Pre-Season Review and Looking Ahead

Today the training match series came to an end for Gamba Osaka with another win over fellow J2 team Gainare Tottori at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium. Therefore, it seems only right to review the matches played over pre-season to see what has gone right and what has gone wrong.

Before all that, I must point out that it is very rare to find out team line-ups for matches during pre-season. To put this into perspective, I found just two matches where the line-ups were released, so I cannot mull over decisions made by Kenta Hasegawa regarding his choices apart from those two matches. I think the line-up against Gainare Tottori for the 24th February may be a bit more poignant than the others though.

Gainare Tottori v GAMBA OSAKA

Some updates on injuries will be needed first though. Akira Kaji continues he flirtations with injuries by being the first player to get injured during the training camps. “No problems,” you say, “we have Oh Jae-Suk now!” Unfortunately he also got injured a short time after that, so both right-backs must be doubts for the start of the season – but of course, no-one knows the extent of their injuries. Furthermore, Takahiro Futagawa has been reported injured and again no details have been released. Fortunately, Gamba has and overload of midfielders to cover for him. Finally, Akihiro Sato is of course still injured having suffered a broken ankle against Kawasaki Frontale in a 3-2 win at Todoroki. He is expected to be back by June. One again, we have maybe too many players up-front but at least there is sufficient cover.

So onto the review. Gamba played seven matches over the space of a month, winning five, drawing one and losing one, netting a total of 21 goals and conceding 7. Even better there was a total of four clean sheets – the same total as the whole of last season, albeit against “lesser” opposition. It comes as no surprise that Leandro was the top scorer with four goals, but a total of 12 players got their names on the score sheets, including rookie Kenya Okazaki, who two netted a brace against the Gamba Osaka Youth team. Gamba scored in all but one match, against J1 giants Omiya Ardija in a 0-0 draw. In the games Gamba won, they scored a total of 19 goals, conceding just 3. Happily, it seems that the attacking threat has not been quelled whilst the defensive structure has been improved under the watchful eyes of Sidiclei and Marquinhos. The low point of pre-season came against 2012 J2 strugglers Avispa Fukuoka, who beat Gamba 4-2.  Nonetheless, it could have been down to experimentation on Hasegawa’s part or simply Avispa are dark horses this year. I suggest the former.

Here are all of the results:

26/01/2013, 13:00 JST – WON 4-0 vs Gamba Osaka Youth

03/02/2013, 15:30 JST – DREW 0-0 vs Omiya Ardija

09/02/2013, 11:00 JST – LOST 4-2 vs Avispa Fukuoka

12/02/2013, 11:00 JST – WON 4-2 vs Fagiano Okayama

15/02/2013, 11:00 JST – WON 5-1 vs Machida Zelvia

24/02/2013, 14:00 JST – WON 5-0 vs Gainare Tottori

25/02/2013, 14:00 JST – WON 1-0 vs Gainare Tottori

Gamba Osaka XI #1

This is the team that Hasegawa used against Gainare Tottori the first time we played them, and it suggests that this might be the team he goes for, with obvious exceptions of Kaji/Oh, Futagawa and Sato. (See top of the page)

If all Gamba players are fit and fighting, then there are enough of them to make two teams, along with eight “spare” players. I do not know if Hasegawa will play the 4-2-3-1 system or not, but here are the two teams that I have come up with (see left and below).

A mix of these two teams is of course possible and I feel that some of the players in the second team will need to be given a chance, considering most of them are younger and inexperienced. Furthermore, we do not yet know if Leandro and Ienaga will stay with us past the summer, so having Sato in the first team is plausible and a good idea. The players not shown in the teams above are GK – Tajiri, DF – Numata, MF – Uchida, FW – Hirai, Kawanishi, Hoshihara. This is one of the high-points as a fan – there is depth and strength in the team and even with several injuries, we should be able to cope with all that. Hirai and Hoshihara had loan spells last season so they have a point to prove, whilst Uchida and Kawanishi need to start fighting for a place on the bench, even before the team. Kawanishi has been tested out at wing-back during pre-season due to his pace and it will be interesting to see where he fits in this season. Konno and Ienaga have apparently been playing in the volonte position too, which will be interesting. Overall, the competition is healthy, and it is good to see. With this team, 1st place is the aim. No doubts about that.

Gamba Osaka XI #2

So pre-season has been great and the season is almost here, finally. And a bit of news from me about a project I hope to be starting soon with the creator of the new vlog 90minutesJapan, in which I will have a role from time to time. As well as having hopefully a Gamba-specific episode to this each week from Sebi, we want to collaborate and create a Gamba-specific podcast for the fans. If we have time, we want to do a season-preview before the game on Sunday. Nothing is promised but please follow me on twitter – @GambaOsakaPride – to keep up to date with that and all things Gamba Osaka.

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Plans for Match Previews, Reports and Analysis

Given that the only ever J2 campaign will begin for Gamba Osaka next Sunday (3rd March) against Kyoto Sanga at Banpaku, I thought I would detail how I will go about writing match previews, match reports and finally analysis. This will give me a consistent structure on how to present information to you as well as to give you the limitations of what I am doing. As this is the first time that I have blogged, it might be a bit trial and error but we shall see what happens.

Match Previews:

  • Introduction of the match (location, date, time etc.)
  • Recent results and current league positions of both teams
  • Historical data about the match
  • Opposition strong point
  • Opposition weak point
  • Expected Gamba line-up
  • Gamba player to watch
  • Prediction of the final result

Match Reports:

  • Introduction of the match result
  • Team Line-Ups and Substitutes
  • Run-through of what happened
  • Key battles (won and lost)
  • Key moments/turning-points in the game
  • (Gamba) Man of the Match
  • What the result means to both teams

Analysis:

  • Video format if I can get hold of in-depth match highlights
  • Analyse recurring themes, good/bad positioning, good/bad refereeing, goals and key moments
  • If video is not viable, I will not do this part as it might be too difficult to analyse without video input

These points should give you a taste of what I will try to do. Whether or not it works, only time will tell. Analysis hinges upon video highlights. If anyone can help with that, please leave me a message.

I will be testing out some skills necessary for all of this using the Sanfrecce Hiroshima v Kashiwa Reysol match which takes place on Saturday 23rd February. If anyone has any tips or advice on software, where to find long highlights or things I should include, leave feedback below.

The revival is near!

Recent Blog Updates

I thought I would write a quick piece to let everyone know about the amazing amount of work I have put in over the last few days to ensure that the blog is all set to go for the start of the league campaign.

Before all that, something I should have mentioned is that the fixture list was released last Friday, giving Gamba four massive home games against Kyoto, Yokohama, JEF and Verdy at home whilst have four long-distance away days to Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Sapporo and Yamagata. These first eight fixtures could well set the tone for the season as it looks like the most difficult stretch of games for Gamba. On a personal note, I will be in Osaka for the home games against Tokushima, Kitakyushu and a lovely Kansai derby against Kobe. Tickets are all I need.

Now back to business. I have now made a player and a staff page with individual photos. These are linked to individual pages containing mini, uniquely hand-made profiles for all players and staff, as well as complete histories for each player. These contain their number of appearances and goals in every single competition. All in all, that took four hours on Tuesday night, then around eight hours on Wednesday to complete.

On Thursday, I created a complete account of Gamba’s history as a J.League member, all the way from 1993 until 2012. I kept making mistakes which was infuriating but rectified all of them before publishing. Only took another four hours or so of meticulous work. Then at 1:30am, instead of going to sleep, I decided to make a new banner, adding more personalisation to the blog. The banner itself includes the team badge and the 2013 logo 「復活」. That took half an hour.

Finally today, I added another page called “The Net”, where you can access all of the best English-language resources about the J.League, as well as a few websites in Japanese that are imperative to visit, even if you have to use Google Translate. Please support all of the guys mentioned on that page and please buy JSoccer Magazine. Alan Gibson does a wonderful job so email him – alan@jsoccer.com – to get a good deal now. Time spent – half an hour.

So that is my piece completed, along with about 17 hours of work to show for it. If you have any suggestions for the site, please do not hesitate to tell me. Thank you all for reading this blog and let’s keep spreading the word of the J.League together.