Archive for August 2014

vs. Yokohama FC (preview)   Leave a comment

A win today could see Avispa holding a place in the play-offs in September with a run-in of games which as actually fairly favorable for us.

I’d class this game as one which we could win, rather than should win as Yokohama FC are one of the form teams in J2 at the moment. Along with JEF United and Matsumoto Yamaga they have gained the most points in July and August while going on a run of games which has seen them climb to 11th in the table after a poor start to the season.

I have previously said that we will be ok if we draw all our away games and win all our home games, but with 2 away games in a row it would be nice to win one of these to keep up some momentum. Winning against Kitakyushu in a 6-pointer derby would be even better, but a win today would take the pressure of in that match a little.

Yokohama don’t do anything flashy in terms of formation or tactics, but have an experienced bunch of players who know how to pass the ball around and get it into the danger zone.
Avispa will win this game by being aggressive (note to Japanese referees; this means aggressive towards the ball and closing spaces rather than aggressive towards opposition players), not giving Yokohama time to pick out passes, and making them run.

Avispa News.
Lee Kwang Seon is still suspended for picking up so many bookings for being Korean so Avispa’s defence writes itself. Tsutsumi-Koga-Park did well for the most part against Gifu and don’t have a player with the pace and power of Nazarit to worry about this match.

Abe and Mishima will probably stay at wing-backs where Mishima has been playing well recently, and Abe (while still not always being great in his decision making) is statistically Avispa’s most effective crosser of the ball.

Midfield remains our problem. Nakahara played very well against Gifu, and generally seems to do so when paired with Takeda to do some of his running. Abe at left-back frees Takeda to move up the pitch.

We then have a front 3 of Jogo – Kanamori – Sakata. This leaves our midfield in danger of being out-numbered so needs Jogo and Sakata to make sure they tuck in and drop back to act as supplementary midfielders. When one drops back to give an option the other needs to provide movement as a striker and try to stretch the defence alongside Kanamori.

The team I would play…

Yokohama FC News.
Yokohama FC have a big gap at the back as experienced Brazilian defender Douglas is out suspended. This is good news for Avispa as he generally has done well against us as a stopper defender, and sets the tone for the Yokohama back-line when it comes to aggression. With him missing I expect our front line to have a little more time on the ball before having their legs taken out.

They have no real obvious goal threat, with none of their squad getting more than 4 goals for the season, but do have one key creator.
#10 Shinichi Terada is their main play-maker and most of the play goes through him as he acts as the attacking fulcrum in the middle of the pitch. Takeda should be trying to get close to him as he plays between the lines, but also be aware that he looks for free-kicks around the box.

The second player who is likely to be one of our main points to defend is right-wing utility Junki Koike who likes to run with the ball and put crosses into the box. Abe needs to concentrate to make sure he isn’t caught out of position cheaply at a time when Yokohama can break with him still upfield.

Crosses and Set-plays have contributed over 50% of Yokohama’s goal this season.

My Prediction:

Yokohama 0 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka

I’m actually quite confident going into this game. Kanamori owes us a big game before he flies out with the U-21 team, and with Yokohama’s best defender missing we have a real chance to try to put pressure on an unfamiliar defence early.
I think our win-backs match up well to their attack, which is a large part of their game.

Posted August 31, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

SystemSoft Sponsorship.   Leave a comment

Some very welcome news has emerged this week as software developer SystemSoft have put a proposal to the club of 100million yen in exchange for enough shares to make themselves the largest shareholder at the club.

This is excellent news for the club if it all goes through, not least because the money coming in should help us with cash-flow from now, but also because it indicates the club have realised that they need to get additional partners associated with the club.

For a long time now it has been a fairly closed ship with a group of seven companies keeping hold of the club and making approaches from outside companies difficult. This group of ‘Seven Sisters’ would be great, (and works with other clubs who have a clear backer; Gamba/Panasonic, Nagoya/Toyota, Hiroshima/Mazda etc), except that the companies behind Avispa either have problems of their own (Kyuden), interests elsewhere (Coca-Cola West), or don’t really have the interest to spend any money (Fukuoka City Hall).
The only company which has really been of much help from within this group in recent years has been the Fukuya fish egg company.

