Avispa Fukuoka 2 : 5 V-Varen Nagasaki
Sitting in the stadium at half time having just witnessed the total capitulation of Avispa in the first half of this match was a strange experience.
I’m not sure if I have ever seen a home team losing 5-0 at half-time. I’ve certainly never seen it live before, and not in a local derby between two teams who had looked to be quite evenly matched before the game started.
It certainly wasn’t an experience I’d want to repeat, but there was something so bad about the performance that it suggested that maybe things would have to get better.
Had we been losing 2/3-0 then it could be seen as a bad day at the office, but 5-0 with our defence in total disarray means that things were so bad that definitive lessons about the team could be learned and will hopefully not happen again.
There were a couple of surprises in the starting XI, with the first of these leading to the first lesson of the day.
After the Jubilo game I’d written that unless Mishima picked up an injury Oh Chang Hyon had pretty much guaranteed he wasn’t going to get another game as a starting member but here he was just 2 games later back in the team. I could see the thought behind it; Nagasaki were possibly the fastest team I have seen in the J-League and Oh was the only Avispa player on the pitch who was able to win a foot race against his opposite number.
Against a team set up for counter-attacking it could be argued that a player like Mishima who is in the team more for his ability to get forward than his defensive qualities would get caught out a lot. In fact the only positive thing about Oh’s performance were his breaks forward. Defensively he was repeatedly out of position and leaving huge spaces along the left wing for Noda and Okuno to run into.
The first goal came from a very well worked short corner which ended up being lifted to Okuno at the back of the box. It took a really good volleyed finish to score, but I have absolutely no idea where Oh was, giving the Nagasaki player the time and space to choose exactly how to shape his body and smash the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle. The ball was travelling, but from the angle I’d stil hope the keeper might get something on it.
The second lesson was about the front 6 players on the pitch. Against a team who play a 3xx formation (something we have struggled with before) which with a single straight striker appeared at times to have 6 players in midfield there were times we appeared to be playing with only Nakahara in midfield.
Again the rationale was fairly obvious, against a team with 3 at the back the key strategy should be to force the wing-backs back into a defensive role making the opposition formation more of a 541/523 with the forwards isolated from the defensive unit, with Ishizu, Punosevac, Hirai, Sakata and Jogo giving enough power up front to force the opposition backwards.
Unfortunately (with the exception of Sakata this season) those 5 players don’t really offer any ability to get the ball back from the opposition, instead waiting in attacking positions for the ball to be delivered to them.
This represented quite a big problem because Nakahara was the only player trying to get the ball back in midfield at times, and was easily bypassed by Nagasaki’s quick, energetic passing game. Even in the best of circumstances he is a guy who was training to be a school teacher 18 months ago, and at times still looks like it rather than the snarling pit-bull of a player which we would need in that role.
The game was effectively over after 15 minutes as Nagasaki were able to get the ball around half-way and move attacks into the wide positions where 2-3 players formed triangles around our defence and delivered quick crosses into the box.
The second goal was a ball which should have been dealt with by someone in the box, but was instead fired home right-back Yamaguchi who was somehow standing in the middle of the Avispa box.
A third followed a minute later with some comical goal-keeping of the sort which Kamiyama always looks capable of. A fairly innocuous shot was hit at the near post with Kamiyama diving in slow motion towards the ball and half catching it into the side netting inside the goal.
By this point the Avispa team had totally lost the plot. The defence were regularly passing the ball direct to Nagasaki players to run at goal, and at times when they did manage to get the ball to Nakahara he generally passed it up to Punosevac who either fell over, or passed the ball back to the defence.
Pusnik had seen enough and substituted Oh and Punosevac after about 30 minutes for what I would guess might be their last games for the club.
While they were waiting to go off Nagasaki scored a 4th, and I can’t even remember how I’d pretty much stopped caring by that point.
Kanamori and Mishima were at least playing with something to prove, but with the rest of the team shell-shocked were unable to score a 5th goal before half-time to ensure the team left the pitch to a chorus of boos.
The easy comment would be to say that we shouldn’t be playing games with almost no players who are comfortable in a midfield role (let alone games against a well organised counter-attacking team), but as I’ve said to people at the stadium, and on the internet since who exactly is the manager supposed to play.
Since Nakamachi left the club we haven’t really had anyone to play a midfield role, and the fact that whoever is bringing players to the club is perennially failing to fix the problem is a mystery.
This off-season saw the arrival of 4 attacking forward type players (Morimura, Hirai, Sakai, Nozaki) to compete for places in what was already our best equipped area on the pitch with Ishizu, Jogo, Sakata, Punosevac, Ushinohama, even Mishima all already able to play in that position.
Pusnik has already tried using a central defender (Park), and a right-back (Takeda) in the role, and there isn’t anyone else at the club except 19 year old Jang or clear reserve Chris who could possibly be used in the position, both far worse options than trying to fit Sakata and Jogo there.
The one bright point of the game was that the team kept playing in the second half, with Kanamori in particular looking like a man possessed, and the player we have to now build the team around in the next 5 years.
Full of running he cut into the box and won the team a clear penalty which Sakata scored, and his energy rubbed off on other players with Ishizu stepping up and winning a free-kick outside the box with a trademark dribble which was recycled and headed in by Jogo after an Abe cross from the left.
We had what looked like another clear penelty as Ishizu was brought down in the box, and it felt like an incredible, unlikely comeback might be on.
Sadly just as the feeling in the stadium grew the catalyst for the comeback kanamori had to go off injured with what looked like a broken foot having closed down and tried to block a clearence from the Nagasaki left-back.
With Kanamori off the pitch we continued to work hard, and did enough to give the fans something to cheer, but never looked like scoring.