Archive for October 2013

The 90 minute table.   2 comments

There are many things which have been fairly terrible this season:

i) We have only got 4 central midfielders, only 1 (maybe 2; Nakahara, ~Kanakubo) are able to do a job, and 3 central spots.

ii) The club has no money having burned through a couple of million dollars in 3 years (that is money over and above income).

iii) We have a squad of 25+ players (more than allowed to be registered in an English Premier League club), but less than 18 are ever fit and not injured.

But the biggest heart-ache of the season as a supporter is the number of points which have been lost in the last few moments of a game.

vs. Kyoto (91st minute winner)
vs. Mito (93rd minute equaliser)
vs. JEF (93rd minute equaliser)
vs. Kumamoto (101st minute equaliser)
vs. Tokyo Verdy (90th minute equaliser, 94th minute winner)
vs. Matsumoto Yamaga (93rd minute winner)

If you then look at points we have won after 90 minutes: zero.

So how has that affected our season? Well those points in loss-time add up to 11 points.

If you added 11 points to our current league total we would have 59 points and be in 6th place, 1 ahead of Nagasaki who have gained points after 90 minutes.
That would make this season feel very different.

What is the reason for our late conceding of goals? Mental fragility.
What is the solution? I have no idea. It could be said that it is impossible to teach mental strength, but the players need to look at what has happened this season in loss time and think about how things could have been different.

The 90 minute table.

1 ヴィッセル神戸 Vissel Kobe 78
2 ガンバ大阪 Gamba Osaka 77
3 京都サンガF.C. Kyoto Sanga 68
4 ジェフユナイテッド千葉 JEF 65
5 徳島ヴォルティス Tokushima Vortis 64
6 アビスパ 福岡  Avispa Fukuoka 59

7 V・ファーレン長崎 Nagasaki 58
8 松本山雅FC Matsumoto Yamaga55

Posted October 29, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs.Matsumoto Yamaga (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama – 6 Didn’t do too much, but did make an awesome face-save which I’m guessing Mizutani has been teaching him.

Omata – 5 Ok in defence, but offered little in attack and his delivery from set pieces was terrible.

Oh – 5 I’m not sure what has happened to this guy. He started last year with some insane attacking technique, then disappeared, and has now come back as a very average defender.

Tsutsumi – 6 His best game for a while, but has to take some of the blame for a total inability to deal with the long thrown ins.

Park – 4 Does OK with the ball in front of him but made a horrible mistake for the first goal. For all he sometimes does right I’m not sure if he is going to make it.

Nakahara – 6 Gave the ball away a couple of times, but generally is the go-to man to build attacks. Hit a very good long range strike at goal for the second game in a row.

Okada – 4 This guy is now 29 and has played almost his whole career for a J1 club. He is obviously a really nice guy, but on the pitch I fail to see how it is possible.

Kanakubo – 5 Had the chance to put win us the game with a dribble into the box but fluffed it. Looks at times he is having a ‘sexiest dribble’ competition with Ishizu. He lost that contest today.

Mishima – 7 Again our best player. Scored the goal and nearly got a second. Shows what is possible with young hungry players and a good coach.

Ishizu – 6 Made the goal with a dribble in a dangerous place, but if he is as good as he thinks he is shoudl be doing it 3-4 times a game.

Sakata – 6 Keeps on trying, but still hasn’t found the striker’s form which he had when he first came to the club.

Funayama – 3 What more motivation could you need than putting one over your younger brother. Messed up his chance to win the game.

Ushinohama – 4 Didn’t make the impact he has previously.

Kihara – 5 Good to see him on the pitch, but didn’t hurt the opposition. He has one key skill, pace. Coming on as a substitute that should be even more obvious.

Posted October 28, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Matsumoto Yamaga (report)   Leave a comment

Matsumoto Yamaga 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka

Avispa started this game in front of a big banner saying ‘We need Marijan next year’, and what could now probably be seen as our strongest starting eleven.
It was exactly as I had said in the preview, except for Okada in midfield in place of Funayama. This switch is fairly indicative of one of our big problems on the pitch this season, we need 1 more quality players who is an obvious pick for central midfield. In Nakahara and Kanakubo we have 2 guys who are good enough at what they do, but there is still a big gap in the middle where we miss the third leg of our stool.

