Thee poor result against Mito last weekend will quickly be forgotten about if we can spring a surprise away win on Oita. Ordinarily I would say that an away win here would be great, but having set a target of 4 points from every 2 weeks (win at home / draw away) we are now on catch-up to reach the target I think will get us a play-off place.
Oita is a team which we have seemed to struggle against in recent years. I seem to remember a lot of draws in these games, and a lot of 0-0 draws in particular, with Oita occasionally scraping a 1-0 win. I can see much the same again in this game as a single goal could win the game for either team (when I last said that we shard 8 goals with Giravanz).
The game is likely to be decided by whether Avispa’s forward line can start to look a little more threatening and make Oita’s defence get out of shape and cause the wing-backs to sit deeper than they would like.
There are no suspension or new injury problems at the club from last week to this week and with the squad now so depleted there are few options available to Pusnik in terms of changing the team.
The performance last week wasn’t so bad, and had we scored in the first half would be looked back on as one of our better games, but the lack of a cuting edge up front or creativity in midfield is something which must be causing a headache for the manager.
Looking at the squad there is not much he can do. Squad players Chris, Nozaki, Tam are clearly not good enough to play for the first team. Taku has had a couple of good cameos as sub but isn’t going to really strike fear into the opposition. The only other option is Nabeta who has just come to the club and is the only change which I could see as possible.
The Avispa squad is really looking quite bare right now.
The only change which I could see is one which sees the players on the pitch moved around. This was done in the second half against Yokohama which we drew 0-0, and to desvestating effect against Giravanz where we scored 5 goals in the second half.
It relies almost entirely on the mentality of the players. With just 10 games left to play then a change in formation from wheat they are used to could do one of two things. It could damage their confidence and make them less sure on how they are playing, or it could give them a fresh start to try something new which if it works out against teams not expecting it could see us reach the play-offs.
Personally I would explain to the players that it’s a roll of the dice. Finishing 7th or 11th means nothing to the club; if we can find some way to sneak over the line with a high risk strategy it is worth it.
High Risk Formation I’d play…
This formation looks like a 4xx on paper, but in reality could switch very fluidly into the 3xx they have been playing since June as Park can remain in an anchor role between midfield and defence and drop back as soon as Abe or Mishima push forward.
Despite being one of the first teams to play with 3 at the back in J2 they are now sometimes switching to a 4141 formation with bodies in midfield. This heavy formation is one reason why I think we need to try and match them with tacklers Park and Takeda in midfield. When asked to cover too much ground Takeda has to rush tackles and picks up bookings.
They have Sueyoshi in midfield who hasn’t been an automatic starter, but I think is likely to play against his old club. Avispa know what he is good and bad at. If balls are play past him is is very slow to turn and track back, but if given time and space around the box he is able to hit shots into the top corner from open and set play.
They like to work the ball around the box with short passing sequences (which can be seen as over-playing like with Avispa at times) and have players who like to dribble with the ball. If we allow them time and space around the box then they are likely to make problems.
Their best player is defender Takagi who keeps the defence well organised, especially at set-pieces. In attack they have few real weapons.
Oita 0 : 0 Avispa
Ordinarily a really good away point, but I think that at this stage of the season we need wins (and for Oita to be getting beaten).
A horrible result when a win would have taken us into the play-offs, but far from the worst performance of the season.
If you took Punosevac, Ishizu, Sakata and Kanamori out of the attack of any team in the division they would probably struggle for goals and so it proved with our forward line.
Jogo is looking less and less of a striker as he gets older (but needs to realise it himself), Sakai is looking more and more of a striker as the season goes on (but is still learning the role), Hirai doesn’t seem to have got out of his loss of form after scoring last weekend, Nabeta is brand new at the club and looked off the pace.
If 2 of those players can step up and go on a purple patch of scoring then they will make a real name for themselves and we will finish the season in the play-offs. If they can’t start scoring then we’ll finish about 10th.
Avispa Fukuoka 0 – 1 Mito Hollyhock
One of the particular annoyances about Avispa this season is that they seem to be able to play well and get results against some of the top teams, but then follow it up with defeats or draws against teams they should be getting results against quite easily.
It would be easy to say that they become complacent against ‘lesser’ teams, but I don’t think that is the case. They were playing at a very high level of intensity in this game, and pressing high up the pitch as a team well throughout the first half.
I thought Park Gun and Takdea were the stand-out players of this time as the stepped up to close gaps and win back possession, before driving forward with the ball.
The ball was reaching Nakahara at the base of our midfield who was trying to spread play, while himself also putting in tackles and trying to get close to Mito players.
