Sadly for the J-League a lot of the match tomorrow is going to be about 1 man, Kazu Miura; a one-time National Team star who is now as famous for still playing pro football at age 47.
Last time Yokohama came to Level-5 he did play and there was a noticeable segment of the crowd who were there to watch him, and a gasp every time he got the ball. He isn’t a bad player still, but it is quite sad for the league that they have 1 man pulling so much power almost as a side-show rather than what is going on on the pitch.
What was going on on the pitch that day was a thrashing by Yokohama, 5:1 in the middle of the period when we had basically been declared bankrupt and lost about 8 games in a row.
I expect tomorrow’s game to be a little different. We have been inconsistent so far this season, but still only lost once despite having already played Kyoto and Jubilo.
The performances against those teams would be enough to beat Yokohama quite easily, but we have also seen the team lose and draw to Ehime and Kumamoto.
The result of the match is entirely in Avispa’s control. If we turn up and play we win, if we arrive scared or complacent then we will lose or draw.
3 weeks ago the team was set; Park had played a blinder as anchor, Hirai had come off the bench to add a scoring touch, and the defence had been solid against a Kyoto team possession players with some guile.
Since then Park has seemingly totally lost it, the keeper has been changed and every forward has an argument for selection, but also one for why he shouldn’t play.
Keeper – Depends on if Kamiyama is injured. Shimizu came in and did ok despite conceding 3 goals, but is still 2nd choice for me if Kamiyama is fit.
Defence – Oh Chang Hyon guaranteed that Mishima will play right-back unless he is injured/suspended with a bad performance on his chance last week. Centre 2 stay the same (Lee/Tsutsumi) and Abe has done well at left-back.
I think keeping a settled back 4 is important for this group of players.
Anchor – Takeda is a right-back thrown in there, but so was Emmanuel Petit at Arsenal. He did ok, and was getting much better as the game went on, and has the intelligence to play this difficult role.
Midfield – Nakahara is obvious (despite not playing all that well this season), but who to play alongside him. After being a problem for 3 years we still have no midfield.
I’d play Jogo, but tell him we need him to put in an action performance and make the position his. He doesn’t have the pace to play higher up the pitch, and needs to find a role which suits him.
Forwards – This is where it is tough. Each player has positives and negatives.
Sakata : Our most well-rounded forward, can score, and also tracks back.
Punosevac : A physical presence and works hard, hasn’t been scoring or looking like scoring.
Ishizu : Scores goals but doesn’t do enough when he doesn’t have the ball. Won’t pass to Punosevac.
Hirai : Knows how to score, but does almost nothing without the ball.
Kanamori : Pace to spare, scored 2 goals for the Japan team mid-week.
Of the 3 I would take Sakata as 1st choice to play whoever else plays. After that the best 2 on paper is Punosevac + 1, but there seems to be a problem with some players passing to Puni. That is totally their problem, but unfortunately we have a football match to win.
Personally I would give Sakata – Ishizu – Hirai a chance. This is what I think Ishizu and Hirai want, and if given a chance to show that they should be playing together every week it can either make or break them.
Punosevac and Kanamori offer good game changing options from the bench.
Yokohama have had a decent start to the season, winning 2 and drawing 2 to be in 4th spot, but they haven’t played any of the really top teams (Ehime, Toyama, Tochigi, Yamagata).
They have quite notoriously had a very old squad, and haven’t really changed that this season bringing in decent keeper Minami from Kumamoto.
Along with Douglas at centre-back he is one of the reasons I wouldn’t start Punosevac as they are likely to be quite good in the air, and enjoy the ball coming at them.
As with most defenders at this level they will be much less happy with balls making them turn and chase back and we should be trying to get balls played through to one of our forwards with diagonal balls from central positions with either shots or low crosses meeting the return run.
They are not a team who make lots of varied attacking moves, and have scored goals from set pieces to get their wins this season. Tsutsumi and especially Lee are going to need to be doing a better job at defending crosses and getting balls out far enough to an area where the second ball can be recycled.
Avispa 3 : 1 Yokohama FC
I don’t think the league table truly reflects the standing of the teams at the moment and think that at the end of the day we could be above Yokohama. That needs us to win by 2 goals and should be a target for the players rather than switching off like they did against Ehime.