Archive for September 2013

vs. Kataller Toyama (ratings)   Leave a comment

A bit of a horror show, probably the worst Avispa performance I have ever seen.

Kamiyama : 4 Made one really good stop at the end, and a good block early on the keep it at 2-0, but horrible for the 3rd and let in 4 goals.

Mishima : 5 Worked harder than most other players, and at least looked like he cared a little bit.

Miyamoto : 4 A couple of good tackles playing out of position, but as one of the senior players should be making more of a starting chance.

Tsutsumi : 3 Our best player in the first half of the season he is back to how he was in 2012 now. Doesn’t seem interested at all.

Park : 3 Was trying, but making some mistakes which I would laugh at if I saw them from a pub league player. Passes direct into touch under no pressure?

Nakahara : 5 One of our better players on his return into the team but had absolutely no-one in front of him to work with.

Funeyama : 2 Playing like someone on the Playstation who keeps mixing up their clearance button with their pass button. Clueless.

Jogo : 4 Wanted to be played centrally, couldn’t get anywhere near the ball. I’d have preferred to see him kick someone up in the air and get sent off.

Sakata : 4 Ended up playing in midfield as we really had no other options. Didn’t look comfortable at all.

Ishizu : 5 Did take some shots at goal, but they was more chance of them going out for throw-ins. Looks in serious danger of following Sueyoshi in thinking he has already made it as a footballer because he scored a few nice goals.

Kanemori : 6 Our best player by some distance. Got accused of being a bit indugent and playing for himself, but who should he have passed to? Funeyama? Okada? I understand why he was trying to beat Toyama on his own.

Punosevac : 4 Nowhere near as effective as he had been in previous games, hopefully just due to not being fit rather than not being good enough.

Okada : 3 I don’t understand the point of him, and certainly don’t know how he is on the books of a J1 club.

Ushinohama : 4 Better than what he replaced, but didn’t do anything.

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Posted September 30, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Kataller Toyama (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 4 Kataller Toyama

Before the game I had said that a draw would be a bad result for the team, you can imagine how I felt after 70 minutes when we were 4:0 down at home to a club who have not finished outside the bottom 3-4 in any season of J2 apart from their first season (when they reached a peak of 13th).

Looking at the team which started I can’t see how it could have been any better really. Only the suspended Kanakubo could have theoretically improved the team with the players at Pusnik’s disposal, possibly Mizutani in goal if he hadn’t been injured.
Beyond that the players were playing in their favoured positions, but ended up being played off the pitch, second best to every ball in every area of the pitch.
The only players who came out of the game with any sort of credit at all were Kanemori, Mishima and Nakahara; 3 players who at the start of the season most supporters wouldn’t have considered for the first team at all, and are now our best players.
What has happened to the rest of the team?

The most telling point for me is that almost exactly the same thing happened last season. As soon as the summer was over and it was clear we weren’t going to make the play-offs the team sleep-walked through the remaining games of the season and really couldn’t be bothered to play with any pride.
I can understand that they are disappointed to not have any chance of going to J1 (where some of them clearly believe they belong, despite the evidence for the opposite), but why can the Toyama players still put out a performance?
The Toyama players didn’t have a chance of going to J1 at any point this season, certainly not now, and were playing in front of about 50 supporters. Why were those players able to raise their game but the Avispa players can’t?

I think the answer to this comes in the 3 players who did keep running until the end, all of whom were in their rookie season (Nakahara played a handful of games last season but this is his first full season as a professional). These players are still playing for their futures, and want to impress everyone in the ground in order to ensure they get a good contract next season, to hope they keep playing for the Japan team, to try and get a starting spot next season.
It seems like a lot of the more seasoned players know that even if we do coast to the end of the season the will get a comfortable contract again next season. Maybe that will be at Avispa, but if it isn’t then they can go to Kumamoto, or Tottori, or Toyama. The idiocy of that is that maybe they can’t go to Toyama; on today’s performance they wouldn’t get near the Toyama first team.

We were lucky to not be 4-0 down after 20 minutes. In fact we managed to keep the score down to 2-0 after a corner was easily converted as a ball was headed back across goal from the back post and nodded in to make it 1-0, and a ball across the box was easily knocked in past tsutsumi and Kamiyama as a single attacker beat them to the ball.

It was 3-0 shortly into the 2nd half as a break went past Park easily and Kamiyama seemed to be wrong-footed and make a mess of trying to save across his body. I can’t even remember the 4th goal, I was beyond caring and wondering if I should go home.

The Avispa fans managed to show that they do have a sense of humour as an ironic round of applause went around the stadium for our first shot on traget as Punosevac shot at the goal-keper from outside the box.

Kanemori kept running and got a goal his performnace deserved with his first goal from outside the box. Previous goals have owed a lot to crosses into the box and good work from others. This goal was entirely his as he ran at the box and hit a good shot inside the post to get his 3rd goal in 3 games.

Posted September 29, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Kateller Toyama (preview)   Leave a comment

Our run of form has now seen us slide from 6th to 15th in 2 months and suffering what must be the worst run of form in the division.
I think we have still played very well in patches during that run however, and while I don’t think we were ever as good as 6th in the division suggested I don’t think we are as bad as 15th.

This season has seen many young and exciting players be given long spells in the first team, it has seen 5-6 long-term injuries to supposed first-team players, and it has seen some of the most bizarre refereeing decisions which has help us pick up a massive number of suspensions.
Despite all of this we have more points than last season already, with much better football. There are still 8 games left this season, 24 points in theory, that is the potential to get to 68 points; a total which would put us in 7th last season.
Maybe it is just a dream, but let’s hope all the things which didn’t click in the last 2 months suddenly start going our way in the next 2 months.

Avispa News.
The team needs to be changed again due to suspensions, but will probably look like the team which ended well against Yamgata last weekend rather than the team which conceded 2 in the first half with defensive errors.
This is mainly due to the ‘good news’ that Koga is suspended and will see the team revert to a flat back 4 with Tsutsumi and Park in the middle. Mishima will probably come back in as right-back, left-back is a problem.
I don’t think Omata or Minje are fit (surely they would have played recently if they were), Oh did ok last weekend, Miyamoto has played there at times this season, as has Okada. I’d probably give Oh another go.

Midfield also changes as Nakahara comes back from suspension. He would not have been seen as a key player at the start of the season but seems to be the only player with the intelligence to play between the defensive and midfield lines; the key component of our 3/5 man midfield.
Kanakubo is out suspended and that gives some problem at the other end as he was good at closing space behind the front 3. Jogo has said in interview that he would like to play centrally, maybe set him a challenge to prove it in this game with the incentive of the last 7 games.

Sakata up front, Kanemori and Ishizu each side of him.

Kateller Toyama News

Toyama lost last weekend but gave a good showing scoring 2 against Kyoto.

They are likely to start with a similar formation playing against a supposedly better team away from home with fast breaks from the back being played through Kokeguchi to try and spring our defence.

They have a more functional attack than real quality, and at the back will be without their most experienced defender as Ikehata is out suspended. While having our most experienced defender will make us stronger I guess for most teams this makes us more likely to be able to break their defence.

My Prediction:

Avispa 2 : 0 Kataller

If we don’t get a win today then it should be seen as a bad result. A draw could stop the run of defeats, but this is a team who are happy to avoid relegation each season and should not be taking any points from level-5 after a long journey south.

Posted September 28, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Montedio Yamagata (ratings)   Leave a comment

I took an 18 month break from giving match ratings for the players but thought I’d see how I felt about starting again.

Why did I stop?
I could see lots of the players were very limited, but were trying their hardest. I would occasionally meet the players and feel bad if I had given them a 3 for their work the week before.
I have bad weeks at my work, and don’t need anyone making me feel even worse about it by giving me a score about it on the internet.

Why am I starting again?
I think that maybe there are times when some players need a bit of a ‘kick up the backside’.
Lots of the players are getting paid very well for their work, and perhaps look like they are taking it for granted at times this season.
On the other side there are times I want to say well done to someone for playing well; hopefully I will be giving a lot more 8 & 9s than 3 &4s.

Kamiyama – 6 Didn’t stand any chance with either goal. Actually made a block for the second which would have been fantastic had it not immediately been poked beneath him to score.

Jogo – 7 Starting the match in an unfamiliar position he was close to our best player.
Attacking players will be assessed by their goals and assists, and even from a start at right-back he got an assist.
Still needs to start attacking the ball to feet at times.

Oh – 5 I thought he did ok, certainly well enough to get another chance before the end of the season.
Physically got everything and was still running, but needs a little more intelligence which will hopefully come with games.

Tsutsumi – 6 Not his best game, and hasn’t been his best run of games, but that is just because of the standards he set at the start of the season.
If the rest of the defence had stepped up with him we would not have conceded the 2nd.

Koga – 3 This game was embarrassing for him at times, or at least it should be. When having to turn and run it was like he was running in quick-sand, and that was against a couple of strikers who are not really known for their pace. Legs are gone, I hope he doesn’t have another year in his contract.

Park – 5 Nightmare start coming back from suspendion as he slipped and gave away a penalty after 4 minutes. Meant we were chasing the game from there, but improved a lot in the 2nd half.

Okada – 4 Ran around a lot but rarely gets near the ball, and can’t really pass at all.

Kanakubo – 5 Decent chance to core but wasn’t closing the space as effectively as he has recently. Picked up a yellow to miss the next 2 games; if the team gets 2 wins he might find it hard to get back in the team.

Ishizu – 6 Put in a lot of running as always, but with no clear shots on goal. His confidence to shoot is one of his key attributes so if it’s missing there is half the player.

Kanemori – 6 Far more comfortable playing forward of the halfway line where his mistakes are not so costly. Very smart finish, but needs to start dribbling in more dangerous places.

Sakata – 7 You just can’t play when there is a referee like this. Suffered from ‘tallest poppy’ syndrome whereby the referee thought he could get his photo in the paper by blowing his whistle against the most famous player.

Nishida – 5 Didn’t really do much in his time, ended up having to go too deep to get the ball.

Ushinohama – 4 When I young player gets a chance like this he has to do something to make him be in the manager’mind for the next game. Didn’t do anything badly, but didn’t make a difference.

Funeyama – 5 Playing against his previous club I’d expect him to be playing like a man possessed. Didn’t make Yamagata regret losing him in any way.

Posted September 24, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Montedio Yamagata (report)   Leave a comment

Montedio Yamagata 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka

Pusnik has had to pull a few surprises this season to try and get 11 players on the pitch who could beat the opposition and continued that pattern for this match as we reverted to 3 at the back with Jogo asked to play in a right-back position with Oh Chan Hyon returned from Nagasaki playing in the unfamiliar role of left-back.

I can guess that the immediate question might be as to why one of the players considered our premium attackers was moved back to play in a wing-back role, but the reality is what other option do we have? In Sakata, Ishizu, Kanemori, even Kanakubo and Nishida we have players capable of doing a job in attack, but are really stretched in defence. Tsutsumi can play right-back well, but is more important in central defence at the moment. Mishima is suspended. Miyamoto can do a job defensively, but does he deserve to be in the team ahead of any of the attackers listed earlier?

Whatever team got put out you could never plan for the start which we had as Yamagata were awarded a penalty within 4 minutes after a ball played over the top made Park Gun turn back towards goal, but slip and end up falling into the attacker in the box.
It was clearly a fairly bizarre accident, but contact on the attacker was made and a penalty seemed the only real option. I don’t know if it is possible to make a case for obstruction and an indirect free-kick, but it was a terrible start for Avispa.

The game went on with few clear chances for either team, but Avispa then conceded a 2nd goal as Bandai sprung our defensive line.
It looked like it was impossible that it couldn’t be offside, but through the frustrating aspect of Japanese television of not showing these decisions clearly it’s impossible to really say for sure. Tsutsumi definitely correctly stepped up leaving the attacker 4-5m offside from him, but Koga and Oh were a little slower to do so. Even so it still looked like the attacker was clearly offside.

I have no definite answer as to whether it was or not due to Japanese TV being awful in this sort of situation but can say it was either the sort of horrible refereeing decision we have had several of this season, or Koga not being fully up to speed and making the sort of horrible defensive mistake which presumably he was bright to the club to organise and eliminate.
Kamiyama made a good first save with his leg but the rebound was quickly knocked home to make the score 2-0.

It does seem like this season we have had an enormous number of bad refereeing decisions, which have directly led to us losing points. People say these things even out over a season and they haven’t done so far. I can only remember the Gifu game when I’ve thought we were on the positive side of a decision, but 9-10 where there have been clear bad decisions against us.
I hope it is just bad refereeing decisions rather than something more sinister but is something which the J-League needs to sort out; and the way to sort it out isn’t to ban television from showing replays of contentious refereeing calls and punishing managers if they speak out after horrible decisions.

After the break we looked to have gone to a more familiar 4 at the back formation, and Jogo was getting forward with more regularity. Avispa continued to get some bizarre refereeing decisions, Sakata in particular not seeming to be able to go near an opposition player without being judged to have fouled him.
I do wonder if referees in Japan sometimes respond to criticism of them and fellow referees by taking it out on the team which has doubted them. With Pusnik speaking out, and Sakata telling the referee in this game that he was getting things wrong, it seemed like the referee was taking some sort of revenge by ensuring we wouldn’t get any positive decisions.