Having said that we started the game pretty well, and looked much more solid that we have for much of this season.
Matsumoto Yamaga are a team who try to keep things simple, getting the ball forward early and trying to play on the shoulder of defenders while in open play, and aiming to get set-pieces as often as they can.
Our defence were dealing with the threat quite easily with Tsutsumi looking like he may be going some way to getting back to form.
The biggest threat came from a left wing throw by #47 who was able to launch the ball to the penalty spot. This type of throw-in is difficult to deal with for any team, but especially so in Japan where the number of players and teams who can do this is so small that if Yamaga can train for it each day they have a serious weapon. It was a threat which Avispa should have paid more attention to.

Our best chance came when Nakahara hit a great shot with the outside of his boot from distance which ended up curling a little too much bringing it closer to the keeper who put it round the post.

As the second half started we took a deserved lead. Last game I had said that Ishizu is a good dribbler, but does it in the wrong places. In this game a little space opened up in front of him and he went straight at the box. Bursting through a group of defenders he got some luck, but stayed in the right place and with the ball to pick out Mishima who had taken a gamble that the ball might pop out to him.
He calmly finished to score his first professional goal.

Mishima was again playing well and took confidence from this first goal to turn just out side the box 10 minutes later and hit a good shot at goal. The Yamaga keeper got across well to save.

Unfortunately Yamaga scored just as it looked like Avispa were close to killing the game. Park Gon made a horrible mistake and the ball ended up being cleared for a throw-in on the right. They had already nearly conceded a couple of times and should have been doing everything they could to avoid any more.
The #47 changed angle a little to fire across a flat one which was touched on to be scored at the far post.

Ishizu came off to be replaced by Kihara making his first appearance of the season after injury, and nearly too the lead in similar fashion to the first goal.
Kanakubo this time dribbled at the box and bundled through 3-4 block tackles to be 1-on-1 with the keeper. Rather than score he tried to place the ball with th outside of his boot and hit quite tamely at the goal-keeper.

The game was opening up and both teams had chances to score which I think I may have been able to do better.
The first was when a Mishima run down the right led to the ball reaching substitute Funayama to be the hero in front of his brother, but he spooned an awful shot over the bar.
The second was for Yamaga as their #13 had a free header about 2m from goal but knocked it wide.

It was clear by the end of the game that Yamaga were going to rely almost entirely on set pieces to score, and particularly their long throws. It seemed some players on the pitch didn’t get it and 3-4 times we knocked the ball out for a throw just outside our penalty box. Even if the defender really couldn’t clear up field I think I may have been more tempted to knock it out for a corner at that stage.

As so often has happened this season we ended up conceded a goal in injury time to lose the game. Obviously it came from a long throw which bounced around the box, nearly went out for a goal-kick, hit the post, and was then knocked home by a Yamaga player who have clearly been practicing this sort of penalty box melee in training as their main source of goals.

We were the better team, we lost the game, it has happened a few times this season. It doesn’t really matter, what does matter is getting the club structure sorted so plans can be made for next season without the big gaps in the squad which we currently have.

Posted October 27, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Matsumoto Yamaga (preview)   Leave a comment

It is quite hard to know what team is going to come out against Yamaga. We had what was on paper a bad result against bottom club Gainare last week when we needed to equalise with 10 men, but the 2nd half performance showed heart and fight which if carried into this game would mean we could get a result.

As bad as our result was last week Yamaga lost 7-0 against Kobe and are probably equally eager to get a good result.

Matsumoto still stand an outside chance of sneaking into the play-offs, while realistically Avispa are just playing for pride. A top half finish would be a good result after the season we have had, and winning at Yamaga tomorrow would put us on course to do that.

Avispa News
The game last weekend had good performances from the 3 substitutes who came on (Omata, Ushinohama and Nishida), of those 3 I expect that Omata could keep his place if fit with Tsutsumi moving back into the middle to play alongside Park. Those 2 have been our best defensive 2, and with Koga going off in the first half last week I can’t see him playing again.
Nishida is now suspended and Taku will likely get some time from the bench again.

Oh has done ok at right back and should stay there, with Mishima ahead of him giving the team 2 players who can cover the pitch, and with Mishima’s time at right-back he has added a decent level of defensive understanding to his game.

The midfield will stay with Nakahara playing as ‘conductor’, and Kanakubo trying to hit the penalty box late, but needs Kanakubo to do more when he doesn’t have the ball. The 3rd man is still a problem, but will likely remain as Funayama who will be having something of a family occasion as he faces his brother and may be able to raise his game.