The prblem for Avispa was that with Sakata out injured, Punosevac and Ishizu both having left the club, Kanamori away on international duty and Hirai seemingly unable to play at the levl expected of his we didn’t possess the cutting edge to score past a well organised Mito defence.
This is what I see as our real problem against these teams which we might be expected to beat.
When we come up against teams which are well-organised in defence, playing with 8 behind the ball when out of possession and perhaps happy to get themselves an away point (or at the least focussing on a counter-attacking strategy) then we don’t have the creativity to break down that solid defence.
The team starts to get a little desperate knowing that they are expected to win and start to leave gaps at the back, which as with this game can then be exploited.
We did control possession in the first half, and by 30 minutes we had had about 6 shots on target, as Mito had failed to have a single shot, but I wouldn’t say we ever really looked confident to score.
At times our forward line showed a massive lack of confidence, with Jogo in particular not trusting himself to out-pace defence when running in on goal. If I think back to games like against JEF in 2010 when he would run onto balls and out-pace, but also out-muscle defenders before rifling a shot into the top corner he more often now looks to play through someone else than take a shot on goal.
The other issue being that our long shooting is fairly hopeless. With teams sitting back you can cause problems by putting the ball into the corners from beyond the defence, but Avispa shots were sailing high and wide of goal from players who had time and space on the edge of the box.
Nakahara is really growing as a professional footballer this year, but his long shooting is quite embarrassing at times.
Something I could say is that if we were playing this game with Ishizu on the pitch then we would have had a very good chance of making the game safe before half-time. Either from his running on the break without thinking to stop and pass to someone else, or shooting from outside the box I think we could have got a goal from somewhere.
It makes the decision to allow him to go on loan to Kobe all the more bizarre. A win here would have put us in 6th. How much did Kobe pay us for the loan to not make that a crazy decision?
A new player was brought in to potentially replace Ishizu, but if that has been seen as a good like-for-like replacement someone has got things wrong. On loan striker Atomu Nabeta came on for 30 minutes and didn’t really look like someone who is going to cause many problems for defences in J2. In fact when Ushinohama came on he looked more of a threat.
Avispa looked like they just needed to keep doing what they were doing in the 2nd half and a goal would come.
It very nearly did come as Park stepped up from defence to start a move, continuing his run to collect a return pass from Abe on the left. Placed well he put his shot from the edge of the box wide, and clearly thought he should have done better to score his first goal for the club.
It looked a little bit like the defence switched off a bit having come so close to scoring and 1m95 Lee Kwang Seon was out jumped by 1m70 Mishima to flick the ball straight through the middle from a goal kick.
Falling right between out central pair the Mito striker could run free on goal and score easily in a 1-on-1 with Kamiyama.
Avispa had been caught by a sucker-punch, as they have a few times when faced with similar teams this season.
Avispa toiled to score, but didn’t really come close to breaking down the Mito defence.
There was time for the referee to show a yellow card to Lee Kwang Seon, and Osmar before the end of the game.
The card shown to Kwang Seon was bad, he was being fouled for about 10 seconds and then ewhen the guy fouling him fell over he was shown a yellow card.
It paled into insignificance when compared with the crazy card shown 10 minutes later to Osamar. Running back with the ball after being cauight off-side he threw the ball to Kamiyama after Kamiyama shouted for him to throw the ball to him and the referee booked him, presumably for time-wastng.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that out of 3 foreign players on the pitch this referyellow carded 2 of them without any caution for a Japanese player.
An archetypal game of 2 halves.
Will be interesting to see which team and formation come out against Mito next week. The 3 which has been favoured since July, or the 4 which worked so well in the second half here.
Giravanz Kitakyushu 3 : 5 Avispa Fukuoka
Before the match I had predicted a tight game which might end up goalless, or could be decided by a single goal by either team. I got that totally wrong as the teams shard 8 goals, with 7 different scorers to keep the big away support entertained on a rainy evening in north Kyushu.
One thing I did get right was that there would be an Avispa win, but this had looked very unlikely at half-time as the team went in 2-0 down having never really looked in the game.
Kitakyushu play a very simple strategy, but play it quite well. They have large numbers behind the ball; at times they had 2 full banks of 4 in and around their own penalty box, and try to absorb attacks and release their attackers quickly with direct balls forward.
Avispa had a couple of warning shots as Kitakyushu forwards were caught narrowly off-side a couple of times, but didn’t stay close enough together as a unit and allowed a first goal to be conceded.
Playing with 3 back there really wasn’t any excuse to leave the space between Lee and Mishima, space which was compounded by both Koga and Tsutsumi being in elevated positions with little pace to get back and Giravanz’s #11 had a free run on goal and took his chance well.
