Thursday, 10 March 2011

Agent Orange: 11 Things I Learned In Kashima‏

I recently bought a Foo Fighters CD. The first part of it I could hardly stand, but I listened a little more and liked it. There were parts that were uneven but overall it was pretty good. Coincidentally enough, I got the CD just before I headed out to Kashima Antlers. Omiya's game on Sunday was a lot like that and I feel that I should share! So here are eleven things that I learned in Kashima:

1. Kota Ueda is the heir apparent to former Squirrels star Daigo Kobayashi. The diminutive maestro had a very good game and helped to connect an otherwise frazzled center of the pitch. The free kick that he scored was a thing of pure beauty. We haven't had somebody capable of doing that since Taishi Tsukamoto got diagnosed with cancer.

2. Takuya Aoki has to get better. The difference between the first half and the second was the declining effort of Aoki as the hub of the defense. In the first half, he played the bulkier Antlers duo to a stalemate but when the physicality picked up in the second half, Aoki disappeared. He needs to play big, because...

3. ... our team is very small, especially on the right side of the field where Daisuke Watabe, Arata Sugiyama and Chikara Fujimoto are all taking turns covering on defense. But the real problem with having a small team is...

4. ... we don't defend set pieces well. The Antlers' first two goals were both directly off of set pieces. Kashima was able to use their size and strength to exploit a very small squad.

5. 4-2-3-1 is a success - so far. It's pushing the opponents out to the wings and it's giving chances. Lee Chun Soo really had a dynamic game and looks like the biggest beneficiary of the new system. However, it was not all successful because...

6. Rafael disappeared. Not so much disappeared but got drawn back into the defense. He had few chances to exert his will on the offensive end because he had to cover the left side.

7. Our sidebacks suck. Sugiyama and Kazuhiro Murakami are not quality enough to cover the back. I'm not exactly sure what happened to Norio Suzuki but I hope he gets out of the doghouse soon. The main letdown in the game was the play of Sugiyama, who brought nothing to the team and actually was the flashpoint of a controversy, when he stalled for a good spell and would not leave the field after an "injury".

On another tangent, I hated our stalling. Ueda and Chun Soo also were guilty of milking the clock and it ended up biting us in the ass. I understand why they did it - before Sunday we had scored one goal in six games at Kashima and having a lead there was something very foreign to us. That being said, it reminded me of Vegalta Sendai in week two of last year or Avispa Fukuoka in the Emperor's Cup. It was bad, I don't like it and I hope we don't do it anymore.

8. Watabe looked very good. There were times when he turned the ball over but he made some chances. The second goal was set up when he took the ball and got tripped by the Antlers defender (Masahiko Inoha? Anyhow, I haven't seen a leg sweep that good since the last time I watched Karate Kid. Sensei Osvaldo di Oliveira had his Kashima Cobra Kai in fighting mode on Sunday... more on that later).

9. Takashi Kitano was great, and is going to have to be the rest of the season for us to succeed. He kept us in the game early when Kashima was rolling.

10a. Keigo Higashi needs to replace Fujimoto. Chikara wasn't awful, he was just a nonentity. We got some control back when Higashi got in the game and held the ball. He had a rough time with passing and shooting, but he can dribble and hold the ball in traffic. We don't have anyone that can do that.

10b. The substitutions were weird. It seemed like Naoki Ishihara would have been the perfect sub when Chun Soo was dragging in the last fifteen minutes. I hope Ishihara isn't getting buried. I'm not sure what the deal is between him and coach Jun Suzuki but it's odd to say the least.

11. Kashima. Usually I don't like talking about other teams but the events on Sunday and the banter afterwards kind of forces my hand. The club does put on a very good show, the jets and the beautiful rendition of the National Anthem were spectacular and their fans were also great. The team has a darker edge to it, though, and I'm not sure if it's irritability over not being four-time champions or if the personality of their coach is just seeping into the team, but their performance was reminiscent of Urawa during their peak. The midfield was great for them but they really miss Marquinhos, he was steady for them for years and the pairing of Shinzo Koroki and Yuya Osako ate chance after chance.

The precision passing game was there but there was a dirty edge to their play. They've always been known to knock the snot out of people but there were times early in the second half where the Mitsuo Ogasawara and Takeshi Aoki pairing would just clobber the more diminutive Omiya mids without repurcussion. The offensive players went down on very slight contact and at times the guys in the box made the Omiya goal look like a mosh pit.

There was a good stretch in the second half where the ref was giving them free kick after free kick. They really muddied the game with their style of play and referee Yoshida could not handle it. He absolutely blew it numerous times on both sides of the ball. Kashima had a reason to complain, but they also benefitted from the bad ref as well. Yoshida held up every free kick... except one, when after a string of free kick calls, he allowed Kashima a quick start while still engaging in an argument with two Ardija defenders. Why he didn't stop that play is beyond me. It led to a corner which Kashima converted into their second goal. He was bad and inconsistent.

However, the actions of coach Oliveira were pathetic. I understand that he was mad but going after the fourth official and Sugiyama was over the top to say the least. There have been some who are trying to say that Oliveira is trying to champion good refereeing with his numerous tantrums. He's not, he's working the refs like all big coaches do, in hopes that he can get calls down the road. It's reminiscent of Phil Jackson. If Oliveira is really the pure-hearted champion of fair play, let him criticize the ref the next time Kashima gets a favorable call. I don't expect him to do that because it's not his job and basically it would be suicide.

I guess that Kashima has a lot of calls go against them but considering the crap that we had to put up with from the refs (phantom PK versus Sendai, two awful red cards against FC Tokyo, a controversial red versus Urawa, uneven calling in Nagoya where we got yellows and they got nothing, twenty minutes of offside-free play for Kashima in Kashima, two goals for us not counted and one against which didn't cross the line, the only team in J1 not to get a PK call all year in league play), I'm not all that sympathetic to them.

And I really don't think Oliveira acting like a spoiled toddler in Toys R Us is going to be all that effective. People don't like assholes. We got one as our captain and his act has worn thin around the band of J1 referees. I imagine Oliveira has as well. Nobody likes to be shown up, especially the thin-skinned ranks of the officiating corps and that is exactly what Oliveira did. For his troubles, he has a game to ponder what happened and we have a good eight months before we see him again, so that's the last word I'm going to say about him for a while.

Column number 100 is in the books! Squirrels Climb Trees, Bitches!



Matsu 10 March 2011 at 14:29  

Good article, and one that seems accurate on almost every point (the Phil Jackson comparison in particular). But I think AO is slightly too cynical about Oliveira, who HAS, in numerous post-match interviews, pointed out bad calls by the refs that favour his team. Perhaps you would say its simply a sign of arrogance - a guy who has to point out every mistake someone else makes, even when he benefits from it - but he does do it.

I clearly remember a match two seasons ago, against Vissel when Kaio was the coach. There were one or two cases where cheap fouls were called on Kashima players and Oliveira was arguing. Kaio got up and said something to him - probably "quit whining" or something like that - and Oliveira frowned and walked away. About 5 minutes later Okubo went in on a sliding tackle, but pulled out when he saw he wouldnt get the ball. There was OBVIOUSLY no contact at all. But of course (it being Okubo...) the ref pulled out a yellow, and Kaio was off the bench with a yell. Oliveira walked over, put his arm around Kaio and shook a finger at the ref while giving him an exasperated look. "Bad call".

So yeah. He might be annoying (and he might be deliberately play-acting to manipulate people), but I think he honestly DOES want to help improve officiating in the J.League .

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP