Oh Spring. Are you really that necessary? Why do the seasons even change? Take me back to those halcyon days of winter when we swept aside the league champions to win the Emperor’s cup and kicked off the new league campaign with 3 consecutive victories. We were in full-bloom and looked strong, like we could really have a go at the league again this year, like we were back to our dynamic, counter-attacking best…
Alas, it doesn’t look like this’ll be our year. At all. After inspiring all that hope by winning our opening 3 fixtures without conceding a goal… we capitulated, falling to the bottom of the table. The next 7 games would see us score just 1 goal and pick up a measly 2 points from the 21 available. By comparison, season 2012 saw us pick up 11 points between rounds 4 and 10, scoring 11 goals in the the process.
So what’s changed? Quite a lot actually. The biggest issue we have is, unsurprisingly, a lack of goals. Sure, we’ve managed to keep 7 clean sheets from our first 13 games, but with strikers Ito Sho, Fujita, Hanato and Yajima failing to score frequently in those matches, we’ve hit the net just 13 times, and drawn a blank in 6 games. Had we lost to Frontale in our final match before the mid-summer break, we’d currently find ourselves sitting in the relegation zone, a shocking state of affairs for a side that finished season 2013 in 2nd place.
Despite such a poor season so far, It’s not all doom and gloom in the ‘Hama, as in the mid-season break the club announced the signing of Brazilian striker Rafinha from Ulsan Hyundai in the K-League. Rafinha has experience of the league, having played with Gamba Osaka back in 2011 & 2012, departing for Korea before they were relegated from J1. The move proved a successful one as he would go on to lift the 2012 ACL title, scoring in the final against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia.
Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what to expect of Rafinha, as I haven’t seen much of him, but I believe I do know what is required to make this F.Marinos side a successful one again. Watching the side has been frustrating at times this season. Our full-backs are decent enough players at this level, and our central defenders are still very capable despite advancing age. We are strongest in midfield, and even have some options out with Saito and Shunsuke this year, unlike last season. Our style of play is, unashamedly, defensive. We defend in numbers and look to hit back on the counter. At our best, the guile and precision of Shunsuke balances well with the directness of Manabu to create a dangerous counterattacking threat. Except, that hasn’t been the case this season so far. We’ve looked slow going forward, like we’ve lost a yard of pace. Our full-backs seem less inclined to bomb on, and the link up play has been disjointed and, at times, even clumsy. This side is crying out for a mobile striker who is willing to work the channels and create space for our 3 attacking midfielders. Rafinha has license to be ‘greedy’, even, and set an example for a shot-shy midfield who have often overplayed the ball this season. If he can carry out these duties, not only will he be successful in Yokohama, but so will his team mates.
The club also announced the departure of left-back Dutra, who will retire from football at the end of this month. Approaching his 41st birthday, Dutra has displayed a remarkable work ethic over the past 2 and a half seasons with the club and has certainly set an example to some of the younger players.
Photo: Yokohama F.Marinos
August of 2013 saw fans memorably turn up for the game against Sagan Tosu wearing headbands with large cut-outs of his face to celebrate his 40th birthday. His performances in his second spell with the club were, undoubtedly, a mixed bag. His effort and commitment are unquestionable, however, and his combined 9 years of service at the club will be remembered fondly. Obrigado, Ossan!
News out of Marinos Town today that volante Seitaro Tomisawa will be out for up to 4 weeks with a hamstring injury is a blow with the Sanfrecce away game just around the corner. Kanpei scored a fantastic driving effort and put in a man-of-the-match performance in the same tie last season. He’ll be replaced by one of Ogura or Mikado, who had deputised in midfield prior to the mid-season break.
In other injury news, Shunsuke took advantage of the 2 month gap between fixtures to have surgery on a lingering gallbladder issue that has been affecting him since November 2013. Sadly, Shunsuke was also involved in a training ground accident at that camp in Niigata and had a gash in his head stapled. Fortunately, the knock shouldn’t stop him from returning to league duty on July 15th, and will hopefully mark the end of his misfortune…
Finally, April of 2014 saw the introduction of the Tricolore Pride banner at F.Marinos matches, and a big meet-up for a few games. Brendan, Dan, Stuart and I all attended the home match against Vegalta Sendai and were joined by a few friends under our banner. The meet was detailed by Dan in the most recent edition of the fantastic JSoccer Magazine, and we definitely recommend you pick yourself up a copy.