Archive for April 2013
After 7 points in the last week (which should have been 9, from a derby and 2 away games) Avispa should be in high spirits.
They seem to have now settled into the new game plan of a hard, high press with a defence and midfield who try to get the ball forward quickly to runners.
This plan requires high levels of fitness and commitment, and perhaps it has taken 7-8 games (and the intensity of a derby) to show how it can work, but the players now seem to understand.
Today they welcome a team in Matsumoto Yamaga who had their game cancelled last weekend due to snow (the first time this has ever happened in the J-League apparently). They had lost their previous 2 games (against Gamba and Gifu) so haven’t won a game in 3 weeks.
They are a young team playing only their 2nd season in J2, but have already established themselves as a decent team with excellent support.
Having been sent off against Tokoyo Verdy Avispa will be playing without Pusnik on the side-lines, but I’m not hugely convinced it will make a big difference. His work is mostly being done on the training ground and pre-match/half-time when he will still be able to talk to the players.
Avispa have recently been using Jogo in midfield at home which is something I hope they continue with, and who alongside the returning Kanakubo Jun gives us a clever midfield 2 who will be aiming to get into the box.
Behine them Nakahara seems to be a favorite of Pusnik and is likely to stay in his ‘quarter-back’ role meaning 1 of Okada will drop to the bench to sit alongside Funayama hoping to play against his younger brother.
I hope to see Min Je back at left-back to give another attacking threat at home, and Sakata should be the main striker with Kanemori and Ishizu each side of him.
Last season Jogo scored his wonder-goal from the half-way line against them and I’d love to see him at least try it again just to get in their heads a bit.
Matsumoto should be eager to play having had their game cancelled last week and may have the upper hand in fitness having not had the schedule we did last week.
What sort of training they have managed in the last week may be a factor as presumably they’ve been inside a lot after their game was cancelled for snow.
They play a fairly standard 442 formation with 2 banks of 4 and a little-large striker combination trying to disturb the central 2. The little part of this pairing being Funeyama’s younger brother which may provide an interesting side-plot to the game if Yuji Funeyama gets on the pitch in the 2nd half.
My Prediction : Avispa 2 – 0 Matsumoto
Sakata has been looking better and better, and been taking shots on. I’d like to see him score here and for Kanakubo to get one from long range.
Looking at the JEF goal now it is possible that the guy has punched the ball in the net, as well as leading with his elbow and causing Mizutani to fumble.
A draw is probably a fair result, but we came so close to all 3 points against tough opposition only to be robbed by the referee.
Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 1 JEF United
49′ Sakata, 90+4 Yamaguchi,
Before the match I’d have been very happy with an away draw after the week we have had, but after conceding another goal in loss time, and one which was very controversial it is hard to look at the table and think where we could have been.
After injury time goals conceded to lose against Kyoto, and draw with Mito and JEF we could have had 5 points more than what we do now if games finished after 90 minutes. That would put us on 20 points, level with Gamba in 2nd.
At least the goals against Kyoto and Mito were valid. The goal today was scored after a nothing ball was floated into the penalty box from deep for Mizutani to catch, where upon JEF defender Yamaguchi jumped into him and headed the ball from his hands into the goal.
You could say that Mizutani was a little casual, but in modern football you aren’t allowed to challenge the keeper in this way; and at no stage have you ever been able to head the ball when he has both hands on the ball.
After the mid-week dismissal of Kanakubo for what looked like absolutely nothing I hope somebody somewhere is checking betting patterns on the betting exchanges, and whether some referees are suddenly appearing at work in new cars.
A draw was probably a fair result in the end. Avispa had been fortunate to be on the end of some quite poor finishing from Kempes and Yusuke when both had shots from inside the box. Kempes’s shot was on the turn through a crowd, but Yusuke had to at least force a save after being sent free on goal by a Kempes through ball.
Apart from riding their luck on those chances I thought that Avispa had again stepped up their performance. The pressing in attack and midfield was the best it has ever been, and having now played some of the bigger teams like Kyoto, JEF, Verdy, Yamagata, we can hopefully have confidence in the system against some of the weaker teams.
Our goal came from a great quick counter. Mizutani released the ball with a quick throw to Nakahara on the right wing who ran forward with it to get into a position to cross.
It looked like Kanemori was trying to lay it off for Jogo in the middle but the ball went across him and throught he defender behind to set up Sakata 1-on-1 with the keeper. Showing great composure (hopefully feeling better after scoring mid-week) he slotted it past the onrushing keeper.
It put us into a 2nd half lead, but could easily have only been an equaliser had Kanemori not run the length of the pitch and put a last ditch tackle in on Kempes after an Avispa corner had been cleared and countered.
To see a forward run the length of the pitch and slide in at the last minute to block a shot in the box pretty much sums up how we have changed from last season, and are now working very hard.
By the time JEF did score we could have been out of sight but for a good block by the JEF keeper from another Sakata shot.
Jogo was amazing today, I had no idea he had the level of fitness he has shown this week. From one of his interceptions he fed a ball to Ishizu from the right which bobbled out to Sakata behind him.
It looked very similar to the goal which Kanakubo smashed in against Kitakyushu but took a little longer to fall and allowed the keeper time to rush out and block his first time shot.
If I had one small complaint about the performance today it was we should never have given JEF a chance to score in the 94th minute. On a couple of occasions the ball came out to Ishizu high on the pitch and just needed him to hold the ball up as Sakata had done amazingly well when it came to him. At these times he tried to run onto balls, and get past players when all he really needed to do was kill some time and buy a foul if anyone got too close.
He is still only in his 2nd season, and will hopefully see Sakata and learn from matches like today.
My Man of the Match – Hisashi Jogo
It would have been Nakahara who was tidy throughout and dictated play well and with intelligence, but he seemed to drop off in the last 10 minutes, either from tiredness or nerves.
Someone who just seemed to get better as the match went on was Jogo. He didn’t stop running in his 3rd full match in a week, and was as big in defence as he was in attack.
Avispa’s 3rd game in 7 days will see them stay in Kanto to play what is the hardest game on paper of the week; JEF United.
Avispa are likely to be very tired after this week which started with a game played in as heavy rain as you can get in a derby match against Kitakyushu, then holding out for 30 minutes with 10 men against Thespa, and then had to travel down and back up to Chiba.
A few players have looked like they had injuries at the end of games but have stayed in the team for the next match and it will catch up with them at some point, especially with the energetic high press game we have used successfully in the last few games.
JEF are one of the heavy-weights in the division, but have managed to somehow avoid promotion for each of the last 4 seasons despite having one of the biggest budgets, and what on paper looks like a team which should be aiming to finish 1st.
They have their own problems in recent weeks and a dip in form has seen then drop to 10th in the division.
Today’s game is likely to end up either being a very good time to play them as they suffer with bad form, and not being totally sure which formation they are playing, or a very bad time as they work hard to correct the bad result in losing at home to Sapporo mid-week.
The biggest difference to the team from mid-week will be the enforced exclusion of Kanakubo Jun after his sending off. His runs into the box and pace will be missed in midfield. Jogo would likely be the closest direct switch, but he has generally been played as our striker when playing away so I expect Funayama to play alongside Okada and Nakahara.
Sakata deserves to start but that would mean breaking up the successful attacking trio of Kanemori-Jogo-Ishizu. Personally I’d give Kanemori a break and move Jogo onto the wing (or back into midfield in place of Kanakubo).
Osmar has had a couple of good cameos, but did look really tired after only playing 25 minutes on Wednesday.
Defence to stay the same.
The most interesting team selection for Avispa will be whether Yusuke Tanaka plays. Both because he is ex-Avispa, and because JEF play with wingers looking to hit the corners and play quick crosses into the box.
They have lost big player in target man Fujita (to FC Tokyo in the winter) and Aaroy, and now usually have Brazilian Kempes playing as a lone forward in a similar formation to ourselves.
It is possible they will play with 2 strikers as they did against Sapporo, but ended up losing that game.
In midfielder Yuto Sato they have one of the best midfielders in the division, and if we give him space to dictate the game then we’ll have a tough afternoon.
My Prediction – JEF United 2 – 1 Avispa Fukuoka
I really feel like the team have seen what Pusnik wants after the game against Kitakyushu, but playing in this hard running style 3 times in a week is going to be very tough.
I think JEF may have a little bit too much class, and won’t miss the headers at the back post like Thespa did in the week.
Thespa Kusatsu 0 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
There were fears that Avispa would be tired and injured after the hard-fought derby win against Kitakyushu in the rain on Sunday, but they pulled out another tenacious battling performance to take 6 points from 2 games and be level on points with the team in 5th.
The game started brightly for Avispa with what seems to be our away formation; Jogo playing as a central striker willing to drop back, with Ishizu and Kanemori running after everything either side of him.
It will likely be remembered as the game in which Kanemori scored his first goal for the club, but it was a goal which both manager and scorer conceded more to Ishizu than anyone else.
Collecting the ball on the right he chose to use a burst of pace to get past the left-back rather than play inside to Jogo and then put a fantastic cross along the 6-yard box. It is the sort of low, fast cross we have been looking to play this season and this time Kanemori was on hand to knock in from a metre out at the back post.
