A brief one this week due to other commitments, but just enough time for a quick look at Gifu and the J2 week.
Different players – same result
So, those of you that read last week’s programme notes would have read my assertion that there would be goals in Gifu’s trip to JEF United. Spoiler alert, there were. Gifu coming away with a 3-2 win wasn’t particularly surprising to me although the circumstances in which it came about, were.
Gifu were terrible in the first 30 minutes or so, JEF deservedly took the lead through Yusuke Chajima’s goal after Masanori Abe had carelessly given the ball away. But Kyoto Furuhashi’s cross for Paulo Tanaka to stroke in was the stuff of counter attacking dreams – it was pitch perfect. The teams then traded goals, Nagashima for Gifu, Kiyotake for JEF, before Koya Kazama – remember him? He scored a hat-trick at JEF last year – slalomed in from the left before arrowing a majestic 25 yarder into the top corner to snatch the win.
Playing with fire
In the first half, Gifu’s passing out from the defence was woeful, sometimes bordering on football suicide. It is a side-effect of Takeshi Oki’s footballing principles, possession is key and it must not be given away carelessly at any cost. For whatever reason last Sunday, it just didn’t work. Perhaps a lot of credit should be given to JEF United for pressuring the Gifu defenders and midfielders every time they got the ball and maybe that ruffled the players. It took Kota Miyamoto, Gifu’s midfield base, almost the entire first 45 minutes to get a hold of the game. Last year, we had Yoshihiro Shoji who dictated games and it is unfair to compare Miyamoto to Shoji. But in the second 45, Miyamoto looked a lot more assured and looked like the type of midfielder that Oki needs to assert “Gifu Domination Soccer” ball retention principles. Shoji and Sisinio were arguably the best midfield axis in J2 last year, so replacing them is no easy task at all, but if Miyamoto can at least do a passable impression of Shoji, that would then allow Nagashima & Yuto Ono to assert their passing wares further up the field. It’s early days, but the arrow is pointing up for Kota Miyamoto.
Ryan De Vries made his Gifu debut when he came if the bench towards the end of last Sunday’s game and showed a glimpse of what he can bring to the side. He looked strong, decisive and could even have had an assist; his cleverly delayed pass to Kyogo Furuhashi saw Ryogo round the keeper, but his shot came back off the post. He’ll get fitter & fitter, but his physical presence is something that we haven’t had in a while. I look forward to seeing him in action more.
Gifu head to Japan’s cultural capital Kyoto tomorrow (if you’re reading this on Friday, today if on Saturday) to take on Kyoto Sanga. Kyoto started the season with a bad loss at home to Machida Zelvia, but have since followed that result with two respectable draws, 2-2 at Fukuoka, and 1-1 at Niigata last weekend. Those draws have come with Uruguayan forward Renzo Lopes up front, and he will be Gifu’s main thorn to deal with in the game.
Kyoto were SO bad to watch last year it was a little bit upsetting. When you think of Kyoto Sanga, you think of their academy and their usual nice attractive style. Last season saw Tulio & Kevin Oris up front and their version of mid-80’s football. Tulio scored plenty of goals, but there was no future in that style of play – and there was almost certainly no future for manager Takanori Nunobe if his side continued on that trajectory.
Last week, Sanga set up with Lopes up top on his own, with Iwasaki and Koyamatsu operating outside of him. Behind them, in a deeper role, were Shigehiro & Sento – all of those are young, energetic and potentially dynamic players and this is the Kyoto that should be performing. As an aside, the battle between Takayuki Fukumura at left back and Koyamatsu on Sanga’s right wing will be a treat to watch.
This match has sneaky goal upside. Both attacks will fancy their chances against the respective defences. If Kyoto trot out Tulio & Ishibitsu, Gifu will probably find lots of joy. I don’t think Kyoto’s defence will be all that happy about facing the pace of Furuhashi & Tanaka, while the choice of “centre forward” for Gifu – I would guess between Yamagishi & De Vries – will be interesting. Yamagishi is a clever mover who drops deep often. De Vries will be more likely to challenge Tulio & Someya (if it is indeed those who play) in a match up.
The J2 picks
There are quite a few interesting games on tap this weekend. Here is the sushi chef’s selection:
- Omiya Ardija vs Zweigen Kanazawa – while it is probably too early to declare a full blown crisis, if Ardija are beaten at home by a gritty but limited Zweigen side, alarms bell will definitely start ringing at the NACK5
- Mito Hollyhock vs Renofa Yamaguchi – the league leaders travel to face the third placed side, not a sentence I thought I’d be writing about these two teams but goal happy Renofa and stoic Mito are both unbeaten and this will be a game that both will think they should be winning.
- Matsumoto Yamaga vs Fagiano Okayama – Yamaga’s first “home” game is against 100% Fagiano Okayama. Home is in quotation marks because this game will be played in Kofu (due to Matsumoto’s inclement winter weather) but Yamaga will still turn out a great crowd. This is a tough assignment though, given that Okayama are yet to concede a goal. I fancy Matsumoto here though to get heir season up and running.
- Tochigi SC vs Kamatamare Sanuki – Tochigi’s goal conceding bingo arrives for another week. So far they’ve conceded 3 (vs Okayama), 4 (vs Oita) and 5 (vs Yamaguchi) so what will it be this week: 2 or 6? Eyes down…..