Archive for April 2014

vs. Giravanz Kitakyushu (youtube)   Leave a comment

Obviously the Tv doesn’t show any of the decisions by the referee.

None of the penalty decisions.

None of the off-side decisions.

Definitely not the ‘foul’ which led to the free-kick for the goal.

The company which I pay money each month to for my football package doesn’t want to ’embarrass’ the the referee.
Maybe it wouldn’t embarrass him; maybe it is me who has got it wrong. Why don’t Japanese TV companies ever show replays to let people make their own minds up?

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Posted April 30, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. Giravanz Kitakyushu (report)   2 comments

Avispa Fukuoka 0 : 1 Giravanz Kitakyushu

How 1 match can change everything. After Thespa and sitting 5th in the table there was a wave of optimism going round the club. In 1 half of football the mood must now be quite desperate another yet another poor performance to record our first ever home defeat in the Fukuoka derby.

It’s a loss which leaves us in 10th place in the table. Not a disaster, but it needs the team to bounce back against Oita at the weekend to put us back on the edge of the play-offs.

So how can the team do that, and what went wrong in this match?

1) The referee

I left this match wondering why on my only day off I had spent it watching something which wasn’t close to football.

The saddest thing being it wasn’t the worst refereeing disply I have seen, but just a generally accepted awful level seen in Japan.

I don’t need to see good football, if I did I would have stayed watching English football and never set foot in a 2nd division Japanese football stadium, but what I can’t sit and watch is something where I don’t even understand the rules of the game. The referee in this game was making up his own rules.

The first half wasn’t too bad, although there was a goal ruled out for off-side by Giravanz which looked OK to me, a counter attack allowed by Giravanz where there were 3 players at least 5m off-side, and a couple of dodgy penalty decisions.
The first was probably not a penalty as Ishizu went down dramatically at the byline, and unless he was pulled down from behind I didn’t see much wrong with it. The second right on the edge of half-time (again on Ishizu) looked a certain penalty. I think the referee bottled it because it was literally the last kick of the half.

Unfortunately worse was to come in the 2nd half. The Giravanz players seemed to be trying to get Sakata sent off, and the referee was falling for it. Avispa players were getting fouled but having fould go against them, and most damaging of all the foreign players for Avispa (Lee and Punosevac) were having fouls given against them for being tall, and having Kitakyushu players allowed to elbow them in the head unpunished.

The Giravanz goal came after Lee went shoulder to shoulder with a Giravanz attacker, won the ball, but had a foul given against him for being strong and tall.
Giravanz hit the free-kick into the wall, but the rebound was hit through a crowded penalty area and inside the right post.

2) Ishizu and Hirai showed why they can’t really be guaranteed starters.

I’ve seen lots of commentary saying that Ishizu and Hirai should be starting, and why is Puni in the team ahead of them.
They showed why the manager has been correct today.
We started the game with a 4231 formation, similar to what I had suggested in my preview, but with Hirai on the right not Jogo.
I’d said I liked Jogo there because of the help he gives Mishima. In this game neither full-back was getting any cover in front of them at all and finding themselves up against 2 attackers time after time.

We were playing a system which allowed the front 3 attackers to rotate around. I understand the idea behind it, it allows players to break lines and lose trackers in attack.
Unfortunately it wasn’t causing a lot of damage to the Kitakyushu attack, and then in defence there was no obvious responsibility about who should be going back to help out.
Neither player is great at helping in defence, but their job was made harder by being able to shirk responsibility by thinking it ‘wasn’t their side’.
If we play the 2 together in the future like this I think we need to sacrifice the fluid front movement to say to someone they must help out in defence on a certain side.

3) Who has Jinno brought to the club?
Being English I don’t really ever believe in a Director of Football position, and the last 3 seasons at Avispa have only made me dislike it even more.

ANyone can look at the Avispa team and say we are missing people in the middle of the pitch. You could ask why Pusnik has played Jogo, or Sakata, or Takeda/Park/Morimura or anyone else as the central midfielders at the club, but obviously he doesn’t want to. Who else is there who could play in that position.

I can think of almost no formation in football which doesn’t require midfielders, but somehow Jinno has gone into the season with no midfielders at the club apart from Nakahara.
It isn’t even a new problem; we haven’t had a midfielder of any quality since Nakamachi was at the club.

If you look back at who he has brought to the club…
2012
– Kihara : Injured for a year, now playing in Cambodia.
– Nishida : Can’t get in the Ehime team.
– Osmar : Eating burgers in Brazil.
– Oh : Not good enough.
– Omata : Never totally fit.
– Sakata : Good player.
– Tsutsumi : Had his career saved by Pusnik, garbage before that.
– Samir : Where does he find these players?
– Okada : Garbage.
– Koga : Basically given a retirement present. On huge money but can’t play.
2013
– Jang : Pointless.
– Park : Decent enough player.
– Miyamoto : Had to quit the game and work as a kid’s coach.
– Funeyama : The only central midfielder, but can’t find a club after us.
– Kanakubo : Needed his own ball and a mirror for each game.
– Nakahara : I’m still hopeful, but he seems unable to pass forwards at the moment.
– Chris : I don’t know where he plays, I’m not sure if he does.
– Punosevac : Doesn’t seem to be able to score.
2014
– Morimura : Might be ok, but in a position we have players.
– Sakai : Might be ok, but in a position we have players.
– Nozaki : Might be ok, but in a position we have players.
– Hirai : Decent player, but in a position we have players.
– Lee : Good signing.
– Abe : Looks useful.
– Takeda : Works hard, good squad member.
– Shimizu : Midget goal-keeper.

In that list of names there are 3 midfielders; Okada and Funeyama both not good enough, and both no longer at the club. Nakahara has had to play 45 games from being a rookie with little to no help.
He seems only capable of bringing in quick-footed, inside-forwards with half-decent technique.
What exactly is he expecting us to play?

You could give the players he has brought to the club to Jose Mourinho and we would still end up outside the play-offs.

During his time at the club he has also seen the only midfielders we did have (Suzuki Jun and Sueyoshi) leave the club.
I wasn’t their biggest fans, but they could both still pass the ball with some accuracy(and by passing I don’t mean sideways or backwards).
Sadly I also think that Pusnik would have been very good for both those players, but they left before having the chance to be played in a team which gave them more numbers and options around them.

Posted April 29, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Giravanz Kitakyushu (preview)   Leave a comment

With the games coming thick and fast over Golden Week we will play our 2nd game in 4 days as near neighbours Kitakyushu come to Fukuoka.

It is a fixture which has got quite serious in recent seasons. In Giravanz’ debut season they were looked down upon by Avispa, and despite being our closest neighbours (sharing a prefecture) didn’t really feel like a derby.
That all changed a couple of seasons later when we dropped down from J1 and got totally destroyed by them away from home, and then had a volatile match at home where Suzuki Jun probably put in his best performance for the club in midfield (probably the match which got him his later move to Tokyo Verdy as Kitakyushu’s manager went there, how is that going Jun?).

The game is likely to again be scrappy and fought in midfield, the area where we have struggled to get 3 players who have shown they should be playing there every week. At the moment it is Nakahara + 2, but the +2 isn’t because of high competition it’s because somehow we still don’t have any clear midfielders at the club.

Everything changed in the last 5 minutes at Thespa, and I hope the club are positive going into this match knowing that a win at lunch-time today could take us to 3rd in the table (well, 2nd if we win 4-0 and Oita beat Nagasaki 4-0!)

Avispa News.
I’d still favor Kamiyama in goal, but Shimizu didn’t do badly in the last couple of games (but also didn’t do amazingly well. Kamiyama can win a game (he can also lose one however).

