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.