It was a goal which Avispa’s play deserved, and looked very much like the ‘Avispa Goal’, I have been saying for 3 years that I haven’t felt we had as our bread and butter.
There were times we played our luck in the first half, especially with balls aimed across the box towards the back post again, but Kusatsu didn’t have the quality to convert chances.
The 1st half ended, and 2nd half started with Avispa being patient and putting as much into not giving up chances as to score another goal.
It was what we needed, and Sakata having come on for Ishizu showed with some touches and movement he is still probably our best player, even if the goals have dried up a bit.
The game then totally changed on the decision of a referee who was seemingly duped by an increasingly desperate Thespa. I few of their players were throwing themselves to the ground, and on one of those occasions the referee decided to show a second yellow card to Kanakubo when it didn’t appear he had even touched the opposition player let alone foul him.
It was a decision made all the more worse as Pusnik had been trying to substitute Kanakubo for about 3 minutes prior.
The decision changed the game, and it left Avispa trying to hold out against an attack outnumbering them for 30 minutes, 3 days after a derby match in a monsoon.
Truth be told Avispa rode their luck a bit with some terrible finishing and lucky bounces, but above that there was some incredible defending.
Sakata ran like a mad-man in a right-back spot, Miyamoto was calmness personified, Koga got his head to everything and Funayama ran at everything for 25 minutes. One man out-shone them all however as Tsutsumi put in a performance with a couple of blocks and one tackle in particular 1-on-1 with an attacker after Mizutani was beaten which was unbelievable.
I had said last season that if he could start taking the game more seriously he could be one of the best defenders in the division. 9 games into the season I think he might already be there, and can still get better.
Sakata’s experience at the end helped to kill off time and get the win which it looked like the referee might take away from us.
The team will be very tired heading to JEF in 4 days, but must be in an upbeat mood.
My Man of the Match – Tsutsumi
Has shown in patches this year what he can do, and never more so that with 10 vs. 11 in this game.
Battled for everything, and put in blocks and tackles which had his team-mates hugging him in amazement.
Avispa 2 : 1 Giravanz
13′ Sakata (PK), 22′ Kanakubo, 51′ Fuji
It was nervy at the end but the stats for the Fukuoka derby now read: Played 5, Avispa 4 wins, Giranvanz 1 win, with a 100% record for Avispa at Level-5 stadium.
The game was a game of extremes. Avispa being very good, and really not so good in a match which started with warm sunshine and looked like the players might be called off the pitch in a torrential downpour of rain and ice in the 2nd half.
The team looked very similar to the last home game against Mito, with Jogo again playing in central midfield alongside Kanakubo and Nakahara, with Sakata, Ishizu and Kanemori playing as a fairly fluid attacking trident in front of them.
As with Mito we looked very good for long parts of the 1st half, but managed to convert attacking possession into chances this time to open up a 2 goal lead. It showed how things could have been different against Mito and Consadole; I thought we played better against those teams than we did here, but this match lead to 2 early goals.
The socring was nearly opened in the 10th minute as a corner was hit towards goal by Koga only to see the keeper push his shot away. Sakata was first to the ball but his shot smashed straight into the face of a guy on the line. It was pretty funny, but also a worrying indication that our luck might be out.
It didn’t seem to matter a few minutes later when Kanakubo slipped a ball for Kanemori to run onto into the box. It was exactly the pass he needs, turning defenders and able to run at goal. He knew exactly what he was doing to tip the ball past the keeper and collect the foul for a clear penalty.
Sakata cooly dispatched the penalty after sending the keeper the wrong way.
Things got even better 7 minutes later after the high press from Avispa attackers worked perfectly to collect the ball high up the pitch. Jogo intercepted and fed Kanemori on the left wing. He put in a great cross on the run which Ishizu managed to get a foot to with the ball looping towards Kanakubo near the penalty spot.
He hit it first time on the volley and gave the keeper no chance.
It seemed pretty clear after that that Pusnik wanted to kill the game and was asking the players to be sensible and not give up easy chances.
They had Mizutani to thank for a great block to maintain the 2 goal lead after Kitakyushu moved the ball into and across the box where one of their strikers looked sure to score.
It was really important to not allow Kitakyushu any momentum as the 2nd half started. If we could go 10 minutes without giving up a chance then the game was over.
Unfortunately we got caught out as we have 4-5 times this season. With the opposition pushing heavily forward in search of a goal a deep cross to the back post was powered in by a big attacker being too powerful and in a better position than our full-back.
It seems a clear problem at the moment and has cost us points against Mito, Sapporo and Kyoto.
