A report from the Kashiwa game coming very late in the week due to my work going a bit crazy for the last week.
The unbeaten run was always going to come to an end some time, and after not losing at home since Tosu in April that day came last Sunday as table-topping Kashiwa came to Level 5 stadium and inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Avispa.
Prior to the game I had said that I hoped Shinoda would change the tactics a little bit to try to contain Leandro Domingues who seemed to be the main creative spark within the Kashiwa team. This would come at the cost of Jogo (or anyone else) dropping a little deeper to help Nakamachi in midfield while Sueyoshi did a man-marking job on Leandro.
As it turned out Shinoda didn’t agree with me, and left the team largely as it was, allowing Kashiwa to worry about us rather than the other way round.
It worked as a tactic with Avispa holding the share of possession, and battling well in midfield, but without ever managing to make a clear cut shot on target.
The Kashiwa defence was very well organised, and playing an interesting tactic. With the central midfield area crowded it was left to the full backs to provide width when attacking. When this happened the centre-backs would spread a little wider and #7 dropped deep to become a tertiary centre-back to play 3 at the back. When defending it became more of a flat 4 as the full backs reverted defensively.
t was a tactic which could potentially go very badly wrong, but they were very well organised as a team, and having let in the fewest goals in the division presumably have been all season.
There were times when I really wanted Genki to run into the channels and collect a ball over the top as the full-back pushed forward, but he seemed more inclined to play more centrally to try to help against the pack ed Kashiwa midfield.
Allowing Leandro time and space in midfield it was only a matter of time before the make-shift defence of Makoto and Nagira would allow space between them, and concede. This happened twice in the space of 5 minutes towards the end of the 1st half.
Firstly with Leandro being fed through space between the centre-backs to calmly slot under Kamiyama, and then becoming provider as again the central defensive pairing were caught out by a ball being fed through the middle by Leandro for Hayashi to finish smartly.
Being 2-0 up Kashiwa started to play a little more defensively, with the full-backs staying defensive for longer stretches of the match. While Avispa continued to hold the ball, and made a few half-chances they never really threatened to score and were probably lucky to keep the score at 2-0 after a couple of clear goal-scoring chances. Kamiyama made some great saves; most notably from a free header from a central position, and a double save after a ludicrous free-kick from 2m out after an adjudged back-pass
The team was still cheered off the pitch, and are entitled to lose a game after playing so well for so long, but were undone by a combination of an unfamiliar defensive partnership, tactics which weren’t ideal for a team packing central midfield, and the best player I have seen come to Level 5 so far this season.