You want a preview of Gifu’s trip to Tokushima? No? Tough luck – you’ve got one anyway.
Last 5 games:
- FC Gifu
- Kyoto Sanga (H) – 2-3
- Roasso Kumamoto (H) – 0-2
- Machida Zelvia (A) – 0-1
- Omiya Ardija (H) – 0-1
- Albirex Niigata (A) – 0-5
- Tokushima Vortis
- Montedio Yamagata (H) – 5-1
- Fagiano Okayama (A) – 1-2
- Oita Trinita (A) – 1-0
- Kamatamare Sanuki (A) – 4-0
- Tochigi SC (H) – 4-1
Head to head:
The reverse fixture this year was a 0-0 draw in Gifu back in April. The game itself was of a high standard and it was a little surprising that it ended goalless. I thought Gifu just shaded it, but Vortis midfielder Sisinio thought his side were slightly better. Whatever, it was a really good game to watch.
In general, Tokushima have had the better of this matchup, winning 10 of the 21 games between the clubs in J.League history, whilst at home they’ve won 6 of the 9 meetings, with Gifu emerging victorious twice.
- FC Gifu
- Top scorer – Junichi Paulo Tanaka – 7
- Most assists – Takayuki Fukumura – 4 (Fukumura is suspended for this one)
- Most important – Whoever plays as the striker. Gifu need a goal threat – it is THAT simple.
- Tokushima Vortis
- Top scorer – David Barral – 7 (actually Yatsunori Shimaya is their top scorer, but he was sold to Sagan Tosu in the summer)
- Most assists – Sisinio – 4
- Most important – Ken Iwao. The midfielder is having another superb season under the tutelage of Ricardo Rodriguez. Scorer of five goals from his midfield position thus far for Vortis, he has benefitted from being pushed further forward during Tokushima’s summer reshuffle. After Vorits sold Shimaya and Ryogo Yamasaki (to Tosu & Shonan Bellmare respectively) Rodriguez decided to deploy Iwao in a more advanced position, leaving Sisinio to drop back into the holding midfield role, a role where he collects passes from defenders and gives him time to look up and pick passes. This in turn has given Iwao the license to spend a bit more time in attacking positions where his skill on the ball, his pinpoint passing accuracy in short areas and his eye for goal has been activated. Iwao’s current ranking in the attacking stats for Vortis are:
- Goals – 3rd
- Assists – 2nd
- Shots – 1st
- Chances created – 1st
The blossoming of Iwao has really come about in the second half of the season. Once he was pushed further forward, Vortis have embarked on a run of nine wins in twelve games. It is too simplistic to say that it is all down to Iwao, because of course that narrative forgets to include the signings of Peter Utaka and David Barral, but his importance to the style and implementation of Rodriguez’s footballing philosophy can’t be underestimated.
Tokushima Vortis playing style
I really like the way Tokushima play – incisive and easy on the eye. Predicting how they set up though is a difficult task because if there is one thing that manager Ricardo Rodriguez likes to do, it is tinker with his formations. Going by the stats on the excellent Football Lab site, Tokushima have employed no less than six different formations this year, but by far their most successful is the 3-3-2-2 set up that they’ve employed recently and it is that formation which I expect to see on Saturday
The Vortis starting XI from their previous game
There might be some personnel changes to contend with given that Taro Sugimoto and Sisinio were left out/rested last weekend and they’ll both be itching to play in this one; Sugimoto is from Gifu and Sisinio was the 2017 player of the year for Gifu.
Goalkeeper Yuji Kajikawa was actually second choice at the start of this year when Costa Rican ‘keeper Carvajal was brought in, but he reclaimed his place in the tenth game (not that Carvajal did anything noticeably wrong in my opinion) and has been a steady presence all year. In defence, since the departure of Leo Osaki to Vissel Kobe, Vortis have usually gone with Izutsu, Kotaro Fujiwara and the experienced Hidenori Ishii. In front of them they are really spoiled for choice. Sisinio can anchor the midfield, as can Taiga Maekawa – but Maekawa, much like Ken Iwao, is probably better utilized further forward. Against Tochigi the width was provided by Ryuji Sugimoto on the left and Genta Omotehara on the right. The departure of Yuki Omoto to V-Varen Nagasaki left a pretty big gap to fill on the right, and it was initially though that Rikuto Hirose (long a favourite of mine) would pick up the slack but he picked up an injury against Kamatmare Sanuki. Rodriguez gave Omotehara first crack at replacing him and the on loan Shonan man played very well in the win against Tochigi last time out.
Up front are arguably the best front two in the league – Peter Utaka and David Barral. Most people probably know about these players but suffice to say that they are probably too good for J2 and if they are given half a chance, they will punish teams. Utaka took a little bit of time to get up to match fitness but since he’s come into the team, he has enjoyed the partnership with Barral. Barral, for his part, has done exceptionally since arriving in the summer. Seven goals from seven appearances and his excellent movement takes up a lot of attention so that others in the system can flourish.
In summary, this would have been a very difficult assignment in a normal situation. But given the form that both teams are in – completely at opposite ends of the spectrum – this is going to be very, VERY difficult for Gifu.