Honda gives Okada plenty of options
March 8, 2010: Keisuke Honda as a forward?
Must admit that one caught me out the other night, when Japan played Bahrain, but at least it showed that Takeshi Okada is thinking hard about energising his team.
A couple of days before the match I was discussing Honda with a fellow foreigner and Japanese football observer, and he said his ideal central midfield pairing for Japan would be Inamoto and Honda. He was tired, he said, of watching Japan play lots of pretty little passes in midfield and around the box without an end product.
Both Inamoto and Honda, he added, were prepared to grab hold of a game by the scruff of the neck and make things happen; they were prepared to roll up their sleeves and take the game to the opposition, with Honda in particular always prepared to have a crack at goal, no matter the distance.
“But what about Hasebe and Endo?” I countered. “Okada loves those two in his engine room.”
This pair, along with Shunsuke and Kengo, Matsui and Okubo, could fight it out for the two wide positions in midfield, my colleague reasoned.
In short, he wanted some power and some adventure in there, and thought Inamoto and Honda could provide it, both defensively and going forward.
Okada must be thinking on similar lines, as he pushed Honda well forward in the Bahrain game for exactly this reason: to have a go at the opposition and show some dynamism and initiative.
As I said, this move took me by surprise, as I always thought of Honda as a wide player; on his natural left side, as an orthodox winger in front of a solid left back, or on the right, cutting in from the wing and peppering the goal with his tremendous left foot.
Whatever position Honda plays, I hope he keeps this sense of adventure and retains the confidence to take the game to the opposition.
For all the experience of Hasebe, Endo and even Shunsuke, I still think they lack this ability to really get hold of a game and dictate it; to really step up and drive and inspire their team mates when they need to add some urgency to their play.
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