Avispa face their hardest game of the season this weekend as they travel up for an away game with Gamba Osaka.
After the disappointment of last weekend it is a chance to prove that we a capable against anyone in the division, but it is also a chance to mentally break in face of a good team and good players and get our 3rd defeat in a row.
Everyone was amazed that Gamba got relegated from J1 last season, they are one of the richest and most established clubs in J-League history having won the League, Cup and Asian Champion’s League within the last 6 years.
Since relegating from J1 they haven’t really lost many of their star players and still have Endo pulling the strings in midfield alongside other NT players Konno and the recently returned Usami.
It looks quite a daunting task, but we have actually played some of our best football this season when up against tough opposition. It allows us to really play the quick, counter style which the team has practiced, and do so against a team which is trying to push forward and attack rather than sit back and leave few spaces.
This is Kanamori’s last chance for a game before flying out to Spain with the U-19 team and I expect him to get a game in some capacity, especially as it seems the club have now released Osmar.
Osmar never really seemed to fit in this season. He always looks a threat in games, and plays with a directness which the team needs, but I wonder if he was ever going to be able to stick to a plan; especially as the central role needed him to be able to hold the ball up and involve others.
Having said that I think Kanamori might play off the bench as Sakata has been really good recently and is clearly our best attacker, Ishizu scored twice last week and Jogo has always done well against Gamba. We had previously accomodated all 4 by playing Jogo in midfield, but that probably would be the best idea against Gamba’s midfield. I think the midfield 2 should be Kanakubo and Funayama, but am not sure about the anchor role.
Nakahara really needs a rest in my opinion, but maybe he should get 1 more game in what will be the biggest game of his career so far.
Defence is a worry, but the central 2 will stay as Park and Tsutsumi, with their main job being to try and control the height and power of new signing Adi Rocha who seems to be scoring for fun. We’ve had a powerful Serbian guy training with us for about a week now and hopefully he has been useful in getting experience in the different skill-set a player like this presents.
I’d like to see Miyamoto and Omata at full-back. There is a definite chance that a young, or out of position player could be targeted by someone like Usami and we need players with some experience.
All of this would mean that Oakada is again on the bench, but he seems intelligent enough to be able to handle the role of Club Captain and substitute without letting his ego get in the way.
Minje was training this week and that is definitely someone I’d like to see back in the match-day squad. Either as a left-back, or moved forward to play as an energetic wing-back like Miyamoto against Verdy in the first game of the season.
Gamba can put out their strongest team and not worry that it is a bit predictable, even if the opposition knows exactly who will play it is another story in trying to stop them.
They have a central spine of Konno at centre-back, Endo pulling the strings in midfield, and a target man striker up front. When we played at home this was Leandro who has since left the club, but been replaced by Rocha who is has been even more prolific since arriving with 3 goals in 2 games.
Playing off this spine are tidy players with neat movement, the most dangerous of which is wonderkid Takashi Usami who has returned from Europe after it didn’t really work out for reasons I don’t understand; he was the best player I’ve seen at Level-5 when he took us apart as a 19 year old.
They definitely leave spaces at the back and have conceded 13 goals in the last 6 games, the problem for us being that they have also scored 18.
There is the chance to see an Avispa old boy in Daiki Niwa who is likely to be on the bench. He was our Captain for 3 season while on loan from Gamba and is likely to get a good reception from the away fans, but probably unlikely to play.
My Prediction :
Gamba Osaka 4 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka
I can see goals, and we might even get in front as Tokyo and Okayama have both managed in the last 2 games.
Unfortunately we still don’t have the mental strength to kill off a Gamba team in full attack mode (we can’t even do Verdy at the moment!) and will end up conceding.
We’re definitely stronger than at the start of the season, but last year has done alot of damage to the psyche of the team and is taking some getting over.