Ehime 2 : 1 Avispa
I’d considered myself a bit dramatic by hoping for a win away to Ehime after the opening weekend (this is a team we should be beating quite easily) but unfortunately Avispa proved that they really are as bad as they looked against Kyoto, going down in another dispiriting, lethargic display.
The team was barely changed from last week, and in fact looked a little worse as Taku started on the right in place of Nakahara in the middle. This meant that Jogo could go and be totally ineffective in his favored central forward role, and we were left with a central 2 of Sueyoshi and park who couldn’t get anywhere near the ball.
The truth is that I only really half watched the game. Within 3 minutes it was clear that it was going to be another awful performance, and not just awful but boringly awful (and awfully boring to boot).
Avispa were getting detoryed on the wings as their defence was being pulled out of shape again and again. They probably should have been 4-0 down by the end of the 1st half. but got lucky and ended the half only 2 down.
The first goal came from a break down the right where Kamekawa was playing very narrow and allowed the Ehime winger to float a cross into the box. It wasn’t whipped in, but our central defenders aren’t good enough to deal with crosses, and the whole division must now know Kamiyama will never leave his line and Nishida Go was able to sneak in front of Hamada and score a well-taken diving header.
They should have doubled their lead after a ball was played out to the left wing with Nakamura this time out of position, but the Ehime #6 hit straight at Kamiyama when through on goal 1-on-1.
Our zonal defence was again shown up from a corner as a cross was easily headed down, but in the scramble to hit the ball at goal it was again blocked by Kamiyama from about 2m out. It means that Kamiyama will probably again have good stats on paper from this game after making a couple of saves, but in reality was very poor and at fault again for Ehme’s second goal.
The defence was again in a total mess as both central defenders went over to the left to assist Kamekawa, but a quick switch of the play saw the ball able to be delivered to the Ehime #20 in the middle of the penalty box and up against Hokuto.
He held him off well and turned, but should never have been able to score past Kamiyama’s inside post, and the keeper has to take a look at his positioning to be beaten from that angle.
The match was over, but got slightly better in the second half after Nakahara came on and gave the team something to aim long balls towards.
Sakai also came on again, as did Hirai, and these two both showed that they have no right to be earning a living as footballers collecting a decent wage.
Avispa pulled one back from a corner as Nakahara scored his 2nd goal in 2 games by rising highest and heading home very well, but nobody cared by that point.
We would finish the 2nd week with no points, and face a trip to Sapporo in week 3 to play a Consadole team I have never seen us beat.
Avispa go to Shikoku for their first away trip of the season hoping to have a reaction from what was the worst opening day performance I have ever seen from them.
A new manager (with a big name) has been brought in to replace the previous manager who had been popular with the fans. Provided with a new input of money from new sponsors the money was bizarrely spent on a whole bunch of players who had been at the club during earlier unsuccessful periods for the club. It was a strategy which was a gamble on every front, and last week’s performance suggests it might be a gamble which has gone badly wrong.
Kyoto are one of the stronger teams in the division, but Ehime are a club in disarray. Habitually a club from around the bottom places of J2 they have now also gone into financial meltdown and it doesn’t seem to be totally sure that the club are even going to exist at some point in the future.
Despite that they had a much better opening day than we did by securing a draw with their Shikoku brethren Tokushima who had just just relegated from J1.
Avispa should be looking for a win here, but after last week’s debacle I think most fans would be happy just to pick up a point with an improved performance.
One advantage of last week was that it was so bad the management must know they have to change a lot of things.
A problem is that because of the situation in the dressing room it is not politically easy to change very much, especially with a manager in his first job.
Jogo is hopeless, but is now despite standing around on the right wing doing almost nothing but wait for someone to pass him the ball is Captain at the club, cheered by the fans for his every touch, and seemingly above criticism. The manager need to work out how to make him play, or stick him back at right-back or on the bench.
There is only one player at the club who has been there longer than Jogo and that is Kamiyama. He had an awful game against Kyoto, but we don’t even have any suitable replacement for him now. His replacement from last season was made to look like Iker Casillas when he was playing for Kyoto last week, but couldn’t get in the team ahead of him last year.
Tsutsumi has only ever looked like a player for the first 6 months that Pusnik came to Japan, and just looks like a depressed man running around on the pitch now.
Everyone knew that Sueyoshi couldn’t work in a midfield 2 unless he has someone very good next to him, and now we have to watch it all over again.
Sakai should never play in midfield ever again, no matter which hair-band he has chosen to wear that week.
The only bright spots from last week were after Nakahara came on, who has to start this week; and Ushinohama, who I still wouldn’t trust from the start.
Maybe Kanamori has got over his injury, but he is just another attacking forward when what we need is a midfield (again).
I am really, really pessimistic that ihara will be able to do anything to change things. I think that the worse things get the more he will just go back to what he knows; 442, a formation which will not work with the players we have unless Nakahara can work as a target and the full-backs can push on.
I would pick….
Ehime play with a back 3, and have done for a long time. They will have bodies in midfield and try to stifle the game.
At times last season they looked like they were playing without a striker, but with many guys who could break from midfield. They have lost their best player from last season Harukawa, but still have their big lump of a striker Watanabe who seems to really like playing against us and needs to have Lee Kwang Seon put against him.
There is a chance we will see an Avispa old-boy as Nishida Go will come back, and will get a good reception. While we were trying to bring back lots of players who had played for us before I’d certainly have taken Nishida Go before Suzuki or Sueyoshi.
There is probably a 50% chance he’ll play.
Ehime 2 : 2 Avispa
Predicting draws is rarely a good thing to do, but I think that both teams would take one today. Ehime will be looking to swamp midfield and play on the break, and against Kaqmiyama anyone can score.
Our attack should be able to get a goal or two.
Normally we only get this sort of performance in September when the team has decided to stop playing.
It is very worrying that in the first game of the season we are playing so badly.
The last 2 seasons we have been on the edge of the play-offs in August, and then lost every game after summer. What will happen if we also lose every game before summer too?!
Avispa 0 : 3 Kyoto Sanga
I would have loved to be proven wrong, especially in light of over 13000 fans coming to see the first game of the Ihara regime, but a limp, inadequate performance was actually worse than I was expecting against a decent, but not spectacular Kyoto team.
The line-up had been changed from the FC Tokyo friendly to have a more defensive out-look, but it didn’t improve the fluidity on the pitch.
It looked a better balanced team than the friendly but was still a team in which our midfield 5 included Jogo who was a passenger, Sakai who just can’t play in any midfield role, and Sueyoshi who was worse than I ever remembered him.
Despite having up to 5 in midfield (theoretically) Kyoto were able to find space and switch the play onto the flanks with some ease.
I had mentioned that the game would be decided by our continued lack of midfield, but also by the baffling decision to go back to the zonal marking system for free-kicks and corners which failed so badly 3 years ago.
We should have conceded the first goal of the J2 season after a free-kick from the right was crossed into the box for Oguro to sneak between 2 defenders and head into the far corner, safe in the knowledge that Kamiyama will never come out for a ball. Avispa were saved by the linesman who flagged for off-side, wrongly as the player off-side was Yamaguchi.
The warning wasn’t heeded and just 10 minutes later Sakai gave away another poor foul on the right which was crossed into the box and headed home by Yamaguchi who just timed his run between defenders and could head home thanks to the zonal marking system which after the ball cleared Hamada left space before the next man in the line.
Kyoto were by far the better team, and Avispa made no attacks of note. Sueyoshi was literally walking around for most of the half, and when the ball did get delivered to him he repeatedly fell over looking for fouls which the referee didn’t oblige with.
It wasn’t just his sense of entitlement at not having to run which was appalling, but also his decision making to shoot hopelessly at goal from distance rather than passing to players like Sakata running into space.
When he joined the club he said he knew he would have to start again and prove himself. His performance today did not suggest he is doing that.
Kyoto doubled their lead with an attack down the right which saw a cross come across the box, Kamiyama not make any move to get to it and Sakai get caught on the wrong side of Kyoto’s right-back who was able to meet the ball and shoot back across goal and score inside the far post.
Avispa went to a 343 formation, but didn’t look any better.
Going into the second half Park Gun was sacrificed to bring Ushinohama on. It sayd something about our performance that he was actually our best player today.
No-one can question his heart and attitude, and that was all that today needed; someone who was willing to run and try.
Unfortunately we went 3 behind with a ridiculous goal. Brushing past Ushinohama trying to use his ‘strength’ to brush the left winger off the ball a cross came in with no-one attacking in the box. Again there was no movement from Kamiyama, and inexplicably Sueyoshi headed unchallenged into his own net. I have no idea what he was trying to do, possibly just get his head out of the way, but it summed up his awful performance today.
Kyoto were in total control and should have scored a 4th as a ball was passed around the box until it reached Sasaki who cut inside to take up a central position but then thought about his shot too much and hit the angle of post and bar from the penalty spot.
Ihara threw on Nakahara who I think is our only hope for this season and we finally woke up a bit.
Ushinohama was trying to make things happen down the right and collected a diagonal ball from Sueyoshi (can he do anything else) before cutting inside, and releasing Hirai. Hirai cut the ball back low for Sakata to hit straight at Shimizu in goal (who we hadn’t tested in any way despite having total knowledge of his physical deficiencies). Nakahara got to the ball first to score on debut.
Avispa looked better in the last 10 minutes, but Kyoto had taken their foot off the gas by that point and the game was over.
All this game should have done is make everyone realise that the players have to start taking responsibility for serving up such poor performances.
Jogo, Kamiyama, Sueyoshi, Hirai, Sakai, Tsutsumi; all these players are just not good enough. The fans chant their names as though they are representing the club in any meaningful way, when in fact for the last 4 years they have not been fit to do the job.
The last 2 season in which we were on the edge of the play-offs in August with a group of players worse than what we have now is starting to look like a real achievement by Pusnik, but in each of these seasons the same group of players who have so under-performed today let the club down and are still there now serving up the same rubbish for another season with another new manager.
I wonder what the excuse will be this time?
The first game of the 2015 season is just a few hours away and it is the chance to see how another set of new players arriving at the club have settled in during the off-season; except this time it isn’t a whole new set of players.
The team now looks very similar in shape and personnel to what it did 3 years ago. Of the players who weren’t here during that awful season we have old-boys from even further back as Hokuto Nakamura also returns to the club.
Is it going to be an inspired choice to bring back a bunch of guys who ‘may’ want to fight for the club, or a disaster as a bunch of guys who failed to get us promotion before fail to get us promotion again (and drain the club of money in the process for a second time).
I really hope that the experiment with 442 against FC Tokyo showed that it isn’t going to work with these players, unfortunatey I think that Ihara is so entrenched in this formation which he played in for 100 plus national team games and a 15 year J1 career that we are going to see it again.
I think there will be a couple of change as Hokuto comes in at right-back after not being risked with his dodgy injury record against Tokyo. I also really hope that Nakahara (Taka) starts.
The only way that we have any chance with 442 (and probably in any of the other formations available) is with a target man who is able to lead the line and knock balls down for the technical players from forward positions. We haven’t had one of these since Jumbo, and it is no real surprise that we haven’t had a decent season since Jumbo (when we won promotion to J1!).
I would also bring the other Nakahara into midfield just to offer some contrast. Sueyoshi and Suzuki Jun can’t play together, however much they think they can. They are too similar as players, and want to fulfil the same role; it means they can sporadically work well together (much like Gerrard and Lampard for England) but generally are trying to occupy the same position and role on the pitch.
I don’t think Shuto is the long term solution, but I do think he offers a foil to their long shooting, diagonal ball playing role.
I’d also have Lee Kwang Seon starting instead of Tsutsumi, but that just isn’t going to happen.
Team I expect:
Team I want to see:
Kyoto are one of the strongest teams in the division, and shouldn’t be anywhere other than somewhere around the top of J1.
They have the name of one of Japan’s most famous cities, and possibly the richest owners in the League (albeit owners who don’t really have an inclination to spend much of their money).
They have had star young players come through (but lost most of them), and in Oguro have one of the most famous strikers in J2. He will always score 15+ goals in a season at this level, but the rest of the team seem very fragile and are liable to lose against anyone in the division on any given day.
Riki Harakawa returns to the club from a decent season at Ehime last year and will try to establish himself as the creative spark for Kyoto to build their team around this season.
Bajalica is their best defender, and poses good aerial qualities in both defence and attack and is why I would be starting Lee Kwang Seon in this game as Tsutsumi will get bullied by him if given the chance.
Avispa 0 : 2 Kyoto
An opening day defeat for Avispa I fear. Kyoto are always a decent team, if not spectacular and I just don’t think lessons have been learned for this Avispa team.
Maybe I’ll be surprised, but I think the 442 we will play with a failed central partnership, in front of a new back 4 and a dodgy keeper doesn’t represent good news.
Avispa finished up their pre-season matches with 2 games against J1 opposition.
vs. FC Tokyo.
First playing against Hiroshima in Miyazaki it was a match which sounded like it had some positive sides to it, and was watched by regular commenter to this site Perogyo.
“I went over to the Hiroshima game yesterday and it was really good too. They were a lot more organized than they had been in the other J1 match, against Kashima, and I guess it showed in the score (3-2 over 4 sets). I’m really impressed with the new Nakahara, Sueyoshi, Sakata, Nakaharo Shuto, Kanamori, and Hokuto, but the real stars of the day were Kuni and Hirai (that was a surprise). I think they are going to use Kuni the same way they have been using Taku, coming in to revive the team and it worked in both sets he came on. I like what Nakahara (Taku) is doing but I don’t see him scoring a lot, I don’t think he’s a striker from what I have seen.
I am less impressed with some of the other players. The new #2 keeper is not going to challenge Kamiyama and I don’t even think he’s going to challenge Eita. He seems completely unprepared. I know I am preaching to the choir but Koga is outrun and outclassed by everyone on the pitch and it beggars belief that he is out there again. And I am not sure what is going on with Sakai. He doesn’t seem to be in peak physical shape. The first time I saw him at camp I thought he must have a fever or be ill or something but he looked the same way yesterday too. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he has lost 10 or so kg since last year’s camp. I hope they can figure out what is going on.
I didn’t realize Jogo was on the pitch for the first 45 minutes, not sure if he touched the ball at all. Hope he pulls something out of his sleeve for regular season.”
A very nice summary of what was observed from that game, and generally positive but also with the same reservations about Jogo which I have had for about 18 months now (possibly longer).
vs. Tokyo FC
I was actually quite excited for this game, the first back at Level-5 for the new season, and an opportunity to see how the new players brought to the club were going to perform.
There has been a lot more money thrown at the squad this season than for the previous 3 years, and while I don’t think that it has been spent very wisely in many cases, I was happy to be proved wrong after tha positive vibes to come out from Miyazaki.
Imagine then my shock when I saw a team sheet which had what appeared to be a 442 formation from about 10 years ago, with Sueyoshi and Suzuki Jun playing as a central 2; the same central 2 which contributed to the worst season of football I have seen at the club as we finished 18th under Maeda.
I am not saying that these players cannot succeed at the club, but I am definitely saying that they cannot succeed as part of a midfield 2. They do not have the dynamism to do so against even J2 opposition.
The issue was componded by playing Jogo on the right-wing, which is probably his favored position, but is also the position which he played in our awful season with Maeda. In this position he is totally anonymous and just stands waiting for the ball rather than helping the midfield 2 in any way.
