I’ve not been writing reports on Cup matches as they are seen as a bit of a distraction to the League in Japan rather than a meaningful competition, but the match last night showed a couple of things which must be addressed if we have any chance of staying up in the league.
1) Rafael Ramazotti
Avispa have been trying to play this season with no presence in the penalty box. While it looks very nice when it works, and shows some admirable ambition, probably only the current Barcelona team and Ajax from the 70s have ever been successful with no striker.
Getting a 1.93m striker should change the way we play entirely.
There were times last night when there were acres of space in the corner for either of our wingers to run into, but instead they went narrow or cut inside trying to play a short passing game with Naruoka and failing completely.
With a tall penalty box presence I want to see a more direct game making full use of the pitch, and using the two pacy, skilful wingers we have at the club.
2) J2 level players
Unfortunately a few of the players are now showing themselves to be unable to step up to J1 level. The time for bad luck and lack of confidence is over, now that the initial heart and fight has gone some of the players are clearly not good enough and at times last night seemed to have given up.
They are obviously good enough for J2, they got promotion last season and could have a very nice career in football, but are not going to be able to play consistently at the top level. If Avispa are going to play at the top level they have to make some difficult decisions.
Kamiyama – Consistency is the most important trait for a goalkeeper, and it is something Kamiyama cannot do. Another horrible mistake last night allowed Jubilo to score from their own half at a time when we were on top.
Suzuki Jun – No-one is more disappointed than me; I spent lots of last season saying he should be getting more of a chance, but he is now showing why he didn’t. Wasn’t trusted to hold a spot in J2, and while he still has massive ability in his feet he just sisn’t doing enough elsewhere to command a J1 spot.
Sueyoshi – Did very well to walk into the team from University and cement a first team spot, but needed to make a similar step up again to get to J1 midfield level. At the moment I think his performances are similar to last year, he is capable of some good moments when in control of the ball but needs to help out much more defensively.
3) Top players step up
Some of the players we have are clearly J1 quality, but need to be playing their heart out to bring the team on, and help the others to raise their games.
A few of these players were on the bench yesterday so I could watch them for a bit longer in their warm-up and was amazed at some of the things they were doing. I thought Yutaka’s freekick against Verdy was a once in a life-time event, but he smashed in 2 similarly unstoppable shots from the same range, and then hit the bar with another 2. Nakamachi scored 3-4 volleys in a row from much harder crosses than the one he skied against Hiroshima. Shigematsu was finding the corner consistently, and then took a shot from kick-off when he came on for the actual game.
These top players need to start playing to the top of their ability when they come on, at times yesterday they looked disinterested after they came on (although the team was already 4-0 down on aggregate so can’t really be blamed).