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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.

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J1 2022 Predicted Lineups

Happy New Year everyone! This is my first post of 2022 and following on from the previous two seasons I’ve decided to put together a J1 predicted lineups article to get the ball rolling. Hope you all enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Also a quick reminder that you can find the 2022 squad lists screenshotted below in this Excel document.

And, be sure to check out @Michael_Master on Twitter if you haven’t already, the one and only account you need to follow to keep up to date with J. League transfers.

The Guide

Teams are listed below in the order they finished the 2021 campaign and each club’s mini-section contains the following information.

Best Signing – This won’t necessarily be objectively the best player the team have signed over the winter, more the one I feel addresses the most pressing need in the squad, for example, spoiler alert, I selected Kim Min-tae over both Yuta Higuchi and Yuma Suzuki in this category at Kashima.

Biggest Loss – Basically the opposite of best signing.

One to Watch – Again it might not be the best player in the squad or the one most likely to join a European club in the summer, rather someone whose good, bad or up-and-down form will set the tone for his team’s entire campaign.

Doubtful – Players who due to either injuries carried over from 2021, immigration issues or, in the case of a certain Polish striker at Nagoya, potential doping violations, might not be available for selection in the opening months of 2022.

Notes – Me trying to work out what direction the team is heading in this year.

Predicted Lineups

A few caveats here,

* For simplicity’s sake I’ve assumed every contracted player to be fit and available for selection when choosing these best elevens.
* These are not meant to be seen as the predicted starting lineup for round 1, think of them more as the players who will feature most across the course of the year (obviously new signings will be made in the summer, but unfortunately I’m not in possession of a crystal ball to make forecasts that far in advance).
* In cases where numerous players may see significant minutes in a certain position I’ve listed alternatives below the main choice (players may appear as alternatives for more than one role, see Satoshi Tanaka or Takuro Kaneko for examples). I also hope this illustrates where certain clubs have perhaps overstocked in one area of the field while neglecting others. Where two alternatives are listed, the name on the left is the one I consider to be higher on the team’s depth chart.
* I think I said this last year, but I’ll repeat myself anyway, expect the lineups for teams that have kept the same coach and most of the same playing staff as 2021 (Kawasaki) to be more accurate than those that have seen multiple changes in management and on-field personnel (Tosu).
* I have done a great deal of research to get these lineups as accurate as I can to the best of my knowledge, but full disclosure, I’ve also acted on some hunches and taken a punt on some lesser known talents (I guess there wouldn’t be much point reading this article if I just stated the obvious). Players coming from university sides directly into professional starting elevens is one of the unique selling points of football in this part of the world versus, say Europe, and it can be immensely tricky trying to project how each year’s batch of fresh-faced graduates will do, especially when data about their positions and skill-sets is hard to come by and the little information you can find seems to show them playing in a position that doesn’t appear to exist at the club they are joining (for example a wide midfielder in a university side that plays 4-4-2 moving to a J1 team that operates a 3-4-2-1, will they be a wing-back or inside forward?). I’m guessing these are the kind of choices that might generate the greatest debate, so please cut me some slack, I like to use data, but several players below have made the grade based largely on gut instinct developed over a decade watching the J. League.

Well, with all that out the way let’s move on and take a look at each of the 2022 J1 sides one by one, shall we? Again I look forward to hearing feedback (good natured I hope) from fans of all teams, followers of the league in general or just casual passers by, you’re all welcome. While I’m confident you’ll agree with some of the points below, I’m also sure there will be many choices and opinions that people will disagree with, and that’s all fine, it’s why we love the beautiful game so much, right?

Kawasaki Frontale

Best Signing: Chanathip – Had plateaued a little up in Sapporo, but a move to the champions should work out well for him and Frontale.
Biggest Loss: Reo Hatate – Basically by default as he was the only top teamer to leave. Perhaps the most frightening thing for the rest of the league is the amount of depth Kawasaki still have in midfield despite losing Hatate, Mitoma, Morita and Tanaka in the last 12 months.
One to Watch: Leandro Damião – Imperious in 2021 and the deserved recipient of the league’s MVP award, could a slight slip back from those grandiose heights offer a glimmer of hope to the chasing pack?
Doubtful: Jesiel (injury)
Notes: It’s Toru Oniki’s 6th campaign at the helm and once again Frontale start as the team to beat. Assuming Jesiel’s injury or the ageing of the forward line doesn’t adversely affect them too much, they are extremely well placed to fight off challenges from Marinos, Kobe, Kashima and Urawa to three-peat for the first time in their history.




Yokohama F. Marinos

Best Signing: Katsuya Nagato – By no means the most glamorous transfer of the winter, but Nagato who, don’t forget, led the league for assists with Sendai back in 2019 looks like he could thrive in Marinos’ system and help their fans quickly get over the loss of Theerathon.
Biggest Loss: Daizen Maeda – Only joined Celtic on an initial six-month loan deal, I don’t really see this happening, but if things turn sour in Glasgow, a sharp return to Yokohama in the summer would do wonders for Marinos’ title aspirations.
One to Watch: Marcos Junior – Goals-wise he’s dropped year-on-year since coming into the league in 2019, but he still remains pivotal to Marinos’ hopes and how well he adapts to Muscat’s game plan will be of critical importance to the team’s chances this season.
Doubtful: Shinnosuke Hatanaka (injury)
Notes: It’s all about Muscat for me, his appointment struck me as slightly strange at the time and even more so now that I’ve had time to digest it. Was he the best person to carry on Ange-ball? No (that guy is coaching Yamagata at the moment). If a desire to carry on the Ange-ball system wasn’t a pre-requisite for getting the job was he the best available candidate? Again, probably not. Despite that, I’m open minded as to what he can achieve given the time and space to put his own mark on the team. I’d argue that this squad is slightly weaker than 12 months ago, however, there is still plenty of talent onboard and top 4 should be a minimum expectation.

Additional Note: Anderson Lopes has been heavily linked with a move to Marinos. I’m unsure about his visa status or who would win out in a duel between him and Léo Ceará to be the main centre-forward.




Vissel Kobe

Best Signing: Tomoaki Makino – Vissel need an experienced head at the back to guide Kikuchi and Kobayashi along and although I’m sure it’ll seem strange at first seeing him in a darker shade of red, he should prove valuable on and off the field in the port city.
Biggest Loss: Thomas Vermaelen – Played more than I expected him to across his 2 ½ years in the league and no doubt passed on a trick or three to his younger protégés.
One to Watch: Yoshinori Muto – Was the dominant partner as he and Yuya Osako amassed a combined 9 goals and 11 assists in 23 appearances at the back end of 2021. More of that this term and Vissel will very much be in the title conversation.
Doubtful: Bojan Krkić (injury)
Notes: Things have never looked better in Kobe, a balanced and settled squad, a competent manager and Hiroshi Mikitani largely leaving the football decisions to football people. We may see some tinkering with the midfield shape, but regardless of what system Miura adopts there’s no reason to suggest Vissel won’t be there or thereabouts at the business end of the year.




Kashima Antlers

Best Signing: Kim Min-tae – Three of last year’s back four have moved on and Kim’s star is burning brightly following an impressive spell filling in for the injured Yuichi Maruyama at Nagoya. His experience alongside the talented, but erratic, Ikuma Sekigawa will be invaluable.
Biggest Loss: Koki Machida – Perhaps not much of a shock as he’d been linked with European clubs in the previous 2-3 windows so Antlers should have planned his succession accordingly.
One to Watch: Diego Pituca – A shining light once he was finally allowed into the country last year, the box-to-box midfielder should be a genuine J1 Best Eleven contender this term.
Doubtful: Shintaro Nago (injury), Kantoku René Weiler (Visa)
Notes: New kantoku René Weiler has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in attack and must be relishing the prospect of moulding them into a cohesive unit once he eventually makes it to the land of the rising sun. At the back the situation is a little less rosy, but should the attack-minded Weiler get things to gel, the Ibaraki side are not hindered by ACL involvement like their rivals and this could set them on a course towards a first title since 2016.




Nagoya Grampus

Best Signing: Keiya Sento – Played in a role for Tosu that doesn’t really exist in the current Grampus set-up, but to me he projects as Naoki Maeda’s replacement and should prove to be a gem of a signing.
Biggest Loss: Takuji Yonemoto – One of the surprise moves of the winter in my book, he left FC Tokyo after one season of working with Kenta Hasegawa, did they have prior beef?
One to Watch: Mateus Castro – Those of a Grampus persuasion will hope that the enigmatic Brazilian has gotten over the slump in form he experienced in the second half of 2021, as well as those Kawasaki transfer rumours, and will bounce back ready to lead the charge towards an ACL place.
Doubtful: Jakub Świerczok (PED Violation)
Notes: If I was a Nagoya fan would I have wanted to wake up to the news that Kenta Hasegawa was replacing Massimo Ficcadenti? No, but I’ll add that he’s nowhere near as bad as some FC Tokyo fans might have you believe. After winning silverware in each of his first 3 years at Gamba, he took an FC Tokyo side that had only achieved a single top 6 J1 finish in the 8 years prior to his appointment to 3 consecutive top 6 placings. Granted, the wheels came off spectacularly in his final seasons at both clubs, but I still maintain he’s a reasonably safe pair of hands until the Grampus hierarchy decide which direction they want the club to take next.




Urawa Red Diamonds

Best Signing: David Moberg Karlsson – Possibly the only player in the history of football to represent both Kilmarnock and Urawa which means that everything inside me should want him to fail, but I actually think this could be quite an astute piece of business by Reds.
Biggest Loss: Tomoaki Makino – Kind of wins this by default as Urawa didn’t lose any real nailed-on 2021 starters in the off-season, only Yuruki and Tanaka ran him close for this award.
One to Watch: Kasper Junker – 7 goals in his first 6 J1 appearances and just 2 in 11 after that as injuries struck. If a full pre-season schedule gets him back up to speed then J1 look out.
Doubtful: Ayumu Ohata (injury), David Moberg Karlsson (Visa)
Notes: When I wrote my Scouting J1 and Scouting J2 articles last autumn I never envisaged that Urawa and Cerezo would be the 2 teams to sign the most players from those lists, but there you go, hats off to both clubs. Reds have added a dizzying array of stars to an already strong looking squad and if they can find a way to get everyone pulling in the same direction then they appear well set to challenge domestically and in Asia.




Sagan Tosu

Best Signing: Naoyuki Fujita – Still very much good enough to play for Cerezo, but probably rightly moved on due to the ageing issues at the club. A return to his first pro side seems a logical next step and he’ll have a big part to play assisting the development of the bountiful young talent on the books at Tosu.
Biggest Loss: Yuta Higuchi – Plenty of competition for this award, but I’m still drowning my sorrows over Higuchi rejecting Gamba for Kashima and have to nominate him here.
One to Watch: Yuki Kakita – Finished 2021 with something of a bang, netting 5 times in 8 outings for a Tokushima side that struggled to create clear-cut openings. Has his old Vortis team-mate Miyashiro with him too and looks to be the ideal replacement for Keita Yamashita.
Notes: Let’s focus on the positives, the goalkeeper, defence and wing-backs are basically unchanged from 2021 (Ayumu Ohata excluded) and in attack, if I can quote Moneyball, they’ve realised they can’t directly replace departed stars like Higuchi, Sento, Koyamatsu and Yamashita, but they can re-create them in the aggregate. If the injury-prone Yuji Ono, high school wizzkids turned pro-level letdowns Jun Nishikawa and Yuto Iwasaki or any of their 6 recruits from varsity football enjoy a standout year then a mid-table finish isn’t out of the question.




Avispa Fukuoka

Best Signing: Lukian – This deal came as something of a bolt from the blue to me and the addition of J2’s top scorer from 2021 adds real impetus to an Avispa attack that will be looking to move up through the gears this year.
Biggest Loss: Emil Salomonsson – Will be a big loss both on and off the field. He must have found it tough with basically 2/3 of his time in Japan falling during the Coronavirus pandemic so it’s hard to begrudge him a move back home.
One to Watch: Tatsuya Tanaka – Back in his native Kyushu, big things will be expected of the versatile wide-man. This was an area where Avispa needed an upgrade and it looks like they’ve found one in the former Gamba, Oita and Urawa speedster.
Notes: I like what they’ve done in the transfer window, I like it a lot. There’s not one signing they’ve made that I haven’t liked, keeping Hasebe and Mae on board is massive too. After all those niceties I will add the qualifier that although on paper this year’s squad looks stronger than last year’s by a bigger margin than last year’s did than 2020’s (still with me?), it might not necessarily translate into them finishing any higher up in the standings. Though I guess having spent so much of their recent history in J2, the Avispa faithful won’t complain about another upper mid-table placing in 2022.




FC Tokyo

Best Signing: Jakub Słowik – Most J1 transfers have some sort of doubt hanging over them, player stepping up a level, poor previous season, injury prone, might not fit the system etc…none of these apply to Słowik, a clear upgrade on what was there before and questions marks over his distribution should only form a minor concern given the quality of the rest of his game.
Biggest Loss: Joan Oumari – Despite apparently only re-signing to cover until Bruno Uvini could get into the country, the Lebanese international had a decent second year in the capital.
One to Watch: Leandro – He and Hasegawa didn’t see eye to eye, that much is clear, if he and Puig butt heads then I’m not sure he’ll have too many backers left in the FC Tokyo support. A brilliant match-winner on his day, we all know what he can be when it’s not, for FC Tokyo and the league’s sake let’s hope the former, not the latter version rocks up in 2022.
Doubtful: Kashif Bangnagande, Sodai Hasukawa, Akihiro Hayashi (injury)
Notes: Far more change off the field than on it with Mixi taking over as the majority shareholder and Albert Puig moving into the managerial hotseat following a 2-year spell with Niigata. From the outside it appears that any kind of on-field improvement will need to be driven by a kantoku who has a beautiful philosophy on how the game should be played, but never really managed to translate that into meaningful results at Albirex, save for a magical 13 game run at the start of last season. A transitional campaign, give the manager time, yikes I’m using up all the clichés I had saved for the Gamba section several entries below.




Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Best Signing: Gabriel Xavier – An unexpected, but potentially excellent ready-made replacement for Chanathip…as long as his performances don’t go on to show that Massimo Ficcadenti knows rather more about football management than all of us armchair pundits.
Biggest Loss: Chanathip – 2021 was another injury-hit campaign for the Thai superstar, though he did bow out on a high with 3 assists in his last 2 matches. Things had gone a touch stale for him in Sapporo, but he’ll surely be fondly remembered in those parts for years to come.
One to Watch: Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa – I’ll admit I’m highly sceptical of the €700,000 move to Hearts rumours, but the pacy forward has certainly caught the eye of national team coach Hajime Moriyasu and in his second year as a pro will be expected to shoulder a greater burden of Consadole’s attacking hopes.
Doubtful: Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa (injury)
Notes: The winds of change haven’t been blowing too strongly up in Sapporo with minimal transfer business being conducted. GX10 (will he change his name to GX18?) and Koroki are the only 2 senior signings, but given how they’ve worked the varsity market in recent years, I wouldn’t bet against Sora Igawa (Tsukuba Univ.) and Hiromu Tanaka (Rissho Univ.) turning out to be pretty handy.




Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Best Signing: Taishi Semba – The Ryutsu Keizai University graduate says he’s looked up to Toshihiro Aoyama for a number of years and if all goes according to plan he could well be the one to take over the legendary Sanfrecce midfield maestro’s spot in the not too distant future.
Biggest Loss: Kodai Dohi – Failed to build on a promising 2020 due to a succession of injuries, but a loan spell with Mito is absolutely the right move to resuscitate his career.
One to Watch: Junior Santos – If the 2020 Yokohama F. Marinos version of Junior Santos turns up this year then it’ll be as good as a new signing for the three arrows.
Doubtful: Tsukasa Morishima, Yoichi Naganuma, Douglas Vieira (injury), Kantoku Michael Skibbe (Visa)
Notes: After pleading poverty for much of last year, the additions of Tsukasa Shiotani and Michael Skibbe following spells in the Middle East indicate that there is money available if they choose to use it. Skibbe’s delayed arrival has thrown an unwelcome spanner in the works, though he is fortunate to have a settled squad at his disposal, albeit one that largely underperformed relative to their game-by-game stats in 2021.




Cerezo Osaka

Best Signing: Jean Patric – I must admit I don’t know a whole lot about him, but he appears to have a decent pedigree and fills a spot that really needed an upgrade as a result of the person I’ll talk about below departing.
Biggest Loss: Tatsuhiro Sakamoto – A fine player who slightly lost his way in what was a disappointing 2021 campaign overall for the Cherry Blossoms. Still, as a result of his 2020 form and the performances he put in at the start of last year, he’s done more than enough to merit his move.
One to Watch: Takashi Inui – I wasn’t a big fan of his return when it was initially announced due to Cerezo having a plethora of 30-somethings already on their books, but given the way this year’s squad is shaping up I feel he’ll have a vital role to play as an impact sub and dressing room leader.
Doubtful: Takashi Inui, Hinata Kida, Adam Taggart, Đặng Văn Lâm (injury), Jean Patric (Visa)
Notes: I like their winter transfer work a whole lot more than I did last year (see what I said about them in the Urawa section above), especially the acquisition of Nagasaki’s jewel-in-the-crown Seiya Maikuma (sorry for telling everyone how good he was Daniel!) The permanent appointment of Akio Kogiku who, according to Transfermarkt, has been at the club in one capacity or another since 1998 could be a masterstroke as he’s surely amassed the clout that will allow him to tap a few shoulders and break the news to several veterans that they’re no longer the automatic choices they once were.

Additional Note: Croatian defender Matej Jonjić is rumoured to be returning in the coming days. If that move happens he’ll be the main centre-back upon his arrival in the country with Nishio and Shindo battling it out to partner him. He’d also overtake Jean Patric as my choice for ‘best signing.’




Gamba Osaka

Best Signing: Mitsuki Saito – Not a signing I really expected going into the transfer window, but a more than welcome addition to the Nerazzurri’s midfield ranks
Biggest Loss: Kim Young-gwon / Yosuke Ideguchi – Neither were at their best in 2021 (a comment which could pretty much be applied to the majority of the squad), but both will be missed dearly by the Ao to Kuro faithful.
One to Watch: Hiroto Yamami – I should probably have chosen him in the ‘best signing’ category, but thought he’d fit better here instead. Hopefully that worldy against Shimizu was just a taste of what’s to come as he’s set himself the target of scoring double digits this year.
Doubtful: Jun Ichimori, Leandro Pereira (injury), Dawhan, Kwon Kyung-won (Visa)
Notes: As close to a free-hit of a season as you’ll ever get as Gamba kantoku awaits Tomohiro Katanosaka, though that didn’t stop him heaping pressure on himself by setting 3rd as the target for this year. Gamba fans I’ve talked to say that top 8 is more realistic, especially with Kawasaki, Marinos, Kobe, Kashima and Urawa all looking particularly strong. To quote Celtic supporters, “trust the process,” Katanosaka is a man with a plan and that’s something that was sorely missing for the majority of 2021.




Shimizu S-Pulse

Best Signing: Takeru Kishimoto – A surprisingly difficult choice this one, as though regular readers will remember I picked out Kishimoto as someone to keep an eye on in my Scouting J1 article last autumn, I can’t help but feel there were more logical moves for both him and Shimizu to make. Granted the S-Pulse front office and I never appear to be on the same frequency when it comes to ideas on how to take the club forward.
Biggest Loss: Hideki Ishige – I know he was at Okayama on loan at the end of last season, but his departure sums up, for me at least, the malaise at the Nihondaira. A once mighty powerhouse born out of the cradle of Japanese football now reduced to letting long-serving youth academy graduates leave for rival clubs while the powers-that-be continue to blindly spin the roulette wheel, trying in hope, more than expectation to find the coaches and players necessary to bring back the glory days.
One to Watch: Yuito Suzuki – I’m sure you’ve all seen his wonder strike against Shonan, however, unfortunately that was one of only two goals he’s amassed in 63 J1 outings since turning pro in 2020. Imagine the heights regular contributions from him, in addition to Thiago Santana’s steady stream of goals, could take S-Pulse to.
Doubtful: Renato Augusto, Akira Ibayashi, Takumi Kato, Kenta Nishizawa (injury)
Notes: I realise I’ve been a bit harsh on S-Pulse above and it’s absolutely nothing personal as they’re an iconic and extremely likeable club, I just struggle to be overly positive when their front office keeps making baffling decisions. The Peter Cklamovski experiment was ditched in favour of the ultra-defensive Lotina brand of football and now they’ve opted for the man who came in to temporarily do a spot of firefighting at the end of both 2020 and 2021, the particularly tricky to say regardless if you go Japanese or western style, Hiroaki Hiraoka (or Hiraoka Hiroaki if you prefer). There’s loads of depth on the flanks, but any injury or departure down the central spine of the team (Gonda, Yoshinori Suzuki, Matsuoka and Thiago Santana) would sting badly.

Additional Notes: Reports out of South Korea suggest that S-Pulse have tabled a large bid for Ulsan Hyundai’s tall forward Oh Se-hun. On Paper the highly-rated 23 year old would be a quality addition, but it would also leave Shimizu with 7 foreign talents on their books. Do they never get the memo from the J. League about only being allowed 5 in your matchday squad?




Kashiwa Reysol

Best Signing: Tomoya Koyamatsu – Big shoes to fill in attack, he’s coming off the back of a decent couple of seasons with Tosu and should quickly become a fan favourite at the Hitachidai.
Biggest Loss: Cristiano – The now 35-year old club legend departs after 7 years with the Sunkings. Sure he may be past his prime, but having seen him perform in the flesh last year, he’s very much still got it and I’m certain he’ll tear up J2 with Nagasaki.
One to Watch: Douglas – With the fearsome foursome of Olunga, Cristiano, Esaka and Segawa all gone, the goalscoring burden falls on the previously prolific, but perhaps slightly over-the-hill Douglas. Is there still enough fire there for one final hurrah before he rides off into the sunset?
Notes: I believe it was Gabriele Anello who pointed out that 2021 saw the most managerial changes in J. League history, a good number of them appeared harsh when viewed from afar, but on the flip side of the coin, Kashiwa’s stubborn dedication to keeping Nelsinho in the hotseat continues to puzzle me. Of course the Brazilian is a legend in Kashiwa circles, however, he had 38 J1 games last season to work out his best eleven and formation, and never managed it. If he doesn’t know, then how am I supposed to? I’ve gone 4-2-3-1 below, but 3-4-2-1, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 are all possible. I’m not saying it’ll actually happen, but they’ll surely be a popular pick for big team who could go down this year.




