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.
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
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.
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.