Albirex Niigata put their undefeated mark on the line
17 Meiji Yasuda J1 League teams have taken a loss this season, leaving just one unbeaten team left - Albirex Niigata.
The new promoted team has taken to the top flight with aplomb, running off two wins and two draws to begin their season. Their attack has scored seven goals to pace the team and push them to their undefeated mark, with Shusuke Ota and Ryotaro Ito scoring two apiece to lead the way.
Last week, Albi made a big statement by beating Kawasaki Frontale thanks to a goal from Ito. On Saturday, they play away to Urawa Reds in another match that will ask a lot of them.
Thus far, nobody has been able to take down Albi and they stand alone in J1. Will they keep up this outstanding play and make it five in a row without a loss?
When will Frontale turn it around?
Kawasaki Frontale have dominated J1 in recent years, winning four of the last six titles to become the defining team of the generation. Even last season’s title-less season saw them take the fight to the very last day before having to settle for second place. Simply put, excellence is the expectation in Kawasaki.
That is what makes the first four games of this season so odd - Frontale have not been able to get results.
Toru Oniki’s men have just four points, leaving them all the way back in 14th place. They have a negative goal difference and neither the attack nor defense has found its form. It’s looked like a whole other Frontale.
And still, it’s only four games.
The great Frontale team of year’s past isn’t too far away and Oniki can still guide this team back up the table. Akihito Ienaga, Miki Yamane and Co. are simply too good for Frontale not to find their form, while the likes of Leandro Damião are still waiting to return from injury and give the team a jumpstart. It’s just a question of when Frontale kick on.
Frontale host Cerezo Osaka this weekend. Will this be when they start flying again?
Koki Ogawa needs help
Koki Ogawa was nothing short of spectacular in 2022, scoring 26 goals to lead the Meiji Yasuda J2 League and help earn Yokohama FC promotion to the top flight. The question coming into this season was whether he’d be able to be a great goalscorer in J1, but he seems to have answered that very quickly.
Ogawa has three goals already this season, joint-most in the league. He’s been dangerous whenever opportunities present themselves, linked up well and finished his chances. He’s been outstanding.
The problem for the Fulie is they don’t give Ogawa many chances, and their defense has been leaky early on. As a result, they are bottom of the table and already looking at a relegation fight.
Ogawa is getting it done, and now it’s time for Yokohama to give him help, beginning Saturday when they host Kyoto Sanga.