Archive for August 2013

vs. JEF United (preview)   Leave a comment

Avispa are reaching the end of their tough run of games as JEF travel down to Level-5 tomorrow. It is a run which has seen Avispa only get 4 points from the last 6 games which has seen us drop away from the play-off places.
There have been a mixture of performances across those games with the worst being last week against Kobe when we played a new formation and were totally outclassed to finish being beaten 4-0. I expect us to return to the 433 formation against JEF, but there may still be some surprises coming.

It had looked like this game may end up being cancelled due to Typhoon 15 hitting Fukuoka on the 1st, but at the moment it doesn’t seem too bad and I expect the game to go ahead as normal, albeit with a quite wet pitch from 3 days of solid rain.

Avispa have some problems in team selection for the game as players are out injured and suspended, and face a JEF team who have made a big signing in bringing Morimoto back from Italy in an effort to get promotion back to J1. JEF are a big club, with a large fan-base and should be in J1 with the budget they have at their disposal.
It will be a difficult test for Avispa but we should have beaten them in the away game earlier in the season, only having to settle for a draw after the referee had allowed a JEF defender to knock the ball out of Mizutani’s hands and into the goal after a last minute long kick up field.

Avispa News
Avispa have some team changes to make as Kamiyama is suspended after his red card (probably for 2 games after then gesturing to the Kobe bench as he walked off) and will be replaced by Kasagawa who did well as a sub, but will now have his first start.
They also need to change the central defence after Park also picked up a suspension for 4 yellow cards. With Koga probably still out I expect Kazuki to come in. The full back positions may be where there are some surprises. I’d go with Miyamoto and Min Je as experienced full-backs playing in position, but Pusnik might use Mishima and/or Kanemori and try to push up. I’d be a bit worried about this facing someone like Yusuke Tanaka coming back to his old team.

Midfield should be straight forward with Nakahara, Kanakubo and Funayama playing, but may be changed with the forward line having some new changes.
We have signed a tall Serbian striker Bratislav Punosevac who seems to be very good at holding the ball up and bringing others into the play, exactly what we need, but where will he play. It would seem he should play in the middle, but where does that then leave our best player Sakata?
Sakata has previously played on the left, and is a position I think he would do well in playing off a target man, but I don’t know if he would be happy to play there and where does that leave Ishizu?
Jogo could do with a break, but I don’t think he is the sort of player who ever really wants a game off and the supporters want to see Jogo so there may be some outside pressure to keep playing him.

I’d expect Punosevac to play off the bench for this game at least.

JEF news
The most interesting team news for Avispa fans will be whether Yusuke plays. He was a good servant for Avispa and in contrast to Suzuki Jun has kept a good respect for the club since leaving. I hope he plays and gets a good reception, but didn’t seem to be received well last time he came back.
He has been playing as a striker recently (quite a difference from when he ended at Avispa as a right-back), but is likely to lose that spot to Morimoto.
Yazawa is a good attacking midfielder and is out suspended so Tanaka may fall back and take his spot for this game.

JEF were the best team in the division in July and the start of Ausgust but have seen their performances drop a little as they have lost to Matsumoto and Kitakyushu and drawn with Gifu and Gunma in the last 4 weeks. Hopefully we will meet them at a good time rather than when they bounce back from those results.

My prediction – Avispa 2 : 2 JEF
A socre draw would probably suit both teams at the moment as they are both in a bad run of games. A JEF win is much more likely in my opinion, but I’ll try and be optimistic and think we might be due a bit of luck after being robbed of a win in the away game.

Posted August 31, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

Okada – A place in the team?   Leave a comment

Results haven’t been great in recent weeks as we start to drift away from the play-off places, and the reason for this can’t be attached to anything as much as the very difficult teams we have played recently (Kyoto, Verdy, Gamba, Kobe, and with JEF to come next weekend), but there have also been other issues which shouldn’t be ignored.