On the other wing was Kanamori, again a player who could be successful if he applies himself correctly, but never a player who is going to have the tactical discipline and commitment to tackle to help in midfield.
Sakata played through the middle with Hirai. Sakata needs to drop deeper to make use of his energy for 60 minutes, Hirai is a luxury player who doesn’t do anything in games when he doesn’t score, and has only scored in about 5 games.
Finally the limitations of the squad were exposed at right-back where we don’t have a player to come in for the games when Hokuto is inevitably injured. Mishima has dropped out of contention with some patchy performances, and new Chinese 19 year old Gao was asked to play there and was an obvious area for FC Tokyo to attack on.
The game went exactly as anyone who could see that this team was the same as the one which had failed for Maeda as we couldn’t get anywhere near the ball in midfield. Now I understand that FC Tokyo are a level above us in every area, but we really didn’t even compete.
Jogo offered no cover to the inexperienced and out of position Gao, even as Captain, and FC Tokyo scored an easy goal after a simple attack down the left resulted in a ball being crossed into the box with Hamada pulled out of position to come and help his right-back. Maeda vs. Tsutsumi is a mismatch in the middle and the new FC Tokyo striker scored without any trouble.
Avispa couldn’t get close to threatening the Tokyo goal, and would have ended the first half with no shots on goal had it not been for a couple of speculative long shots which were never going to trouble the keeper.
Sadly the well-worked free-kicks which were a success story of the last season are going to be replaced by Sueyoshi or Suzuki just hitting every free-kick at goal all season. They will score 1 or 2 and it will look good on youtube, but will come at the cost of about 40 free-kicks wasted.
Our only decent chance fell to Hirai after the Tokyo defence had been sloppy and allowed Sakata to press possession and put him through on goal. Hirai showed why he really isn’t the quality player that people think he could be by not even making the keeper have to save when through on goal in a 1-on-1.
The Avispa fans were at least seeing some quality players in the Tokyo team, with new star Muto getting a goal to finish the scoring for the day in the 2nd half.
The Avispa central defenders must be the only people who haven’t heard of his rise in recent months as they left him totally alone in the box to head home unmarked from directly between them.
Overall I think this game was a disaster.
We started with an out-dated formation using players who we already know are going to fail in this division.
We blasted every free-kick high and wide of goal rather than building on the successes of last year.
We went back to zonal-marking having conceded at least a goal a game from this last time we tried it.
This has all come at a time when a huge amount of money has come into the club.
Avispa have had several matches over the last month in an attempt to get ready for the season starting. We have 1 more game at home against FC Tokyo next week which I hope to go to, but before that here is a round-up of the games so far:
vs. Avispa U-18 team
The first time the players had time together as a team on the pitch was in a match of 3 30 minute periods against the U-18 team.
You can’t say much about these matches, and I didn’t go so don’t know who was playing (but 600 people did manage to find time to watch!).
I am sure that every player got some time on the pitch. The first 30 minutes ended 0 – 0, the second 30 minutes was won 1:0 by the top team with Kanamori scoring after just 3 minutes, and the final 30 minutes was won 2:0 by the top team with Morimura and Kunimoto scoring.
vs. Fukuoka University.
Before leaving for Miyazaki we had our annual training match with the University at Gannosu.
This match would have been more competitive, and was again played over 3 periods but this time with each being 45 minutes long.
Sakata and Jogo played up front together for the first 45 minutes and helped Avispa win it 1:0 with Sakata scoring.
The second 45 minutes had an emphatic 4-0 win Avispa with Jogo staying on the pitch to score after 7 minutes, and Hirai and Kanamori both coming on to score with Nakahara completing the scoring.
Nakahara scored again in the final 45 minutes, but the University at least got some consolation as they scored at the end to draw the 45 minutes 1:1.
vs. Kashima Antlers.
The first game in Miyazaki saw us play Kashima Antlers as part of the “Skype New Year’s Cup”. Playing against J1 opposition it would be our toughest test of pre-season, and so it proved as we ended up losing 2 : 0.
While there were many substitutions it was played with some competitive spirit and could give the first indication of how Ihara is viewing the team.
We started the match:
Which surprises me a little to see us using a back-3, but I guess that Ihara wants to have a look at it even if I still suspect we will start the season with a back-4.
As the match went on we brought on both Nakaharas, Sakai, and Kanamori, but couldn’t change the outcome of the match after conceding both goals in the first half.
vs. Oita Trinita.
I actually watched this game live as it was being broadcast on Tv and was my first chance to see the team this off-season due to work stopping me from attending any of the other games.
We went to 4231 for this game with Seon the man dropping out of the starting line-up.
It looks very similar to a team from 3 years ago, and played a bit like one as Oita were allowed to have space and build towards the Avispa box without ever really looking that dangerous. Both teams were clearly rusty, and there wasn’t a whole lot of quality on display. Hirai was ineffective as he has always been at Avispa, and Jogo just floated around as he is prone to do in the outside right position.
It looked like another blast from the past, Hideya Okamoto, would open the scoring after being awarded a weak penalty after a push by Kamekawa on the edge of the box. Fortunately for Avispa he blasted his penalty against the bar.
Avispa needed more energy, and in the second half looked more like the team Pusnik was pushing for last year as they pressed the ball high on the pitch. This was being done mostly by Sakata and Kanamori, but Sakai also helped having come on for the lethargic Hirai.
It was actually the introduction of Suzuki Jun which swung the game in Avispa’s favor. I have been very critical of him, but he came on and was clearly treating this game like his chance to prove himself and was busy and aggressive in midfield. I have never doubted his left-foot and after winning a free-kick on the edge of the box after tenaciously stealing possession his free-kick hit the top of the wall, rebounded to Sueyoshi who hit it long into the bottom corner.
Sueyoshi’s ability to hit shots from outside the box is something we have really missed in the last 2 years, and it gave a glimpse that maybe things can work out at Avispa for him again.
Suzuki Jun hit another free-kick against the bar late in the game, but Avispa had done enough to win already.
vs. Kagoshima United.
The players who didn’t start against Oita got chances later in the week against Kagoshima. It was a game which ended up scoreless as the teams played out a 0:0 draw but was apparently lit up by 17 year old Kunimoto who was the player making the fans excited.
The only details I have about the game are from commenter on this site Perogyo whose great comment is worth reproducing in full:
“I have been really impressed with Kuni at this camp. He has generated a lot of excitement among the hardcore fans- and that is almost impossible to do if you aren’t a Fukuoka-born player. But he got two standing O’s last week, including for some amazing dribbling in the Kagoshima United game. He seems to take direction well, from the coaches and Hokuto/Kamiyama. I am looking forward to seeing him in action.
There is something wrong with the new kit. The colour way isn’t awful (Kagoshima United’s away kit is truly awful so this is genius in comparison) but not my cup of tea. But the cut is terrible. The grandad shorts paired with an ill-cut shirt which is too tight around the shoulders and somehow makes it look like they all have beer bellys. Not impressed.”
vs. JEF United
This match was played over 4 45 minute periods, presumably to give the squad of both teams a chance to get 70 – 90 minutes game time under their belts.
Avispa’s starting line-up was exactly the same as it had been against Oita and ended up finishing as 2:0 winners after the first 90 minutes with Kanamori and Jogo getting the goals.
The players changed for the 2nd 90 minutes, and immediately did much better scoring 4 goals in the ‘first half’ of the second game with Nakahara getting one, and then Suzuki jun continuing his good form from the Oita match by scoring an unlikely hattrick!
JEF scored 2 goals in the final set of 45 minutes to get something from the game, but an overall aggregate score of 6:2 (2:0 & 4:2) is something which Avispa should feel encouraged by against tough J1 opposition.