What it has meant in turn is that the ‘Seven Sisters’ have held enough power and control within the club to make outside investment difficult, but have not provided enough working capital or sufficient infrastructure to take the club forward.

SystemSoft as a company were founded in Fukuoka, but have then moved on to Tokyo. They seem to have a business software side of their company, and a games division. Their games are hexa-grid strategy games, and would probably be classed as a fairly niche product rather than one of the big software houses in Japan.
It is an interesting situation that Avispa now have 2 video games companies sponsoring them as SystemSoft join Level-5 as club sponsors.

The club must now be sure not to waste the money which has been invested. Personally I would like to see any availble funds going into creating a structure in the Kyushu area which means that we will be able to attract all the best young talent from High Schools and University teams, rather than see them all get snatched away by Kansai teams.
This would need bridges to be built with these High Schools and Unversities, but with Pusnik at the club now as a manager who is willing to give youth a chance and has a proven track record in this country (Kanamori and Mishima both being selected to play for the U-21 team) to go along with the reputation for player development he had in Europe it is the best time the club has ever had to try to make these links.

What the club absolutely must not do is bring in 3-4 ‘big name’ players at the end of their career from J1 to come and sponge money out of the club while gradually becoming slower and less valuable.
The club should take notice of what is happening elsewhere in the world where many top clubs in the richest league in the world (the English Premier League) have a club policy that they won’t buy players over the age of 28 as they cannot learn the philosophy of the club, and have no re-sale value.

One thing which does seem a little strange to me is that this deal must have been on the table for a while. This sort of sponsorship deal isn’t done overnight.
1 week ago we allowed one of our most dangerous players, a player who could have come on and scored a winner against Nagasaki, to go on loan to Vissel Kobe. I previously thought that we must have recieved a lot of money to allow something like that while on the edge of the play-offs. With around a million dollars coming into the club in new sponsorship I really hope that club got a huge amount of money to do let Ishizu leave while perched on the edge of the play-offs.

Posted August 29, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. FC Gifu (youtube)   Leave a comment

Great battling performance and an important 3 points at home which puts us up into 7th going into September and just 1 point off the play-offs.

Just the Avispa goal has been uploaded as far as I can find.

The Japanese commentator calls our goal a trick play; I have no idea what he means by that, it is just a well worked short corner from the training ground.
Amazing reflexes from Kanamori to shoot, fall over/get up and shoot again before anyone else can get to the ball.

Posted August 25, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. FC Gifu (report)   4 comments

Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 0 FC Gifu

3′ Kanamori


The three points we gained today will be worth exactly the same as the 3 points we got with an incredible performance against Jubilo 2 weeks ago, but the reality is that we have played better than we did today and lost this season.

What the team did do today was grit their teeth a bit and fight throughout the match, in the process achieving something which might be even more important than the victory against Jubilo; proof to themselves that they can grind out results. We have players who can beat anyone in the division when they are playing well, today they found that they can get 3 points without a stellar performance.

Before the match both myself and We Are Gifu had predicted goals, and those predictions should have been correct. I think a 3-3 draw probably would have been a fairer reflection of the action but strikers from both missed several 1-on-1 chances through a combination of poor finishing and bad decision making (and 2 good saves from Kamiyama).

The game certainly started quickly with Kanamori back in the team and doing what he does best; closing everything down and showing no fear to defenders to get between them and the ball. Pushing his way onto the ball after a defender had let the ball bounce his shot went out for a corner which Avispa scored from.
Another training ground set-piece was hit low and to the near post for Sakata to tee-up Kanamori to hit at goal. His initial shot was blocked, but he somehow managed to get back to his feet, get to the ball first and shoot into the bottom corner before anyone else reacted.

Kanamori is still young, but has enormous potential rewarded by a call-up to the U-21 team which means he’ll miss almost all our games in September. What he really needs to do is study this goal and see what he did to make it happen. Playing aggressive and chasing down balls.
With an amazing start he then drifted out of this game, seemingly believing the hype a little. he has the potential to make it as a fearless, battling forward full of running. If he sits back and hopes others will do his work and get the ball for him to try and score he will remain unfulfilled potential. 