As Kitakyushu got a boost from getting the early goal it started to absolutely pour down. I think this helped us a bit as it interupted the flow of the game quite a lot and made things a lot more scrappy.
I have to say I’ve lost all memory of a lot of this period of the game as I was concentrating on not freezing to death.
What I do remember is Osmar coming on and showing Pusnik exactly what he brings to the team. I’m sure he’s a lovely guy off the pitch, but on it he is an absolute nightmare for opposition players; the sort of player I’d hate on the opposite team, but love to see playing for Avispa.
He makes stuff happen with his power and pace, and his direct running at goal. He ended up picking up a yellow card when he was fouled, but can’t really argue as there were 3-4 times before he did get fouled where he could have been cautioned and wasn’t.
Avispa came very close to taking a 2 goal lead again. Firstly by the impressive Miyamoto cutting in and hitting a shot which whistled just past the post, and then with a shot by Kanakubo after more excellent work by Kanemori which was excellently stopped with an out-stretched hand by the Kitakyushu keeper.
As close as we came to scoring we came even closer to conceding an equaliser as Okada had to play Centre back after an injury to Tsutsumi.
More headers at the back post went just the wrong side of the post, a free-kick hit the outside of the post from just outside the area, and then 3 minutes into injury time Kitskyushu’s Korean substitute hit the inside of the post with a looping shot after a neat 1-2 on the edge of the box.
It was nervous, but we held on and the crowd went home wet but pleased.
My Man of the Match. – Kanemori
His best game for us. He has often shown great running and quick feet but today he had final product too.
He knew exactly what he was doing to get the penalty, and his cross for the second goal was fantastic. Nearly got another assist late on.
I still don’t think he can be relied upon to do it every week, but while he is hot the team should be making the most of it.
Official Man of the Match – Jun Kanakubo
Ran after everything and his late runs into the box were a constant threat. Set piece delivery was much better than it has been, apart from one over-ambitious shot in the second half where he seemed to be trying to get crazy dip a la Ronaldo/Bale.
There are lots of matches called derbies in Japan these days, but today at Level-5 stadium is a derby in the true sense of the word as fellow Fukuoka prefecture team Giravanz Kitakyushu make the short trip south to Fukuoka.
This will be the 5th ever Fukuoka derby as Giravanz only joined the J-League 3 years ago and we were in J1 for one of those seasons. It will be the first time I’m expecting a real derby atmosphere; in the first season Giravanz were not seem as real competition and we got wins home and away, in the2012 meeting we squeezed out an uncomfortable win at home to maintain the 100% record but then got embarrassed 3-2 away to suffer out first ever loss to Kitakyushu.
I’ve heard lots of people talking about that loss, and with Pusnik winding the players up I expect a performance which feels like a real derby.
Kitakyushu had a season way above their expectations last season, but then lost their manager and a lot of the team to Tokyo Verdy. Their results haven’t been as good this season, but if there is one game they will be able to raise their game it’s this one.
The Avispa team has chopped and changed a lot in recent weeks, and I think we just need a bit of stability to help a new team playing in a new formation, and with new tactics to settle.
Things have been close to what we need to go on a run of wins, but just lacking the final product in terms of goals. I’d like to see the wide players a little more willing to drop into a 451 when we don’t have the ball, or are building from deep as the big problems seems to be connecting to attack, and in a derby match they should be conscious of giving too much time and space in midfield.
After the Gainare game Pusnik very clearly said some players were unable to follow what they had practiced in training on the pitch. I expect there to be changes to the team, and they may give an indication as to who he was referring to in that.
Koga was back for Gainare, but didn’t look fully up to ‘pace’. He will probably stay in the team next to Kazuki and hopefully have a better game; he nearly cost us 2 goals through mistakes last week.
I think the team is still being unbalanced by trying to squeeze Okada in somewhere. We have better players for every position on the pitch, but he mat continue to try and find somewhere for his Captain. The one position he hasn’t tried yet is the midfield anchor/quarterback. He wouldn’t offer the same diagonal balls out that Nakahara can but may be stronger in defence. Nakahara was playing for Kitakyushu last season.
I’d play Funayama and Kanakubo in front of him.
In attack I think Sakata is the obvious option. He is struggling for goals, but when he gets started he may then be able to score us back up towards the play-offs. He is still running for everything, and some of his hold-up play is the best option we have.
My prediction :
Avispa 3 – 0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
I’m still staying horribly optimistic about this season even though it means my predictions are all being wrong.
Kitakyushu have been conceding early goals so far this season. If we can get one and make Giravanz start to open up space we could get the clear win we so badly need.