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Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics

Nagoya Grampus: Creativity and aggression in attack allow strong start to the 2023 J1 League season – scout report

Once upon a time, Gary Lineker donned the colours of Nagoya Grampus – in fact, the Japanese side was his final club before the former Barcelona striker hung up his boots. In the year followed that followed Lineker’s departure, a Frenchman by the name of Arséne Wenger took over as manager – this was in 1995, almost two years before he moved to the Premier League to join Arsenal.

Nagoya’s fortunes have been mixed in the years since, but they have made a fantastic start to the J1 league, sitting in third after 14 games, inserting themselves as early title contenders. Manager Kenta Hasegawa is getting deserved credit for his side’s impressive early form, and there is the possibility of delivering the club’s first league title since 2010. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of Nagoya’s tactics this season, with the analysis highlighting some of the key elements that have allowed for such a strong start to the season.


Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics

As the image above tells us, Hasegawa has displayed no interest in playing four at the back, spending most of this season in the shape of a 3-4-3 which looks to utilise the full width of the pitch with the wing-backs and wingers looking to combine in dangerous areas. They’re no strangers to altering the width in their shape, though, as evidenced by their tendency to play a 3-4-2-1, where you would expect to see the wide forwards link up with the centre forward more often. They’ve also utilised the 3-4-1-2 and 3-5-2, both very similar formations with the added central presence in attacking areas.

Varying levels of press

For the most part, Nagoya have avoided settling for one method when out of possession this season, which has resulted in us seeing them defend at different intensities and in different areas. As we will discuss shortly, they are far from a pressing machine, but they do occasionally incorporate a higher presence to try and disturb the opponents’ possession – they also experience some positional issues in certain areas.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
A rare high press from Nagoya.

This is something we haven’t seen much of from Nagoya but is still something they look to occasionally, particularly when a pressing trigger presents itself, which is what happened above. The opposition showed hesitation in making progress up the pitch and turned possession back to their own goal, at which point Nagoya looked to interfere.

Perhaps the reason for not applying a high press on a regular basis is that it simply isn’t one of their strengths – yes, they look positionally sound in the example above, but their reactions and defensive reactions sometimes fail to reach high standards, giving the opposition the chance to play through the press.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
Less-than-great unit positioning invites the opposition forward.

Positional inconsistency is another issue that crops up when Nagoya try to operate higher up when out of possession. There really isn’t a need for the front three to be so high up. Not only is the midfield unit significantly deeper than them, but the front three’s positioning offers nothing. The two wingers are practically in no-man’s land so if either of the wide opposition defenders did receive the ball, the wingers are in no position to put them under any serious pressure. The centre forward isn’t much better off, allowing the opponent too much time on the ball.

As mentioned, there is a lot of room between the front three and the midfield unit, meaning the opposition have essentially been granted space to build up their possession.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
Mid-block appears to be Nagoya’s best approach out of possession.

This mid-block-esque shape is where Nagoya look most comfortable and efficient off the ball. The backline rarely sits deep enough to warrant the “park the bus” claims, and space between the three units is often compact. You may notice, though, that that isn’t the case for the midfield and defensive units in the example above. This is because the opponent’s midfield unit, or most of it at least, is sat deeper and Nagoya want to limit their chances of receiving the ball with time and space.

Additionally, the front three tend to drop in to assist the midfield, becoming more narrow to add to the compact nature of the mid-block.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics

You may have got the idea by now that high pressing isn’t a regular feature for Nagoya for good reason, but it is still smart to execute such tactics occasionally. Not only does it add the element of unpredictability to the side, but it can still produce good outcomes from time to time.

In terms of numbers, Nagoya have made 112 high regains this season – significantly lower than the teams around them in the table, and the same can be said for their counterpressing recoveries total as well. However, their tally of 49 dangerous recoveries is actually quite impressive in terms of a ratio to the other two numbers – those aforementioned teams around them achieve more high regains and counterpressing recoveries but less dangerous recoveries.

Utilising attacking transitions

While Nagoya are no strangers to adapting their tactics out of possession based on the opponent, match situation, etc., they are also capable of doing so on the ball. However, regardless of their approach, using attacking transitions to their gain seems to be a key weapon for Hasegawa’s side and they often do so with great attacking intent and urgency. In this segment, we will provide an analysis of where, when, and how they like to execute an attacking transition.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
A step-by-step look at a transitional attack by Nagoya Grampus.

