Too early to panic?

After another 0-4 defeat, dark clouds are gathering above the Nagaragawa Memorial Centre and FC Gifu supporters are staring down the barrel of a long, long season – unless something changes.

In the last four competitive games, Gifu have been done over by an aggregate score of 15-1. Those results are:

  • Kamatamare Sanuki 0-3
  • Avispa Fukuoka 1-4
  • Gunma 0-4
  • Sapporo 0-4

Those four results are split evenly between last season and this, so some of the players are different, but the results have stayed largely the same. In fact, Gifu have won just one of their last ten competitive games. Is it too early in the season to panic? Some (not me) would say yes, given that we are only two games in. We wouldn’t, and don’t, expect Gunma and Kamatamare Sanuki to end up in the promotion places. But to dismiss Gifu’s bad start is to miss the fact that the signs have been there for a while. And it would be foolish not to heed those signs and try to figure out a solution before it becomes too late.


So, what needs to happen? What needs to change?

The manager?

I suppose it’s the easiest place to lay the blame. He was very defiant in his press conference after yesterday’s defeat, saying he was looking forward to getting back on the training ground and working things out. But, the problem with that is that he and the coaching staff have had all winter to sort out the defensive issues.

I don’t know if he is willing to change his outlook on how the game should be played (a la Arsene Wenger at Arsenal) but he really has to cut his cloth according to the materials he has at his disposal here in Gifu. He might need to sacrifice his principles in order to shore Gifu, as a team unit, up. He has given us some excellent performances in his two plus years here, but his ideas for expansive, attacking football, while laudable, don’t always come off.

If I was in charge, this week’s training would be about two things: protecting the defence, and performing attacking overload drills – six attackers versus four defenders, or something like that. Getting defenders to communicate better, and defending space better is an absolute must. In these first two games, too many players have drifted towards the ball, leaving space behind them and Gunma & Sapporo exploited that with ease.

Ruy Ramos

The players?

In theory, they could. But both full backs – Go Iwase & Shun Nogaito – were dropped this week and lots of the same problems still existed. The holding midfielders changed, yet the back line was still exposed. It is my view that the players aren’t the whole problem here. They’re not superstars by any means, but there is some amount of talent there, they just need a system they can play in, and that they can trust.

The tactics?

Yes. In case anyone hasn’t realized, Gifu have a problem conceding goals that isn’t confined to this season. That tells me not enough is being done in the planning / strategizing to neutralize that. It is a good thing to want to play attacking, attractive football, but if you are doing it from being behind, it is, more often than not, a token effort.

Again, if I was in charge next week this is what I’d go with:

(in a 4-5-1 formation, assuming everyone is available)


Abe – Okane – Tashiro – Shun

Masuyama – Tamori – Takachi – Aoki – Paulo

Leo Mineiro

I’d be tempted to let Popp sit out of the Giravanz game. I don’t hold him responsible for any of Sapporo’s goals at the weekend, but it is the second time in a week he has conceded four and so it might be a good time just to let him clear his head. I really hope he doesn’t lose too much confidence because he has the look of a very promising ‘keeper, but it might be an idea for Tokizawa to come in.

Satoshi Tokizawa

I like the look of Abe and Masuyama down the right, and I think Paulo could bring a large slice of energy to the left hand side.

Junichi Paulo Tanaka

Leo has been drifting out that way, but he’s much more effective playing in a central role, preferably against the centre backs. He can use his pace and skill much more productively in the middle.

I really like Taisuke Mizuno as a player, but if I wanted to tighten things up I’d stick Tamori in with Aoki and tell them just to stay there, and don’t let anything past them. The energy that Masuyama & Paulo would bring to the sides would help in that fact.

Daiki Tamori

That team might not look pretty, but if it was given the correct orders and strategy, it could be a very stiff team – and right now FC Gifu NEED a clean sheet, no matter how it comes.


The mentality?

Without question. When asked in his press conference about the fragility of the side, Ramos said that conceding a clear chance in the opening 20 seconds of the game, ruined the positivity that was built up in the previous week’s training. I didn’t see last week’s training, so I don’t know how positive it was (or could have been) but it isn’t easy to argue Ramos’ implication that Gifu are not strong mentally.

That isn’t a reflection on this team. It goes back a while, when even with the likes of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Alex Santos, the team didn’t show enough of the mental fortitude needed to see out games from winning positions. The games that stick out to me are:

  • Losing at home to Yokohama FC – conceding two in three minutes
  • Drawing against 10 man Giravanz Kitakyushu after being 1-0 up
  • The epic capitulation at Tokyo Verdy last year. 3-0 up with ten minutes to play, before losing 4-3

How do you change a negative mentality? You either start winning, or you make a change and hope that that works. A change can also happen organically: a lucky goal, a decision going for you etc. Whatever. It needs to happen. And it really needs to happen soon.

Players & staff after the Consadole game

Is it too early to panic? No. It isn’t. It is absolutely the right time to think about what isn’t going right, and how to rectify it. Before it actually does become too late. Nothing would make me happier than to look back at this post in a month’s time and say “What a moron, can’t believe I panicked so early!”. I sincerely hope it transpires that way, but it is going to take some harsh truths and strong leadership to put us right.


One thing that won’t change is the fantastic support that FC Gifu supporters give. I’d like to think they will be rewarded soon.



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