After the disappointment of last weekend the team needs to bounce back strong for their first home game of the season against a decent team in Kyoto Sanga.
Kyoto are one of the toughest teams in the division having finished 3rd last season but then missing promotion in the play-off final, they also reached the play-off the previous year but failed then too.
In addition to having one of the highest quality (and highest wage bills) in the division they are also something of a bogey team fror Avispa and we seem to have an uncomfortable habit of playing well for a spell against them, but then collapsing and losing the game.
The team has lost some of it’s better players from the last couple of seasons and it might be a good time to face them having just got a new manager. A win against Sanga and the defeat from last weekend will quickly be forgotten.
I’ve written about what I felt about our team last weekend, and hope for a little more bite in midfield against a team who are going to want to play. If Seon is back then this gives us more options, if he isn’t then I’d give him a hype-up and send Kazuki out to let Park move forward. Or, despite having written him off maybe I’d ask Koga how fit he is. Against the top teams is there an argument he can try to give 3-4 last big performances during which he can either have a swansong, or prove to himself he really shouldn’t be in the team.
If someone does move up, I’d use Park ahead of Tsutsumi (although Takeda also did it against Kashima), then Nakahara moves up a place and Morimura starts from the bench. He could be a long-term option for midfield, and can play left midfield now, but needs games to build into the role, not a match against Kyoto Sanga after last weekend.
Jogo stays central, and will hopefully have more to work with having Nakahara alongside him and a destroyer behind him.
I thought Ishizu showed enough that he deserves a place to start, but it depends entirely on whether he is going to track back and help get the ball. Our formation and style requires a high press, and trying to win the ball back high up on the pitch to be able to maximise the turnover. He can’t expect everyone else to get the ball back all the time.
A harder question would be who he takes the place of. Sakata and Punosevac both did ok at times last weekend, Hirai is the player who could start to do very well if he finds his scoring boots.
Kyoto will likely be playing a 442 formation, typical in style you might expect from their old-school Brazilian manager (an interesting man who has traveled the world as both a player and manager over the last 40 years). They have 2 tricky wingers either side of a front pair, who will be looking to get 1-on-1 with our full-backs to stop them getting forward, and pull across the centre-backs.
This is an area where having a defensively sound midfielder is going to help us a lot as our defence is going to be pulled.
In the middle they may be missing their #9 Mitsuhira who was injured last weekend, but unfortunately have Mashashi Oguro to come in in his place. His recent stats don’t back it up, but he is one of the best 3 strikers I’ve seen at Level-5 when he came with Yokohama FC. He is 4 years older now, and people have said he can be disinterested, but is still a dangerous player.
Alongside him Brazilian Alessandro is a good quality Brazilian.
The place where I think we need to try and cause problems is central midfield where Kyoto are still coming out with a central 2. Their central 2 is very high quality with Kudo pulling the strings, and Jairo performing a deeper Dunga-type role, but it is still 2 vs. 3. If we can hold possession and upset them to stop having time to pick out attacks then we can cause problems. If Park can upset Kudo early then the players around him are all affected, but they need to get close to him first.
At the back they have a strong central 2, but they are not the quickest and can be pulled out of position as they try to cover the ground from full-backs who want to get forward. They got caught out early last week against Giravanz with a simple ball between the central-2 which former play Hara took early.
Kitakyushu were the better team in the first 20 minutes of that game by being quick to the ball and giving Kyoto no time, but were then undone by a very good cross from new right-back Ishibitsu after he was given time to pick out Alessandro in the middle.
They then got a second after Oguro was too good at a corner and got a flick-on to the near post after bullying the keeper. Their 3rd goal came as Kudo was given the time to pick out passes and benefited from a poor defensive header in the last minute as Kitakyushu pushed forward.
Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 1 Kyoto Sanga
I do think we can get a win. Kyoto have a lot of power going forward, but will give up chances at the back. Giranvanz had more shots last week (as we did against Kumamoto), but didn’t take advantage of that.
A win and everything from last week is forgotten, a draw is a decent result, a loss and the players are going to need to be picked up.
As far as I am concerned Avispa Fukuoka haven’t had a midfield to talk about since Nakamachi was at the club in 2010. It is no big surprise to me either that in that season when we actually had someone who could star for us in midfield we surprised everyone and won promotion to J1.
Like many 2nd divisions across the world J2 is typically a fairly scrappy battle for possession of the ball in midfield, with mistakes and missed chances seeing the ball getting turned over to the opposition regularly; or more accurately bouncing around in the middle third of the pitch waiting for one team or the other to get hold of it.
Too often in the last 3 seasons we have been second best to those balls, meaning opposition players are getting the chance to run at our defence from half-way, or for our attacks to be easily cleared rather than recycled.
Our midfield immediately after promotion was a 2-man midfield of Suzuki Jun and Sueyoshi (Nakamachi ended up being injured for a lot of the time in J1). These 2 players both wanted someone else to do the running for them, and faced with other teams playing 3 across the middle were usually totally behind the ball and saw us finish 18th in J2.
Then Pusnik came to the club and changed the formation to improve matters, putting 3 in the middle and giving us the chance to start to compete for the ball. Things improved (we finished 14th despite going through a financial meltdown mid-season which coincided with the players giving up for a bit and losing 8 games in a row), but unfortunately the players weren’t good enough to play the role.
Funayama had a good foot but always needed time, Kanakubo thought he was a star and played like he was trying to make a youtube video about himself. Nakahara did well in his first season, but couldn’t do it on his own.
Having seen the midfield on Sunday I can say that after 3 years it is still going to be our biggest problem.
Again Nakahara battled valiantly again but we were basically playing a formation which could be written:
Against a team in Kumamoto who had been sent out to be aggressive, win every second ball, and generally try to unsettle our players.
Having seen the team on Sunday what I think I can say with close to 100% certainty is that the players who have come in are not players chosen by Pusnik.
The team could be said to be a little unbalanced, but who should have played instead?
The only other options for midfield are Nozaki (a kid who is probably even more lightweight/attacking than those on the pitch), Sakai (who hasn’t had a pre-season and is more of a winger apparently) or Jang (not good enough yet).
One of the reasons I am sure that Pusnik hasn’t brought these players in is that in the game against Kashima he played Takeda in midfield, a player brought to the club as a left-back; he knows the other options we have are not totally suitable. I thought Takeda did ok in that game and is a position he may be playing more having seen the match on Sunday.
What it needs more than any of the above options is for the players who played in the position on Sunday to step up.
Morimura has previously played left-wing where he can put his running in, but doesn’t need to won the space as much. He isn’t going to get into the team on the left-wing ahead of Sakata, Ishizu, Kanamori, Sakai. He needs to work hard, stay aggressive and focus on becoming someone to play in midfield.
Jogo is the puzzle which still hasn’t been solved. He has absolutely everything he could need to be one of the top players in that central position in the division. Pace, Height, a knack for scoring, and at times excellent tackling and aggression, but he must start to be the top player he could be rather than drift out of games.
I still believe that the man to play the anchor role is Park Gun however. I am even more sure of it after reading in the J-League digest that his favorite player in world football is Yaya Toure. If that is the player he most aspires to, then he should be wanting to move further up field and try to be the beast in the middle.
Having seen him play there a couple of times in pre-season I think that the plan is that he will eventually play there this season which will improve the team a lot, very quickly, in my opinion. The problem on Sunday was again with the squad.
I assume that Seon was injured, he didn’t even make the bench. Koga is basically semi-retired, and the only other option is Kazuki who as much as I want to do really well has a habit of making big mistakes.
