Archive for January 2013

Pusnik’s problems – Plan B?   3 comments

From what I’ve read about Pusnik’s footballing philosophy, and what I’ve seen and heard since his arrival he is focused on making a fast, direct team which presses high and is capable of counter-attacking quickly when they get possession of the ball.

This is an attitude which I am very pleased to see being brought to Avispa, and feel will do very well in J2, but perhaps even more than any other tactic there will be times when things aren’t working out and they need a Plan B.

One of the big problems last season was that when our ‘strategy’ (a deep, patient, play-making idea?) wasn’t working and the ineffective midfield was unable to hold the ball there wasn’t any other option to fall back on.
In desperation Maeda had a couple of things he would do:
i) Throw Koga up front. With 5 minutes to play and in need of a goal Koga would go and play as a battering ram striker. It is a desperate move, and while a few goals were scored from it, it isn’t something a team should be doing as often as we ended up last year.
ii) Move Jogo centrally. Making the team look a little more like last year Jogo would play as a 2 up front. This makes the team a bit more expansive in attack, but wasn’t ever really enough to hurt a team with something totally new.

What Pusnik will need to come up with is a tweak to tactics for matches when things aren’t working out. This could either be against a team which has defended well and ‘worked out’ our forwards, or in games when we go 1 or 2 goals behind.
The biggest problem of a ‘counter-attacking’ strategy being what to do if you do go 1 or 2 goals behind and the opposition team is happy to withdraw a bit and not leave the spaces in defence.

Looking at our squad I still can’t see an obvious Plan B. Substitute strikers are likely to be Nishida Go and the young tricky wing-strikers.
Nishida Go does add a little more aerial competence to the team, and ability to make knock-downs, but doesn’t really represent a huge difference to the team to Sakata and Osmar.
The youngsters will make things happen in 2-3 games in which they come on if they are given chances this season, but can’t be relied upon to make things happen. Ishizu is a big character, and was 2-3 years older than them last season but could see how upset he was at times last season when thrown on at the end and not feeling he could make enough difference.

The easiest way to have a Plan B is to have a tall target man striker on the bench. I wasn’t always happy to have Jumbo starting, but didn’t want him to leave as he was a walking Plan B for the team who would have been very useful in the last 2 seasons. Similarly, Ramazzotti made up for his lack of finesse by immediately making things happen when he came on the pitch.

A less ‘agricultural’ second plan I’d like to see from the team would be to switch to 3 at the back.
The team at the moment is having to do a few new things, and I’m guessing that training is probably a little less enjoyable at times as they go through defensive drills and positional practice so maybe it isn’t a good time to introduce something else new but at some point it could be a useful second idea.
If the team could switch to 3 at the back with 5 going across midfield to provide a higher attacking platform then MinJe and Miyamoto have the stamina and skill to get and back as something which would give an opposition team something new to think about.

Posted January 29, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

Squad review – Strikers   Leave a comment

#9 – Osmar A hard-running, direct, goal-scoring Brazilian in the model of Ronaldo, he came to the club mid-season last year and scored about 1 goal in 2.
Out biggest goal threat from when he arrived he plays with high energy, closing down defenders from high up the pitch and causing mistakes. He snatched at a lot of his chances last season, and would have hoped to do better but coming in mid-season to a new country he will hopefully be a little more relaxed from now.
There was a question mark about whether he would stay due to his family not being over here, but his wife is Japanese in origin and hopefully this is now sorted.

#10 – Hisashi Jogo The icon of the club, most popular player, and biggest seller of shirts.
A hugely gifted, technical player he can score goals of the absolute highest quality, and almost always seems to score goals which should be goal of the season. Unfortunately he can certainly be classified as a ‘scorer of great goals’ rather than a ‘great scorer of goals’, as he doesn’t really get into positions to score the easy ones. For this reason he isn’t consistent enough in a strikers role alone.
Can sometimes drift out of games and go missing, waiting for the ball on the right, but when he does get the ball magical things can happen.

#11 – Daisuke Sakata The player with the best pedigree at the club, having once played as a striker for the Japan National Team after nearly a decade in J1 with Marinos.
Started last season looking incredible, scoring a goal a game, and at a level that J2 defenders couldn’t handle. Then got injured and when he came back from injury seemed wrapped up with the general melancholy at the club and lost all form.
Lost all composure in front of goal, but is hopefully just a change in mood away from becoming the player he was at the start of last season.

#18 – Go Nishida A trier, and a very friendly team-mate to have around the club. WIll always give his best, and could be useful this season in a spear-head, target type striker which we don’t really have elsewhere.
Doesn’t really have technical ability matching the rest of the squad, and his first touch is probably not good enough for quick passes to feet, but possibly effective at holding the ball up and getting flick-ons to the wing.

#24 – Takeshi Kanemori A new kid, straight from High School. Looked much like you would expect from a young striker, small, quick feet and full of tricks.
Will hopefully get a few chances to try and play without fear in a League setting and make a few old defenders have a hard day trying to get near him.

#26 – Yuta Mishima From what very little I’ve seen of him was very similar to Kanemori. Small, quick, good feet and willing to run at some older players and try to embarrass them. Should get a couple of chances as a sub this season.

Posted January 20, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

Squad Review – Midfield   3 comments

Continuing the list of players at the club for 2013.

#3 – Ryu Okada Brought into the club from J1 last season and never looked anything like a player of that standard.
Technically and physically quite limited he was asked to play in a volante-type role within a playmaker based system, and was never going to be able to do it.
What he does have his a very good awareness of his limitations, excellent team-work, and what seems like a very good footballing brain. If asked to play in a destructive, defensive shield position, able to releases others to make the play he could be a key player.

#7 – Jun Kanakubo A plyer brough in from Omiya for this season he will be expected to be one of our main players in central midfield.
As somewhere we have been very weak he will have a lot of pressure to do well, and hopefully change things around for the team this season.
The fans seem to think he is the best player to have come in, and certainly looked very comfortable on the ball and with good movement when I saw him.

#8 – Yuuji Funayama I don’t recall seeing him when playing for Montedio, but that was a very functional team so he should be able to work hard and not let the team down.
Presumably set to start the season in central midfield having arrived from Yamagata, he played in a slightly attacking role in the first training session.

#14 – Masakazu Kihara Signed on a permanent deal after being on loan last season, he is a very quick, small player who seems to have a good knack of breaking into the box at the right time.
Scores a wonder-goal last season from about 40 yards, but didn’t seem to be willing to try it very often.
Has so much speed, but often doesn’t really use it, allowing himself to be shepherded back into the middle.

#16 – Daisuke Ishizu The bright point of last season, he got most of his chances as a left winger but has a real willingness to run with the ball, in a direct manner different to everyone around him last season.
Confident to shoot when anywhere near the goal, and never stops running.
Sometimes tried to do too much with the ball at his feet, but with experience may well be the first name on the team sheet by the end of this season.

#20 – Shuto Nakahara Brought in from a University team this year he looks comfortable on the ball, and is going to get a lot of guidance this year in playing early balls forward to runners.
Seems young enough and intelligent enough that he could do ok.

#27 – Jan Jon Won Very young player brought over from Korea; it would be interesting to know his idea for leaving his homeland so young.
Similar to Nakahara he looked good on the ball, and had some nice bits of skill but can’t be expected to use this season for anything much beyond getting experience and used to Japanese League football.

#28 – Taku Ushinohama The big young star of 2011 where he got first team chances in J1, used them to play with energy and fearlessly, but then got no chances in 2012.
As with all players his age he can’t have too much pressure too soon, and will be inconsistent with his performances but should get games as a winger.

Posted January 16, 2013 by avispafukuoka in News

Squad Review – Keepers and defenders.   Leave a comment

Having had the squad numbers drawn up for the new season I thought I’d list and review our squad for the new season.


#1 – Ryuichi Kamiyama : Potentially one of the better keepers in the division, definitely for shot-stopping where he uses his size well.
Needs to work on using his size better when coming for crosses, and has fairly poor kicking. Makes 2-3 horrible mistakes a season.
Reminds me a bit of Heurelho Gomes at Tottenham; could be a match-winning keeper, but consistency is so important for a goalkeeper and his defenders.

#23 – Yousichi Mizutani Coming to the club from Kyoto where he played most of their games last season. A well established keeper with good communication and probably at the peak age for a goal-keeper. I think he should be the first-choice keeper.

#25 – Eita Kasagawa A totally solid, young 3rd choice goal-keeper. Has grown and bulked up well in the last couple of seasons nad will hopefully keep getting the odd chance to gain experience.


#2 – Kim Min Je : A very good left-back for this division when allowed and encouraged to get forward. The only part of last season which went well (the first 5 games) were mostly down to him getting forward and putting crosses into the box.
Defensive positioning is less good, but when you have a player running the length of the pitch 15 times a game that’s pretty much expected.

#4 – Takuya Miyamoto : A new player from Montedio Yamagata. Has lots of experience, and should be looking to be first choice right-back. Seemed happy to get forward from what I’ve seen.