While the move in the play breakdown above didn’t result in anything dangerous, the focus here is on the execution of a quick passing combination in an attacking transition. After winning the ball back following a small battle for possession Nagoya collect the ball near the halfway line. Instantly, the wide players on both sides react quickly – the furthest from the ball begins to make a run forward to support the potential attack that may follow, while the nearest one prepares to receive the ball.

More supporting runs ahead of the man on the ball allow the move to continue, with a nice one-two combination being played as Nagoya enter the opponent’s half. These traits – movement, vision, tactical understanding – all play into Nagoya being so confident and dangerous in these moments of transition.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
Nagoya Grampus immediate reaction to regaining the ball is focused on going on the attack.

This example highlights the confidence and understanding the players have in Hasegawa’s tactics – as soon as Nagoya regain the ball in their own half, they look to turn possession over to the flank with the least players on it; more space to play into. The player(s) on that flank recognise what’s going on instantly and make the appropriate runs into the midfield third to support the attack.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
Good movement and support in the final moments of this transitional attack.

The attacking desire from Nagoya in transitions is a joy to watch… unless you happen to be playing against it. Attacking runs in several areas, even with a lower attacking presence, can be a nightmare to defend against. The left wing-back completed his long bursting run and collected the ball in a dangerous area, aided by good support from his attacking teammates.

But, thanks to a good defensive recovery from the opponent and a slight misguided touch from the left wing-back, the move slowed down and lost that counterattacking venom, but Nagoya managed to maintain the pressure by retaining possession. From there, they looked to fill the box with the remaining attackers and try to hit them with a cross. So, not only was this a well-executed attacking transition, but they showed good adjustability when they had to reconsider their method of attack.

Off-the-ball movement in wide areas

The stats tell us that Nagoya aren’t a team to dominate possession – they average 42.67% against their opponents this season. They do, however, still have their fair share of attacks, they are just usually executed quickly and with a slightly direct nature – rather than playing short passes in a slow and patient manner, for example. When they do look to attack, they show great cohesion and off-the-ball movement between them to make good supporting runs that can make the attack more difficult to handle.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
Grampus like to use overlapping runs in their build-up play.

Overlapping runs are something Nagoya love to include in their game, in both midfield and attacking thirds. The players and manager must have put some work into this method on the training pitch as the players seem to recognise when to go for an overlap, with good timing as well. These runs are of course used to continue progressing the attack but can also be used as a decoy to throw an opposition defender off their focus and draw them away.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
A look at how Nagoya look to exploit space between the opposition CB and FB.

Making subtle runs into dangerous spaces between the full-back and close CB is another important element of Nagoya’s attacking tactics. Thanks to the close support of the man on the ball and the attacking presence inside the box, the man who eventually made that run between the FB and CB only needs to get past his marker to become available in a highly dangerous area. This requires vision and passing range from the man making the pass into space but also requires good timing and speed from the runner to get it right.

While there are other options at play in terms of progressing the attack, if you can get that ball into the marked space for a teammate, you will find yourself in a very promising attacking position.

Nagoya Grampus: Their tactics under Kenta Hasegawa – scout report tactical analysis tactics
An overlapping run used as a decoy this time by Nagoya.

We spoke earlier about using overlapping support as a decoy, and that is what we see above. The winger finds himself 1v1 with the opposing defender, with three teammates in the box and ideally, he wants to bring them into the attack. The positioning from the overlapping support player makes the opponent bring defensive reinforcements over, and as the opponent is still expecting the pass to go him, the focus on the players in the box seemed to drop. Thanks to this, the lay-off pass to the edge of the box was possible – well executed and finished off with a nice strike on goal.


After finishing eighth last year, Nagoya will be thrilled with the start to 2023’s campaign. Just four points separates them from the top spot and they have the second-best defensive record in the division thus far.

Their attacking unpredictability and aggression will serve them well throughout the season, and if they can iron out a few minor issues both in and out of possession, there is no reason that they can’t sustain this impressive form.