Personally I’d risk it with Kazuki, I think the need for some bite in midfield is so strong, but failing that would at least bring Takeda back in. We can’t face a team like Kyoto with such big spaces in midfield and just Nakahara working to break up attacks and win the ball back:
I’m not so sure what I’d call this formation, but it’s something not many teams would have much experience of facing!
It is a little harsh on Punosevac who did ok on Sunday, but we will have suspension and injuries for him to play as one of the front 3, and he is an excellent man to have on the bench to provide some power with 30 miutes to play.
When we are in possession of the ball it could get it’s width from the full-backs, where we have players in Mishima, Oh, Takeda, Abe, Mitsunaga and start to look like quite a dangerous attacking team something like.
The biggest benefit being that it allows Park to concentrate on one main area of the pitch to govern, and try to build a strong understanding with the centre-backs to make what would hopefully be a solid defensive foundation.
Kamiyama – 5. A goal-keeper will ultimately be measured on his saves and mistakes. Kamiyama was untested for 85 minutes of this game, but when called upon he was totally wrong-footed by a swerving shot, and then embarrassed by a looping shot which somehow managed to be always out of his reach.
Mishima – 6. Was our main route of attack by the end of the game, but was just missing the final product with his crossing. It was his poor cross from a short corner which didn’t get past the first man and led to their counter. Late on he then totally overhit a cross as 5-6 players poured forwards to get a goal. Kept running, and will hopefully setlle down a bit.
Abe – 6. I thought he was poor in the first half, giving away balls easily and straight into touch, but kept on fighting and was much better at the end of the game. I still wonder if Takeda might be a better option, and wouldn’t be surprised to see them rotate for the game against Kyoto.
Tsutsumi – 7. Some people around me were accusing him of ball-watching at times, but I thought he did ok. Could do little about the counter-attack goal, unlucky not to score, and generally limited chances when Kumamoto had the ball.
Park – 7. I thought he was our best player in the first half. Went hard into tackles at exactly the right times, and in exactly the right places. Made me even more sure at times that he should be trying to do it in midfield to let others play, but do we have anyone else to play centre-back if he does?
Nakahara – 6. Was getting frustrated by the end, but was at least trying to match the Kumamoto aggression. Had a clear plan to try and switch the play which worked well at times, but was dropping a little too deep to hurt the opposition. Switching the play in our own half gives time to re-group, if he was able to pick out wingers and full-backs in the opposition half with diagonal balls then we’ll start getting somewhere.
Jogo – 6. The one player who was trying to get the ball down in the first half and had some great touches into space, but playing in the middle of the pitch (especially alongside Nakahara and Morimura) he needs to be more involved, and be a bigger physical presence.
Morimura – 5. Rabbit in the headlights. To be fair to him he was playing in a role which he isn’t used to, and was asking him to step up and fill some space, but he didn’t make that step up. If he doesn’t start being the player we need him to be then I don’t know what will happen this season as we don’t really have anyone else.
Sakata – 7. The one player who was tracking back from attack and trying to match the aggression in midfield, unfortunately there was too much work for him to do on his own. Scored a decent goal with his chance.
Hirai – 6. Looks like a player when he has the ball at his feet in the penalty area, and one dribble along the byline was great, but the tactics we are playing now needs him to help out a bit when we don’t have the ball; a midfield 3 of Nakahara, Jogo and Morimura needs the forward to come and help get the ball back at times.
Punosevac – 6. I was interested to see that in the J-League digest he lists his key strength as heading. He did some nice close control, and link-up work in the box, but his heading was less effective. Had fouls given against him for being a foreigner; I’d love to hear from the referee what the reason for some of his fouls were. One seemed to be for ball-juggling in the box, and another for being tall.
Ishizu – 7. Looked like he might win the game for us when he first came on with some great running with the ball, and trying to pass to team-mates. If he can keep running when he doesn’t have the ball and try to help in defence then he is potentially the best player in the division, if he acts like an elementary school kid and expects someone else to get the ball for him then he is difficult to play as anything apart from a luxury player (and we seem to have 4-5 of those already).
Kanamori – 6. Like a Diet version of Ishizu. Offers lots of the same sort of thing, but in a slightly weaker version. I liked the yellow card he picked up, it did at least show he wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and wanted to help defensively.
Ushinohama – 5. Didn’t really do anything once he came on the pitch, albeit with very little time to change the game.
Can’t find the Avispa goal at the moment, but the 2 Roasso goals have been put up if anyone is feeling masochistic.
I wanted to see the free-kick being given away as it seemed like the Roasso defender just kicked the floor with Punosevac running next to him, but it cuts straight to the free-kick.
It looks like I may have been really unfair on the Kumamoto striker yesterday as it doesn’t appear to deflect off Tsutsumi, rather get some monster swerve as the attacker slices his foot across it. Totally wrong foots Kamiyama, and I expect the player to spend all season trying to do it again and sending ball after ball into orbit.
A goal straight from our corner.
As Mishima went short the ball ended up bouncing near the edge of the box with 2 Avispa players diving in but ending up being slower to the ball than a Kumamoto player.
One of the 2 absolutely had to get there, and if they didn’t at least take a yellow card for bringing the player down.
Again I should probably give the attacker more credit than I did yesterday, I thought he mis-hit the shot and it ballooned over Kamiyama, but it appears he may have known exactly what he was doing.
There are some slightly longer highlights on this local news report, but still no Avispa goal.
Roasso Kumamoto 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
I’d said before the match that an away draw would be a decent result in a local derby, first day of the season, but we really should have beaten Kumamoto. To lose against them is a pretty terrible start to the season.
As unhappy as I am to lose against one of our local rivals things could be worse. I might be supporting Roasso and have to watch their agricultural brand of football, in their wind-farm of a stadium, 100m from the pitch, with the most obnoxious bunch of cheating players I’ve seen in a long time.
I’d previously thought that Tochigi were on a mission to be the most hated team in the J-League, on today’s evidence Kumamoto are hoping to give them some competition. It seems odd that a team who aren’t going to be relegated, or promoted, would turn to such a negative form of football (which is essence is supposed to be entertaining) but I guess it is a results game.
They got the result in this game, but seem to have a strategy which relies entirely on the opposition making a mistake. Most teams in this division will be able to play simple stuff and avoid that, but Avispa were much more accommodating.
There was a sense of anticipation at kick-off but within the first 10 minutes Avispa looked rattled. It seemed the players were quite shocked that Roasso weren’t going to let them walk through the defence and score a couple of goals. Without question I’d say we have better quality players than Roasso, but it seemed like the Avispa players thought that too, and that the Roasso players would politely let them pass the ball around.
For about 20 minutes the ball hardly touched the floor as it got headed around the pitch. Avispa wanted to play some football, but were nearly always second best to the ball in both halves of the pitch, and weren’t being helped by a strong swirling wind.
The wind was a big factor at the start, and we should have adjusted our plans accordingly. I fully believe in trying to switch the play and have Nakahara playing his raking diagonal passes across the pitch at Level-5, but given the circumstances today most passes were ending up going 20m either side of where they were intended.
As expected the formation included most of the ‘big-hitters’, and new players (the notable exception being Ishizu). This is a decision which I fully agree with. It didn’t work out today, but one of these players may have come in and hit the ground running, in which case today would have been a very different story.
As it was we had about 5 forwards on the pitch, and every one of them looked like someone who was used to being given the ball by ‘water-carriers’ behind them, and weren’t really equipped to get the ball themselves.
I expect that the next game will look a little differently, but no-one can now complain as to not having been given a chance. I’ve said previously that I think we need Park in midfield, and he put in a couple of huge tackles early on today, and I think the huge space in the middle of the pitch just reinforces that we need a ball-winner in the middle.
Playing alongside Nakahara today was Morimura, who ran a lot and tried to get the ball but made mistake upon mistake seeming to need too much time on the ball and making bad decisions. We have a big space in the middle of the pitch and it would be great if he can start to quickly find his rhythm.
Jogo was the one player who seemed able to get the ball on the floor and put it into space, with Nakahara alongside him being a bit hit and miss.
Having said all that we weren’t giving up many chances to a Kumamoto team who I was expecting to be better, but looked pretty awful. Unfortunately we then gave them a chance.
Nakahara ballooned a pass strangely, and the Kumamoto central defender out-paced Punosevac to get forward and hot a shot at goal. I had a good angle to see the shot, and looked to me like he kicked the floor and scuffed his shot embarrassingly wide. The referee thought it was a foul and gave a free-kick outside the box which they scored from via a big deflection off Tsutsumi’s back.
Getting the free-kick was fortuitous, but putting in a shot from distance wasn’t. It was so windy it needed shots on target which anything could happen from, and in this case ended with a goal.
Ishizu came on for Morimura at half-time and immediately made our best chance of the game with a run across the by-line. He certainly looks to be playing more for the team so far this season, but did still at times try to do too much.
We looked the far better team, but then gave away a second goal.
After winning a corner Mishima came short. With the ball cleared by the defence it fell to the edge of the box where absolutely no-one challenged for it. I don’t know if that was Mishima’s position (he usually sits deep for corners), but it is amateur level defending to have no-one on the dge of the box to at least foul the guy before he can counter.
Kumamoto ran the length of the pitch, but it still took a ballooned, odd shot over Kamiyama to score and take a 2-0 lead through 2 chances which had been given to Kumamoto by Avispa.
The Avispa team did at least fight to avoid it getting more embarrassing and did get a goal back through Sakata hitting a shot which bounced around a few defenders before ending up sneaking inside the post.
Avispa pushed and pushed for an equaliser and had a goal disallowed for off-side by Punosevac at the far post, a Tsutsumis shot handled off the line after a corner, and Ishizu hit the underside of the bar with a shot from the penalty spot.
At this point the game was basically Avispa attacking, and Kumamoto trying to con the referee every time the ball came to them to try and waste a bit of time. The only thing they did beyond this was for one of the players to launch himself into an over-the-ball challenge on Kanamori (possibly Mishima) and get away without even a yellow-card.
The referee was certainly having a bad day by the end of the match, and I hope that this season doesn’t end up again with so many games influenced by the referee.
In the end the whistle went and Roasso can take their points. I hope that I wouldn’t be happy to take the points like that each week if I was a Kumamoto fan. Avispa were terrible in the first half, and gave goal-scoring chances to the opposition rather than make them work for them, but had at least shown a little bit of heart by the end of the match.
In an interesting story announced by the club we have now formed a coaching partnership with Hangzhou Greentown in the Chinese Super League.
It’s a deal which has been struck between new Club President Atsushi Nomiyama and his friend (the two went to Waseda University together) ex-NT Coach Takeshi Okada who is currently Player Development advisor having coached the club for the last 2 seasons.
Okada is someone I think did a good job during his time as NT-coach and is a very positive person to be linked to the club in some capacity.
The deal means that we will send 4 coaches over to China to work with the club on developing players, and in return will receive 60 million yen.
This looks to me to be a very good deal for Avispa. 60 million yen (about US$600,000) will go a long way towards the financial rebuilding which is going on at the club, and I would guess is more than any of the sponsorship deals we have received so far.
To get the shirt front sponsor would probably cost more than that, but apart from that it is the biggest new income stream to come into the club.
To put the figure into some sort of perspective I would say the top earners at the club (Koga, Sakata, Jogo) are probably on salaries in the region of 15 to 20 million yen.
We have a decent squad at the club now, so the extra money coming in could go towards getting 2-3 key players to really improve the team.
