashiwadai were numbered, but to his eternal credit, he’s completely turned the tables this term and has to be a candidate for manager of the year. How long can the 72 year-old keep going for? Well, that remains to be seen and it’s shaping up to be an interesting off season at Kashiwa without doubt. Being one of only 2 senior clubs from the heavily populated Chiba prefecture, home to a number of the nation’s top footballing schools, it’s no surprise that Reysol invest heavily in youth each year. To that end, the Sunkings have already confirmed the capture of 5 new youngsters ahead of the 2023 campaign, 2 from university, 2 from their youth setup and 1 from a local high school. To name them, they are, current All Japan University representatives, midfielder / attacker Kazuki Kumasawa (Ryutsu Keizai University) and Riku Ochiai (Tokyo International University). Ochiai was previously a Kashiwa Under-18 player before joining VONDS Ichihara in the Kanto Soccer League and then deciding to enter college, so he’s actually a year older than most university rookies. Additionally, last week the club announced the promotion of Faruzan Sana Mohamado and Ota Yamamoto from their youth team as well as the signing of 187cm forward William Owie from Nippon Sports Science University Kashiwa High School (not the catchiest name for a school sure, but they possess a decent track record when it comes to youth development). These newcomers will hope to match the impact of some of the fresh-faced youngsters who have graced yellow and black Reysol uniforms this year. Although, save for young ‘keeper Masato Sasaki, and highly touted centre-back Hayato Tanaka, Nelsinho has largely reverted back to using tried-and-trusted seasoned pros as the year has progressed, midfielders Takuto Kato, Yugo Masukake, Takumi Tsuchiya and Yuto Yamada as well as forwards Hidetaka Maie and Kaito Mori have flashed signs of their potential and all are well worth watching moving into 2023 and beyond.

**Note – I’ve seen Faruzan Sana Mohamado written as Faruzansana Mohamado, Ota Yamamoto translated as Outa Yamamoto and William Owie as William Ouie. At this stage I can’t verify the proper Roman character spelling for any of these names, but I’ve done my best and please accept my apologies if any errors crop up.**

Team News

The following players are doubts for this fixture and / or have an important status announcement regarding their availability.

DF Wataru Iwashita – Broken foot, likely to miss the rest of the season

DF Naoki Kawaguchi – Has missed the last 2 league games. I know he’s not necessarily a first-teamer but Kitazume being selected ahead of him versus Frontale suggests to me he was unavailable.

DF Takuma Ominami – Missed the home draw with Kawasaki on 17 September because of suspension, but available for selection again ahead of this clash.

DF Yuji Takahashi – Went off injured in the home loss to FC Tokyo on 27 August and not seen since

DF Hayato Tanaka – Missed the last 2 matches due to his involvement with Japan’s Under-20 squad as they completed their AFC U20 Asian Cup qualifiers. Incidentally, he was a team-mate of Gamba’s Rikuto Kuwahara, Jiro Nakamura and Isa Sakamoto during that time.

Mao Hosoya, Takumi Kamijima, Hiromu Mitsumaru, Matheus Savio and Sachiro Toshima are all just a single yellow card away from the one game suspension threshold of 4

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

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Kashiwa Reysol vs Gamba Osaka 14 May 2022 Match Preview

Kashiwa Reysol vs Gamba Osaka
2022 J1 Season Round 13
Saturday 14 May 2022
Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium
Kick Off: 19:00 (JST)


Kashiwa Reysol and Gamba Osaka are all set to clash under Saturday Night Lights at the Hitachidai Stadium in an intriguing contest that really could go either way. A win for hosts Reysol will bolster their top 4 credentials, while, should Gamba return to Kansai with the 3 points then that would put them firmly into the upper mid-table shake-up. The Nerazzurri got their season back on track last Sunday with a much needed 2-0 win over near-neighbours Vissel Kobe. The Ao to Kuro struck the frame of the goal three times during an incredible opening period which also saw them have a goal disallowed as well as Vissel defender Ryuho Kikuchi being ordered off for a DOGSO offence. The onslaught continued in the second-half, and just when you thought the breakthrough would never come, Kwon Kyung-won and Wellington Silva popped up to bag their first J1 goals in the final 10 minutes to shift the Nerazzurri up to 12th and leave Kobe in a world of trouble. Later on that day Kashiwa held Urawa to a scoreless draw at home, though they were beneficiaries of a tight offside call against Reds’ forward Alex Schalk to deny him what would have been the winner. Gamba now travel east to Chiba looking to secure back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2022, however, it will be no easy task against a side tipped by many to struggle, but who have instead bolted out of the traps to confound expectations. The kick-off time suits a good, fast-paced game of football and also a large global audience, so I hope you can tune in to be part of the latest installment of J1 drama and suspense.

Tale of the Tape


Well Sunday’s Hanshin Derby certainly blew my statistical averages out the water, but it also gave me quite a lot to write about in here. I will preface this section by saying that Vissel played with ten men for around 2/3 of the match which may, or may not, give context to some of the outlying numbers you see below, though if I may stick the boot into Kobe just a touch, after all his time-wasting in the second-half of the 2-1 win in Suita last year, there wasn’t a whole lot of sympathy for Ryuho Kikuchi from Gamba fans in the wake of his ordering off (I actually think that when on form he’s a very good defender, so I’m just jesting). I’ve been keeping shots for and against stats for every Gamba league game since 2020, that’s 84 in total now and the 33 shots for recorded on Sunday was a full 11 higher than the next best achieved over that time period which was 22 at home to both Urawa and Shonan in 2020 (2021’s highest figure of 21 came in the 3-2 loss against Sendai in Suita). An xG For of 2.93 is admittedly not great from such a high number of attempts on goal, but it is just shy of doubling the year’s second best tally of 1.47 in the 3-1 triumph over Nagoya in April, though it didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of the 3.38 from the home defeat at the hands of Yokohama F. Marinos last August (I’ve only been collecting xG data since 2021 and that number [which included a penalty, I should add] is the clubhouse leader). Defensively, Vissel’s 0.3xG was the lowest a team has recorded against the Nerazzurri since the opening day of the 2021 campaign when the same opponents chalked up 0.4xG in their 1-0 win at the Noevir Stadium, their 5 shots on goal is also the smallest number to appear in my records, beating the 6 from Oita at Panasonic Stadium last summer. Finally a quick word on sprinting, it was reported in the Japanese media prior to Sunday’s outing that Gamba sat bottom of the J1 total sprints table (perennial speed kings Tosu are top), and while pedestrian Vissel were not really the kind of team to expose this lack of intensity, Sapporo on Wednesday and, to a lesser extent, Shonan a fortnight ago, were. Having the likes of Yanagisawa and Kurokawa at full-back plus Fukuda, Yamami and Nakamura further forward in addition to the harrying skills of Dawhan and Saito in the middle should help push those sprint numbers higher, but part of the issue may also be Katanosaka’s game-plan which might need some modifications going forward, more on that later in the ‘Gamba Osaka’ section (for reference his 2021 Oita side ranked 3rd in J1 for total distance covered, but only 12th for sprints, averaging 169 per game which compares with Gamba’s 160 so far in 2022).



As I alluded to above, Reysol were widely predicted to struggle this campaign, but a blistering start of 5 wins and 16 points from their opening 7 games took everyone, including many of their own supporters, by surprise. However, just a solitary victory in their last 5 outings, albeit an impressive one away to Hiroshima, has brought them down to earth slightly though they still sit in 4th, 6 points clear of the Nerazzurri with just over 1/3 of the season gone so we certainly can’t simply dismiss them as being lucky or a flash-in-the-pan. In 2021, reeling from the loss of J1’s top scorer the previous season, Michael Olunga, and the subsequent mid-season departure of influential playmaker Ataru Esaka, Kashiwa slumped to a disappointing 15th, a mere 5 points above the drop-zone. A quick glance through their performance data suggests that, actually in reality, they played to a higher standard than 15th for much of the campaign. They were the biggest under-performer in terms of xG For, scoring just 37 goals from 49.8xG (see how those losses of Olunga and Esaka came back to bite them) narrowly edging out Gamba who netted 33 times from an xG of 45.26. Defensively, they conceded 55 times from an xG of 46.94 which meant they were 4th unluckiest side in that regard, therefore we can perhaps conclude that missing chances in the absence of quality attackers, combined with being unfortunate at the back, contributed largely to their downfall 12 months ago. Looking slightly further into their 2021 numbers we can see that they ranked 6th in J1 in terms of xG For, Shots For and Shots For On Target as well as sprints, though it wasn’t all rosy as they came in 14th for xG Against, distance covered and possession % and 16th for passes completed. Moving things forward to this year and it’s easy to see why Reysol are sitting 11 places higher in the standings, xG For has slipped a touch from 1.31 to 1.23, but their defensive performance has improved markedly with last season’s xG Against figure of 1.23 being bettered by a more solid showing of 1.03 this time round. Elsewhere almost all of their other key performance metrics are ticking in the right direction, Shots Against (on target) has gone from 11.1 (6.6) to 10.4 (5.5), passes completed has risen from 312.7 to 335.1, distance covered 112.9 km to 116.2 km, sprints 174.4 to a whopping 203.1 and ball possession % 47.1 to 49.1. Shots For has actually declined a touch from 12.3 to 11.1, but crucially the number of those on target has barely moved from 7.4 to 7.3 per 90 minutes. The goal of this section is mainly to introduce just the raw data and in the ‘Kashiwa Reysol’ section below I’ll attempt to flesh out some further reasons behind the Sunkings 2022 ascension.



Head to Head

Just as they had done in 2020, both sides won their respective home fixtures last time round. The first meeting came in matchday 9 in mid-April, though in actuality it was only Gamba’s 4th league game of the season due to their Covid cluster. Soon-to-be-former Kashiwa playmaker Ataru Esaka was the star-turn causing numerous problems for the Nerazzurri defence with his intelligent movement and penetrating passes helping the Sunkings assert their dominance after the break following a tepid opening stanza. Brazilian Matheus Savio offered glimpses of what he was capable of too, but it was veteran Hidekazu Otani, of all people, who settled the tie 14 minutes from the end to leave Gamba with no goals and just 2 points from their first 4 J1 matches of 2021. The Ao to Kuro got their revenge in late September with Takashi Usami leading them to victory. First, his 3rd minute free-kick squeezed past Kim Seung-gyu and into the Reysol net before a sumptuous right wing cross from a set-piece midway through the first-half allowed Shunya Suganuma to bullet home a header from 12 yards out. To their credit though, Kashiwa battled valiantly and danger-man Cristiano squared for Yuta Kamiya to set up a nervy finish with only 4 minutes of normal time on the clock, but Gamba were not to be denied as they snapped a run of 4 losses on the spin to move up to 13th in the standings. 2-1 the final score and a nice, neat 2-2 on aggregate as if to illustrate just how well matched this pair were (a mere 3 points separated them at the conclusion of the 38 game J1 campaign).



Gamba Osaka

* Jinking Jiro – Swapping shirts with Bojan, tearing into experienced Samurai Blue forward Yuya Osako for his on-field conduct and earning comparisons with Akihiro Ienaga, it certainly wasn’t a quiet Golden Week for Gamba’s new Golden Boy, Jiro Nakamura. With his low centre of gravity seeing him likened to a former Nerazzurri #41, the Ao to Kuro faithful will be crossing toes, fingers and everything else in the hope that Nakamura doesn’t become the latest in a series of Gamba youth products to quickly board the plane to Europe.

* Okuno vs Saito – There was a fair bit of online heat in Japanese Gamba supporting circles over Katanosaka’s decision to select Kohei Okuno ahead of Mitsuki Saito from the start last Sunday, I have two theories as to why the decision was made. The first is simply that Saito didn’t play much during his time in Russia and the coaching staff may be concerned that certain things have been dropping off a touch in training therefore he may be at risk of picking up an injury should he rack up too many minutes on the field in too short a space of time. The second suggestion is that Saito is an up-and-at-’em type of midfielder, see his hounding and harassing of Iniesta (I don’t think the ‘Iniesta no-tackle’ rule was in effect as he got away with a couple) for proof, whereas Okuno will happily drop in between the two centre-backs and start off Gamba attacks with some neat passing which better fits with how Katanosaka wants the game to be played. With Dawhan in imperious form since arriving in the J.League, it’ll be interesting to see how the battle between Okuno and Saito shapes up in the coming weeks.

* Formation, Formation, Formation Part 1034 – I know I’ve talked about this a lot, but it’s still an unresolved issue and Yuya Fukuda’s injury has added further fuel to the fire so let’s take a brief look at it one more time. Katanosaka is known to favour a 3421, he has 3 excellent centre-backs in Miura, Shoji and Kwon, but forwards who don’t quite match what he wants to do in attack. Could the loss of Fukuda precipitate a move from the 442 utilised in the past 3 fixtures back to the 3421 system for the away tussle with Kashiwa? If I was a betting man, I’d slightly side with yes, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

* 26,490 spectators were in the house to see Gamba break their recent scoring duck in the Hanshin Derby against Kobe and this was significant as it was the biggest attendance (by some distance) at Panasonic Stadium since the start of the pandemic and just 1,218 shy of the average recorded in the 2019 season, the highest figure in the club’s history. Well done to all involved, and hopefully many of the youngsters in the crowd enjoyed their day out in the warm sunshine and will be back for more in the future. With rumours of a glamour summer friendly against Paris Saint-Germain doing the rounds, a chance to see the Japanese Messi and the real Messi sharing the same turf is sure to be the hottest ticket in town.

* After working some serious overtime against Sapporo on Wednesday it was nice to see Jun Ichimori being afforded a nice, easy Sunday afternoon against Vissel Kobe. Fortunately he was alert enough to pull off an excellent second-half block from Yoshinori Muto, though other than that the ex-Yamaguchi and Okayama stopper would have had time to crack out his Kindle and do a spot of light reading had he chosen to do so.

* I believe the post down at the south end of Panasonic Stadium is still shaking after Kwon Kyung-won’s first-half stoppage-time thunderbolt on Sunday. Also, judging by his blood curdling screams at match officials when something doesn’t go his way, I don’t think he’s someone you want to get on the wrong side of, J1 forwards take note.

* And finally to a bit of irreverence, if you haven’t already, I invite you to check out Gotoku Sakai’s reaction to Kwon Kyung-won’s opener on Sunday. The Japan international full-back initially raises his arm to appeal for offside before quickly realising it was him who played Kwon on so he decides to slide his hand down through his hair in the vain hope that no-one noticed. Too bad, I noticed and, if I’m honest, it added a little more entertainment to what was already a thoroughly pleasant afternoon for me.

Team News

**Update – on 12 May 3 more asymptomatic Covid cases were announced taking the total to 7. However, it is unclear how many of these are players and how many are coaches, physios etc.**

The club announced early evening on 11 May that 4 first team players had tested positive for Covid-19, two of whom were asymptomatic (ie hopefully ok to play Cerezo on the 21st), one had a sore throat and one had a blocked nose. This adds to the issue of the treatment room at Panasonic Stadium getting worryingly full these days with Yuya Fukuda (dislocated shoulder) the latest casualty, my best guess is we’ll next see him after the June internationals. That time-frame also applies to veterans Masaaki Higashiguchi (knee) and Shu Kurata (calf) while Takashi Usami (achilles) is likely done for the year. Elsewhere, Yuki Yamamoto (suspected lower leg issue), Ryu Takao, Hideki Ishige and Shota Fukuoka have all been absent from recent matchday squads, Katanosaka confirmed that Fukuoka had a minor injury a few weeks back, as for the others, we’re still waiting official word though they are all strongly suspected to be suffering from minor ailments.

Predicted Lineups and Stats


*Note – I selected this side prior to the Covid announcement so it may turn out to be very different in reality (also perhaps scrap that ‘it could go either way’ quote from the opening line of the article, it’s very much advantage Kashiwa at the moment).





Kashiwa Reysol

Kashiwa’s Brazilian kantoku Nelsinho came under a lot of fire last year (not least from me) over his team’s performances and indeed it was thought that it was only his legendary status within the club that kept him in a job. Fast forward to 2022 and despite suffering an achilles injury (which must be extremely tough at the age of 71) he seems to have calmed down a lot, largely settling on a 3-5-2 system plus a core group of regular starters and it appears to be having the desired effect. Being located in a known hot-bed of talent, Chiba Prefecture, it’s perhaps no surprise that Kashiwa have the highest number of ‘home-grown’ players in J1 this season (15). It’s one thing having a lot of youngsters in your squad and it’s another thing actually using them, but have a look at my predicted lineup below and you’ll see that Nelsinho hasn’t been afraid to give some of the starlets a shot at the limelight. I guess many people were sceptical about the Sunkings 2022 chances because while, for example, Douglas and Tomoya Koyamatsu were known quantities, the majority of their other winter additions, plus several of the second or third year pros in their ranks were largely unheard of outside the confines of the Hitachidai. However, a number of them have done the club proud in the early stages of the season, the likes of Kaito Mori (his double sank Hiroshima last week), Yugo Masukake (4 goals in the Levain Cup), Yuto Yamada, Fumiya Unoki and Hidetaka Maie have certainly bolstered Reysol’s first-team when called upon by their Brazilian kantoku this term while reserve goalkeeper Masato Sasaki and centre-back Hayato Tanaka haven’t got on the field yet in J1 2022, but come highly rated. Kashiwa have a relatively small core of extremely talented players, the best of whom would be, captain Taiyo Koga (I’m a long-time admirer), Dawhan’s former CS Alagoano team-mate Matheus Savio and exciting front-man Mao Hosoya. While Koga has been a solid performer over the past few season, both Savio and Hosoya have really come to the fore this campaign. Free from long-term injury and now the main creative force with Esaka, Segawa and Cristiano gone, Savio has been a revelation with his lung-bursting runs, vision and tenacity. Japan youth international Hosoya has been one of the finds of the season so far, he appears to be quicker, more composed and physically stronger than last campaign and already has 6 direct goal involvements from 12 J1 games this year (Savio has 5, Koyamatsu 4). Both Hosoya and Matheus Savio are essential components for Reysol going forward so it’s vital Gamba do their best to put the shackles on that duo if they hope to take anything away from Saturday’s game.

Team News

Big winter arrival Douglas has been out since round 4 of the season and he’s the only serious doubt I have for Reysol ahead of this game. Yuki Muto, Dodi and Fumiya Unoki have all missed the last 2 matches, however, they may just have been dropped in the wake of the 4-1 rout at the hands of Tosu. Unoki has subsequently been called into the Japan U-21 squad which suggests to me he’s fit and ready to go, if selected, though Muto bagged an assist versus Sagan in what was his return from a fairly lengthy spell on the sidelines, so it’s entirely possible he’s re-injured himself at some point.

Predicted Lineups and Stats



Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

Categories
sport

Gamba Osaka vs Kashiwa Reysol 26 September 2021 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Kashiwa Reysol
2021 J1 Season Round 30
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Sunday 26 September 2021
Kick Off: 19:00 (JST)


It’s the first leg of a crucial home double-header for Gamba this weekend as they host fellow surprise strugglers Kashiwa Reysol on Sunday night. The outcome of this game and next Saturday’s encounter with Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo will go a long way to shaping the remainder of the Nerazzurri’s campaign, a gentle stroll, or a frantic crawl while constantly keeping tabs on what’s going on lower down in the standings.

The final match to be played at Panasonic Stadium before the 5,000 supporter limit is eased pits Gamba, in fourteenth, against the side who sit just one place and three points above them in the standings. Should the Nerazzurri be able to extend the feelgood factor generated by their 4-1 midweek thrashing of Shonan Bellmare in the Emperor’s Cup and pick up any sort of victory then they’d overtake the Sunkings. Conversely, if the men from Chiba are able to leave Suita with the win then that’d shift them onto 36 points, past my working threshold of 35 to be safe this year. Worth noting too is that this Saturday, Tokushima in seventeenth (seven points adrift of Gamba) travel to Vegalta Sendai and any result in that clash will leave the Ao to Kuro needing to avoid defeat here in order to maintain or extend the gap between themselves and the drop-zone.

Those of you who tuned in to this week’s episode of the J-Talk Podcast will know I’m going to be in attendance for this one and if you haven’t had a listen already then I encourage you to do so as you’ll hear my thoughts on Gamba’s harrowing 3-1 defeat at Kashima, Reysol’s 3-0 loss at home to Hiroshima and a complete rundown of all the recent talking points in J1. It’s available on all good podcast apps (including Spotify) so do check it out.

Tale of the Tape

It’s interesting that despite the totally different paths that have led them to round 30, only 3 points separate Kashiwa and Gamba and they both possess identical goal differences (-11). Reysol have scored and conceded seven more than the Nerazzurri which I think serves as a decent indicator of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two teams.

A brief glance at the second bottom line in the middle stats table below makes pretty grim reading for anyone of a Gamba persuasion. I can have my usual dig at Kashima for ‘milking’ the shots for figures with a number of speculative efforts from distance (they scored 4 times from 45 attempts this year versus once from 51 in 2020 so something’s improved), but in this case what you see in that chart gives a pretty accurate indication of the flow of the match. Despite that, after Tiago Alves’ spot kick, Kosuke Onose almost curled in what would have been a beautiful, but wholly unmerited second near the end and at that point it seemed Antlers centre-back Ikuma Sekigawa’s over-eagerness to fly into challenges and leave his fellow defenders exposed was the most likely assist provider for the Nerazzurri.

Big improvements are expected in this match and the outcome of Wednesday’s Emperor’s Cup fourth round tie with Shonan perhaps gives some indicators as to how Gamba can earn the three points here. The Nerazzurri found themselves three up going into half-time versus a shell-shocked Bellmare, courtesy of goals in the 2nd, 26th and 42nd minutes, however, in the league it’s been a different story with early strikes and comfortable leads almost unheard of in recent matches. During their present run of just a solitary win from their last eight league fixtures, the only time the men in blue and black have held the advantage was for the final eight minutes of the 1-0 away victory over Shimizu thanks to Hiroto Yamami’s wondergoal. At home the situation has been even more dire as the Gamba faithful haven’t seen their side record a J1 victory for almost two months since the come-from-behind triumph over Oita on 27 July where Takashi Usami’s winner was essentially the last kick of the game. One draw and three defeats have followed with the Nerazzurri lacking pace and incision in attack and being forced to chase games for long periods. This has allowed opponents to expose the home side’s tiredness later on, Takuma Nishimura and Shoma Doi’s solo efforts in the previous two league outings are painful evidence of that (I know Doi’s happened in an away game, but I think the point holds up nonetheless). I’ve rambled on for longer than I cared to in this section, but my basic argument is this, Gamba must strike early and decisively against both Kashiwa on Sunday and Sapporo next week in order to grab the six points that will make the rest of 2021 so much easier.

People who’ve followed my work throughout the year will have noted the number of times I’ve criticised Kashiwa for various transgressions and I want to make it clear that I have nothing against Reysol. My harsh words are more an expression of disappointment at the unfulfilled potential I see in their ranks rather than anything malicious. The Sunkings began 2021 horribly, taking just 14 points from their first 19 outings, to leave veteran coach Nelsinho’s job hanging by a thread. However, starting with the hugely fortuitous 4-2 win at Shonan in round 20, Reysol have picked up points at the clip of an ACL contender, 19 in 10 games. Though, as we can maybe gather from their 3-0 humbling at home to Hiroshima last weekend, this upsurge in results perhaps owes more to lady luck shining on them after casting them into the shadows during the early months of the season.

I struggle to find any reasons for their improvement when poring over the stats I collect on a game-by-game basis. Looking at xG, they outscored their opposition eleven times to eight in their opening nineteen fixtures, but only won four times. In their most recent ten outings, it’s an even 5-5 in terms of xG wins and losses while the Sunkings boast a 6-1-3 record in actual on-field results. XG For per game has risen 0.08 over the past ten matches, while xG Against also increased by 0.02. Additionally, Kashiwa are taking 0.6 shots more per match, but getting 0.1 less on target and at the other end, opponents are having 0.2 more efforts at goal per 90 minutes and finding the target 0.8 times more. There’s nothing there to suggest Nelsinho’s firmly got to grips with the issues at hand, though, in his defence, he has seemingly settled on a back three formation and there’s been a bit more consistency overall in his team selections. However, recurring injuries and a bloated squad continue to hold them back, without question. I’ll revisit some of these points in the ‘Kashiwa Reysol’ section below.





Head to Head

Kashiwa earned a valuable three points, just their second win of the year, when they saw off Gamba at Hitachidai back in April. Playmaker Ataru Esaka, now at Urawa, put in an outstanding performance and Brazilian substitute Matheus Savio added urgency to the attack, but the game’s only goal came via the rather unlikely source of Reysol veteran Hidekazu Otani. Despite Kashiwa huffing-and-puffing and threatening to blow Gamba’s house down for large periods during the second half, it appeared we were heading for a stalemate until Otani’s decisive strike fourteen minutes from time left the Nerazzurri winless and goalless from their opening four fixtures.

Gamba ground out an important 2-1 win over Olunga-inspired Reysol at Panasonic Stadium last October. That match is mostly remembered for Ademilson’s stunning winner in the final minute which would sadly prove to be the Brazilian’s last goal in a Gamba uniform as he was involved in a drink-driving incident just over 24 hours later and subsequently had his contract terminated. The home side had earlier taken the lead thanks to a Kim Seung-gyu own goal resulting from an incident in which the South Korean collided with Patric inside the six-yard box. The referee opted to allow the goal to stand despite strong protests from Cristiano et al. For me it was a 50/50 call just like the decision to rule out Ryo Shinzato’s header in the Levain Cup tie back in February, one was given, one wasn’t, pretty fair on the balance of things.

Just a final comment on that League Cup match back in 2020 as it was Gamba’s last pre-pandemic home fixture and it also featured one of the best goalkeeping displays I’ve ever seen live in a stadium with the aforementioned Kim Seung-gyu denying Gamba time and again during a second-half onslaught. For the sake of parity, I’ll mention that Michael Olunga gave Kashiwa a deserved first-half lead and rattled the hosts’ crossbar late on as they ran out of steam in the aftermath of Shinzato’s disallowed effort.




Gamba Osaka


With goals, or lack of them, being a central theme to many of my Gamba related complaints this season, and in light of the Nerazzurri’s 4-1 win over Shonan plus the fact they’ve failed to score more than twice at home in the league since November 2019, I thought now would be a good time to dedicate a little space to Gamba’s Mr. Goals this year, Patric. It may surprise J.League observers to learn that the Brazilian currently has 17 strikes from 35 outings (21 starts) in all competitions in 2021. That’s a goal every 112 minutes, though unfortunately that jumps up to every 192 minutes in J1. As mentioned above, a hard and fast start is vital against Kashiwa, and Patric, in-tandem with Usami and Wellington Silva are the men who need to make that happen.

