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Gamba's title challenge fades

4 Sep 2003(Thu)

It was interesting to see Gamba Osaka in action at Kashiwa on Saturday.

Now I can appreciate why they are not challenging for the championship.

Before the season started I really felt Gamba could win one of the two stages, and then go on and win the playoff.

Their road to success would be like this:

An experienced three-man defense, led by Miyamoto.

A fluid, five-man midfield, particularly strong on the flanks with new import Arce on the right and Araiba on the left.

Between them they would provide the crosses for the Brazilian giant Magrao, who would either head the ball into the net or set up chances for the darting Yoshihara to gobble up in the box.

Simple, right?

But Gamba finished nearer the bottom than the top in the first stage.

The two new imports, Arce and Galeano, were expected to be a big improvement on Marcelinho and Fabinho, but this has not happened.

I thought Fabinho did a tidy, energetic job alongside Endo in the midfield engine room last season, and his replacement Galeano has already been released by Gamba halfway through the season.

Arce just hasn't shown the drive and intensity expected of him down the right wing.

Consequently, manager Nishino has abandoned his 3-5-2 and played 3-4-3 at Kashiwa, with Hashimoto and Futagawa on the right and left sides of midfield, respectively.

Yamaguchi, who was expected to be part of Gamba's championship-winning back three alongside Miyamoto and captain Kiba, was pushed into central midfield, alongside Endo. Saneyoshi was on the right side of defense.

Magrao was absent due to injury, so Nakayama, the "Gamba Gon," led the forward line, supported by Yoshihara on the right and Oguro on the left.

Gamba did not play badly. Far from it, but they didn't look capable of challenging for the second stage.

There was a lot of hesitancy and self-doubt in their play, almost as if they did not expect to win.

They took the lead with a lovely goal from Endo, who finished off a free-flowing move from one end of the pitch to the other, but were pegged back by a great finish from the impressive Tamada.

Ricardinho ran at the heart of the Gamba defense, lost possession, but Tamada was in the right place to find the bottom corner with a sweet left-foot shot from the edge of the box.

Maybe Gamba are improving, because they held on for a 1-1 draw rather than conceding a late goal and losing.

But clearly the season has not gone to plan, hence all the changes.

It must be very frustrating for the supporters.

ends

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