In addition to sending coaches over I would be interested to see what other deals could be made with this partnership.
The Chinese Super League has some money floating around in it; when Dario Conca went there he was the 3rd highest player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo. To a lesser extent Greentown themselves have been able to spend money to bring Ivorian Davy Claude Angan in from Norway (a player I guess would walk into our first team), and interestingly have a Slovenian link themselves with midfielder Luka Zinko arriving at the club.
If players needing a change in scenery could come over here for a half season we could also send players over there. We have sent Hatamoto up to Kanazawa, and Ushinohama needs more games than he is getting at the moment too. With the ex-NT coach and 4 Avispa coaches going over there it could be a very good opportunity for players to get some games and still be watched by coaches linked to the club.
After what has felt like a long break the season kicks off again with an away match against Roasso Kumamoto, just 90 minutes by coach south for the team and with what will hopefully be a big away support.
I’m sure the players and management are even more eager to start than I am, and with lots of new players a good start to the campaign is really important to try and build some momentum and show that some of the new ideas and new players are going to be successful this season.
We will be playing some variant of 433 (moving between 4231 and 4141 depending on the phase of play and how the game is being played), with many of the new players getting their debuts for the team.
Oh, Seon, Takeda and Nozaki have all looked to have picked up injuries at times during pre-season, but I’d expect that with the target of the first game of the season to get back all should be available. The only player who I don’t expect to see is Sakai who I haven’t seen involved in any games so far.
I don’t think we have any players suspended.
The starting line-up is something of a mystery as the first game of the season, but from what I have seen so far I would play…
This team is squashed a bit, with a few players playing in positions which I don’t really want them, but as the first game of the season I think it is a good idea to get all the players who should be having a good season on the pitch and then slide them into better positions as form/injuries/suspensions come into effect.
Nakahara does know this position after last year although I’d like him to be further upfield, and is a ‘safe’ choice for first game.
Morimura and Ishizu are both players who can run, and can switch between their positions, but with Jogo and Hirai the other players around the 3/4 line it is a light-weight midfield (with only Nakahara behind them), pressure falls on Jogo to get involved and try to be more physical in his game (as he can).
Sakata and Hirai switch for the front position, with neither really happy on the wing, but needing to work for the team.
Defence writes itself, with only Takeda for Abe where there is any choice to be made.
Bench: Kasagawa, Abe, Park, Kazuki, Kanamori, Ushinohama, Punosevac,
I think Roasso have brought in some good players this winter and are going to be a much better team than they have been in the past few seasons.
Previously they fell into the trap of getting 34 year old famous players to eat up their wage bill (Kitajima, Fujimoto), and while Kitajima is now moved into coaching Fujimoto might still play as a second striker and will get a bad reception from the Avispa fans. This is the player who I’d be looking to rattle within the first 10 minutes if he plays.
They didn’t lose the theme altogether with Seiichiro Maki coming in from Verdy, who may start, but I don’t have much faith in these sorts of signings (33 years old) so hope that we can deal with him.
Up front their Brazilian striker Fabio is much better than he used to be, and will provide an aerial threat which Seon should be looking to win early. They play with tricky wingers each side of their striker (who himself isn’t an out and out striker), but don’t have anyone of the quality of Takatomi any more. Yasuaki Okamoto who has arrived from Sapporo is a player who I do expect to do well there though and is likely to be our biggest threat.
Their experienced goal-keeper has left, and could previously have been argued to have been their best player, so I hope that we put in a lot of early shots to a new, inexperienced goal-keeper; a nervy start could give us an easy afternoon.
Roasso Kumamoto 1 – 2 Avispa Fukuoka
I think an away draw would be a good result for the first game of the season, but with Roasso having brought in even more new players than us I am hopeful that we can sneak a valuable away win.
We are going to get shots on goal, and I think the new goal-keeper after so long with an experienced one (who was also Captain) is going to be the difference.