Kitakyushu sat back and defnded in numbers trying to get another 1-0 win which has been a common socre for them this season, but were then gifted another goal by Kamiyama.
Coming out to clear a ball which was already being covered by a defender he sliced his clearance into the middle where a Kitakyushu midfielder hit his clearance first time and nestled the ball just inside the post.
It looked like the wheels had come off the Avispa play-off bus with a second defeat in a row, but Pusnik changed things up for the second half and we immediately looked much better.
Earlier in the season I had said I wanted to see us play with 4 at the back and Park just in front of the back 4 to allow us to slip into a 3 if the full-backs pushed forwards.
(My post on this in April…. Back-4 with anchor).
Playing a back 3 has been successful at times this season, but in both the Yokohama game, and very obviously again tonight we changed to a back 4 and looked better.
We had pulled 1 goal back within 2 minutes as a set-piece from outside the box was slid square to Tsutsumi who hit a very good low shot through a crowd and inside the left post. This long shot from Tsutsumi was clearly something which had been recognised as an area we might do well from as Tsutsumi had already taken 2 long shots in the first half having never really done that ever before.
It worked here and is very nice to see that someone at the club has recognised this opportunity, and Tsutsumi said after the game that he had been practicing his shooting in training this week.
Avispa didn’t sit back and had equalised within 10 minutes with a very well worked goal from open play.
A move started by Kanamori looking like his energetic best winning the ball back and dribbling at goal before passing to Hirai, saw him then pass onto Jogo who spread the ball wide, continued his run into the box and headed home a very good lofted cross from Sakai.
Someone close to Jogo needs to tell him that this is where he should be playing. As a striker he hasn’t really scored or played very well this season. Coming from deeper in midfield or even right back he has scored more goals than he has as a striker this season.
2:2 after a poor first half was a result I would have taken, but Kanamori put us into the lead within 2 minutes. I am not the biggest fan of Sakai at times, his touch can be poor and as his shooting in the first half showed he can lean back too far and sky shots he should be getting on target, but he was key to this goal again.
Causing problems with his aerial threat on the edge of the box the ball bounced down for Kanamori who hit an early shot unstoppably just inside the post. It was a very good send off just before he goes away with the U21 team.
Full of confidence and finally hitting the weakened Kitakyushu central defence Avispa scored 2 more.
The next was from a set piece which Takeda hit to the back post where Kwang Seon had told him he would be waiting to head back across goal. Flicked on by Tsutsumi, panic caused by a defender’s bicycle kick from Park the ball ended up at the back post where Sakati got the goal his performance deserved. It was quite lucky that he reached the ball first as Jogo was waiting to score but would have been called off-side had he done so.
With Punosevac gone, Ishizu gone, and now Kanamori leaving for a month it is important for some squad strikers to now step up. Our 5th goal was good in that it involved both Morimura and Hirai.
Morimura found Kanamori with a good slide pass into the box and Kanamori took the ball on and passed intelligently to Hirai in the middle who displayed a good finish to get a goal he really needs.
Kazuki then stole the show from everyone by making the highlight of the whole game as he came on for a cramping Kwang Seon. After first running towards the pitch in just his vest he managed to put his shirt on backwards in his rush to get on the pitch.
Giravanz pulled one goal back with a late goal but it didn’t really matter.
The defeat to Yokohama wasn’t pretty to watch, but in the course of a season these results will happen. We came up against a totally incompetent referee and an experienced team who were able to take control of circumstances to win through 2 corners.
It will all be forgotten if we can beat Kitakyushu at the weekend. Anyone would have taken 2 draws from the 2 away games we are now playing, but a win tomorrow will get us a point extra than if we had drawn both games.
It was not so long ago that Kitakyushu were almost cheered by Avispa fans as a try-hard younger brother doing their best in J2. Those days are now long gone as Kitakyushu are doing better than Avispa and have had a couple of notable wins against us in the last few years.
This is now a real derby and should be played at a hard pace by both teams to get bragging rights in the Fukuoka derby.
A win for Avispa takes us back to the edge of the play-offs and might help to derail the Giravanz promotion bus. A win for Kitakyushu and I think we can give up on the play-offs for this season.
The best news for Avispa is that our best defender in Kwang Seon comes back from suspension and will give us much needed strength in the air. He might replace Koga who picked up an injury against Yokohama, or Park. Whoever he replaces he will go straight back into the team as our best defender.
Midfield remains our huge problem, and against a team who have combative defenders playing in an almost long ball style by getting the ball back and hitting the box early. Much with a 90s era Wimbledon it is their midfielders making late runs into the box who are scoring winning goals; often just 1-0 goals having only scored 31 goals all season while remaining in 4th place in the table.
Nakahara is one of the first names on the team sheet, but we still have the problem of who plays alongside him. Is there an argument to play Morimura against his old team. Personally I would play a very combative midfield knowing that up front we have strikers who should be able to convert chances.
Kanamori has his last game before leaving on international duty, and Hirai has 3 months to prove he isn’t a total flop. I don’t expect Sakata to play; he picked up an injury and hasn’t been in full training this week.
Team I’d play…
First choice defender Maeda is out suspended for this game, and should give Avispa some encouragemnet against what is otherwise one of J2’s strongest defences. They don’t have anyone near his level to bring in from their squad to fill the gap and we should be looking to attack through the middle early.
In attack they have experienced forward Hara who always seems to do well against us, but isn’t the main threat from this game. Kitakyushu have players who get the ball forward quickly and make late runs from between lines to midfield midfield like Kotegawa and Ikemoto.
This is why I would play both Park and Takeda in midfield to give us a strong base as I think our attack should be able to score if we can stop Kitakyushu making chances.
The other player which I would be telling Park and Takeda to get very close to in Kazuma, who likes to hit the box directly and shoot whenever close to the box. Everyone knows Kamiyama can play amazingly, or can make mistakes and I expect Kazuma to test him early in the game to see which Kamiyama has turned up.
Kitakyushu 0 – 1 Avispa
I don’t predict goals, but have to be optimistice that without one of their best defenders our attackers can get a goal while keeping things tight at the back. 0-0 wouldn’t surprise me.
Yokohama FC 2 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka
This was a game which brought the promotion bus down to earth a little bit. After getting good results in August and being 5 unbeaten there was a feeling that Avispa might be able to squeeze a result from this match against opposition who have been in the bottom half of the table for most of the season.
The reality was that the old players of Yokohama FC just had too much experience and understanding of what sort of performance was needed to never really give Avispa much of a chance.
The team came out as expected, and probably contained all of the players who would expect to play and playing in the positions which they would like to play in. It all looked like things might be quite straight-forward within the first 2 minutes as a really good ball into the box from Abe on the left was missed by the Yokohama central defender and fell to Jogo’s feet at the edge of the box.
I have said many times previously that Jogo is a player you don’t want to let think too much, and with time on his hands here he shot too close to the onrushing keeper and saw his shot saved and gathered when he really should have scored.
A goal then would have put Avispa onto a winning routine, but without that chance taken they went back into their shells a little and didn’t really threaten again.
Yokohama weren’t doing much to threaten either and it was a game where ball after ball was being passed poorly and giving possession straight to the opposition.
The game looked like it might go out of control mid-way through the first half as referee Morikawa made an attempt to be crowned worst referee in the J-League.
Koga picked up a nasty late challenge as Ahn from Yokohama went shoulder to knee in a late challenge but didn’t pick up a booking, the same player then did get a yellow as he threw the ball away as Avispa tried to take a free kick, but the referee bottled it and didn’t send him off when he threw the ball away again at an Avispa throw-in.
It wasn’t much fun to watch and neither team was doing anything worth paying for.
In my preview I had written that Avispa really had to be careful at corners as Yokohama had scored 50% of their goals from crosses and corners, but didn’t heed the warning as they conceded a cheap goal straight from a corner halfway through the half.
A corner from the right was flicked on as Nakahara struggled to challenge for the ball but should have been cleared by Tsutsumi at the back post. He can be slow to react to a bouncing ball and just teed the ball up for defender Matsushita to get his second goal in 2 games.
Just before the half-time whistle Yokohama scored their second; again from a corner on the right.
North Korean Ahn (who was lucky to still be on the pitch) jumped highest at the near post again and flicked his header at the back post again. This time Tsutsumi had come off the post and the ball went inside the post to double the score.
Avispa changed things at half-time as the injured players Koga and Sakata came off and Avispa went to 4 at the back.
They didn’t really make any more chances, and the game drifted down to an easy home win.
Avispa weren’t really any better or worse than Yokohama on the day but were undone by a team who have strengths from set-pieces (which should have come as no surprise).
It isn’t the end of the world, any fan would have taken 2 draws from this game and Kitakyushu next week. If we can beat Kitakyushu away next week we will have got 3 points rather than the 2 which 2 draws would get us.
Lose to Kitakyushu and I think we can probably forget promotion; JEF and KYoto aren’t going to drop too many points from now till the end of the season.