Avispa nearly doubled their lead as Abe went on a good run down the left and pulled a cross back for Sakata. Sakata would be somewhat relieved to see the offside flag go up as he guided his shot onto the post, but it seemed an odd decision from where I was sitting. It looked like Abe had pulled the ball backwards, and that Sakata came from behind a defender in the middle.

Nazarit was being marshalled quite well by Avispa, with Park playing well on his return to centre-back and Koga managing to stay goal-side of the powerful forward. Gifu did have 2 good chances to score though. Firstly through a cross from the left which was missed by Tsutsumi as it went across goal, but was also sliced by the Gifu #30 when he really should have at least got the ball on target.
The second chance came as a ball was played between Koga and Tsutsumi for Nazarit to chase onto. No defenders like to be turned around and run back at goal, but Koga must enjoy it even less than most with the young Colombian coming close to embarrassing him and Tsutsumi by using his strength and pace to run through them both and through on goal. He was left with a lot to do from the corner of the box and snatched his shot off target.

Going into the 2nd half Gifu had taken a prompt from this move to go a lot more direct, sending balls forward for Nazarit in the knowledge he had the physical advantage on our defenders. He was played through the middle himself a couple of times, and was winning balls in the air to flick onto others.
Fortunately for Avispa he seemed to have left his shooting boots at home sending 2 shots off-target, and having his third attempt well saved by a dive to his left by Kamiyama when it was heading into the bottom corner.

Gifu were helped by a change to formation as Henik went back to centre-back where he actually did very well having been a bit off the pace as a midfielder in the first half. There were times he was left as almost the only defender, but was able to clear up quite well.

Avispa chances to kill the game off with the space being left at the back, and I was celebrating a Sakata goal only to turn around and find that actually he had missed and it was a goal kick. Given a ball to run onto behind the defence, and with Jogo alongside him he chipped over Kawaguchi in the Gifu goal, but the ball somehow swerved outside the post when it look a certain goal.
Kawaguchi deserves a special mention from what I saw in this game. As one of the most decorated Japanese goal-keepers, it is mystifying how as a player in his late 30s and with experience at the top levels of the game can be quite so bad at kicking the ball.

Pusnik sent on Sakai and Hirai to try and add some fresh legs against the Gifu defence as it looked like Gifu might be taking the upper hand. Sakai then had one good chance with another ball played over the top but tried to cut back onto his left foot and gave Henik the chance to get across and sweep the ball out for a throw-in.

He made amends somewhat with some good play in the last 5 minutes as he helped to protect the ball in the corner and see the clock run out. Mishima also did very well in the last 10 minutes again. He certainly lacks in bulk, and was quite embarrassingly pushed off the ball after 20 minutes, but can keep running for the full 90 minutes and comes into his own at the end of matches.

The win was secured, and Nakahara picked up the Man of the Match award for a battling performance in the middle where he showed good control of the ball and good distribution. I thought he had competition from Kamiyama and Sakata, and perhaps Mishima for the last 15 minutes, and Park for the first half, but fully deserved to pick up the accolade.

Posted August 24, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. FC Gifu (preview)   Leave a comment

After an away draw last weekend Avispa have to make it count this week at home by getting a win. We7ve shown we can beat anyone in the division when we are playig well, and if we can sneak into 6th place at the end of the season then there won’t be many teams looking forward to playing us.

Today we welcome Gifu to Level-5 Stadium, a team who have consistently been around the bottom places of J2 since entering the League, but have this year had a bigger investment of cash into the players and have some really dangerous players.

I think the match is likely to be won and lost in midfield, not because both clubs have a quality line-up ready to battle there, but because both clubs have quality elsewhere on the pitch but something of a hole in the middle.

Gifu have conceded a lot of goals this season (41; only Toyama and Sanuki have conceded more), but have also scored a lot of goals (41; 4th best in the division) and this tells Avispa how they need to approach the game.

If we sit back and try to defend against their attack then we’re likely to have some troubles as their young Colombian Nazarit can beat our defenders in the air and on the floor, and players like Alex Santos have the delivery to pick him out.
If we try to press the game high up the pitch, with the team moving up to collect the ball as the Gifu defence is pressured then our attackers will have chances to score.

Avispa News.
Lee Kwang Seon is suspended again after picking up a yellow (it turns out by getting a red previously he took 1 match for that, and was still then still on 7 yellows rather than just getting a longer suspension), but this will probably solve one selection issue as Park can drop back into defence alongside Koga and Tsutsumi.

Park dropping back makes another problem as we have no-one to play in midfield with Nakahara. The 2 choices availble would be to move Takeda back their from left-back and recall Abe, or to pull Jogo back into midfield as has happened in home matches before.
Of these 2 options I’d play Takeda in the middle. Jogo has shown with his effort as forward in recent weeks that he wants to play in that position and is going to work if he is selected there.

I liked how we lined up in the last home match against Jubilo with Hirai leading the line and Sakai on the bench, but think it is more likely that Sakai will play.

Team I’d play…

FC Gifu News

Nazarit is the key player for Gifu, and if he is allowed to muscle or pace against Koga then we saw in the U-21 friendly that Koga is going to have to foul him early or get embarrassed.

A better option for Avispa is to try to stop the supply line. If Alex plays then I’d like to see the players try to get under his skin, but he has been injured recently and may not be sending crosses into the box.

Elsewhere in midfield Gifu have had their problems exacerbated by a set on injuries, but may throw new players into the match (like when we played them last season and 3 players made their debuts), but as with last season it is something of an unknown quantity how new players will perform.

For better information check out the Gifu fan-page at …We Are Gifu

My Prediction:

Avispa 3 – 1 FC Gifu

I can’t see us being able to stop Nazarit from scoring, but hope that we have enough in attack to score a few goals of our own.

Posted August 24, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. V-Varen Nagasaki (report/youtube)   3 comments

V-Varen Nagasaki 0 – 0 Avispa Fukuoka

I’d said before the game that I thought a single goal would get the victory here with both teams keeping things quite tight and so it proved.
The goal didn’t come for either team, but I suspect that Avispa are probably happier with the away point than Nagasaki.

I’d said after the Ehime game that away draws are all that we need to be guaranteed a promotion so long as we win our games at home, and to secure the draw in a Kyushu derby (of which we had lost every on prior to this) is a positive result.

Avispa seemed to line-up with a formation which looked more like they wouldn’t lose than they were going to win, with Park playing an anchor role in midfield alongside Nakahara with Jogo and Sakata in front of him as Sakai served as a target man up front.

It was keeping Nagasaki quiet, but they did have a chance to score which should have given them the lead as a ball was played between central defenders to leave an attacker one-on-one with Kamiyama with time to pick his spot.
The stats last season apparently showed that Kamiyama was the best keeper in J2, and I’m sure they show something similar this season as he pulled out another excellent save by making himself big and getting a hand to the shot to his right. It shows how statistics can be misleading because while he does make these excellent saves on a regular basis, nobody is keeping stats on blunders and missed crosses.

In a half of few chances the next big chance fell to Sakata played through on the right of the box with a ball diagonally over the top. After scoring and playing very well against Jubilo I’d hoped he would now start scoring for fun, but his initial shot was well parried by the keeper, and his follow up shot from a tight angle hit the post when he probably would have hoped to do better.

With 30 minutes to play it looked like the game would swing in Avispa’s direction.
I’ve heard it said that leagues are won by the quality of what is sitting on the bench, and Avispa have what should be game winning players available to come on against tired legs with Hirai and Kanamori.

This game was designed for the substitutes to be the heros, but too often in Japan (maybe in football in general) the substitutes don’t see that actually they are the game winning players, and don’t perform quite as they should when they do finally come on.
Tired defenders don’t want to come up against pace, they don’t want strikers hitting the box and tempting fouls, and will quickly ask forwards to drop back and try to help. After a very good start to the season Hirai hasn’t really done this, and Kanamori is still young enough to be very inconsistent with his game.