Shonan Bellmare

Best Signing: Ryota Nagaki – The return of the prodigal son was an easy choice here, he’ll bring skill and more importantly a wealth of experience to help shepherd along Bellmare’s exciting crop of youngsters.
Biggest Loss: Mitsuki Saito – I know that selecting both Ishige and Saito as the biggest loss for their respective clubs may come across as extreme Gamba bias (especially given Saito was on loan at Rubin Kazan in 2021), but hear me out, how often do Shonan come through a winter transfer window with all their prized assets still in place? Hata, Tanaka and Hiraoka are still there, leaving me with the rare predicament of struggling to find a departed player Shonan will really miss this year.
One to Watch: Satoshi Tanaka – When I saw that Takuji Yonemoto had moved to Shonan on loan and Tanaka still hadn’t been confirmed as a Bellmare player for 2022, I felt sure we were less than 24 hours away from witnessing his unveiling at the Toyota Stadium, but alas it was not to be and he’ll continue developing down on the Shonan coast, for now at least, whether that’s as a holding midfielder or centre-back remains to be seen.
Notes: This is Satoshi Yamaguchi’s first full campaign at the helm and it’ll be interesting to observe what tactical alterations, if any, he makes. As you can see below, there are a number of players of similar abilities competing for spots across the field which can be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. I’ve tried my hardest to cram Tanaka, Nagaki and Yonemoto into the same lineup, Yamaguchi may have other ideas. They were the best defensive team in the bottom half last year and with the business they’ve done since should be even stronger now. My concerns are at the other end, they accrued a league high 16 draws last season and joint top scorers Wellington and Naoki Yamada only managed 5 apiece, there’s nothing to suggest they’ll be any more prolific in 2022.




Júbilo Iwata

Best Signing: Ricardo Graça – Again, hands up, I don’t know a whole lot about him, but the rest of Júbilo’s transfer business hasn’t been much to write home about and although Kentaro Oi has given the club years of good service, promotion back to J1 should very much be the signal to put him out to pasture, the capture of Graça allows the club to do just that.
Biggest Loss: Lukian – A huge blow to the side’s attack and also their collective psyche to lose such an important player to a team, in Fukuoka, that despite far out-performing Júbilo on the field in 2021, would have been viewed as a step-down for the majority of the clubs’ respective histories.
One to Watch: Yasuhito Endo – Gamba let Endo go in mid-2020 as despite his passing and vision still being top drawer, the veteran (who’s the same age as Steven Gerrard and Xavi, don’t forget) couldn’t get around the park like he used to. We’ll have an answer on how right or wrong that decision was very soon.
Doubtful: Dudu, Ricardo Graça (Visa)
Notes: An extremely impressive promotion campaign followed up by the appointment of highly-rated Kofu boss Akira Ito had things looking rather spritely for a time in Iwata. However, the club don’t really appear to have backed the new kantoku enough in the transfer market. Kenyu Sugimoto could work, but I wouldn’t bet on it, there are question marks surrounding when their 2 new marquee Brazilians can get into the country and long-standing issues related to a chronic lack of pace throughout the squad haven’t been sufficiently addressed over the winter.

Additional Note: Brazilian forward Vinícius Araújo, now a free agent after failing to agree terms on a new deal with Yamagata, is a possible addition before the season begins. He’d take over the centre-forward berth from Sugimoto should he decide to make the Yamaha Stadium his home for 2022.




Kyoto Sanga

Best Signing: Rikito Inoue – Despite the club making a number of winter signings, few of them are clearly better than the options already in place. Inoue, who’s moved east from Okayama with Dutchman Jordy Buijs travelling in the opposite direction, is the pick of the bunch for me. Readers of my Scouting J2 article will know I’m a big fan of his and with Shogo Asada still onboard, Sanga have two of the top centre-backs from J2 2021 in their ranks, albeit neither of them has a single minute of J1 action to their name.
Biggest Loss: Jordy Buijs – His departure came as something of a surprise and I’ve no doubt that he’ll continue to prove himself to be one of the best defenders in J2 with Fagiano this season.
One to Watch: Peter Utaka – 38 years young when the season kicks off, if he can keep banging them in then Kyoto could (could, not will – please remember) be this year’s Fukuoka.
Doubtful: Naoto Misawa, Tomoya Wakahara (injury), Michael Woud (injury/Visa)
Notes: Reasons to be cheerful; they’ve got a coach who knows what it takes to survive in J1 and a squad with a decent sprinkling of top tier experience, especially when compared with other recent newly promoted sides. Reasons to be fearful; the murky goalkeeping situation, a lack of J1 experience at centre-back and central midfield and a host of Hail Mary signings that could all fall flat. The rather unorthodox Genki Omae may be the most likely to deliver from a list of names which also includes Mendes, Hisashi Appiah Tawiah, Martinus, Ryogo Yamasaki and Yuta Toyokawa.




If you’ve made it this far, thank you and congratulations! I hope this guide has been useful for you, look out for plenty more posts from me throughout the year and enjoy the 2022 J1 season whoever you support!

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.

Categories
sport

J1 Predicted Lineups Post Transfer Window Update

The summer transfer window “slammed shut,” or closed gently as it tends to do here in Japan, last Friday (August 13), so I thought this would be a good time to have a look at the lineups we are likely to see J1 teams field from now until December.

A quick reminder that you can always check out my regularly updated J1 and J2 databases here,

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1j6HTKFF38A3cAz7sqw3jfZ4f6y8soAgOjfXqKR3fNCM/

Before I get into it, here is a rough guide to some of the parameters I’ve used.

* Teams are listed in the order they finished the 2020 season, ie the order you’ll find them in all the 2021 yearbooks.
* The lineups below are not necessarily the ones you’ll see next week, more an amalgamation of the players expected to feature most frequently between now and the end of the season.
* Where genuine competition exists for a starting spot, I’ve listed alternatives below the projected starter.
* The injured / unavailable list only includes players who I feel would have a genuine chance of starting if they were fit. Regular readers will know finding information about JLeague injuries can be a thankless task, so I’ve done my best, but can’t promise it’s 100% accurate.

Finally, if you don’t already, please give @Michael_Master a follow on Twitter. The use of the word ‘Master’ in his handle is by no means an overstatement, the man is truly the oracle when it comes to Japanese transfers and this blog post wouldn’t have been possible without his updates. Thanks man!

Kawasaki Frontale

Comments
Yes Mitoma and Tanaka are gone, and yes Kashiwa have just become the first team in 40 J1 games to keep them scoreless, but take a look at the lineup below and you’ll surely agree this is still the strongest side in the division. A settled back 6 and plenty of options in attack plus rivals either losing players or being engaged in the process of rebuilding, makes me believe they’ll overcome ACL distractions to lift a fourth title in five years.
Injured/Unavailable: 10 Ryota Oshima


Gamba Osaka


Comments
Long time readers of this blog will know the trouble I’ve had predicting Gamba starting lineups recently, though I should point out in my defence, I’m generally more accurate at it than DAZN! With Miura, Kim and Shoji fit, 3-4-2-1 seems like it’ll be the order of the day for most remaining games this season. From 2022, however, it’d be good to see 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 getting an outing, especially if Hiroto Yamami can replicate anything like the form he did against Shimizu on Friday.
Injured/Unavailable: 14 Yuya Fukuda, 15 Yosuke Ideguchi, 27 Ryu Takao, 28 Wellington Silva


Nagoya Grampus

Comments
The arrival of Polish international Jakub Świerczok is like manna from heaven for the Grampus support who have been starved of a genuine centre-forward since Jô’s acrimonious departure at the start of 2020. Captain Yuichi Maruyama is out for the year and the slight defensive wobble caused by his absence, in addition to an inability to create presentable openings for their attackers has seen Nagoya slip back from the highs of last year and the early part of this campaign. Still very much in the hunt for 3rd place, their new number 40 will have a big say in whether they equal last season’s final ranking or not.
Injured/Unavailable: 3 Yuichi Maruyama, 9 Ryogo Yamasaki, 44 Mu Kanazaki


Cerezo Osaka

Comments
The problem with a having a club legend in charge, as both Osaka clubs have found out this year, is that it’s not easy to sever ties with them when things head south. The further away Cerezo get from the defensive stability of the Lotina-era, the more vulnerable they look at the back, while at the other end of the field, a succession of niggling injuries to key personnel has set-back Culpi’s plans to revitalise their attack. The Cherry Blossoms don’t really do mid-table finishes and have only 1 win and 11 points from their last 15 league outings…they couldn’t….could they?
Injured/Unavailable: 3 Ryosuke Shindo


Kashima Antlers


Comments
Things have generally meandered along under Naoki Soma, just as they did under predecessors Zago and Oiwa and on the back of 3 straight wins, the Ibaraki giants are firmly in the picture for 2022 ACL qualification which is really a bare minimum for a club of this size and prestige. Box-to-box midfielder Pituca seems to be a ready-made long term replacement for Leo Silva, but the Antlers faithful must have concerns over how long they can keep hold of talented youngsters like, Araki, Machida and Tsunemoto. Key forward Everaldo has incredibly only scored once in J1 this season and seems to be dropping deep and into wider areas too often, though with Tomoya Inukai raking in goals as he did against Shonan last week, it doesn’t appear to be hindering the team too much.
Injured/Unavailable: 22 Rikuto Hirose


FC Tokyo

Comments
A very streaky team this year, and I’ll discuss them in greater detail during my preview of their upcoming clash with Gamba, Gasmen supporters have seen their side go on both 5 game winning and losing runs in the first half of the season. Boss Kenta Hasegawa and playmaker Leandro burying the hatchet, for now, has helped make them a much more potent force going forward which has somewhat papered over the widening cracks at the back.
Injured/Unavailable: 9 Diego Oliveira, 14 Takuya Uchida, 33 Akihiro Hayashi, 37 Hotaka Nakamura


Kashiwa Reysol

Comments
I’ve already gone pretty deep on the J Talk Podcast regarding my issues with the Reysol front office’s performance in recent years. That, plus the winter departure of Olunga has really set them back this campaign in my opinion. Their season stats and recent results indicate a push up the table might be on the cards during the second half of the year. A bloated squad, constant tinkering with the team’s shape and a never-ending succession of injuries suggest otherwise.
Injured/Unavailable: 7 Hidekazu Otani, 11 Matheus Savio, 33 Hayato Nakama, 39 Yuta Kamiya


Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Comments
Sanfre have reverted to the tried and trusted 3-4-2-1 after an ill-advised dabble with a back 4 at the beginning of the season. They appear to have a surplus of quality centre-backs, but there’s now a gaping Hayao Kawabe shaped hole in the middle of the park. More cutting edge is required up front, but with the new stadium project sucking in resources, they lack the funds to adequately replace Leandro Pereira and it looks like they’ll be left relying on youth team products, university graduates and promising J2 players in the coming years.


Yokohama F. Marinos

Comments
10 points from 4 games in quick-fire succession marks an excellent introduction to Japanese football for Kevin Muscat. The Australian head coach must have been delighted with Léo Ceará’s efforts in recent weeks, putting his hand up as the man to fill Ado Onaiwu’s big boots up front. They are now breathing right down the necks of Kanagawa rivals Kawasaki and we have a genuine title race on our hands. Their devastating attack is beyond reproach, but the old defensive frailties which held them back in 2018 and 2020 have been on display since returning from their summer break. Gamba and Oita, two of the weaker attacks in the division, let them off the hook, but I have a nagging doubt that they are going to give too many chances, to the wrong team, on the wrong day and that’s what’s ultimately going to cost them top spot.


Urawa Red Diamonds


Comments
The plethora of new talent in the arrivals lounge has made Reds one of the most talked about J1 sides during the summer months. The shape I’ve set out below was not the one used by Ricardo Rodriguez on Saturday night, however, I feel he may lean towards it later in the year. Although Kobe seem to act as a bit of lightning rod for online criticism about big spending, dress it up any way you like, Reds summer spree is a naked attempt at fixing problems using cold, hard cash. The Saitama outfit mean business, they may not reach the summit this year, but, they’ll definitely be a team to keep your eye on in the coming years.
**Please note – on August 15 Reds announced Kasper Junker had undergone surgery on a cheekbone injury, I expect to see him back wearing some Tsuneyasu Miyamoto-style facial protection in the next couple of weeks so kept him in the lineup below.**


Oita Trinita

Comments
After a decent run in the top flight since 2019, it seems like the curtain is coming down on their J1 journey, for now. Trinita possess the weakest attack in the division, scoring an anaemic 0.63 goals per game, see misses in the 15th and 48th minutes of their eventual 5-1 drubbing at Marinos on Sunday for clear evidence of where the issues lie. Former Gamba assistant Tomohiro Katanosaka, now in his 6th year in charge, has recently looked at alternatives to his favoured 3-4-2-1, including starting with a back 4 vs Marinos, but I feel like he will return to type soon as the squad is built to play with 3 centre-backs. Goya and Masuyama have come in to bolster the attack, but they still lack a proven source of goals. Onaiwu, Fujimoto and Tanaka have all previously departed for brighter lights elsewhere and it costs money to replace that kind of talent, money, that sadly, Trinita just don’t have.
Injured/Unavailable: 15 Yuta Koide


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo


Comments
Petrovic’s 100mph attacking football style is locked and loaded at the Sapporo Dome and at the moment it seems to be bearing fruit. As I write this, Consadole have just seen off FC Tokyo in impressive fashion, having dispatched Urawa with even greater ease the week before. Not the richest, or flashiest of J1 outfits, but their in-depth scouting of Japan’s varsity competitions, allied with solid youth development has proven crucial in steering them in an upwards trajectory over the past few months.


Sagan Tosu

Comments
With severe financial difficulties, a manager who’s just returned from a 3 week suspension while an internal power harassment investigation was conducted and 2 of their brightest talents freshly headed out the door, it’s amazing how settled things still appear at Tosu. Matsuoka and Hayashi are now yesterday’s men, but replacements Shirasaki and Koizumi from Kashima are thoroughbred pros who will help steady the ship. ACL qualification may be just beyond them this year, and that’s a real shame as the vultures will surely be circling the likes of Higuchi, Yamashita, Sento and Eduardo in the winter, making a repeat of this season’s heroics all the tougher.
Injured/Unavailable: 23 Fuchi Honda


Vissel Kobe

Comments
It’s worth remembering that Kobe have never finished higher than 7th in J1, so assuming they can get big-name summer recruits Muto and Osako integrated quickly then they’ll be well on their way to achieving a first ever ACL qualification through league performance. Bojan is a bit of an unknown quantity these days, but J1 coach of the month for July Miura has built a solid foundation and crucially has gotten, the high profile stars, the undercard, and the youngsters all pulling together in the same direction, hats off to him for that.
Injured/Unavailable: 1 Daiya Maekawa, 29 Lincoln


Yokohama FC


Comments
A mass recruitment process over the summer has given them a glimmer of hope, and they are now unbeaten in their last 4 games, but is it all a bit too little, too late? Getting my old EPL 40 points to avoid relegation calculator out, Yokohama FC still require 25 points from their 16 remaining fixtures to reach that mythical milestone. Yusuke Matsuo is in the side once more and a defence that was conceding at a rate of 2.32 goals per match has now kept back-to-back clean sheets thanks to the arrival of Brazilian defender Gabriel. If his compatriots, Felipe Vizeu and Saulo Mineiro, can have a similar impact at the other end of the pitch, then maybe, just maybe they could be on for the greatest of great escapes.
Injured/Unavailable: 8 Kosuke Saito, 23 Yota Maejima, 30 Kohei Tezuka


Shimizu S-Pulse

Comments
Their summer transfer business looks good, but I said that about their winter recruitment and it’s not really moved them very far up the standings. Similar to post-Ferguson/pre-Solskjær Manchester United, a hard-hitting critique might say that constantly flip-flopping between managers, players and playing styles is hindering the club as it seeks to move forward. Relying on goals from set-pieces and the physicality of Thiago Santana might bring some degree of success, but it feels like had they given Cklamovski this group of players, then he could have achieved much more.
Injured/Unavailable: 10 Carlinhos Junior, 18 Elsinho, 20 Keita Nakamura, 22 Renato Augusto, 50 Yoshinori Suzuki


Vegalta Sendai


Comments
Sendai are currently competing in their 12th consecutive J1 campaign, for context that’s a better run than, Gamba, Cerezo, Kobe, Nagoya, FC Tokyo or Kashiwa have had, but it appears likely that this era of relative success is drawing to a close and they may have to regroup and rebuild in J2 next year. 18 goals in 24 games while conceding double that figure tells its own story and though there have been bright sparks in the shape of university rookies Mase and Kato down the right, Foguinho in the middle and some recent substitute cameos from Oti and Felippe Cardoso, in the cold light of day, is it really inaccurate to suggest that the lineup I’ve set out below looks more like a team sitting 5th or 6th in J2 rather than one built to survive in the rarefied air of J1?
Injured/Unavailable: 8 Yoshiki Matsushita


Shonan Bellmare

Comments
After finishing bottom in 2020 with no relegation in place, Bin Ukishima deserves a bit of credit for improving things this year, making his side much more resolute and hard to beat. That said, despite gaining credible draws with the likes of Kawasaki, Marinos and Kobe as well as upsetting Reds in Saitama, they are currently on an ominous slide and it looks as though it’s between them and Tokushima, who they faced in the 2019 promotion/relegation playoff, to see who fills the uppermost spot in the drop zone. They experimented with a double-volante system against Nagoya, and that’s something we may see more of going forward, although I have them lined up in their tried and tested shape below. Sugioka looks to be a good addition, while keeping wide-man Taiga Hata fit so he can supply the bombs for Wellington may be the difference between J1 and J2 football for Bellmare next year.
Injured/Unavailable: 30 Sosuke Shibata


Tokushima Vortis


Comments
Tokushima’s victory at home to Gamba gave them the blueprint for how to attack the second half of the year. No messing around with the ball at the back, no possession for possession’s sake, quick counters culminating in dynamic running and interchanges between then front 4 topped off with more shots on goal and hopefully more points on the board. Kawasaki-loanee Taisei Miyashiro has certainly enhanced his reputation with a series of strong performances in a variety of positions along the front line, while right-back Takeru Kishimoto and number 10 Masaki Watai will draw many an admiring glance from rival teams’ scouting departments should they keep up their recent form. Keep your eyes peeled for young forward Taiyo Nishino also, he’s just starting to break into the team in his first year out of Kyoto Tachibana High School.
Injured/Unavailable: Kohei Uchida


Avispa Fukuoka


Comments
An excellent start to the season has them sitting in a place of relative comfort few predicted at the beginning of the year. Goalkeeper Masaaki Murakami has won over early doubters (myself included) with a string of good performances, the abrasive Douglas Grolli has been an excellent defensive lynchpin while the quality of deliveries from Jordy Croux and, in particular, irrepressible Swede Emil Salomonsson, have been second to none. In contrast to Kyushu cousins Oita, who came into J1 with a bang and were then looted of their best talent, the average age and playing style of most of Avispa’s squad suggests that they may not have to fend off too many suitors in upcoming transfer windows. One exception is team captain Hiroyuki Mae, and it will be interesting to see how his partnership with new recruit Shun Nakamura develops.
Injured/Unavailable: Bruno Mendes

Categories
sport

J1 2021 Appearance Data and Statistics

Thanks again everyone for supporting my recent articles. As I posted on Twitter a few weeks back, currently other areas in my life have to take priority over my blog writing, and for 2021, at least, my Gamba match previews will need to stay on the backburner. In some ways I feel like I took them as far as I could last season and at the beginning of this year, I felt like I was rehashing old material, please let me know if you agree or disagree.

With all that out of the way, my latest post provides a rundown of all 20 J1 teams’ matchday selections for every league match so far in 2021, presented in an (hopefully) easy to understand, at a glance style. I’ve also tagged on some additional comments and basic team stats correct to 18 April 2021.

A big shout out to everyone who has gotten in touch with me recently across various mediums. Actually I never envisaged my blog would get so many comments and my Twitter notifications are not really built to handle the traffic I’ve been getting. I recently noticed some people had left me comments weeks ago and I’d missed them, I genuinely try to reply to everyone who asks clean questions, so if I haven’t responded to your question / comment, I’m truly sorry.

Finally, some people have asked where I get my data, so here are a few of the resources I use…
https://www.football-lab.jp/
https://sporteria.jp/
https://us.soccerway.com/national/japan/j1-league/2021/regular-season/r61498/
https://www.flashscore.com/
https://www.transfermarkt.com/j1-league/startseite/wettbewerb/JAP1
https://www.jleague.jp/sp/en/
And of course my trusty Soccer Digest Yearbook…
https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/NEOBK-2586671



Kawasaki Frontale

Comment: The juggernaut has continued steamrollering opponents just as it did last season. Surely the best side in the history of the JLeague.



Gamba Osaka

Comment: How to fix a problem like Gamba? A Nagoya-esque defence, but can’t buy a goal at the other end. What’s to blame, the Covid cluster, overperforming xG last year, an overly defensive mindset they can’t shake off? Answers on a postcard to Tsuneyasu Miyamoto please.



Nagoya Grampus

Comment: You thought they couldn’t defend any better than last season, you thought wrong. If I were a gambler I’d have plenty on Mitch Langerak and co. to beat their clean sheet record set last year. How much will missing out on Kasper Junker to Urawa haunt them with their current paucity of centre-forward options seemingly denying us a genuine tussle for the title between Grampus and Frontale.



Cerezo Osaka

Comments: They’ve surprised many by performing at a similar level to 2020. With Taggart and Tiago almost ready to play and Sakamoto and Harakawa due back soon, a push for the top 4 isn’t out of the question.



Kashima Antlers

Comments: Although an Antlers legend, the way Naoki Soma’s spell in charge of Machida ended up poses some serious questions about how adept he’ll be at replacing Zago in the Kashima hotseat. Goals from Everaldo and instant impacts from Pituca and Caike are badly needed.



FC Tokyo

Comments: Injuries, rumoured dressing room discontent and a series of patchy results don’t make for happy start to the campaign for the capital side. Bruno Uvini is the great hope to steady things at the back, but it should be remembered he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger in over 6 months.



Kashiwa Reysol

Comments: They seem to have course corrected slightly with hard fought 1-0s in their past 2 games and the Brazilian cavalry is due to arrive soon. Quite how they keep their 9 overseas players happy, and what effect their second Covid cluster in under a year will have on them is yet to be seen.



Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Comments: Look set to hover around upper mid-table just as they did last time round. Morishima and Kawabe have started the season well, but they lack top quality support in attack. Defensively, Yuta Imazu has been a decent find, though they still need to find themselves a pair of genuine full-backs.



Yokohama F.Marinos


Comments: Haven’t lost since the opening day, but a rather kind run of fixtures since round 3 means question marks remain over whether they are genuine ACL contenders of not.


Urawa Red Diamonds


Comments: Two poundings in the space of three games at the hands of Kanagawa heavyweights Frontale and Marinos threatened to scuttle the Rodriguez project before it had the chance to take off, but they’ve bounced back well. We may come to look on Reds’ 2021 the same way Marinos supporters think of Ange Postecoglou’s debut campaign in 2018.



Oita Trinita

Comments: Six defeats in a row with just a single goal scored in the process, I’m sure there’s a joke about a famous Tom Petty song here somewhere. They need to hope they’ve hit the jackpot with their two soon-to-arrive Brazilians.



Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Comments: Houston, we may have a problem. Dropping points like confetti and with 4 teams going down this year they’re rapidly finding themselves being drawn into a relegation dogfight.


Sagan Tosu

Comments: Prior to Sunday’s win at Grampus, some of the gloss was starting to come off their excellent start to the year with 4 failures to score in 5 outings. Kim Myung-hwi’s side are made of sterner stuff though, and while it’s likely they’ll regress a touch over the course of the season, a top ten finish remains a distinct possibility.



Vissel Kobe


Comments: A genuine ACL contender based on early season form. How they mesh the returning Iniesta and newly arrived duo of Lincoln and Masika with their current high performing starters will be key.



Yokohama FC

Comments: They tick all the boxes for a side about to take the drop, poor attack, woeful defence, no idea of best lineup, symbolic change of head-coach. I’m not usually so blunt, but take this to the bank, they’ll be in J2 next season.



Shimizu S-Pulse

Comments: Some had tipped them to finish in the top half this year, but as things stand it looks like the 3-1 win at Kashima on the opening day was something of a mirage. Thiago Santana has disappointed and Lotina has run into the same problem as a number of his predecessors, a complete lack of consistency amongst the players at his disposal.



Vegalta Sendai


Comments: Still haven’t won a home game since 2019 and that’s a stat they’ll have to alter fast if they want to avoid a return to J2 for the first time in 12 years.



Shonan Bellmare

Comments: Going under the radar a touch, but considering they finished bottom last year, their performances to date in 2021 have shown marked improvement. No defeats and 4 clean sheets in a tough looking run of 5 fixtures up to last weekend suggest they mean business and could defy the odds to remain in J1 next term.



Tokushima Vortis

Comments: The project looks to be running under budget and ahead of schedule. New head-coach Poyatos is now in the country and working with the players face-to-face and at present they appear set for a decent year. Having, The Alan Parsons Project’s Sirius and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on their pre-match playlist makes me enjoy their games that little bit more.



Avispa Fukuoka


Comments: The support inside the Best Denki Stadium is the thing that’s caught my eye most about Fukuoka this year. Their seems to be a genuine feel-good factor around the place which is helping to bring out performances that many, including myself, doubted they were capable of.




Categories
sport

J1 Lineups Updated Version end of round 6

Thanks again to everyone who read, liked, shared and commented on my J1 and J2 Predicted Lineups posts that I put out about a month before the 2021 season started. The response to them was truly phenomenal and frankly blew me away, so much in fact, that I’ve been re-thinking how I should structure my blog (I’m always open to new ideas, so please tell me what you want!)

The J1 Predicted Lineups post is still getting a fair bit of traffic even though it is a bit out of date, so I thought I’d do some more research and update things a little. Included in this post is a short comment on teams’ performances in the opening month of the season, a list of currently unavailable players (as of 28 March 2021) and a full rundown of the lineups and formations used by each J1 side over their past 5 league fixtures.

A few qualifiers, the team comments don’t take into consideration this weekend’s Levain Cup games as personally I don’t think a whole lot can be read into them, for example if Tosu and Sapporo start to show the form they displayed yesterday in J1 matches, then I’ll revise my opinion of both sides. Secondly, regarding injuries, some of the players I’ve named as unavailable haven’t been officially confirmed as being injured. In certain instances I’ve assumed they are out due to being absent from the matchday squad for a prolonged period of time or being subbed off early in a game and missing subsequent fixtures.

Thanks again for your support and please enjoy!

Kawasaki Frontale

Comments: Have started the season in ominous form, only dropping points at much-improved Kobe. What’s more, Oshima and Noborizato are still to return and strengthen them while João Schmidt almost doesn’t feel like a new signing, he’s bedded in so quickly.
Unavailable: Kyohei Noborizato, Ryota Oshima (injured)


Gamba Osaka

Comments: Only one league match played so not much to discuss. Re-scheduling six fixtures later in the year may see the return of the more defensive 4-4-2 set-up used last season and hopefully the end of the Onose at right-back experiment with Takao returning to take his rightful place.
Unavailable: Jun Ichimori, Haruto Shirai, Yuji Ono (injured), Wellington Silva (Visa/quarantine)


Nagoya Grampus

Comments: Their defensive strength means they are Kawasaki’s closest challengers despite having no real goal-scorer. Yamasaki has done alright, but shouldn’t be starting for a title contender and Kakitani has shown nothing so far. Inagaki looks like an early MVP contender, Soma has improved, however Morishita seems to be 3rd choice right back at the moment, perhaps he’s too attack-minded for Ficcadenti, imagine how good Tosu would be if he was still there!
Unavilable: Mu Kanazaki (injured)


Cerezo Osaka

Comments: Higher up the league than many would have expected, but the fixture list has been pretty kind to them so far. Okubo’s goals have been a Godsend in the absence of Taggart while Nishio has slotted in well alongside Seko at the back. Recent injuries to Harakawa, Sakamoto and Takagi will really test their squad depth.
Unavailable: Riki Harakawa, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, Ryuji Sawakami, Toshiyuki Takagi, Hirotaka Tameda, Koji Toriumi (injured), Adam Taggart (Visa/quarantine), Đặng Văn Lâm, Tiago (Visa/contract status unclear)


Kashima Antlers

Comments: The Ibaraki side have made their traditional slow start and will be desperate to get Brazilian midfield duo, Diego Pituca and Arthur Caike on the field as soon as possible. It’s at the back where most of the problems seem to lie, the full-back berths are still up for grabs and none of the centre-backs have covered themselves in glory.
Unavailable: Shoma Doi, Ryuji Izumi (injured), Arthur Caike, Diego Pituca (Visa/quarantine)


FC Tokyo

Comments: A roller-coaster start to the season from the capital club with, injuries, rotation and Covid-protocol violations preventing them from getting into any sort of groove. They’ve got points on the board early, but a chunk of them came in unimpressive home wins over last season’s bottom 2, Sendai and Shonan. They’ll need to hope Bruno Uvini is the man to shore up a rather leaky rearguard.
Unavailable: Akihiro Hayashi, Kazuya Konno, Manato Shinada (injured), Bruno Uvini (Visa/quarantine)


Kashiwa Reysol

Comments: Olunga, Olunga, where art thou Olunga? A very poor start to the season from Kashiwa and they desperately need the soon-to-arrive Brazilian quartet of, Emerson Santos, Dodi, Angelotti and Pedro Raúl to hit the ground running or the nightmares of 2018 could be lurking just around the corner.
Unavailable: Yuji Takahashi, Sachiro Toshima (injured), Angelotti, Dodi, Pedro Raúl, Emerson Santos (Visa/quarantine)

Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Comments: A solid start, made all the more impressive by the fact they are still figuring out their new back four system and how best to set-up their attack. Junior Santos continues to cause intrigue as it appears he’s fighting young Shun Ayukawa to be Douglas Vieira’s backup rather than being the main man himself. Hayao Kawabe could partner former team-mate Sho Inagaki in the J1 Best Eleven if he keeps up his current form.
Unavailable: Akira Ibayashi, Rhayner (injured)


Yokohama F.Marinos

Comments: A rather harsh take on them might say that they’ve swatted aside bottom half teams while failing to take the three points against stiffer opposition, exactly as they did in 2020. That said, from what I’ve seen there is a bit more steel about them this time round. I’m re-evaluating Daizen Maeda now that he’s finally added goals to his game and though Élber seems to lack the attacking x-factor of Erik, having more solid, hard-workers than mercurial artists may suit them better in 2021.
Unavailable: Theerathon Bunmathan, Daizen Maeda (injured), Léo Ceará (Visa/quarantine)


Urawa Red Diamonds

Comments: Ricardo Rodriguez seems like a lovely bloke, so I’ll spare him any blame for now, but real questions must be getting asked about the financial situation at the club. I started to wonder when Brazilians, Mauricio and Fabricio weren’t replaced last season and now with Leonardo gone, Deng injured and Yuki Abe making a Lazarus like return from the retirement home, a sojourn to J2 next year isn’t entirely out of the reckoning.
Unavailable: Thomas Deng, Yudai Fujiwara (injured)


Oita Trinita

Comments: I picked them to fill the final relegation spot in pre-season and I haven’t seen anything yet to make me completely alter my opinion. The number of changes at the back made in the off-season has definitely unsettled them and Katanosaka is still searching for the right combinations in a number of places.
Unavailable: Naoki Nomura (injured), Matheus Pereira, Henrique Trevisan (Visa/quarantine)


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Comments: I’m considering starting my own Patreon account so Sapporo fans can pay me to not watch them live. Last week’s horror show at home to Kobe was their 8th defeat on the spin with me tuning in on DAZN. Second year pros Kaneko and Tanaka have been solid (Tanaka’s assist for Furuhashi last week aside) and young Ogashiwa and Nakashima have looked bright in flashes. Failure to change their slightly archaic game-plan could result in an unwelcome flirtation with the relegation trapdoor.
Unavailable: Takuma Arano, Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa, Douglas Oliveira (injured), Jay Bothroyd, Gabriel Okechukwu (Visa/quarantine)


Sagan Tosu

Comments: An outstanding youth system and kantoku have their fans dreaming of ACL football next year. Didn’t score in their opening 4 J1 fixtures in 2020, haven’t conceded in their first 6 games this time round, it’s been quite the reversal of fortunes. How long can they sustain it? Will their new foreign strikers propel them to even greater heights? Will the vultures descend to brutally devour this team in a similar manner to what happened to fellow Kyushu-ites Giravanz last winter?
Unavailable: Ismael Dunga, Chico Ofoedu (Visa/quarantine)


Vissel Kobe

Comments: I saw them referred to as ‘Galacticos’ the other day, but that’s not really what they are anymore. They have a healthy crop of youngsters, many of whom have been raised in their academy, developing alongside a few seasoned heads, most notably Hotaru Yamaguchi, who’s been in sparkling form so far this season. There seems to be a real determination to make amends for 2020’s pitiful league performance and 3rd place doesn’t look impossible judging by their early showings.
Unavailable: Andrés Iniesta, Junya Tanaka (injured), Lincoln, Ayub Masika (Visa/quarantine)


Yokohama FC

Comments: Things seem to have completely fallen apart over the winter at Mitsuzawa. In my season preview I predicted goals at both ends, unfortunately that has only proven to be half correct and their veteran forwards haven’t hit it off as of yet. Talented midfielders Matsuo, Seko and Tezuka are struggling against the tide, but receiving little support and, although it’s early days, I think many already see them lining up in J2 next year.
Unavailable: Calvin Jong-a-Pin, Haruki Saruta, Hideto Takahashi, Eijiro Takeda (injured)


Shimizu S-Pulse

Comments: They’ve had just the kind of solid, unspectacular start many would have expected under Lotina. After conceding an avalanche of goals over the past 2 years, letting in just 7 in 6 games must have come as welcome relief to long suffering supporters in their picturesque stadium. Lotina’s reluctance to use assist kingpin Kenta Nishizawa may have rivals sending out the feelers regarding his future availability.
Unavailable: Hideki Ishige, Eiichi Katayama, Ibrahim Junior Kuribara (injured), William Matheus (Visa/quarantine)


Vegalta Sendai

Comments: Collectively this is one of the 4 weakest squads in the division. That doesn’t necessarily need to condemn them to relegation, but to stave off the drop, they will need to find a way to play to more than the sum of their parts. Passing the ball from their centre-backs to wing-backs, pushing the midfield forward to join the attack, then losing the ball and getting countered constantly, isn’t the way to achieve that.
Unavailable: Isaac Cuenca, Kunimitsu Sekiguchi (injured), Foguinho, Emmanuel Oti, Nedeljko Stojišić (Visa/quarantine)


Shonan Bellmare

Comments: I was sure they’d used up their nine lives last year, but they look a bit better than 2020, at least if the early rounds are anything to go by. Impressive youngster Taiga Hata still hasn’t featured, but playing on the left-wing for Shonan seems to bring out the best in players and Ryo Takahashi has been in fantastic form down that flank. They really need Wellington and Welinton Júnior to bring their shooting boots over from Brazil as a lack of firepower would be the most likely cause of a relegation this year.
Unavailable: Tarik Elyounoussi, Taiga Hata, Shun Nakamura, Tsukasa Umesaki (injured), Wellington, Welinton Júnior (Visa/quarantine)


Tokushima Vortis

Comments: They’ve probably done as well as could have been expected given that the squad haven’t met their new Spanish kantoku face-to-face yet and most of the players lack top tier experience. Poyatos (I assume he is choosing the team) has made a number of interesting selections with Abe, Fuke, Fujiwara and Kawakami all featuring regularly despite being out in the cold during the Rodriguez era.
Unavailable: Dušan Cvetinović, Kazuki Nishiya, Koki Sugimori, Kohei Uchida (injured), Cristian Battocchio, Cacá (Visa/quarantine)


Avispa Fukuoka

Comments: A decent start has them sitting comfortably in mid-table. Word of warning though, other newly promoted sides, namely Matsumoto and Nagasaki, have also begun top-flight campaigns reasonably well before fading away badly. Avispa need new foreign talents, Jordy Croux and, particularly, Biblically-named forward John Mary to deliver in order to maintain their top-flight status.
Unavailable: Juanma Delgado, Bruno Mendes, Taro Sugimoto (injured), Douglas Grolli (1 match suspension vs Sapporo 3 April), Jordy Croux, John Mary (Visa/quarantine)

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sport

J1 2021 Predicted Lineups

**Important Update**Important Update**Important Update**

If you’re still coming here in 2020, please click this link for the 2022 version…

https://gambaosakaenglish.blog/2022/01/23/j1-2022-predicted-lineups/

Please check out the link above to see who has been playing and who hasn’t in J1 2021. I’ll update it regularly.
Data keys are below…




Also for those of you using the https://sporteria.jp/ website, here is a simple English translation of the data displayed there…




I’m sure everyone would join me in thanking @Michael_Master and @bmtps_k for their wonderful coverage of all the off-season transfer activity in Japan. The purpose of this article is to see how those winter moves affect the matchday lineups of J1 sides one month out from the start of the new campaign. I hope you enjoy!

First up, some housekeeping notices;
* The lineups below are not necessarily intended to be the ones on the opening day, but more the players most likely to fill those positions on a regular basis throughout the year.
* Players currently recovering from serious and long-term injuries haven’t been included. Some examples are Andres Iniesta (Kobe), Takuma Arano (Sapporo), Mu Kanazaki (Nagoya), Yuji Ono (Gamba), Akihiro Hayashi (FC Tokyo) and Sachiro Toshima and Yuji Takahashi (both Kashiwa).
* As this is a Gamba blog, lineups and formations for other teams are based on a mixture of evidence and guesswork. For instance, teams who performed well in 2020, kept the same manager and the bulk of their playing staff (Kawasaki) are easier to read than those who played poorly last year, changed coaches and brought in a host of new players (Shimizu).
* Ages given are correct to 27 February 2021, the opening Saturday of the J1 season, (Y) donates youth team product and teams are listed in order of 2020 league position.

Here we go…

Kawasaki Frontale

Brief Notes: Way better than everyone else last season and with just Morita departing they’ll be the team to beat once more. Only Mitoma and Tanaka leaving in the summer and the ACL schedule getting moved around again can really threaten their dynasty.


Gamba Osaka

Brief Notes: Leandro Pereira and Ju Se-jong both address areas of need and although it will be difficult to get 2nd again, this group of players shouldn’t finish lower than 5th / 6th even with ACL distractions taken into account.


Nagoya Grampus

Brief Notes: Morishita and Kimoto look like great buys, and I was surprised to see Manabu Saito is only 30! Will be strong defensively again, but look a genuine centre-forward short of really challenging at the top.


Cerezo Osaka

Brief Notes: Have made some puzzling moves over the winter, but they still have the nucleus of a very good team. How quickly they adjust to Culpi’s brand of football and whether or not Taggart has brought his shooting boots with him from Korea will go a long way to determining their fate this year.


Kashima Antlers

Brief Notes: Assuming their two new Brazilian midfielders settle in well, they should be Kawasaki’s closest rivals. This may not please Gamba supporters like me, but should lead to some tasty @frontalerabbit blog posts.


FC Tokyo

Brief Notes: They will probably improve merely by not being involved in the ACL this year. That said, the squad looks very unbalanced, with loads of options in central midfield and attack, but significantly less depth further back.


Kashiwa Reysol

Brief Notes: Shiihashi, Dodi and Kamijima will help to fix their soft underbelly, but there is still a huge Olunga shaped hole in attack. Will Angelotti or rumoured new signing from Botafogo, Pedro Raúl, be able to fill it.


Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Brief Notes: Junior Santos appears to be an excellent capture, but money is tight and there’s a real lack of depth. Any injury down the central spine of the team could be painful and prevent them from kicking on from last year.


Yokohama F.Marinos

Brief Notes: This year’s squad looks leaner and more settled than last time. A lot will depend on how their new Brazilian attackers do and also how much of 2020’s poor display was down to their overcrowded schedule and how much of it was teams working out how to play against them.


Urawa Red Diamonds

Brief Notes: Given time, I’ve no doubt the Rodriguez project will bear fruit in Saitama, but it may not be as quick a turnaround as the Reds faithful would like. Defence and central midfield could be issues and they appear to be overloaded with attacking midfielders. Having worked with a similar style of player in Yuki Kakita, can Rodriguez turn around Kenyu Sugimoto’s career?


Oita Trinita

Brief Notes: Should have enough to escape the relegation dog-fight and have made some intriguing signings from J2 down the flanks. Goalkeeper and central defence look like weak areas at the moment. If Shun Nagasawa’s inevitable winner against Gamba could be confined to the Levain Cup I’d greatly appreciate it.


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Brief Notes: A lot riding on the shoulders of last year’s three university rookies, Tanaka, Takamine and Kaneko. If newbies Nakano and Ogashiwa can have a similar impact they could do ok, but they are my tip to be a dark horse relegation candidate.


Sagan Tosu

Brief Notes: Look better placed than at this point last year and I have no difficulty seeing them survive. Being able to keep hold of Matsuoka was a big surprise for me and I’m really interested to see how new African forwards, Chico (Nigeria) and Dunga (Kenya), get on. I know I’m in the minority here, but I genuinely dig their new kit.


Vissel Kobe

Brief Notes: I think they could surprise a few people this year, not by finishing top 4 or anything, but outside of Hyogo there is almost zero expectation and their exciting youngsters may start to come to the fore a little more.


Yokohama FC

Brief Notes: Should be exciting to watch as it appears there will be plenty of goals at both ends. I don’t see them going down and if Matsuo and Seko continue to play well neither will be at the Mitsuzawa in 2022.


Shimizu S-Pulse

Brief Notes: As a fan of the league, I’d have preferred Cklamovski’s style to succeed, but more realistically Lotina’s defensive brand of football is more likely to guide them to less troubled waters. How high they go is dependent on how quickly the new parts fit together and how fast Lotina can mend their dreadful defence (139 J1 goals conceded 2019-2020).


Vegalta Sendai

Brief Notes: If they’re going to avoid the drop the improvement will need to come from the coaching department, with Teguramori replacing Kiyama. The squad on paper looks weaker than last season with the exception of the wide midfield areas.


Shonan Bellmare

Brief Notes: Ditto what I said about Sendai, they finished in the relegation slots last year and look likely to do so again. The heart has been ripped out of the team with Kaneko, Saito and Matsuda all going and their most exciting players, Tani, Tanaka and Hata are too young to carry this side on their back.


Tokushima Vortis

Brief Notes: Perhaps benefiting from Coronavirus, they managed to keep all of last season’s title winners and even added rising star Joel Chima Fujita. There’s a glaring lack of J1 experience and I can see things like, having 80% possession at home to Shimizu and still losing 1-0, happening a bit too often.


Avispa Fukuoka

Brief Notes: My main concern is that a chunk of last season’s starting eleven were on loan and have now returned to their parent clubs. They have more players with top flight experience than Tokushima and have made some decent buys, but they are short on depth and haven’t replaced Serantes in goal yet.

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sport

Gamba Osaka 2-1 Kashiwa Reysol plus weekly round up

The Match

Gamba rode their luck at times but eventually dug deep enough to grind out an important 2-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol on Saturday afternoon. Our visitors, who had never previously lost at Panasonic Stadium were left to rue a series of missed chances and also a controversial refereeing decision, while Gamba captain Shu Kurata was given the perfect present to celebrate his 300th J1 appearance.

Coming into this game on the back of 6 days off Gamba kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto opted to only change his forwards for this clash with the first-choice pairing of Takashi Usami and Patric replacing Ademilson and Kazuma Watanabe, both of whom reverted to the bench. At the back, Gen Shoji (ankle) and Hiroki Fujiharu (concussion) were still not fit meaning the Nerazzurri’s defence once again had a slightly make-shift feel to it.

My notes for the first 30 minutes of this game can essentially be boiled down to the following, scrappy Gamba build up, Kashima counter, ball over top, came to nothing, shot off target. Truth be told this match didn’t really live up to the hype as both sets of players looked slightly off the pace with signs of wear and tear from this never-ending series of games beginning to take its toll. I was bigging myself up on Twitter for my successful predictions yesterday, but in actuality those of you who read my pre-match preview will know that I spent a lot of time analysing Reysol and my findings could basically be boiled down to, great attack, weak defence. However, in this game their backline held firm for long periods and it was their much vaunted forwards who let them down with a number of squandered opportunities.

Gamba’s main weakness this year has been in games where they’ve fallen behind early and the opening period of this half may be where Kashiwa lost their chance of earning the 3 points. The normally reliable Cristiano shot into to the side netting in the 4th minute before firing over 30 minutes later following a mix-up between Ideguchi and Yamamoto in the midfield. Ataru Esaka had headed over a Cristiano free-kick from seven yards out just three minutes prior to the Brazilian’s second opportunity, while J1’s top marksmen Michael Olunga was largely kept at arm’s length by resolute Gamba defending. At the other end a surging run from Ryu Takao saw him feed Takashi Usami, but he could only shoot straight at Kim from the edge of the area. Patric wasted Gamba’s best chance of the half as he tried to cushion a beautifully weighted Kurata cross into the bottom corner but fluffed his lines, so it was 0-0 at the break.

The deadlock was broken in somewhat controversial fashion 7 minutes into the second half. An aimless high kick into the middle of the field by a Kashiwa defender was nicely controlled by Kosuke Onose who played a neat one-two with Patric and unleashed a shot from a good 25-yards out. Kashiwa’s normally reliable South Korean stopper Kim Seung-gyu seemed to get his hands tangled and was barely able to claw away what should have been a regulation save for a corner. Usami’s set piece flew into the box and Kim challenged Patric for the ball, spilled it into his own net and the goal was given somewhat to my surprise and also the dismay of the Kashiwa players (more on this decision below). After that Gamba had a decent spell with Kurata heavily involved and substitute Ademilson looking sharp. With 10 minutes to go though, Kashiwa would have felt justice was served when they got their equaliser. Another aimless clearance high into the air, this time by Gamba was headed into Esaka’s path by Cristiano. J1’s leading assist maker then volleyed through for the league’s top scorer Olunga to slip his 23rd goal of an incredible campaign beneath Higashiguchi.

Reysol had the momentum after that, however, they were stunned in the 89th minute when Kurata played in Ademilson who took two touches with his right foot on the edge of the box before unleashing a powerful effort with his left which flew past Kim low to his right and sent the Gamba faithful into raptures. The Brazilian’s 6th goal of the campaign and by far the best. There was still time for Cristiano to test Higashiguchi, but Gamba’s number 1 was equal to the task and his save ensured the home side extended their unbeaten run to 9 matches. Defeats for both Cerezo and FC Tokyo made it an all round good day for everyone involved with the club.

Talking Points

* VAR – I’m broadly in favour of technology coming into football and there has been a lot of focus lately on the awarding and non-awarding of penalties. I’m no fan of the current handball laws which basically incentivise teams to get the ball in their opponent’s defensive third then just whack it into the box and hope it hits someone’s hand. VAR may give us more consistent decisions, but if the laws remain the way they are then there will still be a lot of disagreement.
Secondly, and the main reason I’m talking about VAR, I want to discuss Kim’s ‘own goal’ and also Ryo Shinzato’s effort that was ruled out in the match between these two back in February. If I were a Kashiwa supporter I’d be very disappointed to lose a goal like they did yesterday and you’d likely find me ranting about it in my blog if it happened to Gamba. With that said, I can see an argument for the goal to stand and the more I’ve watched it, the less I thought it was a foul. Granted it would have been given as such every day of the week in Europe and no-one wants to see 90kg defenders charging ‘keepers at corners, but that’s hardly what happened here. Likewise with the Shinzato incident, logical arguments could be made in either direction. One could certainly say that if an attacking player is standing in the 6 yard-box and the ball travels into the goal through his legs then he is most definitely affecting play. However, what if it is also clear that the goalkeeper had no chance of saving it regardless of the player’s position? I’m trying to be as neutral as possible even though both incidents involve Gamba and I hope you can see my point that VAR won’t stop arguments from breaking out over such issues.
* Feigning head injuries – The guys over at J-Talk Extra Time did a good piece on this last year, I believe it was the Renofa Yamaguchi goalkeeper who got under their skin. There was a collision in the 57th minute of this game when Kashiwa’s Hayato Nakama and Kosuke Onose went in physically on each other resulting in a Reysol free-kick. So far, so good, but in the aftermath Nakama held the top of his head while replays clearly showed contact was made with his upper arm. This is the second time I’ve seen this kind of incident this season, Urawa’s Leonardo after a clash with Kawasaki’s Jesiel was the other, and I wasn’t impressed on either occasion. In fairness, neither player particularly milked it and none of their team-mates joined in to call for a red-card etc, but I’d like to point out another situation in the Osaka U23 derby. Cerezo defender Ryuya Nishio was struck flush in the face by a powerful drive and somehow managed to stagger to his feet to guard against the subsequent Gamba attack. Further viewing revealed that he had indeed received a strong blow to the head that required treatment (he was able to play on after the physio looked at him), but with head injuries, a quick assessment is necessary and feigning head knocks creates a situation where it’s more difficult for officials to work out what’s real and what’s fake. The referees have been in the firing line a lot recently, but players have their part to play in raising on-field behavioural standards too. There have been another couple of incidents of unsporting conduct that have irritated me recently and I may look at them in detail in future columns. Please let me know what you think.

Gamba U23 Review

Gamba and Cerezo played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in the sunshine at Nagai Stadium on Sunday afternoon. With the disbansion of both sides at the end of the current season this was the final time fans could enjoy this fixture. After 20 minutes of near total Gamba domination they were stunned when Shota Fujio, who of course memorably scored against Urawa in J1 a few weeks back curled in a lovely shot low to Kei Ishikawa’s right from the edge of the box. He nearly repeated the dose a few minutes later, but in general Gamba had the better of the opening stanza. Some of their playing out from the back would have given footballing traditionalists like Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce palpitations and there was an annoying tendency to get caught offside, but they could look ahead to the second half in positive fashion.

High School 3rd grader Ko Ise replaced overage player Daisuke Takagi at half-time and repaid his coach Hitoshi Morishita’s faith 14 minutes later with a controlled finish from the edge of the box after Keisuke Kurokawa’s cross from the left was only partially cleared. The impressive Kurokawa then sent in another beauty which was just out of the reach of Shoji Toyama a minute later before Cerezo began to come into things a bit more after replacing the ineffectual 191cm forward Pierce Waring. Attacker Fujio looked a cut above of the rest while team-mates Nagi Matsumoto (MF) and Ryuya Nishio (DF) also looked the part. Both sides huffed and puffed, Cerezo even hit the woodwork, but a probably fair 1-1 was the final outcome. Gamba sit 12th in the standings while Cerezo remain bottom, both teams have 11 games remaining.


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Gamba Osaka vs Kashiwa Reysol 24 October 2020 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Kashiwa Reysol
J1 2020 Round 24
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 24 October 16:00 (JST)


The Lowdown

Gamba come into this match 4th in the J1 standings while Kashiwa are 4 places and 8 points behind with both sides having played 23 games. Reysol, who will go head-to-head with FC Tokyo in the Levain Cup Final next month, have already defeated Gamba twice this season, winning 1-0 at Panasonic Stadium in the group stages of the League Cup back in February before inflicting the only away loss Gamba have suffered so far this year, a resounding 3-0 triumph on September 9th.

Gamba’s win at Oita last weekend took them onto an impressive 29 away points which is actually more than 6 J1 teams’ total points haul for the year. In Suita things have been a bit more dicey with 5 wins, 1 draw and 5 defeats, however the Nerazzurri’s schedule has been a touch top heavy and Reysol are the highest ranked side yet to visit Panasonic Stadium this year. Indeed, all of Gamba’s remaining visitors (Kobe, Sapporo, Tosu, Shimizu, Sendai) currently lie in the bottom half of the standings. With 45 total points this season the Nerazzurri require just a solitary victory in their 11 remaining fixtures to eclipse last season’s tally of 47. Protecting leads has been a big factor in this revival. My often quoted stat is that this year Gamba are 14-2-0 in games where they’ve led at any point, now contrast this with 2019 when they drew 11 of their 34 J1 fixtures including 7 matches where they let a lead slip (5 of these came consecutively between rounds 20-24!). More damaging was the 5 times that teams came from behind to defeat Gamba last season, this has been completely eradicated in the 23 rounds so far in 2020, an achievement worthy of a mention.

Kashiwa, like Gamba and a few other J1 teams, have enjoyed more success on the road than at home during this turbulent campaign. 20 of their 37 league points have been earned outside of Chiba and we can also see a clear difference between their attacking and defensive performances depending on match location. On home turf they score 2.17 goals per game with an average of 1.92 being conceded, however, away from home things are less free-flowing with an average score of 1.7-1.09 in their favour. They have won 6 games on opposition soil this year and lost 3 times, once to Kawasaki, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the other 2 defeats, at Tosu and Shonan are greater causes for concern.

Overall, Reysol possess the joint 3rd (level with Kobe who’ve played an additional 4 games) most potent attack in the league, slamming in 45 at 1.96 per match. Forward duo Michael Olunga and Ataru Esaka have 30 of those goals between them (more than 6 J1 teams’ totals), by way of contrast, Gamba’s attacking quartet of Usami, Patric, Ademilson and Watanabe have bagged a combined total of 20 goals. In Takashi Usami, Gamba have J1’s leading chance creator with 57 final passes to his name, Kashiwa’s Esaka is in third place on that list with 51.

Defence is undoubtedly Reysol’s achilles heel, though admittedly injury problems which have necessitated a series of personnel and positional switches throughout the year haven’t helped. They’ve conceded 10 goals more than Gamba so far in 2020 and ahead of them only Yokohama F.Marinos have a leakier rearguard, though with Reysol only being 4 points behind the defending champions with 4 games in hand we can expect to see them move up a place sooner or later. Kashiwa supporters must be eagerly anticipating the return of Avispa Fukuoka captain Takumi Kamijima, an academy graduate currently excelling out on loan, with the hope that he can steady the ship at the back. Reysol have conceded exactly 3 goals on 7 occasions this year (though only twice once away), which is pretty shocking for a team as high in the standings as they are, to counter that though they have scored three goals or more 9 times this season (including 3 times on their travels).

Head to Head

As you can see in the graphic below, Kashiwa have proven a tough nut for Gamba to crack in recent years with their last home win in this fixture coming way back in 2015. I was there for what might well prove to be my only visit to Panasonic Stadium in 2020 back in February when Reysol ran out 1-0 winners in the Levain Cup. That the goal was scored by Olunga and assisted by Cristiano should surprise no-one, however, at the other end Kim Seung-gyu had to be in outstanding form in order to earn a clean sheet as Gamba spent most of the second half camped in Kashiwa’s defensive third.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

Injury problems are starting to mount up for Gamba as a result of their intense recent schedule of matches. Yuji Ono (knee) and Genta Miura (thigh) are both long-term absentees while it’s been reported that Hiroki Fujiharu sustained a concussion in the game against Tosu on October 7th and no date has yet been set for his return. Gen Shoji re-injured his ankle against Yokohama F.Marinos on October 14th and we’re still waiting to hear how long he will be out for. In more positive news, stand-in captain Shu Kurata will make his 300th J1 appearance in his match.

Kashiwa Reysol

Reysol have one of the biggest squads in the league and it’s just as well as they’ve been plagued by injuries all year. Centre-back Yuji Takahashi is out for the season with knee ligament damage as is impressive young midfielder Sachiro Toshima who suffered a horrific leg break against Yokohama F.Marinos. International goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura hasn’t featured since being subbed off with a leg muscle injury against Shimizu on September 5th and influential attacking midfielder Yusuke Segawa has been out since being taken off at half-time of the 3-2 win at Kobe on August 19th. Brazilian wide-man Matheus Savio had to go off in the first half of the 3-2 home defeat by Kashima on August 29th and experienced centre-back Yuta Someya was last in the squad for the home game with Shonan on July 18th. The versatile Masatoshi Mihara picked up his 4th yellow card of the year in the 3-2 loss at Bellmare on Sunday so will miss this game through suspension, while full-back Shunki Takahashi returns after sitting out the previous game due to his second red-card of the campaign. Club captain Hidekazu Otani and veteran centre-back Jiro Kamata have missed the past 3 and 4 games respectively and ex-Gamba forward Hiroto Goya hasn’t been in the squad for the last 3 matches. Utility defender Taiyo Koga, the sole mainstay at the heart of Kashiwa’s defence this year missed the 3-2 loss at Shonan, whether he was rested or injured, I’m not sure.

Predicted Line Ups

Gamba only have to play 3 games in a week twice more this season, so we are likely to see the best available players selected for every match from now on. For my lineup below I’ve assumed that both Shoji and Fujiharu will miss out through injury, I’d say, if fit, Shoji will definitely replace Suganuma to try and combat the threat of Olunga. Elsewhere, Yajima could take Yamamoto’s place in the middle of the park and I’m pretty confident that Usami and Patric will be the starting attacking duo, particularly in light of Kashiwa’s poor defending of crosses against Shonan.


Reysol’s lineup and formation will basically come down to who’s fit and who’s out. I’ve gone with the assumption that Koga was rested last week so will return for this clash, if not, expect Tatsuya Yamashita to partner Ominami at centre-back. Mihara’s suspension has caused some issues in central midfield, if Otani is available he will surely partner Richardson, Yusuke Kobayashi and Yuto Yamada are alternatives, but both have been largely overlooked for most of the campaign. Another possibility with the personnel I’ve chosen is for a 4-3-3 with Richardson at the base of the midfield flanked by Kamiya and Nakama while Olunga leads the attack with Cristiano and Esaka either side of him.


Match Prediction

Despite Gamba’s recent record against Reysol, I’m feeling in bullish mood ahead of this clash so after taking the inevitable Olunga goal into consideration I’ll say Gamba will run out 2-1 winners.

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sport

Kashiwa Reysol vs Gamba Osaka 9 September 2020 Match Preview

Kashiwa Reysol vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 15
Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium
Wednesday 9 September 19:00 (JST)


It’s 5th vs 6th this Wednesday as Gamba play their second away match in five days at one of their least favourite opposition grounds, the Kashiwa Stadium in Chiba. Both clubs are feeling the effects of the brutal summer match schedule and have a number of players injured or doubtful for this one making writing an insightful match preview a tall order.

Kashiwa and Gamba come into this clash level on points, however Reysol have the better goal difference and have played an extra match. The Chiba based side are known for their potency in attack and are 3rd in goals scored, way behind leaders Kawasaki, but their 28 strikes in 14 games puts them just one behind 2nd placed Yokohama F.Marinos with a match in hand. Conversely their rather leaky rearguard, which has seen no fewer than 7 different players used at centre-back as well as 3 goalkeepers taking turns between the sticks, ranks a surprisingly high 8th equal with 22 goals conceded.

Gamba’s 4-1 win at Sendai means that they are now one of only three sides still unbeaten away from home in J1 2020 along with FC Tokyo and Vissel Kobe. They currently boast an impressive record of 4 wins and 2 draws which is fourth best in the division, but with fewer games played than all three teams ahead of them. Our opponents Kashiwa have had the same struggles as Gamba at home, recording an identical three wins and four defeats to date. Both clubs have notoriously boisterous supports which have been largely nullified by the COVID-19 restrictions on fans.

Gamba have a tendency to share the goals more equally throughout the team than Kashiwa do. The Nerazzurri have netted 21 times in 13 J1 games and so far 11 different players have been on target with Brazilian Ademilson currently leading the way, notching 4 in 10 appearances. For Kashiwa, J1’s leading marksman Michael Olunga has picked up exactly where he left off last year in J2 and already has a whopping 14 goals in just 13 games which represents 50% of his team’s total. Overall just 8 players have found the back of the net for Reysol in 2020, other key contributors have been Hayato Nakama (4 goals) and Ataru Esaka (3 goals / 5 assists) while ex-Gamba marksmen Hiroto Goya has 3 league strikes from just 2 starts and has also bagged a couple in the Levain Cup.

Head to Head

This is not a happy hunting ground for Gamba as seen in the table below. The excellent 3-1 victory in round 2 of the 2017 campaign, thanks to Sam Robson’s favourite Shun Nagasawa’s double, is our only recent success at the normally intimidating Kashiwa Stadium. Indeed Reysol were the ones to end Gamba’s incredible nine match winning streak at the end of the 2018 season, the final match before their year-long sabbatical in J2 last year.

These two have already faced off once in 2020 with Kashiwa edging a tight Levain Cup Group stage match 1-0 with the goal inevitably coming from Olunga. That will likely be the only time I’ll be in Panasonic Stadium this year, but I did witness an entertaining tie between two sides shaking off the cobwebs in their first hit out of the year and in truth 6-4 Gamba may have been a more accurate reflection of the run of play than a 1-0 away win.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

It’s bad news for Gamba’s midfield with the announcement that the impressive Yuji Ono has damaged knee ligaments that require surgery which means he won’t be back until next year. Shinya Yajima missed the Sendai game with a sprained ankle, though as yet we don’t know how serious it is. As one door closes, so another opens and that will be the case for Yuki Yamamoto who capped his first J1 start in the midfield anchor role with a fine strike last Saturday and also 19 year-old Shuhei Kawasaki who has seen his excellent J3 form rewarded with a promotion to be Shu Kurata’s understudy in the top team. In defence, everyone is now fully fit with Ryo Shinzato and Shunya Suganuma both getting a run out as overage players with the U23s against Fujieda MYFC last Saturday.


Kashiwa Reysol

I could probably write a book about Kashiwa’s injury troubles this year, but I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Working from back to front, first choice goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura had to be subbed off in the second half of Saturday’s game with S-Pulse after injuring his leg taking a goal-kick, Korean international Kim Seung-gyu hasn’t been on the bench in recent weeks and his status is unknown. Off-season signing from Tosu, Yuji Takahashi damaged his knee against Kashima 2 matchdays ago and is out for the year, while fellow centre-backs Takuma Ominami, Yuta Someya and Tatsuya Yamashita have been out of the squad recently and I’m assuming it’s because they are not fully fit. Further forward, Ben Maxwell’s favourite J1 hit-man Richardson has reached the four yellow card suspension threshold and will sit this one out. Star Brazilian winger Cristiano, who recorded 19 goals and 18 assists in J2 last year hasn’t been seen since the league’s re-start back in June while his compatriot Matheus Savio, like Takahashi above, was replaced in the first half of the match against Kashima and didn’t feature at Shimizu. Yuta Kamiya provided 4 assists early in the campaign, but hasn’t been seen in the matchday squad since the 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Cerezo last month. Likewise, Yusuke Segawa started the season as first choice but was subbed at half-time in the 3-2 win at Vissel Kobe and has been absent for the 3 subsequent matchdays. In a rare piece of good news, right-sided defender Shunki Takahashi is back from suspension following a rather harsh looking two yellow cards against Kashima Antlers. I’m assuming that Olunga was just rested against Shimizu and will be back looking for his usual goal(s) in this encounter.

Know Your Opponent – Kashiwa Reysol

Kantoku: Nelsinho Baptista (2nd spell), Re-appointed: 1 February 2019, Record: P 56 W 32 D 11 L 13 F 113 A 55 Points Per Game 1.91 Failed to Score 9 Clean Sheets 20

GK #17 Kim Seung-gyu – Capped 43 times by South Korea and named in Alan Gibson’s Best Ever J1 team, Kim was in outstanding form to keep a clean sheet in the clash between these two back in February. He’s since lost his place to Kosuke Nakamura and I’m simply guessing he may be fit enough to play in this match. He previously spent 3 ½ years with Vissel Kobe before a 6 month spell with Ulsan Hyundai in homeland which ended with a disastrous final day performance against rivals Pohang that let Jeonbuk slip in to land yet another title.

RCB #24 Naoki Kawaguchi – Normally a right-back, but may be asked to play as a right-sided centre-back in this match owing to a lack of alternatives. Kawaguchi originally joined Reysol on loan from Albirex Niigata midway through last year and made the deal permanent in the off-season.

CB #2 Jiro Kamata – Vastly experienced centre-back who started the Levain Cup game with Gamba in February alongside fellow veteran Yuta Someya before both subsequently lost their places to younger rivals. The former Sendai man is now back in the starting eleven and will need to use his nous and experience to help his defensive partners adjust to their new roles.

LCB #4 Taiyo Koga – Really impressed me in February while playing at left-back. Capped once by Japan, Koga has performed well at right-back for most of the season while Hiromu Mitsumaru has shone on the opposite flank, but has has recently shifted into the middle with more mixed results.

RWB #6 Shunki Takahashi – I’m honestly a little surprised he’s featured as much as he has this year after making just 19 league appearances across the previous two seasons spent with Kobe and Kashiwa. His versatility is useful for Nelsinho as he’s able to play on either flank and at full-back or wing-back.

RCM #27 Masatoshi Mihara – Another member of the Kobe Old Boys club, Mihara actually sunk his former employers with an injury time winner last month and looked like he really enjoyed it. Calling him a jack-of-all-trades may be a bit harsh, but he’s found himself used at right-back as well as various positions in the midfield during his year in Chiba. Like Kawaguchi, he originally joined on loan in mid-2019 before making things permanent over the winter.

DM #7 Hidekazu Otani © – Mr. Kashiwa; promotions, relegations, J1 and J2 title wins, League Cup and Emperor’s Cup triumphs, Otani has seen it all since coming to the club as a junior high school student. Kashiwa are his only professional side and he’s played over 450 league games for them. Team captain and a vital cog in the centre of the park.

LCM #28 Sachiro Toshima – One of a number of J2 players who clearly impressed the Kashiwa scouting department last year, Toshima followed his former team-mate Kawaguchi to Kashiwa from Niigata. The Tsukuba University graduate is a smooth operator when in possession and has the potential to be a mainstay in the Reysol midfield for the next decade.

LWB #20 Hiromu Mitsumaru – An off-season recruit from Tosu, Mitsumaru started the year on the sidelines, but grabbed his chance with an impressive second-half cameo away to Kawasaki and hasn’t looked back since. He was Toshima’s senpai at Tsukuba University prior to moving to Saga in 2016 and has quickly adapted to life in Chiba with 3 assists already this year.

RCF #14 Michael Olunga – What can I say about him that hasn’t already been covered? 8 goals in 1 match against Kyoto last year, 27 in total plus 8 assists in J2 and now running at better than a goal a game in J1. Gamba found back in February that the best way to stop Olunga is by preventing his less talented team-mates from getting the ball to him. Once he gets possession, though, you might as well adopt the same tactics I would in a fight with Tyson Fury, cover your eyes and hope for the best.

LCF #19 Hiroto GoyaIkemen former Gamba forward who never got close to hitting the heights expected of him in Suita. A brilliant loan spell with Nagasaki last year (22 goals in 36 league games) clearly took Kashiwa’s fancy. He’s struggled to break into the starting eleven as Reysol have played most games with Olunga as the lone striker supported by three attacking midfielders. The defensive crisis at the Kashiwa Stadium may prove to be Goya’s salvation as Nelsinho’s hand has been forced and there’s an extra centre-forward slot available.

Other Options – Should both Nakamura and Kim be ruled out through injury then third choice ‘keeper Haruhiko Takimoto, a Kashiwa academy graduate could be called into action, as he has twice already this year from the bench. Right-sided defender Kengo Kitazume joined from fellow promoted side Yokohama FC last winter and I unsuccessfully predicted he would take Takahashi’s place, that hasn’t happened yet, but he is a solid bench option. In central midfield, Yusuke Kobayashi, back in Chiba after a disappointing loan spell with Shonan and young Yuto Yamada, a surprise starter at Panasonic Stadium in February are alternatives to Otani and Mihara. Further forward, I’ve predicted that the lethal Ataru Esaka will be rested due to a heavy workload recently, but there is every chance he will start. The same could be said for Hayato Nakama who netted an impressive 15 times from left midfield for Fagiano Okayama last year, he is probably one of the best 11 players available to Nelsinho at the moment, but may find it difficult to operate in the current 3-5-2 system. Ex-Iwata and Niigata forward Ryohei Yamazaki and promising youngster Mao Hosoya are options to round out the bench, though it’s unlikely either will start unless there are further injuries to first teamers.

Predicted Line Ups




Match Prediction

With all the uncertainty surrounding who is fit or not for Kashiwa, making a definite prediction is tough. A Cristiano / Olunga inspired Reysol would be strong favourites to win in a normal season, but are an injury ravaged Kashiwa without the advantage of their yellow wall really such a sure bet? Recent form shows that both of these teams usually score and concede in every game so we should see goals. Gamba have 5 wins 1 draw and 0 defeats when leading at half time and are also 7-2-0 when they net the game’s opening goal, so the opening stanza will be crucial (for comparison, they are 1-0-4 when the opposition score first). I’ll go with 2-2, but honestly I don’t have a lot of faith in my prediction for the reasons laid out above.