What started as a drunken idea in a bar has morphed into this - a fantasy football podcast from me and my mates. The goal: make an interesting and entertaining fantasy podcast that might help you do alright, but hopefully not as well as me. We've heard what's out there, and we reckon we might be able to do just as well as those other duffers, maybe even better.

There's also some FC Tokyo stuff on here, but I now blog on all things Gasmen at On the Gas (click on link below).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ten Games Left..... Will FC Tokyo Sink or Swim?

When I wrote The Sorry State of FC Tokyo back in late August, following the insipid home loss to Hiroshima, things looked bleak, but not hopeless, for the Gasmen. We sat in 14th after 20 games, three points out of the drop zone, with a winnable game coming up away at Kobe. I raised the "R" word, but mainly to put the wind up those Tokyo fans who felt we were too good to go down.

Now, just five weeks later, the Ajinomoto Stadium faithful are facing an out-and-out crisis, as the point we eeked out at Kobe is the only one we have to show for the four games since my post (and the last six league games in total). The almost-unthinkable is now a very real prospect for Tokyo fans, as in those four games we slid two spots and now occupy the third relegation spot, with ten games to go.

I can't recall a case of a J League club's fans clamoring for a manager's head, and there certainly wasn't one in the home end of Aji Sta (it's just not part of fan culture here), but something had to be done and the club finally acted after our away loss to Iwata on the 18th of September (Matchday 23), ending the Jofuku era with a whimper rather than a bang. Whether he'd lost the dressingroom, run out of ideas or was just tactically naive is up for debate, but despite calling for his head on my twitter account after the Iwata loss, I still felt sorry for the man who led us to 5th and a Cup last season. I'm usually against getting shot of managers mid-season (or at all really - I still wish Rafa Benitez had survived the chaos and media character-assassinations he/we suffered through at Liverpool last season), but Jofuku had run his race and had shown no signs of getting his head round how to stop our decline. So Kiyoshi Okuma, the man who took Tokyo Gas FC into J2, got us promoted in our first season and then guided us to two mid-table J1 finishes, was brought back to the fold with a simple mission: keep us up.

Despite our hopes that the new-manager-leads-to-improved-performance myth might actually turn out to be true in our case, "Okuma Tokyo II" began with another poor performance, and a 1-0 loss to our usual whipping boys, Omiya, a result that took Ardija six points clear of us. Perhaps it was down to the short amount of time the new boss had to work with the players, but there was very little difference in tactics to how we'd set-up and played under Jofuku, and with Kajiyama and Hanyu both out injured, there was zero creativity in central midfield, where Tokunaga (a converted fullback) and Morishige (a centre-half) both played in holding roles (yes, Liverpool fans, think Poulsen and Lucas creativity-wise).

With Sendai stunning Yokohama and also going six points clear of us, thanks to a goal from a player we stupidly (in hindsight) loaned to them, Shingo Akamine, our only target for the time being has to be Kobe, in 15th, who we trail by two points. Sure, it's hard to see where wins (or even goals) are going to come in the run-in, but the next four games have to be where we turn things around, starting on Sunday (Oct. 3) at home against cellar-dwellers Shonan. I say the next four games, because have a look at who Kobe have got coming up: home v Kawasaki (6th), away at Yokohama (7th), home v Nagoya (top), away at Gamba Osaka (3rd). Contrast that horror run with our next four fixtures: home v Shonan (bottom), away at Sendai (13th), home v Niigata (9th), away at Shimizu (5th), and on paper at least we have a better shot at a couple of wins that could get us out of the drop zone and breathing a little easier.

So to Sunday then, and the XI that will firstly score our first home league goal in five games, and then, beat Shonan. Obviously Gonda will be in goal, and hopefully buoyed by his selection in the Japan squad for two friendlies later this month, Konno and Kim will be the centre backs, and Mukuhara and Hokuto will be the full backs. In midfield, I'm praying Hanyu will be fit, and even an hour from him would be miles better than anything Tokunaga or Morishige could provide going forward. If we have Roswell back then I'd keep Morishige and dump Tokunaga out the team, he's been an absolute disaster in central midfield. Morishige hasn't been much better, but he provides more energy and takes better care of the ball than Tokunaga, and is always a chance to get his head on set-pieces. Speaking of disasters, Ricardinho has been a massive flop, he's yet to score a league goal for us and hasn't really ever looked like getting one, and he may be better off coming on as a sub in the last half-hour of games when the opposition have started to tire. With that in mind, I'd dump Rica for Otake on the left. Ironically Otake has always seemed to have a bigger impact on games when he's used as a sub, but I think we need his creativity and set-piece delivery from the start. Ishikawa will be on the right and I suppose it'll be Hirayama and Oguro up-front, although there are no J League defences shuddering at the thought of facing that pairing anymore.

We need someone to spark us back into life, and I feel that Hanyu and Otake can both provide the touch of brilliance that we'll need to unlock the Shonan defence. Again, fingers crossed that Hanyu will be fit. A win is an absolute necessity, and once we've got one, confidence should return and safety will look more likely.

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