The first of these is the tinkering with the formation and players by the manager. A lot of this has been due to injuries and suspensions, but a lot is Pusnik perhaps trying to be a little too cute in trying to exploit gaps in other teams and maybe asking the players to do too much too soon. I believe he stated as much after the Kobe game, and will hopefully remember how much he has already changed the players for the better so far this season and let them settle into the new 433 rather than asking them to try something new before mastering that.

The second issue is one of personnel. From the start of the season I have been saying I thought it was a mistake to make Okada Ryu the Club Captain as he can’t really get into the team on merit, and that is getting more and more obvious as the season goes on and other players around him are gaining in tactical skill and confidence.
I can see that he is a great guy to have around the place, and good as a Captain in trying to encourage others and organise things, but his recent performances in particular have really not been up to standard.

I did wonder if I was being harsh on him as someone to scapegoat for recent matches so decided to look at some numbers from this season:

Minutes with Okada on the pitch : 2141 minutes
Goals scored with Okada : 19 goals
Goals conceded with Okada : 25 goals
Points gained with Okada : 34 points

Minutes with Okada off the pitch : 649 minutes
Goals scored without Okada : 12 goals
Goals conceded without Okada : 8 goals
Points gained without Okada : 18 points

From these numbers you can then start to see how the team does per minute.

Scoring goals.
With Okada: 113 minutes per goal
Without Okada: 54 minutes per goal

In the 2 years he has been at the club I don’t think Okada has ever scored a goal or assisted for a goal and the numbers seem to back that up. He has a fairly limited range of passing, and doesn’t offer much going forward.
When he isn’t playing his place in midfield is taken by Funeyama/Kanakubo/Jogo, all players who can score and create goals and really try to go from box to box. The numbers support this by showing we score over twice as often when one of these players is playing in place of Okada.

Conceding goals.
With Okada: 86 minutes per goal
Without Okada: 81 minutes per goal

We do a little better in stopping goals when he is on the pitch, and this should be expected as someone who plays a little more defensively than other options.
What it doesn’t show however is a big difference. While we score twice as many with more attacking players we only concede a small amount of goals fewer.

Points earned.
With Okada: 63 minutes per point
Without Okada: 36 minutes per point.

The most relevant statistic is the one which moves us up and down the table. Over the course of this season we have consistently got more points when one of the other midfield options has been used.

I understand that statistics don’t tell a full story, but in an age of Prozone/OPTA/Moneyball they are increasingly being used to analyse matches and shouldn’t be dismissed entirely.

I am certainly not saying that Okada is a bad player, or that he shouldn’t be in the match-day squad, but similarly to the 3xx formations he should be used to highlight his strengths and in the correct way.
If we were to play a team which required a man-marker then I think Okada is far and away the best player at the club for that job. If we wanted a purely destructive player to play as the defensive shield (where Nakahara currently plays) then I’d probably choose Okada above Park or Tsutsumi. If we wanted someone on the bench who was versatile and experienced enough to provide cover for the whole defensive line and midfield then he is the idea man.
As the sort of midfield dynamo needed to make late runs onto the edge of the box as part of a 433, be ready to step up and fill the space when the forwards are pressing, and work triangles/diamonds as an option in front of the anchor midfielder he just doesn’t have the game.

Posted August 26, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Mito Hollyhock (youtube)   Leave a comment

The first outing of the 352 formation.

Both teams looking tired, with Avispa trying to get to grips with the change in formation.

I thought only Kazuki and Min Je came out of the game with a performance they could be quite pleased with.

Posted August 26, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. Vissel Kobe (report)   Leave a comment

Vissel Kobe 4 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka
4′ Morioka, 44′ Sugiura, 50′ Ogawa, 64′ Popo(pen)

After the home game against Kobe in May the Kobe coach had said we were a good team who were only going to get better as the season progressed and the players adapted to the new style and formation. He must have had a surprise today when the Avispa team lined up in a totally new formation, missing many of the players who had done well that day, and with others playing in totally different positions.

I have been an advocate of having a 3xx formation to use as a Plan B when things may need to be changed a little bit, but by that I meant for specific occasions like when we may be having trouble scoring against a team we should be beating, or when being over-run centrally, or if players get injured or are suspended.
For the second time in a week now we have used the formation for no real purpose other than to tinker with the team and formation. It’s exciting to have a manager brave enough to give debuts to new players, or change player’s positions, or whole team formations, but there needs to be a balance between adventure and having an established routine which the players are comfortable with.

After being fairly ineffective mid-week against Mito we were set up with the same 352 formation against Kobe; a team who would be less troubled by disjointed attacks and could exploit gaps in the defence more ruthlessly. The problem was exacerbated by having Okada playing as one of the 3 centre-backs.
We weren’t playing 352 because of players being suspended/injured, we had a right-back and left-back on the bench who could have played in a back 4 but were choosing to play a 1.70m midfielder as central defender rather than using them.

It took Kobe only 4 minutes to score. A ball down the right saw all 3 centre-backs drawn to that side with the dangerous Mazinho left unmarked on the left side of the box. I’m not sure who was supposed to be marking him, possibly Jogo was right wing-back, but a neat back heel took out everyone and a cross-shot squirmed under Kamiyama into the middle. Park Gun had planty of time to deal with it but tried to use his right instead of smashing it with his left and totally missed the ball to let Morioka score from about 2m.

Avispa made a couple of chances, but never really troubled the keeper. The best chance fell to Kanakubo when played through well into the box but he seemed to take half a second to long before shooting and just made the angle to tight, and keeper time to set himself.

Kobe were better than us all over the pitch, but we weren’t then making them play that hard either. Our defence kept being dissected by fairly simple diagonal passes in behind as we looked to keep a fairly high line.
Just before half time Kobe doubled their lead as one of our 3 centre-backs played Sugiura onside and he ran free on goal and finished calmly. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a footballer wearing make-up before, but I think Sugiura was.

Avispa ended up being fairly lucky to stay with 11 men on the pitch after Kanemori kicked the ball away after being called up for a foul in the Kobe box. He’d earlier been carded for a non-foul at the other end and the referee may have been feeling lenient due to that but by the law of the game he could have picked up his second card.

Going into the 2nd half Avispa did switch back to their 433 formation and looked a bit better. It did then mean that they were playing with Jogo and Kanemori as full-backs, and chasing the game which left huge gaps at the back.
Kobe’s young striker Ogawa found one of these gaps at the right side of the box having been picked out by an early ball and hit what should have been a fairly easy save to make across goal. Having made a few good blocks Kamiyama would be disappointed to see this shot go inside the far post.

3-0 down and being out-played as badly as they have done since being relegated from J1 we did have one more chance to get a consolation goal as Ishizu wriggled free in the box and hit an improvsed shot against the underside of the bar but it bounced clear.

Kobe’s 4th goal was from a penalty after the referee judged Park to have pulled down an attacker as the ball was being crossed into the box. It wasn’t a foul, but it summed up a fairly awful day for the Korean to pick up a yellow card which means he is suspended against JEF, and give away a penalty. Popo converted the penalty easily.

There was still plenty of time for Kobe to score more, and they had a golden chance after Ogawa was sent clear from deep against our 2 defenders and was clipped by kamiyama after rounding the keeper. This time it was a definite penalty and Kamiyama got sent off.
Kasagawa came on for his first action to be to try and save a penalty, which he did. It wasn’t a great penalty, but he saved it well, and went on to make 3-4 other good saves to keep the game at 0-0 while he was on the pitch. Park also made a few good blocks to go some way to redeem himself, but the game was already 4-0 by that point and not really that significant.

My Man of the Match – Eita Kasagawa.
Only on the pitch for half an hour but did more good things in that half hour than many of the other players all match.
We should be back to 433 next week as things don’t get any easier against JEF.

