Player in Focus: Can a healthy Kobayashi help Frontale return to form?

Player in Focus: Can a healthy Kobayashi help Frontale return to form?

A couple months ago, Kawasaki Frontale were cruising to another MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE title. Powered by the most dangerous attack in the league, they looked unstoppable. But the goals have become harder to come by, as have the results, and now their lead atop the table is down to just one point with Yokohama F·Marinos in hot pursuit.

While Marinos have jumped atop the goal-scoring charts, Frontale’s attack has stumbled. They’ve scored multiple goals just once in their last four contests, with a pair of scoreless outings in there. That includes a 1-0 loss to Avispa Fukuoka on Wednesday, snapping their record-breaking unbeaten streak in the league at 25 games this season (and 30 matches overall, stretching back to last campaign).

In the wake of Kaoru Mitoma and Ao Tanaka’s departures to Europe, much of the attacking load has fallen on Leandro Damião, and while the Brazilian has been dangerous in front of goal all season long with 14 goals and eight assists, the need for help is evident.

Frontale need to kickstart their attack, and Yu Kobayashi might be just the man to do it. His nine goals are second-most on the team and rank fourth among players currently in the league, but he hasn’t found the back of the net in more than two months and suffered a knee injury in early June that has limited his minutes.

Since returning from injury two weeks ago, Kobayashi has shown brief flashes of brilliance, helping give the attack some more verve. A start this weekend could be what Frontale need to get back to their best, giving Miki Yamane another target and Akihiro Ienaga another decoy, along with Damião, to ghost into space in dangerous areas.

With so much discussion about how Frontale can get back to top form, the answer may simply reside on their bench, with the 2017 J1 League MVP finding his fitness and form again.