28
Jul
18

Rusty Reysol

Kashiwa Reysol’s 6-2 thrashing away to Kashima Antlers last week was a new low in a disappointing season. Tonight, they’re away to Vissel Kobe and Andres Iniesta… (日本語版はこちら)

Football Channel,  July 28th, 2018

The J.League is back after the World Cup break, and it already feels like it never went away.

A couple more national team players have earned themselves moves to Europe – with Naomichi Ueda and Wataru Endo sealing transfers to Cercle Brugge and Sint-Truiden, respectively, despite not making it off the bench in Russia – Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres have arrived to huge fanfare but both lost on their debuts off the bench, and a mish-mash of ridiculous scores have ensured J1 remains one of the least predictable divisions in the world.

Yokohama F.Marinos hit the ground at a sprint with an 8-2 hammering of Vegalta Sendai, before then finding themselves 5-0 down within 64 minutes of their next game against FC Tokyo, which they ultimately lost 5-2. Sendai, meanwhile, bounced back from their hammering with a solid 1-0 away to Torres’ Sagan Tosu on the same day that Kashima Antlers swept past Kashiwa Reysol 6-2.

That defeat means Reysol are one of only three teams to have lost both their games since the restart, after they were also edged 1-0 at home to Tokyo on 18 July. One of the others, Gamba Osaka, disposed of Levir Culpi after last Saturday’s home loss to Shimizu S-Pulse and replaced him with club legend Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, but with Reysol having already changed manager back in May when Nozomu Kato took Takahiro Shimotaira’s place in the hot seat a similar course of action seems unlikely in Chiba for now.

Things don’t look especially good for the Sun Kings though, and there has been a cloud hanging over Hitachidai for the bulk of this season.

The club snatched the final Asian Champions League spot on New Year’s Day when Cerezo Osaka, who had finished third in J1, also won the Emperor’s Cup, but Reysol’s campaign ended in ignominy as they exited at the group stage after winning just one of their six games.

Their form in the first half of the league season was patchy as well, and the club haven’t won back-to-back games all year – a run which actually stretches back to 19 August 2017, when they followed a 4-1 win away to Shimizu with a 1-0 victory on the road to Gamba.

That led to the departure of Shimotaira after the 2-1 loss to Kawasaki Frontale in the penultimate game before the World Cup break, and while the promoted Kato got the new manager bounce with a 3-2 win against Nagoya Grampus the team have lost their three games since play resumed this month, going down 2-1 to a Montedio Yamagata B-Team in the Emperor’s Cup on 11 July before their recent pair of J1 losses.

Injuries and loss of form of key players are also a cause for concern. Kosuke Nakamura’s two concussions in consecutive games are a big worry, 2017 J.League Young Player of the Year Yuta Nakayama is also out, Hidekazu Otani is beginning to show signs of his age, and talisman Cristiano has only found the net twice in the league since 10 March.

Football Channel 28 July 2018

The humbling away to Kashima last weekend saw each of Otani and Cristiano substituted in the second half, and the team failed to offer any kind of defence as Kashima ran rampant and threatened to score with every attack.

Nakamura’s replacement Kazushige Kirihata was at fault for the second goal but could do little about any of the others, with Reysol’s marking incredibly sloppy and their failure to apply any pressure to the Antlers forwards enabling the hosts to probe at will – most glaringly for Shoma Doi’s fourth and Koki Anzai’s fifth, for which the former Tokyo Verdy man ran unchallenged from the edge of the centre circle in his own half before converting.

“We lost the ball badly when we were attacking and our risk management at those times wasn’t good,” Jiro Kamata said after the loss in Ibaraki. “It’s painful to concede six goals as a defender and there are things to reflect on, but I think the team as a whole wasn’t good today.

“We fought until the end but unless you manage to get the goals back that has no meaning. The three goals in the first half really hurt us and we just headed into the second trying to keep a clean sheet and equalise, but we weren’t able to stop conceding.”

His manager was also disappointed with the lack of aggression in the team’s defensive approach.

“There was certainly an aspect of not going towards the ball,” Kato said. “That wasn’t everything but I think there was a lack of awareness of the dangerousness of situations at certain times.

“We have been working on that area for the past two months but are still not thorough enough. That sense of danger, that habit, I feel we’re still not able to see things through to the last.”

That is certainly a concern for the team, and while things are as tight as ever in J1 – Reysol are currently 14th, five points above the relegation/promotion play-off place but the same amount adrift of sixth placed Vissel Kobe – they will want to steady the ship as soon as possible.

Last summer they managed to put together a nine-game unbeaten run between 30 July and 23 September, and they will be hoping they can make the first step towards something similar away to Kobe this weekend – with Vissel also looking to bounce back from a disappointing result after losing 3-0 to Shonan Bellmare last Sunday.

There is still a lot of football to be played and no need to panic just yet, but it is important to stop bad days at the office turning into extended runs of poor form. After the thrashing in Kashima the primary target should clearly be to tighten up at the back, and a shut out against Iniesta on Saturday would be a good way to start restoring some confidence.


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