Posted August 25, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. V-Varen Nagasaki (youtube)   Leave a comment

A good 3 points, but we were still hanging on at the end and finished with a tired and injured team with another game just 2 days away.

Posted August 22, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. Mito Hollyhock (report)   Leave a comment

Mito Hollyhock 0 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka

This game had the look and feel of one being played in the middle of summer after only 2 days rest, and with another game coming up in another 3 days.
Both teams rested a few players, and with Omata getting injured in the last game Avispa in particular looked a totally different team to the one which played on Saturday; both in terms of players and formation.

I had said at the start of the season that I’d like to see us have a 3xx formation as something which we could use as and when it might be useful, and yesterday’s game saw Kazuki come into the team alongside Tsutsumi and Park, with Kim Min Je and Miyamoto playing as wing-backs. Nishida started up front to give Sakata a rest and Mishima continued to show Pusnik’s faith in his versatility by playing as a trequartista in front of Okada and Jogo.

Avispa looked like a team working out a new formation, and weren’t helped by a bit of a cabbage patch of a pitch, and Mito weren’t faring much better in putting 2-3 passes together without their figure-head of Suzuki to aim for. Namba was his usual bustling self in attack for Mito, but without enough real quality to trouble the Avispa back 3.

Pusnik had to change things quicker than he would have liked as Nishida went down when challenging for a cross at a set-piece. It was hard to see how he had got injured, but he went down holding his neck in what looked a fairly worrying injury and makes the release of Osmar look a little less well-advised unless we have someone else lined up.

Sakata came on in place of Nishida, and the team was further strengthened by Kanakubo and Funayama coming on in the second half, but it didn’t really improve the attacking fluidity of Avispa.
I thought Min Je was doing well in a first game as wing-back and was offering himself in good positions going forward without ever being caught out at the back. He has become something of a forgotten man this season, and showed he is still a willing runner doing much better than Miyamoto who was substituted with Mishima moving to right-back.

Mito looked the more likely to score, but only via a set-piece. They seemed to recognise this and collected many free-kicks from wing areas outside the box to curl crosses in from. Some of these free-kicks were totally valid, some seemed to be bought by a team who fancied their chances against a defence which would concede at least one goal a game from set-pieces last season.
We are a different proposition this year and Kamiyama and Kazuki got something in the way of most things. When a Mito player did get to the ball Avispa had the post to thank as a bullet header smashed against it.

The game fizzled out, and I think both managers probably would have taken a 0 : 0 result before the game, although Pusnik would certainly have hoped to have not picked up the injury to Nishida and a few yellow cards.

Man of the Match – Kazuki Yamaguchi
Avispa’s best 2 players were 2 who had been given a chance in the first team; Kazuki and Min Je. If Avispa had scored I think it would have come from a left wing cross from Min Je, but they didn’t so I’ll give it to Kazuki for helping to keep the clean sheet.

Posted August 22, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. V-Varen Nagasaki (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa Fukuoka 2 : 1 V-Varen Nagasaki
5′ Sato, 21′ Jogo, 27′ Sakata

Avispa came into this match in danger of losing their 4th game in a row; a result which would start to see them start to lose contact with the play-off places.
We have been doing well at times, but facing some of the toughest teams in the division, and needed to pull out a good result in our first ever game in the newest Kyushu derby.

Things didn’t start well, and it seemed like a few of the Avispa players hadn’t really realised that this was a derby match. The Nagasaki players certainly knew it was, and were bullying the Avispa midfield, forcing mistakes and putting pressure on from the start.
I haven’t watched enough of their games this season to know how they usually play, but on this evidence they are not going to be an enjoyable game for any team in the division, with #18 Sato and #14 Kono being particularly unpleasant. It is working for them this season, but it certainly isn’t going to make them a very popular team among neutrals.

