There have been worse results this season than the 2-0 home loss to Hiroshima last Saturday (the previous Wednesday's dismantling by Cerezo Osaka, for example), but the complete lack of system, of ideas, of any awareness of an opponent's tactics and a plan to counter them, made that evening at Aji Sta the most frustrating and infuriating of the four years I have been regularly attending home games. The hostility of the home end as the players plodded around on their lap of "honour" will hopefully still be ringing in the players' and manager's ears, because something needs to change, and sharpish.
The simple reality of our situation is that, after 20 games, we sit 14th, winless in our last nine league games, having been in the bottom half of the table since the eighth week of the season. Another loss this Saturday night in Kobe, coupled with a Sendai win over Shonan (likely, considering how
So where did it all go wrong? We were the team on the up, coming off 6th ('08)and 5th-placed ('09) finishes the past two seasons, and basking in the glory of that sunny Tuesday last November when we played Kawa
The home draws, even though there have been some decent-to-good performances amongst them (the 1-1 against the champions, Kashima, and the 2-2 with Shimizu in the last game before the World Cup), I believe, show the lack of tactical awareness of the manager, Hiroshi Jofuku, who has simply failed to come up with a system to counter the defensive approach of teams who come to our place and set up to stifle us. Quite simply, teams have worked us out, and know that if we are denied space, there's little invention or creativity in our midfield and forward line. Last season, it was just give it to Ishikawa and watch him go, but he's not the same player since his injury, and now all Jofuku seems to be able to come up with is having the wingers switch sides every now and then (he even tried it with the full backs on Saturday!). Don't get me started on players out of position, but how about adapting formation to whats put out in front of us - case in point: why not counter Hiroshima's 4-5-1 from Saturday with wingbacks in a 3-5-2 (since he's trying to turn Hokuto Nakamura and Toshihiro Matsushita, who both came to us as wingers, into full-backs anyway)?
I'm sure most (almost all?) Tokyo fans believe we're too good to go down, and that our squad has too much quality to see us relegated, but its up to the manager now to pick players in their right positions and think on his feet more during games. I don't believe it's a stubborness in Jofuku, and there have definitely been mitigating circumstances: Takuji Yonemoto's serious knee injury in pre-season, and Yuto Nagatomo leaving on loan after the World Cup; but he needs to show more adaptability and raise his players for what lies ahead, or we'll be off to Gifu and Kita-Kyushu, amongst other J2 stops next year.