Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo vs Gamba Osaka
2022 J1 Season Round 18
Sunday 26 June 2022
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)
It’s crunch time at the Sapporo Dome this Sunday afternoon as Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Gamba Osaka look to snap 3 match losing runs and put an end to their respective slides down the J1 standings. Gamba slumped to a 4th home defeat of the year against table-toppers Yokohama F. Marinos last Saturday, and while the outcome itself was perhaps unsurprising, worryingly for Tomohiro Katanosaka and the Nerazzurri support it was the 2nd time in the space of 3 matches where opponents have come from behind to defeat the Ao to Kuro, something that happened just once across the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Gamba currently sit in 15th and Sunday’s hosts are 4 places and a mere 3 points ahead of them following a wretched run of results. Most recently they were thrashed 5-2 by Kawasaki Frontale at the Todoroki Stadium and they’ve now conceded 15 goals in their last 3 J1 outings. Long-serving kantoku Mischa Petrović’s position is coming under increasing pressure and he will be desperate to secure the 3 points here. These two sides combined for an xG of 4.73, but somehow drew 0-0 in Suita during Golden Week, and with this clash, unlike the 2020 and 2021 encounters, being played at the Sapporo Dome rather than the wind-swept, bumpy Atsubetsu Stadium, we should be in for an open game of football and hopefully plenty of goals.
Tale of the Tape
Before I start out this section I’d like to give a shout out to @R_by_Ryo for his excellent 2022 Mid-Season Review which includes a mind-blowing array of stats and information on all 18 J1 clubs, please check it out if you haven’t already.
For Gamba supporters, a one goal home defeat to Yokohama F. Marinos certainly has an air of familiarity about it as it’s now occurred on 5 of the 7 occasions the Kanagawa giants have visited the possibly cursed Panasonic Stadium on league business since it was opened in 2016 (has anyone checked it’s not built on an ancient burial site or anything?) Anyway, as usual when you play Marinos their open style gives you the chance to dazzle on occasions, but also to be completely overwhelmed on others. Quite impressively the Nerazzurri outran their guests from Kanto, completing 2.3 km more as a team and performing 26 more sprints. Both distance covered (120.3 km) and sprinting (204) numbers were season bests for the Ao to Kuro by 1.4 km and 4 respectively. However, on a hot early summer evening they ran out of steam and were unable to go the distance largely due to the efforts they put in during the first 45 minutes (Katanosaka said in his post-match comments that this first-half will serve as the blueprint for the way he wants Gamba to play from now on). Having been outshot a mere 8-7 (xG 1.1-0.5 in Marinos favour) in the opening stanza, after the break Marinos recorded 14 efforts on goal to Gamba’s 5 and outranked them in xG 1.3-0.64. It’s not so much that Marinos created loads of high quality chances for themselves, but as we saw in last week’s stats review, they have an above average attack and if they manage to get the ball in and around an opponent’s box for significant periods of time then they are going to score, no question about it.
Individually 3 players in blue and black stood out positively for me on Saturday. Firstly, goal-scorer Dawhan, who was the Nerazzurri’s leading shot taker on the night with 4 and is now joint top of the club’s scoring charts (tied with Onose on 3). Hiroto Yamami also shone brightly, especially in the first half, his evening’s work included 2 shots, 3 last passes, 3 crosses and 4 possession recoveries and he seems to be starting to find his feet at this level. Additionally, my choice for player of the first half of the season, Kosuke Onose, had a quietly effective evening in attack and defence, chalking up 2 shots, 2 last passes, 5 blocks and 4 possession recoveries.
The final point I wanted to make here is an extension of something I’ve been saying for multiple seasons now, constant tinkering with a team’s shape, especially at the back, leads you nowhere. Now, thanks to the first table you see below, I have the numbers to back up my comments. In 16 league matches so far, Gamba have started with a back 3 on 6 occasions compared to 10 back 4s, and that’s not to mention the numerous times things have been switched up on the fly mid-game or in cup competitions. There have also been 8 changes of formation between consecutive league matches, which in my book is just way, way too many, and it’s something that’s going to need to be addressed if the Ao to Kuro are to dig themselves out of the hole they’re presently in.
Honestly, Sapporo’s results and performances across the first half of the season have defied reason and logic to such an extent that I’m just going to opt for a descriptive rather than a prescriptive approach for the majority of this ‘analysis.’ After drawing their opening 6 games, they were then spanked 5-0 away at Tosu, who prior to that had scored just 3 times in 6 J1 matches (please never change J League), before embarking on a run of 5 consecutive clean sheets which included their trip to Panasonic Stadium in Golden Week. However, starting from the 4-1 drubbing at Kashima on 14 May, Mischa Petrović’s charges have let in a staggering 20 goals in 5 games, conceding 4 or more in 4 of those bouts, and currently boast the league’s most porous backline, 5 clear of nearest challengers Júbilo Iwata. Shots for and against numbers are pretty even, however, Consadole’s xG against is significantly higher than xG for suggesting that opponents are creating far better chances than they are, most likely through counter-attacking opportunities, especially when Sapporo are chasing a game and Petrović alters the strategy from all-out attack to ultra all-out attack. To make matters worse for the Rossoneri, not only has the defence leaked badly, but their injury-plagued attack has misfired too. The likes of Chanathip and Jay haven’t been adequately replaced, while Koroki and Ogashiwa’s fitness issues certainly haven’t helped either as this has led to a square pegs in round holes situation with the likes of Gabriel Xavier, Arano and Kaneko forced to become auxiliary centre-forwards. I’m a long-term admirer of Takuro Kaneko, but unfortunately the leading dribbler and crosser in J1 2021 has been shunted about between wing-back, shadow forward and central attacker which has greatly affected his output. He’s now down to 3rd in the dribbling rankings, level with his mercurial team-mate Lucas Fernandes, and doesn’t even rank 1st at Consadole in the crossing metric with Fernandes registering 14 more during the first half of the year (Kaneko’s currently listed as 20th in the league). With that said, Kaneko remains a threat with the most through balls played out of everyone in the Rossoneri squad while also creating the second highest number of chances. He’s definitely still someone that Tomohiro Katanosaka and the Gamba defence will have to keep a close eye on come Sunday.
First Match Recap
We’re less than 2 months on from the first meeting of the year between these two sides so I’ll be mercifully brief in here. The 0-0 scoreline at Panasonic Stadium doesn’t really tell the whole story of that game as Sapporo hit the post and had Yoshiaki Komai tread on the ball and somehow fail to score from the Gamba goal-line all within the first minute of the contest. Things got even more frustrating for Consadole at the end of the opening period when Gabriel Xavier’s penalty was brilliantly saved by Jun Ichimori after Kwon Kyung-won had been slightly harshly adjudged to have brought down Hiroki Miyazawa. The Rossoneri spent the majority of the second period on the front foot, but were wasteful in the attacking third and almost paid the ultimate price for their sloppiness in the final quarter when the Nerazzurri’s Brazilian duo Patric and Wellington Silva spurned presentable openings. However, a hot and sunny Golden Week encounter somehow finished up 0-0.
Yokohama F. Marinos game wrap – I know I delved into this a touch in ‘tale of the tape’ above, but there were a couple of extra points I wanted to make. Firstly, was the feeling of inevitability that swept the stadium in the wake of Marinos going 2-1 in front, the apparent lack of belief among the Gamba players radiated out to all those of a blue and black persuasion and that was a real concern for me. With that said, Marinos’ keeper Yohei Takaoka did have to be at his best to earn his side the 3 points, just as he did in the corresponding fixture last season, with a couple of excellent stops, 1 in each half, so, while Gamba were thoroughly outplayed in the second period, it wasn’t quite all doom and gloom. Finally, some words of praise for the referee, Akihiro Ikeuchi for sticking with his on-field decision of no-penalty against Mitsuki Saito even when summoned to the VAR booth for a look. This is the first time, excluding when VAR cocked-up by forgetting to check a clear offside in the Gamba vs Sendai game last season, where I can remember a referee refusing to overturn a decision, for or against Gamba, after being called over to the TV monitor.
The ‘R’ Word – In the wake of Ange Postecoglou leading Celtic to the title in his first campaign in charge, I heard the season before his arrival being referred to as ‘a disaster’ and not by Celtic sources, this was the mainstream media I’m talking about. For anyone unfamiliar with the situation, they finished 2nd in 2020/21. Similarly, Gary Neville described the current Manchester United team as ‘the worst since the 1970s’ after finishing 6th in 2021/22 (I’m sure they ended up 7th the year after Fergie left), however, in Japan’s top flight, a season which can be described as ‘a disaster’ or ‘the worst ever’ leads you to J2. So, with that meandering ramble off my chest, now to my question, is Gamba’s annus horribilis of 2012 destined to repeat itself in 2022 and will this World Cup year culminate in relegation for the blue and blacks? Reasons pointing towards ‘yes’ would be, the Nerazzurri’s current form and league position trajectory, the lack of a clear shape or identity, front office recruitment issues, poor defending and constant injuries (I’m sorry this has been going on for so long that it has to be concluded that Gamba are doing something worse than the rest of the league / the rest of the league are doing something better than Gamba – word it as you please). Signs in favour of ‘no’ might be the upcoming summer transfer window, their game in hand and closeness to mid-table, experience in digging themselves out of a hole 12 months ago, and there being enough (though maybe only just enough) weaker teams in the league to finish below them. Which route will the Nerazzurri’s season take from here on? It’s impossible to say at this stage.
Transfer News and Gossip – With the J. League transfer window opening on 15 July and Gamba in dire need of re-enforcements I thought it would be a good time to run through some rumours. Football Tribe reported that Gamba and Fukuoka have dropped out of the race for highly rated Brazilian attacker Ademir (Atlético Mineiro) due to his hefty price-tag (he’s valued at €4.5 million on Transfermarkt). The article also suggested that S-Pulse could still be in the hunt as new kantoku Ze Ricardo seeks to re-shape his squad. He seems set to offload some of his current foreign talents, and the Nerazzurri could be tempted to make a move for someone like Carlinhos Junior or even the recently arrived Oh Se-hun (but that’s purely my speculation). There does seem to be something behind rumours linking Ryotaro Meshino with a return to Panasonic Stadium after 3 indifferent years in Europe and Gamba are also one of a number of clubs credited with an interest in Japan international forward Musashi Suzuki, who is crucially on record as saying he wants to go somewhere that he’ll play regularly, which may put the Ao to Kuro ahead of Kobe and Urawa in the pecking order for his services (then again this could just be wishful thinking on my part). In terms of departures, it’s being reported in South Korea that back-up left-back Shin Won-ho will join Suwon Samsung Bluewings on a 6-month loan while there are strong rumours that out-of-favour volante Ju Se-jong will also return to his homeland, though his future destination is unclear at the moment.
Emperor’s Cup Wrap – Gamba overcame a sluggish first-half performance (no efforts on goal) to see off Tomohiro Katanosaka’s former side Oita Trinita 3-1 at the Showa Denko Dome on Wednesday night. A beautiful dribble and dink from Hiroto Yamami following Shu Kurata’s defence splitting pass drew the Nerazzurri level after ex-Gamba forward (and fellow Kwansei Gakuin alumni) Hiroto Goya had given the hosts the lead with an early spot kick (the second time this season Yota Sato has given away a penalty at the same venue – the other being in the Levain Cup). Speaking of the Levain Cup, the Ao to Kuro will now face another of their group stage rivals, Kashima, away in the next round of this competition thanks to a late brace from Patric. The Brazilian’s first coming via a back post header, where he leapt to meet Shota Fukuoka’s cross superbly, and the second being dispatched from the penalty spot in the 89th minute. With the likes of Kawasaki, Marinos, Urawa, FC Tokyo and Sapporo all bowing out to J2 opposition on the same night, I think it’s safe to say this tie was a bullet dodged and it’s mission accomplished for Katanosaka and co.
The following players are doubts for this fixture and / or have an important status announcement regarding their availability.
GK Jun Ichimori – 2 dislocated fingers in right-hand, expected back September at the earliest
DF Keisuke Kurokawa – Missed last Saturday’s loss to Marinos and the Emperor’s Cup victory over Oita in midweek, no reason given for his absence which remains a mystery at the moment
DF Kwon Kyung-won – 1 match suspension for red card picked up against Yokohama F. Marinos
MF Yuya Fukuda – Underwent shoulder surgery in late May, expected back mid-August at the earliest
MF Yuki Yamamoto – Injured knee cartilage in late May, expected back in Autumn at the earliest
FW Takashi Usami – Ruptured achilles tendon, most likely out for the season
Predicted Lineups and Stats
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
Interestingly, in the wake of Sapporo’s 5-2 defeat at the hands of defending champions Kawasaki last weekend, former player, from 2017-2021, Jay Bothroyd took to Twitter to criticise the current stagnation at the club and cited the 4th place finish achieved in Mischa Petrović’s first year in charge back in 2018 as the target for all future campaigns. Those comments got me wondering, does that 2018 season hang over the current Sapporo squad like the Sword of Damocles? As an outside observer, I would point out that since entering the J.League back in 1998, Consadole have spent 13 seasons in J2 compared with 11 in the top flight and their current run of 6 consecutive campaigns in J1 is by far and away the best in their history. They’ve never finished lower than 12th during that time and despite recent poor results they’re still 11th this term. With no real investment to bring in big-name talents in their prime, is it realistic to expect a team, that largely has to make do with shaping and molding talents from their youth system and varsity football into a cohesive footballing unit, to perform any better than they’ve been doing of late? I’d argue no, but as sporting fandom is as much a part of the heart, as it is the brain, I’m sure there will be others who disagree. Looking into the near future, it’s clear that Consadole need more attacking weapons to allow them to move up the standings. Having failed to adequately replace Chanathip when he departed for Kawasaki last winter they have now announced that his compatriot Supachok Sarachat will arrive on loan from Buriram United next month. If he can enjoy even half the success of his countryman then that would serve as a real fillip for Sapporo. Veteran forward Shinzo Koroki is now finally fit again, he could be the answer to their goal-scoring problems, though rapidly approaching his 36th birthday, it’s probably best if they don’t rely on him too greatly and instead look to bring in a new attacker this summer. There is increasing pressure on Petrović’s position, but with Consadole still ensconced in mid-table, 4 points above the drop-zone, getting rid of him and radically altering their playing style is probably a risk too great to contemplate at this very moment, though it is definitely a situation to keep your eye on, particularly if they continue to cede goals by the bucket load.
The following players are doubts for this fixture and / or have an important status announcement regarding their availability.
GK Takanori Sugeno – Calf injury, last played 14 May, has partially resumed training
MF Lucas Fernandes – Missed last week’s loss to Kawasaki and the midweek cup tie with Kofu, reason unknown
MF Tomoki Takamine – Hamstring injury, last played 14 May, return date unknown
FW Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa – Hamstring injury, last played 29 April which was a failed attempt at a comeback, currently unclear when he’ll be back
FW Gabriel Xavier – Was subbed off in the first half of the home loss to Ventforet Kofu in the Emperor’s Cup on Wednesday night, his participation here has to be in some doubt.
Predicted Lineups and Stats
Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.