While they were trying to over-power Avispa all over the pitch it was Mishima at right-back who they were especially targeting with many long balls into the left wing area. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more often as he is only 19 (an age when most Japanese managers would think he stills needs 2/3 years before he can play), and is in what is still a new position for him. I was worried at how he was being doubled-teamed, and a goal did come from his side after just 5 minutes.

The defence was a bit rattled and after Kamiyama had rushed out of his box to clear the resulting throw-in was popped out of a 50:50 up out towards the left wing byline. The Nagasaki attacker didn’t give up on it and ended up being able to attack the near post and slide a ball across for Sato to finish well.

Fortunately this woke Avispa up and they realised they needed to up their energy levels. The game became increasingly scrappy as a midfield battle started. From this midfield battle Avispa were getting balls to the edge of the box, but not really much further while Nagasaki were breaking quickly.
Avispa could have potentially gone down to 10 man from one of these breaks as a very neat piece of interplay between Sato and the #26 (Sai Kanakubo) resulted in Nakahara chopping down the #26 on the edge of the box. He could have been seen as the last defender, but the referee quickly gave out a yelow card and told Nagasaki to get on with it.

It was hard to see at times where an Avispa goal would come from, but then Kanakubo Jun caught a Nagasaki player in possession just outside the area and after trading passes with Ishizu released Jogo on the right to hit a first time shot past the keeper at the near post.

Ishizu and Jogo both rushed to get the ball and restart the game, and within 5 minutes Avispa were in the lead. Mishima showed why he can be so powerful as a runner from deep by dropping opening his body on the pass and running down the line to put a cross into the box with all out attacking players able to be central.
None of them managed to connect, but in the melee the ball bounced up and hit a Nagasaki defender’s arm for a penalty to be awarded. After missing his last one it looked like Sakata had been practicing as he converted this one very well.

Avispa now looked more in control, and were winning the physical battle. As part of this Tsutsumi was an absolute beast. A couple of times he just brushed players off the ball, and was getting his head to almost everything. Anything he didn’t get in the way of was being dealt with equally well by Park Gun in what is starting to look like a very promising central pairing.

Managing to slow the game down a bit and try to hold onto the ball it started to become obvious that this game was going to finish in the same way as a few others this season with a tired Avispa trying to hold off wave after wave of opposition attacks. Having been in this situation so many times before (most recently in conceding 2 last minutes goals against Verdy 2 weeks ago) you could feel the crowd get nervous.

Sakata came off for Nishida as Pusnik changed the formation a little to have the wide players a little deeper in midfield, then brought in Okada for Ishizu to try and start narrowing the game. Nagasaki were still trying to put pressure on Mishima with #14 and #18 seeming to take turns to pull at his shirt, say things in his ear, or give him a bit of a kick, but Mishima didn’t break. He has done very well at right-back so far, but this was the game where he became a real player.

Chris came on for Funayama to get a surprise debut, and after about 3 minutes then saw himself at left-back after Omata got injured. It wasn’t the debut he could have imagined, and it made the game even tenser as Omata refused to come off and was left limping badly around the pitch.

Nagasaki started putting in cross after cross to the back post, and managed to hit the bar with one of these, but Kamiyama was playing a really big game and somehow managed to get something behind everything they could throw at him.

There was time for one more controversy at the end when Nishida managed to break free and got fouled twice on the egde of the box. The first was a push and the referee played advantage, the second a trip in the box which the referee got scared to give as a second penalty and waved play-on.
It didn’t matter in the end as we managed to hold on and over-take our points tally for the whole of the 2012 season.

My Man of the Match – Yuta Mishima.
So many players did well in this game. Jogo got the official award, Kamiyama made many great blocks, Tsutsumi and Park were great at the back, but Mishima was the guy who Nagasaki seemed to have based their whole attacking game-plan on.
They thought they could break him and they couldn’t. In fact he got the key assist for the winning goal, and by the end of the match was still running the line and putting in big tackles on the 25-30 year old men who had been trying to bully him.

Posted August 18, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports