Results haven’t been great in recent weeks as we start to drift away from the play-off places, and the reason for this can’t be attached to anything as much as the very difficult teams we have played recently (Kyoto, Verdy, Gamba, Kobe, and with JEF to come next weekend), but there have also been other issues which shouldn’t be ignored.
The first of these is the tinkering with the formation and players by the manager. A lot of this has been due to injuries and suspensions, but a lot is Pusnik perhaps trying to be a little too cute in trying to exploit gaps in other teams and maybe asking the players to do too much too soon. I believe he stated as much after the Kobe game, and will hopefully remember how much he has already changed the players for the better so far this season and let them settle into the new 433 rather than asking them to try something new before mastering that.
The second issue is one of personnel. From the start of the season I have been saying I thought it was a mistake to make Okada Ryu the Club Captain as he can’t really get into the team on merit, and that is getting more and more obvious as the season goes on and other players around him are gaining in tactical skill and confidence.
I can see that he is a great guy to have around the place, and good as a Captain in trying to encourage others and organise things, but his recent performances in particular have really not been up to standard.
I did wonder if I was being harsh on him as someone to scapegoat for recent matches so decided to look at some numbers from this season:
Minutes with Okada on the pitch : 2141 minutes
Goals scored with Okada : 19 goals
Goals conceded with Okada : 25 goals
Points gained with Okada : 34 points
Minutes with Okada off the pitch : 649 minutes
Goals scored without Okada : 12 goals
Goals conceded without Okada : 8 goals
Points gained without Okada : 18 points
From these numbers you can then start to see how the team does per minute.
With Okada: 113 minutes per goal
Without Okada: 54 minutes per goal
In the 2 years he has been at the club I don’t think Okada has ever scored a goal or assisted for a goal and the numbers seem to back that up. He has a fairly limited range of passing, and doesn’t offer much going forward.
When he isn’t playing his place in midfield is taken by Funeyama/Kanakubo/Jogo, all players who can score and create goals and really try to go from box to box. The numbers support this by showing we score over twice as often when one of these players is playing in place of Okada.
With Okada: 86 minutes per goal
Without Okada: 81 minutes per goal
We do a little better in stopping goals when he is on the pitch, and this should be expected as someone who plays a little more defensively than other options.
What it doesn’t show however is a big difference. While we score twice as many with more attacking players we only concede a small amount of goals fewer.
With Okada: 63 minutes per point
Without Okada: 36 minutes per point.
The most relevant statistic is the one which moves us up and down the table. Over the course of this season we have consistently got more points when one of the other midfield options has been used.
I understand that statistics don’t tell a full story, but in an age of Prozone/OPTA/Moneyball they are increasingly being used to analyse matches and shouldn’t be dismissed entirely.
I am certainly not saying that Okada is a bad player, or that he shouldn’t be in the match-day squad, but similarly to the 3xx formations he should be used to highlight his strengths and in the correct way.
If we were to play a team which required a man-marker then I think Okada is far and away the best player at the club for that job. If we wanted a purely destructive player to play as the defensive shield (where Nakahara currently plays) then I’d probably choose Okada above Park or Tsutsumi. If we wanted someone on the bench who was versatile and experienced enough to provide cover for the whole defensive line and midfield then he is the idea man.
As the sort of midfield dynamo needed to make late runs onto the edge of the box as part of a 433, be ready to step up and fill the space when the forwards are pressing, and work triangles/diamonds as an option in front of the anchor midfielder he just doesn’t have the game.