When we got a goal back it was a very well finished one by Kanemori. Jogo showed what he can do attacking down the right with a burst through a player and into the box. A low cross to the near post was cleverly flicked into goal with a back-heel by the youngster.

Avispa were controlling the game and not looking like a team in a bad run of form. I felt that if we scored before the 80th minute we would easily go on to win the game after the 2 silly goals in the first half. We nearly did so as Kanakubo placed a shot towards the corner which was palmed away and didn’t quite fall for Kanemori at the back post.

Sakata was judged offside from a clever free-kick routine which was headed just wide, and then as the game reached the last minute headed a ball across goal and onto the cross-bar with the goal-keeper beaten.

It turned out to be the last kick of the game as we tasted defeat again. It is a horrible run of losses, but I hope the players watch the games back and see how close things are to being ok. If they need convincing then they should look back at some games from this time last season when we were losing just as many games, but never looking like we could ever win.

Toyama next week and it is starting to feel like a must-win game. Not for any small chances of sneaking into the play-offs, but just to give the players the lift they need to try and finish the season on a high and think about what good things have been achieved this season.

My Man of the Match – Daisuke Sakata
Didn’t stop running in spite of terrible performance by the referee. Last season he rarely lasted longer than 65 minutes, this year he is still running at the end and nearly saved us a point in this game with a header in the last minute.

Posted September 23, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Montedio Yamagata (preview)   Leave a comment

The game this week probably couldn’t come quick enough for some of the Avispa players after the embarrassment of being beaten 5-1 at home by a Yokohama FC team who played quite well, but without ever looking like a team who should be thrashing us at home.

We had actually started that game quite brightly, with Punosevac looking like a proper threat up front and linking well with Ishizu and Sakata after just a few weeks training together, but will have to change again as he took a knock and got injured and we have suspensions elsewhere.

We are now in a peculiar situation of have a quite large squad of players (29), a manager who makes the most of that number by giving chances and encouragement to young players, but will be going to Yamagata wondering how to get a competitive team out on the pitch.
This is down to a combination of suspensions (Nakahara, Mishima), and injuries (Kihara, Punosevac, Omata, Mizutani), but most importantly that the squad players are lacking in quality overall so that when we miss 2 first team players (Nakahara and Mishima; coincidentally 2 players who probably could have expected 4-5 substitute appearances at the start of the season but are now seen as hard to replace) there is a difficult job to fill the gaps.

Avispa News
Defence is likely to be a little better in this game than in the previous 3 as Park returns from suspension to re-form his defensive partnership with Tsutsumi. Koga’s legs appear to have gone and he’ll probably drop down to the bench.
Mishima’s absence on the right is a big loss to one of our main source’s of attack as he covers the pitch for 90 minutes each week, but it does mean that Miyamoto could come back in and hope for a really big game and show Yamagata they shouldn’t have released him in the winter.

Another player returning to his former club is Funayama who will proabably play in midfield again in place of Nakahara, not because he is particularly well suited to a role which needs him to cross lines but because it’s hard to see who else could do much better. He has been a bit of a disappointment recently; I wanted him to get a run in the team as he seems to have some quite good physical qualities, but never seems to really show them in a match. Maybe a match against his old team-mates can wake him up a bit.

Kanakubo is an obvious pick in midfield as the only midfielder who closes the space and forces mistakes regularly, possibly with Jogo alongide him.

Up front we could be back to the fluid front 3 of Sakata/Ishizu and Kanemori which started the season and will hopefully have the dribbling and energy of the younger players to make space behind for Sakata and Kanakubo to exploit.

Yamagata News

Yamagata have always looked like a team of well-organised pros when I have seen them, rather than a team with a couple of stars.
It is a team which we could struggle against as although we may have some better players than them in some positions, their collective ability to stick to a plan can find the weak-points if given a chance.

An early goal would put them on the back foot, but strong set-pieces with the aerial threat of Bandai and an experienced striker in Nakashima alongside him means that if we give too many chances are likely to be punished.

They have no suspensions going into the game, and are likely to let the Avispa players know they have been in a game after the long trip north.

My Prediction : Montedio Yamagata 0 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka

A good result in other situations, but I guess the team are very eager to get a win. We’ve had a bad month, but were in the play-off positions just 6 weeks ago and the players need a turning point to get back into that frame of mind.
Mishima out could make us a little stronger at the back, but also makes us much less likely to score.