Ishizu plays on the left, Sakata to come back in as central striker. We really missed him in the last game, he does a lot to hold the ball up and tries to win it back. Punosevac is suspended, as is Kanemori.
The bench may be hard to fill. Jang and Hatamoto are likely to be on it and if the game is won or lost with 30 minutes to play it’d be nice to see them get a 1st team game.

Matsumoto Yamaga
Funayama’s brother is one of Yamaga’s better players, but was missing from their game against Kobe last weekend. I don’t know if that was through injury, but he definitely isn’t suspended for the game.
If he doesn’t play then he will be replaced by one of the 2 Brazilians at the club who’d I’d like to see Park or Tsutsumi give an early kick.

Elsewhere they don’t have any real standout players, but can always rely upon a large fan base to encourage them to get out of their current run of bad form.

My Prediction:

Matsumoto Yamaga 1 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
A result which doesn’t really suit either team, and will depend on which team can pick themselves up better fro last week.

Posted October 26, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

再建への青写真 (The Blueprint 日本語訳)   Leave a comment

I’ve been having quite a few hits from Japan since recently posting about our current situation and thought it might be interesting to put it into Japanese.
This is a Japanese translation of this post: The Blueprint

我々は窮地に陥っている。その窮地の程度は、ニュースとなり日本中を駆け巡り、海外からも注目を集めるほどひどい。この状況から、イギリスでよく言われる「成功は逆境の影からやってくる」という言葉が思い浮かぶ。
今ある状況を絶望として捉えるのではなく、クラブの再建のチャンスとして捉えよう。
我々には、街があり、サポーターがいて、クラブを再建できる監督がいる。平凡なことを20年間していては、クラブの再建は不可能である。
私が考える、アビスパ福岡を偉大なクラブにする、また全市民が誇りに思うクラブにする5つのポイントを挙げる。

1) Back the current manager. 現監督をバックアップする

今シーズン、これまでのところ全くうまくいっていない。昨シーズンもそうだったし、その前のシーズンもそうであった。一歩離れて見てみて、今までで良かった点を評価してみると、どんなことが挙げられるであろうか?昨シーズン、その前のシーズンからは良かった点はみつからない。
今年は、現監督によってクラブに一つのプレースタイルがもたらされた。それは、時間はかかるが、全選手、全世代の選手(ユースなど)がスタイルを理解し、今後浸透していくだろう。また、サポーターからは、この状況を共に乗り越えよう、一つになって戦おうとする姿勢や絆が示された。
現在、クラブには2人の19歳の選手がトップチームにいる。1人はU-19日本代表に選ばれ、もう1人はクラブのベストプレーヤーである。両選手とも今後もっとうまくなるし、もしクラブにリスクを背負うことをためらわない監督がいなかったら、今頃はおそらく交代で5試合出場しているかどうかというところであろう。
うまくいっていないシーズンでありながらも、これほどサポーターから愛されている監督を今まで見たことがない。これは、欧州のトップリーグの監督でも成し得なかったことで、プシュニク監督は、日本の2部リーグ(なのに)で成し遂げた。

2) Look to youth. 若手に目を向ける

世界中のサッカークラブが経営困難な状態にある。
日本にいるサッカーファンならだれでも、マンチェスターユナイテッドというクラブを知っているだろう。そのクラブでさえも24歳以下の選手のみでの契約を方針とし、システムを学び、向上するチャンスのある選手を契約の対象としている。24歳以上の選手と契約する際は、チームを速やかに改善し、若手の成長の手助けになる選手が対象になる。
それに比べアビスパ福岡は、毎シーズン少なくとも2人は32歳以上で、高額な報酬を必要とする選手と契約するのが常となっており、出場試合数は10試合以下にとどまっている。
近年では、田中誠、清水範久、古賀正紘などがそうで、引退前の一稼ぎを目的に福岡にやってきた。田中誠が1シーズンで稼ぐ20%の金額で、国内ベストの若手選手を取ることができる。

3) Kyushu Pride. 九州プライド

このアイデアはやや型破りではあるが…
大規模なスポンサーがつかない限り、アビスパがJ1のトップクラブになることは絶対にないだろう。私たちが成り得るのは、独自のルールや規則を持つクラブで、毎回勝つわけではないけれど、喜んでトップクラブに挑むクラブである。
アスレティック・ビルバオのようなクラブがまさにそれで、かつてのグラスゴー・ケルティックもそういったクラブであった。バルセロナやレアルマドリッドなどの強豪クラブには勝てるクラブではないが、周囲のサポートは熱烈である。資金もない。あるのは、クラブのある地域の出身選手以外は、絶対にとらないというこだわりである。
アビスパにもこれは可能である。九州出身の選手以外はとらないクラブを作ろう。そうなればすごいことで、ファンも辛抱して支えてくれるだろう。
昇格するのにさらに3年かかるかもしれないが、国際的に有名なクラブに成り得る。うまくいけば、市全体のアイデンティティにもなるし、そうなればスポンサーがつき、サポーターも増え、J1で戦えるようになるだろう。九州出身の遠藤、大久保、清武、大迫のような選手がいるチームを想像してみて欲しい。今挙げたような選手を獲得できて、一つのチームとして戦うことができれば、アジア一のチームになるだろう。

4) Sister Club. 姉妹クラブ

これもまた型破りなアイデアではあるが…
ベンゲル(アーセナルの監督)は、日本は良いマーケット(フランスよりも)だが、ビザを取得するのが難しいと発言している。姉妹クラブとして欧州のトップクラブとのつながりを作れば、欧州クラブに移籍できそうな若手の選手で、かつビザ取得には代表戦の経験数が足らない選手の橋渡しの役割を担える。日本は技術力の高いリーグとしても知られており、欧州からの選手にとって仕上げとしての良い訓練所になるかもしれない。特に、フィジカルは強いが、技術力に欠けているイングランドの選手にとっては。
この姉妹クラブプログラムは実現可能だろうか?日本の選手は代表チームの召集がかかるまでは日本でプレイし、その後姉妹の欧州クラブに移籍する。欧州の若手の選手たちの技術向上を目的に、姉妹の日本のクラブに移籍し、8000人のサポーターの前でプレイする。

5) New Stadium.新しいスタジアム

レベルファイブスタジアムはすぐれたスタジアムである。もし陸上トラックがあるスタジアムがホームスタジアムだったら、私は毎週観に行くことはしないだろう。レベスタはまだ改善の余地があると思う。今後10年以内に、日本はラグビーのワールドカップを主催し、2020年にはオリンピックを主催する。福岡は絶対にそれに乗らないといけない。
これらのイベントからの資金で、スタジアムが作られる可能性はあり、国際空港から歩いて10分の、先50年は使用しうるスタジアムという遺産が残る可能性はある。
今のレベスタの状態ではどちらのイベントにも使用できる状態にはない。私はレベスタであるラグビーの国際試合を観戦したが、1番前に並んでおり、UAE相手の試合であるのにも関わらず、1杯のビールが出てくるのに15分もかかった。
3週間後にポール・マッカートニーのライブがヤフードームである。これこそアビスパが目を向けるべきものであろう。(つまり良いスタジアムがあれば、こういったイベントも可能になる)

Posted October 24, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

The blueprint.   5 comments

We are in a mess.

The size of the mess we are in has meant that we have become a news story across all of Japan, and are even attracting some international interest.

From this mess comes a phrase popular in England: ‘Triumph comes from the shadow of adversity’.

Rather than looking at out current situation as one of despair let’s look at it as one from which we can rebuild the club as it should have been in the first place.
We have a city, a fan-base, and a manager who can rebuild this club into something which would never be possible if we went through 20 years of mediocrity.

Here are my top 5 points to make Avispa Fukuoka a great club which the whole city can be proud of:

1) Back the current manager.
This season has been a disaster. Last season was too, and the season before that.
If we step back and try to assess what have been the good points what are they?

There are none from last year or the year before.

This year we have seen a style of play be brought into the club which given time all players, at all age ranges of the club will understand.
We have seen a connection with the fan-base and encouragement to get through this obstacle together, fighting as a single unit.
There are now two 19 year old players in the first team; 1 who is in the Japan U-19 team, 1 who is our best player. Both players will only get better, both would not have got more than 5 substitute appearances if we didn’t have a brave, manager willing to take risks.

I have come across few managers who have had a disappointing season but are still absolutely loved by the fans. While ‘only’ being in J2 Pusnik has achieved something which managers in top leagues across Europe haven’t.

2) Look to youth.
Clubs all across the world are in financial trouble.

Every football fan in Japan has heard of Manchester United, but even they have a policy of only signing players who are under 24 and have a chance of learning the system and getting better.
The only players who they would sign above that age are players who will improve the team immediately and help with the progress of the younger players around them.

In contrast to this Avispa has a policy of signing at least 2 players each season who are over 32, are on huge salaries, and usually end up playing less than 10 games a season.

Look back through our recent history: Makoto Tanaka, Norihisa Shimizu, Masahiro Koga, all of these players have come to Fukuoka to get one last pay day before they retire.
You could get the absolute best young players in the country for 20% of what Makoto Tanaka earned in 1 season.

3) Kyushu Pride.
This idea is a bit unorthodox.
Unless we get a huge sponsor we are never going to be a top J1 club. What we can be is a club which are happy to fight against the top clubs and celebrate sometimes beating them with a different set of rules.
This is what is happening in a club like Athletic Bilbao, or has previously happened at Glasgow Celtic. They fight with passionate support, but know that they won’t beat Barcelona and Real Madrid, they do not have the money for that. What they do have is that they do not select any players who are not born within distance of the club.

Avispa can do this. Let’s set up a club which only takes players from Kyushu! It would be amazing, and the fans would be patient enough to support it.
It might take us 3 more years to get promotion, but it would make the club famous internationally. If done properly it would also make an identity for the entire city and maybe even get us the sponosrs, support and fan-base to compete in J1.

Imagine a team with Kyushu alumni like Endo, Okubo, Kiyotake, Osako… if you could get those players and keep them as a fighting unit it would be the best team in SE Asia.

4) Sister Club.
This is another ‘outside the box’ idea.

Wenger has recently siad that Japan is the place to go shopping (rather than France), but it is too difficult to get visas.
If you could make a link to a top European club and have young players who might move to Europe but need more National caps before they get a work visa it can help both clubs.

Japan is also known as a very technical league which might be a very good finishing school for players from Europe, especially those from England who are seen as physically strong but lacking in technique.
Could it be possible to make a sister club program where top Japanese players could go to Europe after being in Japan long enough to get National team call-up, and young European players could come across to get technical training while also playing matches in front of 8000 fans?

5) New Stadium.
Level-5 is a great stadium. I would not go to watch the football if we had to play every week in a stadium which had an athletics track, but it could still be better.
Within the next 10 years Japan will host the Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic games. Fukuoka absolutely has to be part of that.

There is the chance to make a stadium which will be paid for by those events, and then leave a legacy of a stadium 10 minutes walk from an international airport which can be used for the next 50 years.

As nice as Level-5 is now it cannot be used or either of those events. I went to a rugby international and it took 15 minutes to get a beer. That was against UAE and I was at the front of the queue.
In 3 weeks Paul McCartney will be playing at the Yahoo dome. That is what Avispa should be looking at and aspiring to.

Posted October 23, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Gainare Tottori (ratings / manager’s comment)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama – 6 Didn’t have much chance for the goal, but also didn’t really make any saves. A couple of good catches for crosses, was trying to organise the defence, and had much better distribution.

Tsutsumi – 7 Wasn’t comfortable at left-back but did much better when moved into the middle after we went down to 10 men. It was his direct pass forward to Ishizu which led to our goal.

Oh – 6 Asked to play as a make-shift centre-back in a 3 after half-time and didn’t let anyone down. Was always an option on the right wing in attack, but only put in one cross of any note which was floated to the back post and not picked out.

Koga – 2 Is that his last ever game. So slow and out of position when he was on the pitch, provided the assist for the Gainare goal when he teed the ball up rather than smashing it, and then just walked off the pitch to be sick with no warning to the manager.

Park – 7 I though ghe did OK today, the pick of our defenders. Gets to the ball with his head when it is in front of him and made some bursts forwards when we were down to 10. Gets turned way too easily.

Nakahara – 7 Held the ball and passed out well for all but one occasion. Could have scored the first goal with a shot from distance and kept running until the end.

Funayama – 5 Tried his best, but that doesn’t really seem to be good enough any more. Doesn’t seem to get along with the referees very much.

Kanakubo – 5 Alternated between being quite effective with the ball at his feet to giving up possession in terrible places time after time. Only seems to play when the ball is in front of him rather than track back to try and regain possession.

Ishizu – 7 Fairly similar to Kanakubo in almost every way. Sometimes dribbles in totally the wrong part of the pitch for absolutely no reason and gives away possession, but sometimes then comes up with a moment to change the game like his goal. Just lacks intelligence on the pitch which a couple more 35 game seasons may give him.

Mishima – 8 Man of the match for me. Kept running all the game, Played on both wings and as full-back. Ishizu and Kanakubo should watch him play; he dribbles at times when it really hurts the opposition even if he isn’t quite at their technical level yet. Who would have thought at the start of the season he’d be our best player by the end of it?

Punosevac – 3 Has never looked as good as he did in his first substitute appearance. Has some good link-up play, but doesn’t really use his height advantage effectively. Maybe harshly sent off, but he had seen the referee was awful and should have been doing everything to avoid giving him a chance to send off the gaijin after he picked up his first yellow.

Omata – 7 If Omata’s knee wasn’t made of glass we would have a real player. He came on, put in crosses, defended well in the box; unfortunately he can’t stay fit.

Nishida – 7 I thought he did ok. Not spectacular but he came on needing to do the running of 2 players and did. Tracks back even if he is terrible at tackling and even then causes problems for the other team.

Ushinohama – 7 This kid can play when he gets into a game. So many of our players seem to crumble when they come off the training ground and into a match situation; Taku raises his game and makes things happen.

I will try to translate Pusnik’s comments from after the match. There is a big danger in translating something from Japanese back into English after it was originally in English as the person who first said it can see it has been translated incorrectly.
Apologies to Mr. Pusnik if this is not what you said! Let me know any mistakes and I’ll correct it!

The 1st half was bad, but we fought back in the 2nd. I feel that we have grown in the last year. I wanted to go out and fight to get an equalizer even though we only had 10 men. I want to say a big thank-you to the players.
The 3 substitutes who came on did very well. I am very grateful for the support from the fans. We are in a difficult situation but they are continuing to support us very well. We are playing our football now for the supporters. I’m always very grateful to them.
It will be good if we can go towards a new, better situation from this painful one. It isn’t important how many times we fall, but that we get back up each and every time.
I want eveyone to work together to make sure Avispa continues to fight in the J-League.

(Original Japanese)
前半は悪かったが後半は戦った。去年に比べると成長できていると感じている。一人少ない状況のなかで戦い、得点を狙っていくことができた。私は「ありがとう」と伝えたい。交代の3人は良く貢献してくれた。そして感謝の気持ちをサポーターの伝えたい。この難しい状況のなかでずっと応援をしてくれました。我々はサポーターやファンの方々のためにサッカーををやっています。いつも感謝の気持ちでいっぱいです。この苦しい状況から新しい状況へいけるといい。何回落ちるかではなく、何回ステップアップできるかが大事。これからもアビスパ福岡がJリーグで戦っていけるよう、皆の力を合わせて乗り越えていきたい。

Posted October 21, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Gainare Tottori (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 1 Gainare Tottori

If you look at supporting a football club as a method of entertainment I can’t really fault Avispa; the things which have happened on and off the pitch in just the few years I have been supporting the club means that while the dedicated fans could wish we’d won a few more matches they couldn’t say they’ve been bored.
Pusnik must be wondering what to make of Japanese football having experienced what he has so far this season. This game alone had messages from the president before the match, messages from the fans and players at the match, a referee who I hope was paid a lot of money (if he gave that performance for free then he has really missed out), goals disallowed, ghost red cards, what looked like a retirement mid-match, a near defeat against a team who hadn’t won since July, and an eventual comeback from 10 men playing 11 for over a half of football.

The game started with a big message from the fans saying that we just care about the football club and don’t want to have to rely on sponsors as they will invariably come and go. It’s an interesting message, and one which within the core support I definitely think is true; Avispa fans aren’t the sort who are hungry for success each year and I think would be happy just to have a team who try their hearts out each week. It isn’t for everyone, but in the correct sort of situation (I’m thinking an Athletic Bilbao type Kyushu only, not obsessed with J1 each season) could be a real opportunity for a development based manager who values patience from the crowd over immediate success.

We looked OK at the start and were passing the ball around with some success. I’m still not convinced by Punosevac as the best option as an exotic foreign import, but he does have some nice link-up play in attack. He looks like someone who has spent much of his career not being 10cm taller than everyone else and while he can now get his head to the ball regularly seems to have better touch and distribution on the floor.
We looked to have taken the lead after about 10 minutes as Nakahara drove at goal and struck a shot which dipped over the keeper onto the underside of the bar. On first impressions I thought it had gone over the line, TV replays suggest that it at least bounced goal-side but may not have had 100% of the ball over the line. If we had scored at that point I think Gainare would have slipped back into their awful slump and given us an easy win.

榎本 一慶

榎本 一慶

As it was they had enough encouragement from the referee who was taking every opportunity to give a foul for Gainare to go on the attack.
I don’t know what to make of the performance by the referee. It is horrible to think that he may have been bought by someone to do as badly as he has, or maybe there is someone with a huge dislike of Gifu at the J-League. Certainly the only refereeing performance which ‘helped’ us was the penalty and red card against Gifu, and now we have had what may have been an even worse performance than the joke against Kumamoto. That guy just totally lost control, this one (榎本 一慶) just seemed to be doing whatever he could to get the win for Gainare.

His coup de grace came in the last minute of the first half when he gave Punosevac a second yellow card. I couldn’t see what it was for at the match, so watched the whole replay at home too. It seems he may have committed the offence of being a foreigner standing near a Japanese defender (much like the Brazilian guy for Ventforet a couple of weeks ago). The referee was suggesting he had elbowed the #28 at the corner, but that may have happened only in his mind.

By that point Avispa had already conceded a goal as a quick counter up field after Tsutsumi had been pushed off the ball saw a cross come in from the left for Koga to set up Genki Nagasato with a smart assist. It still needed a lot of work, but Genki must love playing at Level-5 and smashed a volley into the far corner.
It wasn’t the only poor piece of play from Koga, and then after 40 minutes he suddenly went off. I still don’t really know what happened. It looked like he may have hurt his leg, or he may have hurt his back, but looked more like he had just had enough. I’m sure there will be an explanation at some point, but at the time it just looked like he had an on-pitch epiphany that he just couldn’t do it any more and left the pitch to go and be sick.

So we started the second half with 10 men, having also had our Captain go off in unknown circumstances, losing against a team who hadn’t won since July and have conceded well over 100 goals in 2 seasons of football without making any real chances.
It looked like things weren’t going to go well, but then after switching to 3 at the back the players seemed to wake up and think that without the expectation of a win they could just go out and try to win.

We had much more luck down the right as Mishima was our stand out player, and Kanakubo started to run a bit. He was still giving the ball away more times than he was doing something positive, but at least he was doing something.
Ushinohama came on and looked like he wanted to win, Nishida came on and ran around a bit. Crosses were going into the box which with a striker on the pitch would have been converted but the 10 men of Avispa were still finding ways of filling the spaces.

An equaliser did come in the end, and it explained why Tottori are bottom of the table. Ishizu hit a hopeful shot from distane which took a bit of a scuff off a blocking defender and rolled agonisingly slowly past the Tottori keeper.

Both teams had chances to take the win. Most notably when Nakahara blocked on the line after a Tottori player found himself with too much time in the box to think about where he was going to score and shot straight at the midfielder on the line.

Pusnik can come out of the game really happy with 4-5 players, and totally fed up with the rest. The important thing going into the close season is will he be able to do anything about keeping the good players and replacing the bad?

Posted October 20, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Gainare Tottori (preview)   Leave a comment

It has been a big week for Avispa with the news that the club has been crippled by financial mismanagement in recent years finally breaking to the press. It would seem that it is impossible for Otsuka to remain at the club after his official statement, and there is a general feeling around the club of not knowing exactly what will happen next.

The players have the opportunity to show that regardless of what mess is being made off the pitch there are reasons to be optimistic about next season, and that they are still capable of doing the job asked of them even if the office staff have brought the club to it’s knees.
They should be able to take to the pitch knowing that a lot of the pressure is now off; our current plight is now not seen as their fault so much and the supporters just want to be entertained.

We welcome a team in a very different situation as bottom-placed Gainare come to visit. They are a club with a huge amount of pressure on the players as they have the remaining games of the season to try and get off bottom spot and avoid relegation to the JFL. The players will definitely be playing as hard as they can, and with the pressure of playing for their professional futures in some cases, so it will be a case of how they deal with that pressure.

will a (hopefully) relaxed team playing mostly for pride be able to beat a weaker team who are playing for their lives?