The back 4 will stay unchanged, but I hope Mishima and Abe have done a couple of sessions on crossing. Unless Puni is on the pitch they only really need 3 balls. i) Slid to a forward-winger on the corner of the box to cut inside or hit the byline. ii) Whipped in fast towards the near-post/penalty spot, much faster pace than they generally seem to, or iii) hit low into an area 2-4m in front of where the keeper can comfortably reach.
The number of crosses they are trying to hit to the back post and just balloon straight for a goal-kick is crazy.

Midfield is the problem. Generally at home we have played Nakahara as the furthest back midfielder. I think this is a big risk going into a derby match, especially if he has only Jogo and Sakata ahead of him like with Nagasaki.
On the flip side The only real options we have to play behind him are Park and Takeda. With the positive mood from being in 5th it would be good to have the best players on the pitch and even Takeda might say he shouldn’t be in the team ahead of Jogo and Sakata.
The other factor is that it is a game against Morimura’s old club, in a match after he has just scored the winning goal. In pre-season Morimura looked great, full of running and able to link up well. If he can pull it off he is the player we need.

The forward 3. I’d play Ishizu-Sakata-Jogo. Sakata will work and hold the ball up well, he rarely gives up possession. Jogo was very unlucky not to score last weekend, and he actually helps Mishima a lot when he plays in this position
There seems to be a bit of a trust issue with Ishizu and his failure to sometimes track back. I’d say he is consistently our most threatening player, the other players like to have him on the pitch, and with the team trying to build momentum he is invaluable. Even if he is replaced later, the player who comes on plays better having watched what he has done up to that point.

This means Punosevac and Hirai start on the bench. I think both have worked better as impact substitutes. Hirai this season, and Punosevac’s best games are still those from when he first came to the club and looked very exciting coming off the bench late on.

The player who is a little unfortunate in all that is Sakai who did well after coming on last week, and looked like he also had the spirit to carry the team. I’d bring him on first change.

The team I would pick: (front 4 must run, and preferably switch between positions)
……………..Sakata
Ishizu…………………..Jogo
…………..Morimura………..
……..Nakahara……Takeda……
Mishima….Lee….Tsutsumi……Abe
………….Kamiyama…………..

My Prediction:

Avispa 2 : 0 Giravanz

Avispa play much better against the better teams, and when they are up against it and not complacent.
Giravanz are not one of the better teams, but being a derby match I expect the game to be played at a decent tempo and for Avispa to come out on top. The above formation gives them 6 players who can cope in midfield, and I’d have them playing a control-attack game for alternate 10 minute spells.

Posted April 28, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Thespa Kusatsu (youtube)   Leave a comment

How 5 minutes can change a season…

Draw or lose this game then there would be a real sense of disappointment around the club going into the 2 home Kyushu derbies. 2 goals in the last 5 minutes and going into the games in 5th place of the table and the squad must be thinking they can do well in this little burst of games.

0s : Worst possible start. How many times in the last 2 years have we seen balls go left and right across the penalty box with no-one just smashing it into Row Z. Somehow the Thespa players bundle the ball home. None of the defenders or keeper can be too happy.

50s : Work done in training pays off with a very nicely worked free-kick. Too close to get up and down over the wall substitute Morimura passes to unmarked substitute Sakai who takes one touch and hits home.
If he missed he had the chance of a parry by shooting across goal rather than the near post which too many players in Japan try to do.

1m25s : With the players now showing some belief Sakai makes a good run across the box taking out 2 defenders, and another with his well placed cross on the floor. Morimura has taken a chance by getting into the box and finished calmly to win the game.

Posted April 28, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. Thespa Kusatsu (ratings)   Leave a comment

A terrible first half, but the result is all that matters.

All teams will have a poor spell in the course of a season, hopefully we have just had ours and we still managed to pick up 4 points from 3 games during which we played badly.
Hopefully a few hurdles have been climbed, some lessons learned, and the players now have the confidence to go and get 6 points in the derby matches this week.

If we continue on this number of points per game we finish the season on 70 points!

Shimizu : 5.5
Had chances to do better with 2 balls across the box in the first half, but made a couple of good catches in the second half.

Abe : 5
Got caught with a player behind him a couple of times including for the goal, and didn’t offer much going forward. The formation meant he had little in front of him at times.

Mishima : 5
Worked hard trying to get forward but lacked quality on crossing. Has a good foundation, but still lots of work to do.

Tsutsumi : 6.5
Solid for the most part, but the goal should have been cleared as should another chance which came quickly afterwards.

Lee : 7
When the full-backs pushed up second half he was left back with Tsutsumi to deal with the counter attack threat. Mostly showed decent pace in trying to chase Thespa’s Brazilian back.

Park : 5
Poor in his forward passing, he made a few decent tackles in defence. That he can’t reproduce his form against Kyoto is the biggest regret of this season so far.

Nakahara : 6.5
Very good in the second half, terrible in the first. His long passing isn’t great, often being cut out early, but as against Nagasaki when Jogo dropped back to support and he could play a little higher and keep things a little simpler he did well. His high press led to the equalising goal, and he started the move for the 2nd too.

Jogo : 7
Similar to Nakahara. When his role was more easily defined, and he had to play in the second half he did much better. On today’s evidence he should he playing central midfield, but his inconsistency in which position he should play is going to hurt him. Unlucky not to score with a coupe of good shots.

Sakata : 6
Not one of his better performances. Continues to work hard but without support and delivery can’t really do much on his own.

Hirai : 5.5
A couple of nice touches, but didn’t score and doesn’t do much else apart from that.

Punosevac : 4.5
In the team to bully defenders and get onto crosses, he did neither. Most of that isn’t his fault, he wasn’t getting any service, but something isn’t clicking.

Ishizu : 7.5
Turned to face goal, and ran straight at it every time he got the ball. Scared Thespa into stopping trying to attack, and gave confidence to everyone around him. When other players pass 10-12 times sideways and backwards he is the player who won’t take a backward step.

Morimura : 7.5
The player who we need to start playing. Came on and got an assist and a goal. Needs to keep making late runs into the box and try to help out with a high press when he can with a dedicated anchor behind him.

Sakai : 8
Also got an assist and a goal after coming on, but as much as that it was his mental energy which changed the game.
Like Kanamori against Nagasaki he looked psyched for the game and after scoring the first absolutely sure that the team could get the second.

Posted April 26, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Thespa Kusatsu (report)   Leave a comment

Thespa Kusatsu 1 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka
4′ Nagai, 82′ Sakai, 87′ Morimoto

Last season we had a huge monkey on the back of the team as we lost leads, and lost games by conceding goal after goal in the last 10 minutes of games.
For the 3rd time this season we have scored goals to win games in the last 10 minutes and turn ourselves from a team who panics going into the last 10 minutes, to a team which other teams should start to be worried about.

Unfortunately just as that monkey has climbed off the player’s backs another has jumped on in the last 2 3 weeks as the team seems totally incapable of putting together 2 halves of football.
2 weeks ago we lost the first half to Nagasaki 5-0 before winning the second 2-0; last week we didn’t give Sanuki a look at goal as we won the first half 1-0 but then stopping playing totally in the 2nd to go on to draw the game; in today’s game we had what Pusnik described after the game as the worst half of football in the league in the first half, but then looked a totally different team to score twice in the second with he Gunma keeper also having to pull off 2 really good saves to stop further goals.

As I had said in my preview, and Pusnik said in his post match interview the issue is entirely with confidence. The players have talent, and in the halves they have played well in (you could also add the comeback against Jubilo) have shown they should be doing well this season.
Hopefully this win will be the spring-board to go into games and try to play and have fun on the pitch. When they play with a smile on their faces we invariably do better than the worried and exasperated looks they have sometimes. One look at the table should help, with us now comfortably in the play-offs.

What the management at the club need to do now is try to spot triggers for these poor 45 minutes. I fully believe the issue is a mental one with the players, but what can be done to try to prevent the players getting into this state of mind? I don’t believe the players are good enough, or mentally strong enough to get over all their issues, so prevention may be better than a cure.

A common factor of the Nagasaki game and today’s game was the attack being led by Punosevac, who left the field at half-time and then watched a much better performance from the bench.
Now I don’t think that Punosevac is a bad player at all, but watching the players on the pitch I can feel that they don’t fully trust him, and fail to read his hold-up play at times or fail to pass to him in good positions. He has now failed to score in over 20 appearances for the club, and not really had any clear chances since first coming to the club.

I think a lot of the blame for this goes to his team-mates, and there can be few foreigners in Japan who haven’t felt invisible or over-looked at times in their work, but is something deep-rooted and difficult to resolve in the 90 minutes of a football match.
It could also be noted that the other player who has come off with Punosevac in both instances has been Korean, with both players replaced by Japanese nationals. Not a nice thing to think about, but something which does exist. The foreigners which have come to Japan and succeeded have been players who were clearly superior to the Japanese options available; players who are battling for a position are generally going to have a tough time.

The issue is compounded if the players look across to the bench and see Ishizu sitting there not playing. This is a player who was the joint top scorer (with no penalties last season), and has been something of a mood-maker, and popular guy at the club since arriving 3 season ago. Ironically he is one of the players who the foreign players have talked about as being one of the most open and friendliest at the club.
His work-rate without the ball has been questioned, but his performance could hardly be faulted today as he came on, tracked back, ran from a forward position to defence and generally caused problems with his dribbling.

The goal which we equalised with came directly from one of these dribbles as Ishizu skipped across the front of the box and was clearly brought down as he prepared to shoot with his next step.
As with the Jubilo game the team showed they are doing work on the training pitch by scoring a very well worked goal.
The free-kick was too close to get up and down over the wall so was passed to Sakai on the left of the box who hit first time across goal to score.

Avispa had the momentum after that but it wasn’t clear if they would have enough time to find a winning goal.
Again Sakai was at the heart of it when it came as he did a similar dribble to Ishizu; collecting the ball and running direct at the box. Taking 3 defenders with him he slid a ball onto the penalty spot where Morimura had taken a chance and finished well to give 2 players their first goals for the club in the same match.
It couldn’t have happened to a better player as we really need Morimura to boost in confidence and be the player to take the chance to run into the box and meet balls like this.

It gave us a win which looked unlikely in the first half.
We had looked totally out of ideas with our only ‘attacks’ being balls from halfway into the penalty box which were generally totally over-hit and could be collected by the keeper. I guess they were trying to make use of Punosevac’s height, but he didn’t really get a chance to get on the end of anything.
The only other attacks were from crosses delivered by Mishima which were all terrible, totally over-hit. Mishima is a young player and able to develop this area of his game but he needs to be staying behind after training to hit crosses for 30 minutes every day.

The half wasn’t helped by conceding a goal after 4 minutes with a horrible mess in defence.
Thespa only really had 1 tactic. Hit the ball behind our full-backs and know that someone would be running onto it most of the time.
As Abe was upfield the Kusatsu winger crossed across the box, everyone missed it. The ball went back across from the right, was hacked about for a while, and then poked him by an attacker.
It isn’t the first time we have conceded a goal like this which just needed anyone to smash the ball clear, and we very nearly conceded another in exactly the same circumstance after 30 minutes.

We didn’t and went on to win the game, but this 3 week spell needs to be looked back as a period of difficulty which the players got through (and earned 4 points in the 3 ‘bad’ games) and build momentum with some good performances from now.

Posted April 26, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Thespa Kusatsu (preview)   Leave a comment

Avispa had a great start to the season gaining 12 points from the first bunch of fixtures before having a bad day at the office to lose 5-2 to Nagasaki in Level-5 stadium.

This game was something of a freak result against a good Nagasaki team playing with confidence and having everything they try come off. These results happen in football sometimes and in reality it didn’t cost us anything more than losing 1-0 to a deflected shot in the last minute; we still picked up 0 points from the game.

The facing Kamatamare Sanuki, the bottom club in the division, we had a chance to go 3rd in the table if we won (having already faced Jubilo and Kyoto in games this season).
We should have been 2/3-0 up in the first half and be heading to Gunma full of confidence being level with 3rd in J2, a position well above expectations for the season.
Instead the players totally stopped running, I have no idea why but hopefully someone at the club has an explanation for what happened at half-time and can correct it for this week, and we conceded a late equaliser.

That late equaliser means we are now in 10th place, 2 points outside the playoffs (having already played the teams in 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 8th in our 8 games this season) and with a chance of being 3rd if we win the game.

Most people would say this is hugely positive for a club who finished 18th 2 seasons ago, nearly went into bankruptcy last season and started the season hoping to sneak into a play-offs spot.
Instead there seems to be a bit of a wave of negativity around the club at the moment.
I know the 1st half performance against Nagasaki was terrible, and the 2nd half against Sanuki was anaemic, but step away from that 90 minutes and look at the results so far and few could say it has been a bad start to the season.
Everyone could also say ‘What if’s; What if we beat Roasso? What if we didn’t concede against Sanuki?; What if we’d got a goal against Ehime?; but that isn’t how football works.

What the team needs now going into Golden Week with 3 games in a week is to have the confidence of looking at the league table and seeing that they have picked up enough points to be well placed in the table.
The fans need to support what is going on on the pitch and try to help the players stay confident on the pitch.
The manager needs to see that his players have achieved good results, and put us in a good place in the table and barring a couple of poor performances haven’t become bad players and just need to have a boost in confidence to go out and play like they have against some of the top teams in the division.

Avispa News.
The players need confidence above and beyond anything else after the last couple of performances. self-doubt can be a big facet of Japanese football; the egos and arrogance of players in the Premiership are a long jump from the average Japanese footballer, but even those players are starting to use Sports Psychologists to get them into the right frame of mind for games.

The players need a little confidence boost going into the game, and I’d do this by finding out exactly where they want to play, and for the most part try to play those players in that position. It will mean that some players can’t play because of competition for places, but that’s something the players just need to deal with and maybe the next week will change their mind about where they want to play.

Having done this I would put Sakata, Jogo, Nakahara, Tsutsumi and Lee exactly where they want to play, and fill the other positions with players who want to be there and feel that it is their best position.
By doing this I’d hope to have players going onto the pitch confident that they know what they are going to do, and without any nagging self-doubts or excuses for not playing well.

SHould this happen then I think the team would end up looking like this:
……………….Sakata……………
Ishizu…………………………..Jogo
……….Nakahara…….Takeda………….
……………….Park……………….
Abe…….Tsutsumi…….Lee………..Mishima
……………..Kamiyama………………

A couple of points on that:
– Kamiyama returns in goal. He makes blunders, but he can also win games.
– Takeda has to play midfield. I don’t think this is the position he would choose, but is intelligent enough to deal with the change, and we don’t have anyone apart from Nakahara who would choose to play there (apart from Jang or Chris, 1 of which I would put on the bench).
– Hirai is on the bench. He hasn’t done enough to get ahead of Sakata.
– Kanamori is injured.

My Prediction.

Thespa Kusatsu 0 – 3 Avispa Fukuoka

More out of hope than expectation, we haven’t had a high win in a very long time, but if we can forget the first half at Nagasaki and the 2nd half at Sanuki the team can achieve 3-0 and 3rd place in the table with few problems.
The issues now are mental, and the players need a bit of an arm around the shoulder (I would probably say that 99% of Japanese players are in this mould rather than someone wanting a Fabio Capello type beasting).

Posted April 25, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview