I’m shamelessly lifting this segment from the MMQB American Football site (quite simply, the best sports site on the web) and using it to give a quick overview of the weekend’s football in Japan.
1. I think DAZN has to get its act together pronto.
Judging by the uproar over the buffering/lack of stream affecting matches over the weekend, especially Gamba Osaka vs Ventforet Kofu, patience with the new J.League rights holder is already wearing thin. They (DAZN) had to issue an apology to subscribers, informing them:
“We sincerely apologize to all fans who were unable to watch the live and catch up content during the weekend. As fans ourselves, we understand how frustrating this is and it is not how DAZN want people to experience J.League or any content on our service.”
Nice words, but if a repeat occurs this weekend the situation will move from teething problem to full blown broadcasting crisis.
2. I think we might have to look at Yokohama F.Marinos again, in a more positive light.
Their win against Urawa, powered by new captain Manabu Saito, was probably a bit out of left field for most people. Saito set up two and was a constant thorn in Urawa’s side, taking Ryota Moriwaki to the cleaners a number of times. Once all the new signings begin to bed in, and you saw what happens when players can’t communicate freely with other when Rafael Silva got behind Aussie defender Milos Degenek for one of Urawa’s goals, that team will presumably only get better. Maybe we (read, I) was too harsh on them in pre-season, or maybe they have a horrendous result next time out – either way, that opening day performance gives cause for optimism.
3. I think we might have a new heir to the Tiki-Taka crown.
FC Gifu attempted over 800 passes in their 2-2 draw with Renofa Yamaguchi on Sunday, completing nearly 85% of those passes. It is very fitting that they have a Spaniard in the heart of it, and Sisinio & Yoshihiro Shoji combined to make Gifu’s midfield a long ball free zone. In a J2 league where physicality and long balls/passes tend to work well (see Renofa’s two goals in that very game) new FC Gifu coach Takeshi Oki’s approach is sure to raise eyebrows.
But Gifu have been down at the foot of J2 seemingly forever, and so a new approach was needed. It looked good, yielded 71% possession and should have resulted in a win. They have a huge test when they head to Toyota Stadium to take on title favourites Nagoya Grampus on Saturday, but they shouldn’t be afraid to try the passing approach again. Most people would put Grampus as favourites meaning Gifu should – in theory – have nothing to lose. It should be a nice game for the purists next weekend.
4. I think Masami Ihara had better get his defence sorted, and quickly.
Sunday’s opening day home defeat against Oita Trinita shows the pitfalls that this Fukuoka team will still come up against- their defence. This website chose defender Kim Hyun-hun as their key player because the centre back was set to take an important role in trying to shore up that backline, but just days before the season started, he was sold to a Chinese second division side, leaving a gap that was bound to be big, and so it proved. Coming off the back of a horrible season in J1, Ihara can’t afford to get too far behind the eight ball in the early stages otherwise he will be looking nervously over his shoulder. This Fukuoka squad has enough in it to be play-off bound, but if they can’t get the defence stable, that could ultimately torpedo them.
5. I think Kashiwa Reysol might be the real deal.
Young, vibrant and sharp up front, Reysol took advantage of clumsy Sagan Tosu defending to come away with an impressive 3-1 victory from Best amenity Stadium. The Brazilian front three of Cristiano, Diego Oliveira & Ramon Lopes showed immediate signs of understanding, and when Lopes was tired, Kosuke Takatomi came on and buzzed about, giving the defenders no room for pause. If Reysol can back up this impressive opening day performance, they could be the brightest of dark horses this year.