Another common theme in this column has been deliberations over Gamba’s formation. Against Kashima last Saturday a back three was once again deployed with Ryu Takao still looking rusty following his injury layoff and the recalled Shunya Suganuma appearing utterly devoid of confidence. Regardless of whether or not Gen Shoji is fit enough to play here, I have the feeling Matsunami will opt for a back four. This was the system that closed out the Antlers match and also saw off an understrength Shonan in midweek, it also allows the three gunslingers I deified above, Patric, Usami and Wellington Silva, to all make the starting eleven.

Team News


The return of the now bleach blonde Dai Tsukamoto as a second half sub against Shonan gave the Nerazzurri a welcome boost, particularly in the wake of the announcement that Leandro Pereira and Yuji Ono have picked up hamstring injuries. Captain Genta Miura’s knee problem is likely to keep him out for most of the remaining fixtures while central defensive partner Gen Shoji missed the trip to former club Kashima through what I can only translate as ‘poor physical condition.’ Unfortunately I can’t shed any more light than that, but all Gamba supporters will be praying for his swift return. Popular utility player Yuya Fukuda took to Instagram to let fans know his recovery will take a little more time, but he’s champing at the bit to make a return. Long-term absentee Haruto Shirai is back in full training following knee surgery, but is unlikely to crack the matchday squad anytime soon and backup ‘keeper Jun Ichimori (shoulder) is still out. Kosuke Onose had to be replaced by Shu Kurata in the first half of the 4-1 rout of Shonan after appearing to take a heavy knock to his leg, potentially his knee, I’m unsure as to how serious the issue is, but we probably won’t see him on Sunday.

Predicted Lineups and Stats





Kashiwa Reysol

Selecting my Gamba predicted starting lineup usually keeps me awake at night with all the chopping and changing that goes on from one game to the next, but Kashiwa give them a run for their money having used 36 players this season compared with Gamba’s 27. The 3-0 home defeat to Hiroshima makes me think there will be some alterations in addition to the injury / suspension issues that I’ll detail below. Brazilian forward Pedro Raúl who netted 3 times in 8 J1 games surprisingly departed for Juárez in Mexico on loan this week having only signed for Reysol back in March, whether it’s because of a falling out with Nelsinho, as has been rumoured in some less than reliable quarters, or due to failing to settle in Japan, remains to be seen. But, what we can say is, it’s another hammer blow to a Sunkings attack already reeling from the losses of Olunga and Esaka in the past 12 months. They are having to rely more and more on the ageing Cristiano and injury prone Yusuke Segawa and the fruits of that can be seen in their inconsistent results this year. In all honesty, come December it wouldn’t surprise me if Nelsinho goes the way of compatriot Levir Culpi (see how I managed to squeeze him into yet another match preview), a once great club manager who’s now stayed at the disco too long and needs to be put out to pasture. Any potential new coach will inherit a talented squad with a number of burgeoning talents, but also several weak areas meaning that I’m sure the coming off-season will not be a quiet one in the western part of Chiba.

Team News

Midfield hardman Richardson picked up his fourth yellow card of the season against Hiroshima and will miss this tie due to suspension. Fellow central midfielder Hidekazu Otani has been out with a shoulder injury since mid-May and is expected back soon. It’s still unknown if young centre-back Takumi Kamijima has recovered from his heavy fall in the match with Sanfrecce which caused him to be stretchered off. Versatile midfielder Hayato Nakama has been missing since 19 June while winger Ippey Shinozuka and Brazilian volante Dodi haven’t featured in the matchday squad for the past seven league outings.

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you’re supporting.