I might be wrong, but I can’t remember a whole calendar month where FC Gifu went unbeaten, but that is exactly what happened in April 2017. Five games, four wins, one draw represents a lot of things – progress, optimism, valediction among them.

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For me, it represents relief. After the first five games in which Gifu failed to register a win you could sense some of the old negativity returning, no matter that some of the football Gifu were playing was far in excess of anything that had been previously seen. In hindsight, Gifu had a rough start to the year given the teams they faced. Nagoya, Shonan, Matsumoto, Yokohama, Tokyo Verdy are all in the top seven and Gifu faced them all before April was out.

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In Gifu’s unbeaten April, they faced:

  • Machida (A)
  • Mito (H)
  • Shonan (A)
  • Sanuki (A)
  • Kanazawa (H)

With the exception of Shonan, all of those teams are “around us” types of teams – meaning that Gifu should not go into those games fearful but that is exactly what had been happening over previous years, especially at home. The fact Gifu put those teams away only gives good signals going forward.

 

How has it happened?

Manager Takeshi Oki has found a settled line up, and one that suits the football he wants to play. There is little squad rotation, but I’m sure that will come when summer/suspensions/injuries hit. The usual formation looks like:

 

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Omoto   Henik   Tamori   Fukumura

Nagashima   Shoji   Sisinio

Tanaka   Namba   Furhashi

The key to this team performing well is ball retention. In my opinion, there are only three defensive outfielders in that line up as Yuki Omoto (more on him soon) is more of a winger than a full back. Shoji & Sisinio in the middle get a lot of plaudits, and rightly so. Shoji is more of an all round midfielder who does everything; tackle, pass, shoot, score & organize while Sisinio is superb when facing the opposition goal. His range of passing is excellent at this level and Gifu play well, the chances are that Sisi plays well – the two are highly interconnected.

Up front, it took a while to settle on this three. At first, Koya Kazama was prefered as the central striker and while it worked to a certain extent (i.e. the creation of chances) Namba brings a more direct, physical element that allows the wingers to get into the game more. Kyogo Furuhashi has been outstanding in his first two months with his pace & directness causing all sorts of problems for opposition defenders. Paulo Tanaka has got better every week and finds himself in great attacking positions. One of the keys to Furuhashi & Paulo playing well is speed at which they get the ball. Shoji & Sisinio are so decisive in the midfield that they also seem to know instantly whether the two wingers are available as an outlet. If the ball gets played quickly, Paulo & Furuhashi will find themselves one-on-one with opposition full backs and those are battles they would back themselves to win on a regular basis.

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The wild card in the midfield is Yushi Nagashima, the youngster on loan from Kyoto Sanga. He has lots of energy, but is tasked with finding soft spots in the opposition defence. He is usually the furthest forward of Gifu’s midfield three meaning he occupies space between opponents’ midfield & defence. He is extremely skillful and his low centre of gravity, while occasionally meaning he gets knocked off the ball, also means he can turns very quickly in tight spaces. When he does that around the opposition area, it becomes very difficult to defend.

Gifu started May in the same way they finished April, with a win at Gunma. We host Oita Trinita in Sunday knowing that a win would probably take us into the top six. Oita are a good side, but with the form Gifu are in, it would be wrong not to go into this game with confidence.

See you there!!

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