Kashiwa Reysol: 2020 team analysis – scout report
One of the sides that will be interesting to see how they perform over the duration of the 2020 J1 League season is last season’s J2 League champions, Kashiwa Reysol. Having claimed the top spot in Japan’s second division over 2019 with an impressive 84 points, five points clear of Yokohama FC, they will be hoping to acclimatise quickly.
A convincing 4-2 victory over last season’s tenth-place-finishing Consadole Sapporo on the opening game of the season will certainly have been a confidence booster – with the side sitting second after one game.
However, one game does not make or break a season and consistency will be needed from the side that was relegated to the J2 League in the 2017 season.
This tactical analysis will dissect the key tactics of Kashiwa Reysol that were on show in the opening league game of the season. The scout report will also use analysis to show how these tactics will play a key feature over the remainder of the season.
Ataru Esaka’s key role in the hole
For the way in which Nelsinho Baptista’s side play, three players play key roles for Reysol which keep the side ticking. One of these key roles is performed by the attack-minded midfielder, Ataru Esaka. In the opening day 4-2 victory, Baptista deployed his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which was sporadically used last season. However, towards the latter stages of the term 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1, and 4-4-2 were predominantly used. In the 4-2-3-1 system, though, Esaka plays in the traditional number ten role.
What is so vital in this role for Esaka is his ability to find open space and simply drift into the correct areas while his side are in possession. This is essential for Reysol as it often provides players who are under pressure and looking to advance up the pitch an out-ball. This seems almost effortless to the Japanese midfielder and as the two goals for Esaka proved against Consadole Sapporo, his movement is very effective.
As can be seen here in the build-up to Reysol netting the first goal of the game, Esaka has again found himself open space – this time, in ‘the hole’. From here, an attacking midfielder worth their salt should be deadly and the 27-year-old is in this situation. He receives possession, keeps his cool, evades one defender and slots home.
What is most impressive about this goal, though, is the apparent lack of effort for the midfielder to find the wide-open space in a key area to receive the pass. Over the duration of the 2020 J1 League season, this should be a key tactic to look out for and defending sides should pay close attention to Esaka as his knack for finding space will make him deadly.
Masatoshi Mihara in the pivot role
The second of the key roles which is performed in Baptista’s Kashiwa Reysol side is that of Masatoshi Mihara, who performs a single pivot role. As was a similar pattern with many of the J1 League sides in the opening game of the season, the Kashiwa club opted for a single central pivot to aid in building their play through the thirds and to link the defence with the midfield and attack. Mihara performed this role to good effect in the 4-2 victory.
As can be seen in this annotation, with the two central midfielders further ahead, Mihara has dropped deeper to the pocket of space just above the defence while the side is out of possession. This is to support the defence while defending and allow them to more adequately keep their shape. Over the duration of the game with Consadole Sapporo, Mihara entered 21 defensive duels, more than any other player on the pitch and won 13 of them, also more than any other player on the pitch.
Here, Mihara can be seen performing the second main duty of a pivot, that being to drop deep to support the defence playing through the thirds. In this instance, with the left-sided centre-back – Jiro Kamata – in possession, the 31-year-old midfielder has dropped deep to support while the other two central midfielders – Esaka and Richardson – have stayed more advanced.
Again, the Japanese middleman performed this role well in the opening day victory and recorded more successful passes than any other player on his side. Over the duration of the game, Mihara completed 48 successful passes and over the remainder of the season, it seems likely that he will be essential with linking the defensive and attacking lines of the team.
Michael Olunga high-pressing role
The third and final key tactic which was enforced by a pivotal player in the match was the pressing role which was performed by Michael Olunga. The striker who bagged 27 goals in 30 J2 League appearances over the 2019 season is undeniably a key man for Reysol and that was evident with the two goals that he scored against Consadole Sapporo. While there is rarely structure to Reysol’s press, it is aggressive and high, and it is initiated by Olunga.
As can be seen here, the 26-year-old Kenyan is intelligently biding his time before launching into a press. While the goalkeeper is in possession, the forward hangs back to lull the defending players into a false sense of security and give them the illusion of time on the ball. However, the 1.93-meter-tall striker is deceptively quick.
As can be seen here, just seconds after the ball has been played into the defender’s feet, the tall striker has made up the ground on the centre-back and is charging the ball down. Due to the illusion of time, the defender’s first touch was lax and his pass back to the goalkeeper even more so. With his turn of pace and aggression, Olunga latches onto the loose ball but is only able to slide a shot into the side netting.
While Olunga’s effective and quick press is just a small element of the striker’s game it is part of what makes him so effective. He is quick, aggressive, and agile – all assets which make him deadly as a lone striker as his 27 goals last season would suggest. Judging from his showing in the opening game of the season, Olunga will be a difficult player to keep quiet in the 2020 J1 League season and defenders will have to stay on constant alert while he is around.
Reysol’s compact back four a potential weakness
A key element which allowed Kashiwa Reysol to remain relatively solid for the majority of the game until the away side bagged twice in the second half, was their compact backline. While out of possession the Kashiwa club would keep their back four as compact as possible to defend football’s primary objective – the goal. However, this could become a weakness for Baptista’s side.
As can be seen in this annotation, Reysol kept an incredibly narrow back four while out of possession where possible. This is positive as it makes the defensive line difficult to play through due to the close distances between defending players, this meaning that any through balls can easily be swept up or intercepted. This led the home side in the opening game of the season to boast an impressive 70 interceptions, far more than Consadole Sapporo’s 42 interceptions.
However, this could become a key weakness over the 2020 J1 League season as can be seen in the wide areas of the away side’s attack. With Reysol defending so narrowly, Consadole are able to make the pitch large with the two wingers in plenty of open space to be dangerous. This meant that Baptista’s side faced 25 crosses – which they were able to deal with many of – however, against a side with more clinical headed finishers the story could be different.
Following Kashiwa Reysol’s first game back in the J1 League after two seasons of absence, Nelsinho Baptista will have been delighted to pick up a convincing victory against a side that finished mid-table in the Japanese top division last season.
The side’s main strengths come from individuals’ talents that are harnessed to make a successful collective and it will be interesting to see if the three key players mentioned in this piece – Esaka, Mihara, and Olunga – can maintain the same level of effective performances.
What will also be interesting to watch unfold will be if Baptista persists with the compact back four while out of possession, as it evidently caused problems against Consadole Sapporo but helped maintain solidarity elsewhere.
This tactical analysis has dissected four key tactics of Kashiwa Reysol and alluded to the fact that one may in fact be a weakness. The scout report has also used analysis to show how those tactics could be essential over the remainder of 2020.