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.
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 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.