Yokohama F.Marinos have started the second stage of the J1 season in good form, and after their recent win over Avispa Fukuoka Manabu Saito and Quenten Martinus spoke about th team’s new attacking accent… (日本語版はこちらです)
The usual suspects have started the second stage of the J1 season strongly, with Urawa Reds and Kawasaki Frontale – who were jostling for the first stage title until Kashima Antlers pipped them both to the post – and 2014 treble winners Gamba Osaka all winning their first two games.
Yokohama F.Marinos have also picked up six points from six, and while both 3-0 victories have come against sides more focused on survival than glory in the top flight, in Shonan Bellmare and Avispa Fukuoka, there are signs of improvement for Erick Mombaerts’ side – particularly when considering they started the first stage with a loss at home to Vegalta Sendai and then a draw away to Avispa.
Marinos finished the first stage in 11th place, a full 17 points behind winners Kashima and 11 adrift of third-placed Reds, primarily because they only managed to win two of their nine home games, scoring just eight goals in front of their own fans and failing to register in five of the matches they hosted.
On the flip side, however, they won five and lost just twice away from home, scoring 16 goals and only failing to find the net on one occasion. With their defence as resolute as ever it would appear that Mombaerts is warming to the idea of playing with a little more attacking verve, and he certainly has the players in his squad to cause teams problems in that respect.
“We have to increase the amount of times we win the second balls back from the opponent and then break quickly,” the team’s livewire-in-chief, Manabu Saito, said after scoring the opener in the win over Avispa. “By doing that I was able to break through from the side and get the goal today. Overall the performance wasn’t great, but winning is everything. We’re not playing well but have won 3-0 and 3-0 – that doesn’t happen so often.”
Indeed, you have to go back to the start of the 2013 season – the year that Marinos came tantalizingly close to becoming champions – for the last time they scored three times in back-to-back league games (3-2 v. FC Tokyo, 3-1 v. Sanfrecce), and all the way to the beginning of the 2010 campaign for the most recent time they won consecutive games by three goals or more without conceding (3-0 v. Shonan and 4-0 against Kawasaki).
“We need to score more goals, and if we are able to finish teams off on the counter then I think we will have become a strong team,” Saito added. “We have to show more in that respect. [Quenten] Martinus, Kayke, me, we have to do more and make more chances in open play. I think we’ve switched to two up front in order to do that, to take the initiative from the opponent.”
That shift to playing with two strikers certainly adds to Marinos’ threat going forwards, and Martinus believes the double spearhead of Kayke and Cayman Togashi has helped Marinos to hit the ground running.
“[Cayman] is a player who runs a lot and I think that’s good for us because he makes a lot of space for me, for Manabu.” The Curaçaoan told me after the Avispa match.
“Kayke also runs a lot, so if they come to the ball we go behind them because if [the defenders] come with them there is a lot of space behind. If [the defenders] stay then we come in the midfield and we take the ball and then we can make combinations. I think it’s a good combination, Kayke and Cayman together, because they run a lot so Manabu and me get a lot of chances – because we have a lot of speed, Manabu and me – to go behind the line. And I think that is our power.”
The pair certainly kept the Avispa defence on their toes with their unpredictable and direct play, and even before Saito swept past Kim Hyun-hun and left Shunsuke Tsutsumi for dead to put Marinos 1-0 up in the 38th minute the 26-year-old had shown his intent with a trademark run that left a trail of grey shirts in his wake just before the half-hour mark.
“I think me and Manabu are players who have our own will,” Martinus said. “Sometimes you need to play for the team but sometimes you need to do something, to try. If you always do the same things teams can look at you and then they know the next time, but Manabu and me we try to do something and it’s always difficult for the opponent.
“The coach said to me, ‘make dribbles’, because here in Japan not many people [do that] they only want to pass. That is typical J.League: pass, pass, pass, tick, tick, tick, one touch, two touch. Me and Manabu try to dribble [past] one guy and then you have a man more because one man is down, then you can make one or two passes.”
And then you can score one or two (or three) goals, as well. The new approach has worked well for Martinus and co. so far, and it will be interesting to see how teams cope with the new-look, more direct Marinos as the second stage progresses.