Posted September 21, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Yokohama FC (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa 1 : 5 Yokohama FC

This was our first game in about 2 months which we could go into and think that we should be getting a win. We have been on a terrible run of form, but I’ve been happy to write it off as a run in which we played well against some of the best teams in the division and would have been doing well to get anything from the game.

This loss was different. This was the first time that I have seen the players looking like they did last season, seemingly not happy in how they were set up to play, not confident in what they were supposed to be doing, and losing badly in all areas of the pitch.
Yokohama can take a great win back home with them, but they shouldn’t be thinking they can get many more results like this; we made them look really good rather than them playing really well.

I think a large part of the team losing all commitment is how they are going out to play. Pusnik has reacted to losses in this period by tinkering and tweaking the team a little to try and correct ‘problems’ and win games through managerial tactical superiority. Unfortunately the team has been tweaked so much now that the players are not totally sure of what they are supposed to be doing, and as soon as they come up against a problem (like going a goal behind) their heads drop and frustration creeps in.
I felt that yesterday the players looked at their full-backs and saw 2 19 year old kids playing out of position, and while the experiment has worked at times this season (especially with Mishima) their current run of form would be better served to get some solidity at the back and try to build new things when the confidence has been repaired a bit.

The game started quite brightly with Kanakubo again being our bright spark closing the gap behind the front line which saw Punosevac get his first league start with Sakat and Ishizu flitting around him in a fluid front 3.
They linked up well at times, and could have got a goal, but early on Punosevac got a knock to the Achilles which ended up meaning he got substituted before half-time. He had a couple of shots and put Ishizu through a couple of times but now needs to get fit and back in the team.

At the other end Yokohama were really taking us apart on the wings. Teams have tried to attack Mishima at full-back before with mixed success. Today Yokohama destroyed us; nullifying the youngsters attacking intent on both sides and taking advantage of their defensive inexperience.

The lead came after Patrick chased down a ball on the left-wing which Mishima couldn’t get back for. Crossing from right on the byline the ball reached Kazu after Tsutsumi swung a leg and made no contact. He played in Nozaki who finished easily.

Avispa had an excellent chance to equalise as Punosevac played Ishizu through 1-on-1 with Schneider who made an excellent save from a well hit shot. Jogo might claim Ishizu should have squared it to him, but I don’t agree. We don’t shoot often enough and like the fact that Ishizu has the confidence to shoot.

Rather than get the equaliser we conceded from another attack on the left-wing which appeared like it had to be offside but was given. Patrick then nearly scored a solo goal from the right wing which would have been goal of the week, but his curling shot hit the inside of the post after beating a couple of defenders inside the box with some skill.

In the second half we conceded another goal which I didn’t even see. It must have been straight from the kick-off as I was getting back to my seat (Kazu had ensured a big crowd at the game) after watching us kick-off. Upon sitting down I saw us kick-off again and thought it must have been some sort of foul kick-off only to look at the score-board and see we had conceded in the 10 seconds it took me to sit down.

Avispa did gamely try to claw the goals back and Kanemori showed some of the reason why Pusnik is keen to have him in the side even if it does mean squeezing him in uncomfortably at full-back as he picked up a ball on the left side of the box and hit into the bottom corner when everyone was expecting a ball into the box.

Avispa started to get desperate, and if Pusnik needed any more evidence that his experimentation might be going a little too far it cam mid-way through the half when we were playing a 343 formation with Kanemori (a small teenage forward) and Mishima (a small teenage winger) playing either side of Tsutsumi as centre-backs. It would be described as a 343, but was probably more of a 172.
Suffice to say this new 1 defender formation didn’t take the world by storm any more than Ardiles’ 5 striker formation at Tottenham in the 90s and we were caught out easily with balls through the back line for Yokohama strikers to get some goals and make the scoreline embarrassing.

The thing I was most impressed with in early season was Pusnik seemed to realise that the defence needed to be made solid after last season, and that could allow some attacking fluidity to be built on top. The back 4 looked much better, and had the added defensive shield in front of them.
By keeping a clean sheet we would always have the chance of getting results in this division, but that mentality seems to have entirely evaporated.

I would suggest to look back at the first game of the season, the excellent 1-0 away win at Verdy and go back to some of the things which were working.
Forget the tweaking and tinkering, and let the players settle into one formation, one position on the pitch, and if we lose not to lose faith in the plan and change it, but to practice it a little more until it works.

Posted September 16, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports