Archive for July 2010
It is sad to say it but my biggest cheer at the game against Fagiano Okayama was the news at half-time that Jumbo had been substituted. As far as I can remember it is the first time that he has been taken off this season, which looking at the way he has played is amazing.
I hope that he was taken off after Shinoda agreed with my assessment of his performance, and will spend the rest week now trying to find an alternative to playing him at the top of the formation.
If Jumbo stays as the main striker then Avispa can forget about promotion.
Shinoda seems keen to play the fashionable 4-2-3-1 formation, which I think is probably a good idea for Avispa as they have players like Genki who suit this formation well, but also needs the single striker to be quite dynamic, able to stretch defences and hold the ball up well for the 3 support attackers to join the play.
When I watch Jumbo he is not filling this role at all. This doesn’t mean I think he is a terrible player (and having seen him on TV I like him as a person), but is perhaps better suited to a team playing a more traditional 4-4-2 where he has an specific second attacker to do his running and be directly playing off him to collect the 2nd ball.
His biggest problem now is a near total lack of movement. Lower level defenders (such as those at Fagiano or Thespa) are happy to play against Okubo because while they will have to play hard to compete and win headers, they know that they are very unlikely to ever get caught out of position.
If you watch other strikers playing this role of single striker (Drogba being the best example), they are always moving between centre-backs to create confusion about who is marking who, or using the channels to try and drag players out of position. Watching Jumbo waiting while Kamiyama holds the ball before kicking it up to him you see a player standing totally still who is relying on the ball landing onto his head, and using his size to win the header.
Even when the ball does come near him his timing is so bad that despite being taller than the defenders around him he rarely wins the header. At times when he does win the header it is usually a random knock-down which playing as a single striker means can be comfortable collected and cleared by opposition defenders. If a long ball is being played up to him in a 4-2-3-1 formation he needs to be backing into the defender and holding the ball up rather than heading it on for a non-existent 2nd striker.
I think that at the moment Shinoda is being held captive by his formation. By playing 4-2-3-1 you “need” to play a strong, target man striker. This is not the case. Manchester United play a single striker in Wayne Rooney who is about the same height as Yutaka, but he is able to do a very good job of it by doing the key thing that Jumbo cannot: Move.
Avispa Fukuoka 0 – 0 Fagiano Okayama
12 mins : Genki made space on the left and crossed to Jumbo on the near post. He hit it first time and the keeper saved easily for a corner.
14 mins : Sueyoshi hit a good cross-shot on the volley and somehow Daiki couldn’t connect with it.
55 mins : Fagiano striker somehow managed to miss from a few yards out after mistake by defence (Miyaji?)
65 mins : Kamiyama makes a good save from a free header about 5m out, rebound is headed in but awarded as off-side.
85 mins : Suzuki Jun hits a good shot from well outside the area. Hit the top of the cross-bar and sails into the crowd.
90 mins : Genki buts in from the left and hits the near post. The ball rebounds to Yutaka who misses from 1m with a diving header.
Kamiyama : 7. Didn’t have much to do, but came out strongly for a couple of crosses, and made one important save.
Nakajima : 7. Did ok in defence and attack, but didn’t attack as much as he can do.
Yamagata : 7. Was totally unprotected on his wing, but did ok.
Daiki : 6. Was solid for most of the game, but the 2 big chances for Fagiano should have cost the game.
Miyaji : 5. Having to play as centre-back for Makoto, he looks much better at full-back.
Suzuki : 6. Kept coming inside to play a central role. Avispa played with no-one on the right for much of the game.
Sueyoshi : 8. My Man of the Match. Didn’t deserve to lose this game. Was running all game, tackling back and providing something in attack. The one positive out of this game.
Kudo : 6. Playing in an uncomfortable central midfield position. The one thing he can still do well is cross, but playing here he cannot do that.
Genki : 8. Had an excellent 20 minutes at the start of the 2nd half were he was unplayable. Looked most likely to score and nearly did in the last minute.
Jogo : 7. Did ok, and certainly looked closer to match fitness than Jumbo despite it being his first start in months.
Jumbo : 3. Terrible. I’m going to write about him specifically later in the week. The team cannot get promotion if he keeps starting.
Takahashi : 7. On for Jumbo. The team could play higher up the pitch thanks to his energy in the final 3rd. Win more headers than Jumbo despite being 170cm.
Hideya : 5. On for Jogo. Had just been dropped, and was coming on when people were tired but still didn’t look like running.
Yusuke : 6. On for Kudo. Didn’t get the ball enough to do much. Did pressure defenders into mistakes, but needs the ball played in front of him to be effective.
Having predicted an easy win against Thespa it seemed I didn’t learn and predicted an easy win against Fagiano as well. I may have guessed a very different score had I known that two of the most important players for Avispa were going to be out suspended after picking up yellow cards.
Without Makoto Tanaka the defence is missing a key organiser, and without Nakamachi the team is missing the undoubted player of the season and main goal threat. Had I known that these two players were suspended I would have still predicted a win, but perhaps not a comfortable one.
Kicking off at 6pm to avoid the main heat of the day it was still well over 30 degrees, but the stadium had picked up a lot of casual fans from the World Cup as the cheapest seats at either end of the ground were much more crowded than usual.
Avispa started at a good pace and were able to use the wings to move up the field and create chances to score. Within the first 20 minutes they had two good chances, most notably a good shot across the area by Sueyoshi which someone should have been able to get a foot to. Daiki in particular must be wondering how he failed to score from it.
Fagiano were looking like a club who had only scored 9 goals all season, and I don’t think Kamiyama had a save to make in the first half.
