Gamba Osaka vs Yokohama F.Marinos
J1 2020 Round 22
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Wednesday 14 October 19:00 (JST)
4th placed Gamba host Yokohama F.Marinos who sit 2 places lower in the standings, 4 points worse off with an extra 3 matches played. As with our previous opponents FC Tokyo, defending J1 champions Yokohama have had their season schedule radically altered due to their participation in the Asian Champions League. As a result they’ve played every midweek since mid-August and must surely be running on fumes at the moment.
Ange Postecoglou’s side raced to a first J1 title in 15 years last season playing a breathtaking brand of attacking football which was too much for their rivals to handle. Indeed, they were the only side to beat Gamba home and away in 2019, triumphing 3-2 at Panasonic Stadium on the opening day before running out 3-1 winners at Mitsuzawa Stadium at the end of August. This year though, has been a much tougher slog for the men from Kanagawa. Their attack has actually improved, they currently average 2.01 goals per game (2nd best in J1 after Kawasaki) which is marginally up on the 2.0 in 2019. However, at the back things have gone downhill at a rate of knots. This year, they’ve already equalled the 38 goals they conceded in their title winning year, but in 10 fewer games. Additionally the 9 losses they’ve suffered this campaign is one more than they recorded in 2019.
Currently sitting in 6th place, but having played more games than everyone else in the top half with the exception of FC Tokyo, who are 7 points better off in 2nd place, Marinos face a real struggle to qualify for next year’s ACL. The challenge looks even greater when you consider that 7 of their remaining 10 J1 fixtures come against top half opponents, including all 5 teams ahead of them, 4 of those games (including this one) are away with Nagoya the only fellow ACL contender they’ll face off with at home. Let me add one more layer to this riddle if I may, consider the J1 table as it stands today (October 12th), Marinos record vs other top half teams is played 9, won 1, drawn 2, lost 6 with the only victory coming away to Kashiwa Reysol (3-1). Things have been much smoother against bottom half opposition where they’ve won 10, drawn 2 and lost 3 of their 15 games. They will desperate to improve this record on Wednesday night.
Last year I was someone who effusively praised Marinos dealings in the transfer market while contrasting them with the apparent lack of strategy on display at Gamba. Over the course of 3 transfer windows, Summer 2018, Winter 2018/2019, Summer 2019, Yokohama made a number of outstanding acquisitions of players who suited coach Ange Postecoglou’s footballing philosophy down to a tee. Centre-backs Shinnosuke Hatanaka and Thiago Martins arrived in mid-2018 and they were joined by Brazilian duo Marcos Junior and Edigar Junio, Thai full-back Theerathon and FC Ryukyu ‘keeper Park Il-gyu in the off-season. These players formed the core of last year’s title winning side while Erik and Kota Watanabe both made the move in mid-2019 and seem set to start this match, Erik being a particularly good pick up with 11 goals already this year, including 6 in his last 5 games.
Let’s contrast the paragraph above with what’s gone on in 2020. Norimichi Yamamoto, Ryuji Sugimoto and Takayuki Mae all joined from J2 sides last winter, but have all been shipped out on loan already without even making a solitary J1 appearance. Keiya Sento fared little better, playing just 3 league matches before returning to former side Kyoto on loan. The 2 players they signed from fellow J1 outfits last off-season have featured more, but haven’t really improved the team. Wide-man Kota Mizanuma has bagged an impressive 7 assists, but can’t seem to nail down a starting spot with 9 of 17 J1 appearances coming from the bench. Forward Ado Onaiwu has 3 goals and 3 assists to his name from 17 games, but he’s started just 6 times. Mid-season captures, Junior Santos (Kashiwa) and Daizen Maeda (Matsumoto), both on loan, seem to offer more hope. Santos has bagged 8 goals in his first 14 matches for the club, though it should be noted that after netting 5 in his first 4 appearances he has just 3 in the last 10 and he’s only scored once against top half opposition (Nagoya).
My final thoughts in this deep dive on Marinos are far more positive and look to the future. It’s interesting to see they’ve already tied down Juntendo University defender Ryotaro Tsunoda to a professional contract starting from 2022 and have registered him as a designated special player this year. He debuted as a substitute in their previous fixture with Oita and has been labelled the best defender in Japanese varsity soccer. Additionally, Shunsuke Hirai (DF), Ryonosuke Kabayama (MF) and Tomoki Tagawa (GK) all from Kokoku High School in Osaka have been locked down from next year, while youth team products, Riku Terakado (GK) and Keita Ueda (MF) will be promoted to the senior team in 2021. Marinos and Kashima have both been extremely active in trying to secure the next generation of talent early and with the effects of COVID-19 likely to linger for some time to come I wonder if this is a strategy we’ll see more and more teams adopt?
Now for Gamba who will be going for their 7th straight victory in this fixture. In fact their 13 victories this year to date is already more than last season (12) and 2017 (11) and only one shy of 2018 (14), though it should be noted that those were all historically poor seasons for the Nerazzurri. They are also only 6 points less than 2019’s total of 47, despite having played 13 fewer games this season, so it’s been quite the turnaround. The defence is where things have really moved forward, let’s compare Gamba with city rivals Cerezo. In 2019 the Cherry Blossoms boasted the best backline in J1, letting in just 25 strikes in their 34 matches while Gamba leaked a whopping 48. This time round both sides have identical goals against records, conceding 24 apiece. I know Cerezo have played one game more and have also squared off against Kawasaki twice (being spanked for 8 goals in 2 games) to Gamba’s once, but I think my point still stands. At home though, things must start improving as the Nerazzurri have averaged 1.3 goals against versus just 1.14 on the road. It should be noted that Gamba’s away form this year has been quite incredible and I’ll take a more in depth look at it ahead of the match with Oita on Sunday.
Head to Head
In what seemed like a lifetime ago, Gamba kicked off their 2020 J1 campaign with a surprise 2-1 win over Marinos at Nissan Stadium, Shu Kurata and Shinya Yajima taking advantage of some generous defending from the home side to bag themselves a goal and assist each before half-time. Marcos Junior pulled one back late on, but it wasn’t enough and Gamba earned a win over a side who did the double over them back in 2019.
I’ve never actually attended a Gamba home game against Marinos, but due to my past life living in Machida, I’ve seen several away contests. Yosuke Ideguchi’s masterclass in the 2-2 draw in 2016 plus Ritsu Doan supplying the finish to a flowing counter-attack which earned the Nerazzurri a hard-fought 1-0 win in 2017 are two of my personal highlights from this fixture.
No new injury worries for Gamba with Yuji Ono (knee – season) and captain Genta Miura (thigh – return unknown) the only two certain absentees. Obviously the heavy surface and physical nature of the game against FC Tokyo on Saturday will have taken a toll on the players, but I’d expect the best available eleven to start this game and maybe a touch of rotation to take place in the Oita game on Sunday.
2019 J1 MVP Teruhito Nakagawa pulled up with a hamstring injury in the match away to Kashiwa on September 27th and hasn’t been seen since. Elsewhere, regular captain Takuya Kida picked up his 4th yellow card of the season in the 4-0 win over Oita at the weekend so will have to sit this one out. Left-back Ryo Takano, who missed most of 2019 with a knee injury, was subbed off only 10 minutes into the 1-1 draw with Tosu on September 30th and has to be a major doubt for this clash.
Know Your Opponent – Yokohama F.Marinos
*Please note this will be the last time I use this feature this year as I’ve now covered every team.
Kantoku: Ange Postecoglou
Appointed: 1st February 2018
League Record: P 92 W 45 D 13 L 34 F 174 A 132 Points Per Game 1.61 Clean Sheets 22 Games Without Scoring 11
GK #1 Park Il-gyu – The former Fujieda MYFC ‘keeper enjoyed a meteoric rise, winning J3 with FC Ryukyu in 2018 before landing the J1 title with Marinos the following year. He’s suffered a couple of injuries this season which have opened the door for Yuji Kajikawa, however, I believe he is still Ange’s number one when fit.
RB #25 Ryuta Koike – Ex-Renofa Yamaguchi and Kashiwa Reysol full-back who joined from Lokeren in Belgium this summer. Has generally rotated with the more experienced Ken Matsubara, as Matsubara played against his former club Oita at the weekend I’m expecting Koike to start here.
RCB #13 Thiago Martins – Has been first choice at the heart of the Marinos central defence since joining from Palmeiras midway through Ange Postecoglou’s first year in Kanagawa. Missed only one game in last season’s title winning run and formed an excellent partnership with the man just below.
LCB #44 Shinnosuke Hatanaka – One of many talented players to come through the ranks at Tokyo Verdy, Hatanaka came to the club in the same transfer window as Thiago, but initially had to bide his time behind Serbian, Dusan. An ever present last time out, Hatanaka has also established himself in Hajime Moriyasu’s national team squad, winning 7 caps to date.
LB #5 Theerathon Bunmathan – Popular Thai full-back who netted the opener in Marinos 3-1 home win over Gamba last year with a deflected effort and also repeated the same trick in the title-winning victory over FC Tokyo in round 34. Made his first foray into Japanese football with Vissel Kobe in 2018, but their loss was certainly Marinos gain and with Ryo Takano out injured he is the undisputed first choice for Postecoglou.
RCM #6 Takahiro Ogihara – Likely stand-in skipper in the absence of Takuya Kida, Cerezo youth product Ogihara was one of the first names on the team sheet last season, but has been used off the bench more frequently this year.
LCM #26 Kota Watanabe – Like Hatanaka, Watanabe made the short journey to Kanagawa from Tokyo Verdy. The diminutive central midfielder initially had to make do with substitute appearances, but recently has begun to be entrusted with a starting berth. He bagged his first J1 goal and assist in the 4-3 win at Shimizu in August.
RW #17 Erik – The man in form with 6 strikes in his last 5 games including a pair of near identical goals off the bench against Oita last Saturday. He joined as a replacement for the injured Edigar Junio midway through last season and quickly endeared himself to the Marinos faithful with 8 goals in his first 12 league appearances. He started a little more slowly this year, but is now the club’s joint top scorer alongside the man below.
AM #9 Marcos Junior – One of the best signings made by a J1 club in recent years, Marcos Junior finished as the league’s joint top scorer alongside team-mate Teruhito Nakagawa in his debut season last year, he also added a J1 winners medal and earned a place in the J1 Best Eleven. This time out, despite Marinos performing poorer as a whole, he’s on track to beat last season’s goalscoring total of 15 having already slammed home 11 strikes in 21 matches including one in the opening day defeat by Gamba.
LW #38 Daizen Maeda – Mid-season pick up on loan from J2 outfit Matsumoto Yamaga having spent the previous year with Maritimo in Portugal. Possesses electric pace and has earned international honours, though doubts persist about his ability to perform consistently at this level.
CF #45 Ado Onaiwu – Marinos were surprisingly able to lure him away from Urawa last Winter following his successful loan spell at Oita Trinita. I thought his signing would be a real coup for Yokohama, but things haven’t really gone his way. His shooting boots deserted him against Gamba in round 1 and haven’t really come back since.
Other Options – Owing to their horrendous fixture pile-up Marinos have experimented with several different formations and a multitude of players, the ones selected above are merely those who I think are the best available for this fixture. Yuji Kajikawa, the only off-season signing from J2 who has made any real impact on the starting line-up could keep his place ahead of the fit again Park. Ken Matsubara is an experienced option at right-back while ex-Mito centre-back Makito Ito endured a tough afternoon against Gamba in February, but could deputise for either Thiago or Hatanaka. In midfield, former club captain Jun Amano is now back from a loan spell in Belgium, former Tosu, FC Toyko and Cerezo winger Kota Mizanuma is a key provider of assists and rookie Eitaro Matsuda has looked to be an exciting prospect since returning from a loan at Sagamihara. Postecoglou seems to rate Takuya Wada’s versatility as he can operate in either full-back position or as a holding midfielder. In attack, Edigar Junio has yet to get back to his best since returning from injury and Junior Santos is a bull of a forward who possesses both power and pace.
Predicted Line Ups
A really tough one to call as on their day the defending champions can turn anyone over, but this year they’ve generally come up short against top half opponents. Gamba’s improved defence will be confident of stifling the dangerous Brazilians in the Marinos ranks. I’ll say we’ll have a repeat of the scoreline from the opening day with Gamba bagging a 2-1 win despite our visitors dominating all stats with the exception of the scoreboard.