#5 – Masahiro Koga : Brought back to his hometown club after a long spell in the top division he can’t have been happy with what happened last year.
Probably the best organiser of the defence, and useful in the air, but possibly on the edge of his legs going.

#6 – Kazuki Yamaguchi A defender who relies on getting himself in the way rather than being a cultured shepherder of the play. Useful, if he is used as a solid stopper and not asked to track forwards with good movement or pass the ball out.
Was being told to move across and head for Min Je at left-back at times last year, obviously just leaving a huge hole in the middle of the pitch; very strange. Shouldn’t be moving away from Koga at all when they are playing.

#13 – Park Gon A young defender, but one who looks tall and very competent. Unlikely to get a chance straight away, but will hopefully be introduced to the league and team as the season goes on.

#19 – Shunsuke Tsutsumi Very frustrating player. Looks to have absolutely everything as a player, strength, speed, technique, but often just doesn’t seem to care enough to be in the right position or try as hard as he could.
If he sorts out his attitude, maybe just by being in a winning team, he could be a great player.

#21 – Hiroyuki Omata A good player, and defensively probably our best option at full-back. Adds height to defence, and doesn’t ever let the team down.
Not that exciting going forward, but a good option to have if a game needs to be closed down.

#22 – Tokio Hatamoto I really rate Hatamoto. He was thrown into the team earlier than maybe would have been expected, but showed himself very strongly. Not the biggest defender, but reads the game well, gets in front of his attacker and doesn’t avoid the physical side of the game.

Posted January 15, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

First training session.   Leave a comment

As I was driving out to IKEA I thought I’d call in to watch the first training session of the new season, and was quite gald that I did in the end.
I was expecting something very easy as the first session back after Christmas and New Year, but in fact after 30 minutes of warming up the squad split into 2 teams and played quite a competitive game. It was really good to see, and was played with good spirit with nearly all players taking it seriously, I guess as a chance to prove something to the new boss and new team-mates.

Pusnik wouldn’t have had enough time to make his mark on th eteam, but already things were looking different to last year.
There was a yellow team playing a pink team and they both lined up looking different to the 442 which was used so ineffectively for every game last season.

The yellow team looked a little stronger in a 4231, with what might be considered the first team back 4.
Min Je….Kazuki….Koga…..Miyamoto

The pink team had a younger look, but were playing in the 433/451 formation I have been saying we should be using for a long time.

I was a little bit worried as it looked like the yellow team were going to far stronger, which could then push 4231 forward as a more effective formation.
I needn’t have worried, the pink team dominated the first half.

The new, young midfield 2 of the yellow team (Nakahara and Wan) had some very nice touches, and certainly looked more forward-thinking than the players of last year but with Funayama’s advanced role keeping him out of the action a bit they were up against 3 midfielders who could easily play around them.
I thought Okada was outstanding in his role of shielding the back 4. He had a tough time last year (doing what Nakahara and Wan were being asked to do today) but as someone who can concentrate on just breaking attacks and playing easy balls out to skilled players ahead of him he played a ‘Deschamps’ type role very well.
Ishizu ahead of him looked the best player of the day, full of running, an ability to turn quickly both ways into space, and directness at goal.

Ishizu opened the scoring when Wan got caught in possession and the ball was played on for Ishizu. Running at goal he took an early shot which beat Kamiyama to his left.
It was a timely reminder about being caught in possession in midfield and having Koga and Kazuki being left to deal with a quick, younger player running straight at them.

A second really important reminder about last year was when Ishizu scored a second goal. The yellow team had a corner which was overhit towards the back post with the resulting throw-in being moved at great speed to the other end while the defence hadn’t fully recovered.
As Ishizu was fed by a nice piece of skill and pass by Kanemori, he thraked a shot into the stanchion past Kamiyama.
A goal after losing possession in midfield, and a counter after a corner. Pusnik couldn’t have been given a much better review of last season.

Beyond this the first half had: Kihara not really causing his full-back problems by going in field instead of round the outside; Min Je getting forward well, but over-hitting crosses; Jogo being almost totally anonymous; and Hatamoto and Park looking very solid against some very experienced strikers.

2-0 at half time the yellow team had Koga and Wan taken off and changed to a 442 with Sakata and Jogo playing up front.

Things got a little better for them, and Jogo showed a little of what he is about by continuing to be missing, but then smashing an unstoppable shot to score with his first clear chance.

Okada was continuing to break attacks through the middle of the pitch, and with 2 eager runners with the youngsters on the wing could easily release the ball into space. Either to one of the wingers, or to one of the more advanced midfielders who had space made by the wingers stretching play. It was (and is) exactly how the team should be playing, (especially if Okada can play like this every week).

Both youngsters had time to score the goals they deserved, both in farily similar circumstances.
Mazy runs across the box went half-challenged and after initial blocks from Kamiyama the youngsters each lifted the ball calmly to score the 3rd and 4th goals for their teams.

Posted January 14, 2013 by avispafukuoka in News

Pusnik arrives.   Leave a comment

Today feels like the real start of the 2013 season as Punik has flown into Fukuoka and had a press conference to be unveiled as the new manager (along with the new players for this season).

After arriving at the airport last night (where a few fans had come down to welcome him) he had apparently had little sleep because of the jet-lag but seemed very relaxed and in good spirits throughout the press conference.
After a brief introduction in which the club said they had flown over to Slovenia to interview him before signing him as manager Pusnik gave a brief introduction to himself.
In this he seemed to make a point of saying that while Slovenia is a small country (about the size of Fukuoka prefecture in terms of population) it has been to the world cup twice and european championships twice in the last 16 years, with 5 players from his school in particular going to the World Cup in South Africa.
From this I take that he sees the importance of building through youth and training a system and technique early; something which is exactly Fukuoka needs with football being very popular, but so many top Fukuoka players moving away from the area to become professional.

He said that while some managers are all about tactics and systems, and others consider themselves coaches above all else he is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps most tellingly he said that he understood the system of a power hierachy in Japanese businesses he wanted to work very much as a team with his staff, rather than just giving out orders as ‘a boss’; and if that involves him laying out the water bottle and training cones then he will.
It’s an interesting statement, and one which is quite a contrast to Maeda last year who very much wanted to keep himself very much above and away from everyone else.

I wanted to know what sort of formation and system he favoured, and while a question was asked about this there weren’t a lot of details (possibly intentionally). He said he wanted to play a fast game (which was translated into aggressive) which the spectators would like to watch. The need for good levels of physical fitness was again mentioned after also being talked about by Takano.
A later question also mentioned the need to be able to counter well.
All very good points from what I’ve seen over the last couple of years, and sort of leads me to think there will be a greater emphasis on a pressing game from higher up the pitch, with more direct approach play (rather than solely relying on a possession game with often little progression as last year).

The conference finished with the players introducing themselves which was fairly standard, but did contain some players saying their squad numbers which as far as I know has not been released previously. Funayama and Kanakubo both look set to be starting as they get #7 and #8 respectively. Park Gon was #13, Nakahara was #20 and the 2 school kids signed at the end of last year were #24 and #26.

It all ended with a group photo and excruciating Banzai-type photo shoot.
Pusnik dealt with this very calmly, and even suggested his own 123-Avispa group huddle which was a nice touch and probably the best way to deal with what can be a fairly painful experience for foreigners.


Posted January 14, 2013 by avispafukuoka in News

Support staff coming in.   Leave a comment

Having been busy getting a playing staff which now looks quite solid, and is unlikely to have many more additions the club is now announcing coaching staff to support the team in 2013.

3 of these are staff who were at the club last year; Head coach Futoshi Ikeda, 1st team coach Satoru Yoshida, and Goalkeeping coach Ken Ishikawa. They all arrived last year, and probably weren’t very pleased with the results of their work.
Hopefully they have seen a few places they can improve, and at least they know the club and the players and can have some continuity from last year to now.

A more interesting appointment is that of Tsuyoshi Takano, a native of Fukuoka but someone who has lived overseas for the last 20 years. After a playing career in America he started coaching in the American leagues before returning to Japan at Sanfrecce and then moving onto England.
Picking up experience in some lower leagues he got a big break by moving to Southampton after they signed Tadanari Lee, and stayed with the club as they got promotion to the Premier League and signed Maya Yoshida.
It must have been a very good club to work at having had an intelligent manager (Nigel Adkins) who guided the club to 2 promotions in 2 years.

It is fairly clear that he has been brought in to help with the language situation between Pusnik and the players, but I am very optimistic that someone with his experience of different styles and exposure to talented players could be hugely useful to the club.

I’ll try to translate his joining comments, but apologise to Mr. Takano who will be able to see where I have translated it badly.
“I am very proud to be able to work as a coach and interpreter in my home town club in Fukuoka. I want to fight alongside the fans and do my best for all the fans and supporters.
I think that Avispa Fukuoka should be looking to quickly get back to J1, and I want to help in this with my experience, translation, conditioning, and guidance.
In particular by communicating the ideas of the manager, and helping as a coach to improve the physical condition of the players so they can maintain physical fitness through the year and be able to work better as players.
Thanks, and I hope for your support.

Good Luck Mr. Takano!

Posted January 11, 2013 by avispafukuoka in News