Avispa News.
There will be quite a lot of changes this week as our attack is going to look quite different with Sakata and Kanemori out suspended and Jogo missing with his broken foot. It means Punosevac is likely to start as our main striker, but who plays with him is less obvious.
Nishida might seem the most obvious, but I think those 2 players would try to fill the same space in the team which may work as some sort of 442 formation but is not something we have done all season (and would be something of a step back from out midfield 3 variants we have done this season).

Ishizu is obvious as one of the wing players, but filling the other side is not as clear. Personally I’d set up a crossing drill in practice and put whoever the best player at crossing a ball directly onto Puni’s head from the right wing into that position. The obvious choices are Mishima and Ushinohama, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Oh or Tsutsumi was putting in better crosses and I think that would really hurt Tottori and might be an interesting experiment.

Kanakubo will probably come back in as a slightly more advanced midfielder looking a bit more like a 4231, and trying to close the gap behind the high press of the front 3.
Nakahara + 1 will play behind him. Okada or Funeyama, the fact that it isn’t important which one probably says a lot about our season and their performances.

Back 4 could stay the same as last match when they faced a lot of pressure and kept a clean sheet against Kitakyushu.

Tottori news.
Tottori’s line-up has one main focus for Avispa fans, Genki Nagasato. This is a guy who should be being shown to players like Ishizu who might think that after a half decent season he could ‘move onto better things’. Genki was incredible for us in 2010, scoring the goals which got us promotion and generally being loved by the fans after being brought from the Verdy substitute’s bench.
Rather than stay with us he left under a cloud and had a year and a half as a substitute at Kofu before being loaned to FC Tokyo and then transferred to bottom club Gainare.
You’d have to ask him if he still thinks it was a good decision to leave Avispa, he certainly looked happy enough about it when scoring against us for Kofu, but now finds himself on the edge of relegation to the JFL.

If I was an advisor to the young players at Avispa I would certainly be telling them that it is more important to get 2-3 years of game time and really establish yourself on the pitch than to make a switch too early and end up getting little bits of games at one of the clubs hovering around the J1/2 boundary.

While Nagasato is likely to get a bad reception there will be a good one for defender Nagira who always did his best before being released in that same season that Genki left.

My Prediction:

Avispa 3 : 0 Gainare

I think that if the players can relax we could get a decent result here in a stadium which is going to have a quite strange atmosphere after the news which has come out this week.
It will depend a lot on whether crosses can be landed onto Puni’s head.

Posted October 19, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

Financial crisis   1 comment

So the story has finally broken to the newspapers; Otsuka himself has come out and admitted that there is a big shortfall in money coming in to money going out, and the club need to find 50 million yen from somewhere before the season’s end to satisfy the J-League’s requirement of being in the black.
They have a rule that if you are running at a loss for 3 seasons you are in danger of losing your J-League licence.

The main reason for this short-fall in revenue seems to be attributed to a lack of sponsorship coming in. This cannot come as any surprise to anyone who has followed the club in recent years. In 2012 we had no shirt sponsor, even now we have only Nishitetsu as a shirt front and Fukuya as a sleeve sponsor. The number of advertising hoardings around the ground is pitiful. Seeing other clubs on TV with electronic advertising boards, we can’t even fill 1 side of the ground with sponsors. News today suggested that the ground may not be called Level-5 for much longer.

While admitting the problem is a step in the right direction it also needs to be accepted that it is the current presidency of the club which has seen us fall from the revenue of J1 to struggling to stay afloat in 3 years.
What needs to happen now is for the current hierachy of the club to step away and allow someone else to come in and run the club properly. They are currently asking for donations of 5000yen to help stabilise the club, but keeping in charge the same people who have burned money for the last 3 years to just do the same again.
I would happily give 5000 yen to a new ownership who I could see moving the club in the right direction, I’d happily give 50000 yen in that situation, but to give money to the same people who have put us in this problem? No thank you.

The biggest issue surrounding the club is that I don’t think it is just me who thinks like this. I live in the city and hear a few rumors from a few business people and they repeatedly say they want to be involved in the club but will have absolutely nothing to do with the people who currently run it.

The club will find the cash to stay running, I have no doubt about that, but what is actually needed for the future of the club in 5/10/15 years times is to remove the current presidency wholescale and to bring in someone the city can get behind and get the club rocking again.

Posted October 16, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Opinion