1. I think the real Gamba Osaka should stand up (to paraphrase an Eminem track).

  • Gamba Osaka 1-1 Venforet Kofu
  • Gamba Osaka 1-4 Jeju United
  • Kashiwa Reysol 1-3 Gamba Osaka

Sort it out Gamba, what are you? Are you the joke of a team which turfed out that pathetic performance against Jeju? Or are you the team that looked so incisive & clinical at Kashiwa? There was a lot of clamour after the Jeju debacle for Kenta Hasegawa to drop forward Shun Nagasawa, but he responded in the best possible way by notching two of Gamba’s three goals at Hitachidai. Ademilson turned up ready to play, and as a whole, Gamba looked ready for this test. Kashiwa, I believe, will turn out to be no mugs this season, meaning we might look back at this result and think “Wow, this was VERY good”.

 

2. I think the impact of Rafael Silva’s addition to Urawa Reds’ attack has been underplayed. 

Urawa are an attacking animal thus far in 2017. They’ve scored two in each competitive game they’ve played, and Rafael Silva, their winter signing from Albirex Niigata has scored three of Urawa’s five league goals so far.

He is different from their other forwards in that he plays much more on the last defender. Yuki Muto can do similar things, but Rafael Silva has a little bit of electricity about him and his goal at the weekend was pure class – from the effortless take & control to the cool dink over Kim Jin-hyeon. It oozed confidence.

Urawa haven’t been as solid as you might have though (although in the season preview on this very site, it was argued that they may be weaker at the back this year), but if they are compensating for that by going on the front foot a bit more, then we could be in for a highly entertaining year in the red half of Saitama.

 

3. I think there’s probably a lot more news to come from V-Varen Nagasaki. For those that haven’t been keeping up, it has been quite “interesting” in the Nagasaki boardroom drama. Last week, news emerged that there had been “irregularities” concerning the financial transactions at a chiropractic clinic linked to the club. This came hot on the heels of an EGM in which it was announced that the club was highly in debt, and without outside investment, wouldn’t be able to pay April salaries on time, and the contentious firing of club employees. Three board members have already resigned there, and with the financial cloud hanging over them, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some drastic action being taken.

It should also serve as a wake up call, not only for Nagasaki but also for the J.League. For Nagasaki, they’ve always had trouble attracting supporters to their stadium – which to be fair, is quite far out of Nagasaki city itself. But, if Nagasaki residents want a J.League club, now would be the ideal to show it by stepping up to the plate and filling that stadium. There were just over 6,000 there for the visit of Yokohama FC on Sunday (how many were there just to see King Kazu?) but that should be the absolute minimum to be aiming at from here on out. It’ll take a huge effort from the people within the club & the supporters, but it can be done.

As for the J.League, this is another reminder of the financial volatility which surrounds some of their member clubs. We aren’t far removed from an accounting scandal (if that isn’t too strong a word) at Ehime FC in which it was found that they mis-reported end of year financial results, thus sparing them an external audit and possible revocation of their J.League licence, and Nagasaki themselves didn’t send a full squad to away games for a lot of games in previous years to save money on Shinkansen costs. Whilst I appreciate it isn’t up to the J.League to look after clubs finances, they need to be a little more proactive in helping teams out. They have a lot of money from the DAZN rights deal, how about giving some of that to clubs to help them out with travel expenses? Or ear-marking a certain amount to give to clubs to look after their academies? It could be that the J.League prefers this Darwinian way, but if it wants to expand the game across Japan, it has to give a helping hand once in a while.

Kudos to Takuya Takagi and his team for actually playing well in spite (or maybe because of?) the off-field distractions. They’ve taken four points from their first two games, and looked good while doing it.

 

4. I think Montedio Yamagata will be very happy with their start to the season. Takashi Kiyama – a very highly rated yet under-the-radar coach, has lead his team to four points from two tricky away assignments to start the year. Last week they won in Kyoto, and at the weekend they drew 1-1 at JEF United.

Montedio (as with other teams in mountainous, snowbound regions) have to play their opening games away from home in order to negate some of the weather variances. Whilst seemingly unfair (not to mention expensive for supporters), it can give you a clue as to the make up of the team how they come through the tricky away tour. They make the extremely long trek to Roasso Kumamoto next week, and if they can come away with three points from that leg of their tour, then seven points from nine is a highly admirable haul.

Kiyama brought some players he knew from Ehime, and three of them (Kodama, Senuma & Sakano) started the game at JEF. Ehime were very good under his management, reaching the play-offs one year and respectability the next. There is a bit more expectation at Montedio, a club which in the not too distant past has seen J1 football, but if he can mesh “his” style with a club with more resources like Yamagata, it could prove to be a very fruitful relationship for the team from the most famous cherry producing area in Japan.

 

5. I think Giravanz Kitakyushu are a lot smarter than I am. I was talking to a friend about how ridiculous it is that there is no net behind their open stand – a stand which backs on to Kokura port (in the bottom right of the photo below)…….

16298416_683256145186274_8190304978701129007_n

…..until it was explained to me that replacing the footballs that end up in the sea is much cheaper than the cost of constructing a net (or similar contraption) to stop the ball from going there in the first place.

Simple when you think about it!

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