I won’t go into too much detail on Gifu’s 0-1 defeat in their final pre-season game as I’ve said I’m not going to do match reports this year. But there were a few things that stood out to me watching the game unfold.

Brazilians look good:

Leonardo Rocha showed some decent touches in his “number 10” role, playing just off Evandro. Rocha’s best moment was when he played a superb through ball which split the Kobe defence – Leo Mineiro rounded the keeper but hit the post with his shot. Rocha also had a few goes from long range and his ball retention was good for the most part. It has been a while since the club had a genuine number 10 and Rocha looks to be Ramos’ man.

Evandro looked pretty decent too. I wasn’t very inspired by his signing but he is a huge physical presence, something that Gifu haven’t really had up front for a while. He can hold the ball up  well, and he was so unlucky when his 25 yard volley came back off the post.  If he and Rocha can build on their initial understanding, it could bear fruit.

The volante position is going to be important:

Ramos set the team up in 4-2-3-1 formation (outlets will say it was a 4-5-1, but that clearly wasn’t the case). In this situation, the two holding players – in today’s case Keiji Takachi & Ryutaro Karube have to be strong and decisive with the ball, and show intelligence when they don’t. Today, Kobe’s best chances came from mistakes by those two players. Keiji Takachi’s misplaced pass led directly to Kazuma Watanabe’s goal, while Karube was lucky to get away with a similar mistake. I think Ramos will keep faith with these two, Takachi is the captain and Karube does show big promise, but he has to know that Masaru Akiba brings a lot to that position, and Tsubasa Aoki shows just as much promise as Karube, and is a lot stronger in the tackle. The two players, whoever they are, will need to provide the back bone to this side, if Ramos keeps this formation. Taisuke Mizuno, a player who looks very at home in the volante role, came on for Takachi and had a good, solid game. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him take on a bigger role as the season goes on.

Confusion down the sides:

We all love Shun Nogaito. We do. But it was surprising to see him charging down the left while Leo Mineiro was left to cover him. That surely isn’t how it is supposed to work? Nogaito is no stranger to finding himself in advanced positions, and Leo has shown he will be selfless in his work, but those situations must be kept to a minimum – Leo has to be going forward, that’s his game. He’s not a left midfielder in the traditional sense, he’s a forward. Let him stay there, and let him do his thing. He shouldn’t have to cover anyone. It is easy to see why Ramos played Leo on the left, he wanted him to make those incutting, diagonal runs that can cause so many problems, it was just that kind of run which nearly led to Leo scoring. I’d be interested to see if Leo stays there for the season opener.

Only one week to go until the big kick off. Hopefully a good week in training will get the team ready for the opener in Gunma on February 28th