Fagiano were playing with 10 men behind the ball and crowding the penalty area well for every attack, and it was looking like if Avispa managed to sneak a goal they could go on to score a few more as the game became more open.
Unfortunately rather than continue to play this high tempo game (maybe the heat had something to do with this) the team seemed to revert back to their standard play of passing the ball around defence and then launching a long ball up to Jumbo.
This tactic doesn’t work. I can think of only 2 goals this season which have come from a long ball straight up the middle, and neither have involved Jumbo. He doesn’t run so can never get into a good position, and has terrible timing so when he is quite near the ball always jumps too early. In unusual circumstances where he does touch the ball it bounces off him at strange angles, usually starting an opposition attack.
The Fagiano defenders are not the best in the world, but playing up against this they knew they didn’t have to worry about movement or running, and could just concentrate on dealing with Jumbo. They did so easily and the teams went to half-time at 0-0.
Thoroughly depressed by this I had an instant boost at the start of the 2nd half where it seemed that maybe manager Shimada had agreed with my assessment of Okubo and substituted him. Not for my choice of Oyama, but the experience of Takahashi was perhaps a better choice in this situation.
Immediately the club were playing with more energy and chances were coming time after time for Avispa. Powered mainly by the energy of Takahashi pressuring midfield and defence, and Genki playing really well for about 20 minutes it was just the final ball which was missing as again Fagiano were playing with 10 men in a compact defence and hoping for a draw.
It looked only a matter of time before Avispa would score, but then Fagiano broke and had the best chance of the game as hesitation by Daiki in defence allowed a Fagiano striker to sneak behind him and miss from a few yards out when he should have scored.
This seemed to disrupt Avispa and their attacks became less frequent while at the same time encouraging Fagiano who started to look the more likely to score. After 65 minutes Kamiyama was called upon to make his first save of the game, a very good one to block a free header from 5 yards out. The rebound falling to an Okayama player to easily head home; fortunately from a clear off-side position spotted by the linesman.
The crowd started to call for Yusuke to come on and hopefully do something to change the game. Hideya had already come on, but despite having fresh legs and an incentive to try hard after being dropped for Jogo, looked disinterested.
With 15 minutes left to play Avispa gave it one last push and in reality were unfortunate not to snatch a late victory.
Suzuki Jun rattled the crossbar from a long range shot, and in the last minute of the game Genki cut in again from the left and tried to beat the goal-keeper at his near post. Bouncing off the goal-keeper, and then onto the post it rebounded out to Yutaka to head home into the empty goal from about 2m out. Unfortunately the ball came to him too quickly and he messed the chance up, sending it wide of the post. As he was left to walk back to half-way with his head in his hands the whistle went for full time.
After the terrible result against Thespa Kusatsu last weekend Avispa Fukuoka play their first home game since the World Cup against another new team Struggling near the bottom of the table.
Fagiano have only been in the J-League for 1 season, and the finished bottom in their previous year. This year they are doing slightly better by being above Thespa and Giravanz, but are still a club we should beat easily.
As the game against Thespa proved things aren’t always that simple, and as if to confirm that Fagiano also won last week by beating Mito Hollyhock.
Avispa are strong favorites at the book-makers at 1.64 (59%), with 1-0 and 2-0 being considered the most likely scorelines.
I was very wrong last week, but think that Avispa are even more likely winners than this.
I was too confident last week (maybe the players were too) but am still hopeful of a comfortable win tomorrow as the players try to show that last week was a freak result.
Avispa 4 – o Fagiano with Oyama scoring a goal late in the game.
My optimism about getting an easy win to start the 2nd half of the season was misplaced.
I had to work all weekend so couldn’t watch the game, but was really disappointed to see that having played really well and beaten some tough opposition before the World Cup, the team have come back and been beaten by the club at the bottom of the table who had previously only won 2 games all season.
I don’t know if the team were too confident after being J2’s in-form club before the break, and perhaps this will be a wake-up call to put in some hard work for the rest of the season. I will find out more at the weekend when I can watch them play at Level 5 again.
Avispa were playing with what is pretty much their strongest team, with Nakajima back at left-back, but conceded a penalty just before half-time which Thespa scored to take the lead. This seems to have come after a foul by Daiki.
Avispa then scored an equalising goal from what is their main source of attack now; Nakamachi arriving late in the box to head in a corner. It looks like his best header so far, somehow managing to dive onto it, but stay on his feet having got almost horizontal.
Following the game by text on my phone I was hoping that with 14 minutes left to play Avispa could use the momentum to snatch a late victory, but unfortunately the opposite happened with a Thespa defender scoring from a left wing cross in the last minute of the game.
After the summer break and accompanying World Cup the real football is about to start again with Avispa Fukuoka about to start their season again, hoping to continue the rich vein of form which sees them 4th in the table and within sight of promotion.
During the break there have been a few friendly games to keep the players sharp (which while results are fairly irrelevant, Avispa won), Japan vs. Holland has been shown on the video screen at Level 5 Stadium (which attracted a bigger crowd than some home games!), and Avispa haved signed a new player (a South Korean defender who looks likely to be a backup player).
Wanting to carry on their amazing form from before the break Avispa are potentially quite fortunate to be playing Thespa Kusatsu first. Despite having been in J2 for a few seasons they are the weakest team in the division, and are rooted to the bottom of the table.
I’m hoping for a good away win, and a confidence boost to help continue the run of games without defeat.
My Prediction – Thespa Kusatsu 0 – 3 Avispa Fukuoka
Avispa Fukuoka players will be eager to start the season again after the way they finished, and now have a group of strikers and attacking players competing for a starting place who will be eager to impress.