Another player who has shown inconsistency is Mishima, but in the last game and this he has started to show what he is able to do. Despite working hard all game he really started to try and get forward in the last 20 minutes of this game, even though we had switched to 4 at the back at times, and was able to try and put crosses into the box.
The best chance of the half came from one of these crosses as Takeda hit an air-shot, and Kanamori couldn’t quite reach the ball when placed centrally with a dangerous cross put across goal for them.

The game had lots of positives to it, as long as we keep a clean sheet we always have the forwards who are able to try and make a goal.

Next game is home against Gifu and one which we should be looking to win.

Posted August 21, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Match Reports

vs. V-Varen Nagasaki (preview)   Leave a comment

Despite not winning a game in July the recent run of 3 games undefeated has somehow meant that we could be back in the play-offs if we win on Sunday, even more surprising in that we only won one of those 3 games; our first win since the 28th June.

Having said that we did have a difficult run of games, and are now faced with a set of games between now and the end of the season where apart from JEF away I would really hope the players would think that they should be favorites to win.
We can continue the good work from beating Jubilo last weekend, with the best performance I’ve seen from an Avispa team, by getting our first win of the season against a Kyushu team as we travel to Nagasaki.

Nagasaki have been suffering a little this season after the excitement of their first season when they finished in the top half of the table. They started this season well, but have been found out a little bit in recent months and a drop in confidence around the squad has seen them drop out of the play-offs and down to 15th in the table.
They are a team who have drawn far too many games this season (11 : highest in the division), but have actually lost fewer than Avispa.

Avispa News.
The biggest question for Avispa is who to play in defence. With suspensions to our 2 Korean central defenders we had to bring Koga and Kazuki back into the team against Jubilo which had a recipe for disaster, but actually went really, really well.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the defence to work so well, but now that it has it would be very hard on any of those players to drop down to the bench.
It would seem obvious to keep the team the same then, but prior to the Jubilo game Kwang Seon had been our best defender, and ranked second in the whole division for winning headers so would also probably feel he should come back into the team.
It leaves 5 players and 3 starting places, with the 2 who aren’t playing entitled to feel a little disappointed.

The solution for me would be to move Tsutsumi across to right-back, where I like to see him play as he has good delivery during times he gets forward, and gives us extra solidity in the middle when the left-back goes forward and we can still have a strong 4 at the back. ‘Unfortunately’ Mishima also played very well against Jubilo so probably also feels he should be in the starting XI.
It is a difficult headache for Pusnik, but a nice headache with competition for places which he hasn’t always had.

An area where he doesn’t have that headache is midfield where we are still going to have to play players who didn’t start the season and ask them to try and fill the role.
Fortunately the team should have confidence having played so well against Jubilo and can largely stay the same. The only difference being that Ishizu has now left, but Kanamori should be eager to try and fill the space created by the dpearture of Ishizu.
Takeda has done ok in midfield, but was great at left-back against Jubilo; I’d ask the player where he prefers, there are positives and negatives to both.

Team I would play

This really is squeezing players into positions, and Ithink Tsutsumi probably wouldn’t be so happy, but in reality it would end up more like the German model from the World Cup of actually being 4 centre-backs with Jogo able to push on knowing Tsutsmi is behind him, and Takeda able to help midfield because he knows Seon is behind him.

Nagasaki News
There is some good news for Avispa with midfielder Kurogi suspended for the game after picking up his 4th yellow in the game against Thespa but it is unlikely to change the formation of Nagasaki too much.

They play with 3 at the back, and can leave those 3 defenders on their own for large parts of the game, trusting them to defend and allowing the wing-backs to play in midfield for much of the game.

A key point towards winning the game is for Jogo and Sakata to play on the egd eof the channels and force the Nagasaki players to play a little deeper than they would like. If they are allowed to get forward we will get swamped in midfield in a similar manner to the home game where we conceded 5 goals in the first half.

Nagasaki play in an interesting set of 4 banks with forwards trying to drift between midfield and attack to lose markers and create space. Avispa need to try and maintain their shape, and not allow the players on the wing to fulfil defensive and attacking roles with one player as that will leave other players to control possession in midfield and jump between lines. Noda will be returning to the team after suspension against Thespa and will be looking to pick out late runners into the box if he is given time to cross.

My Prediction:

V-Varen Nagasaki 0 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka

I think it will be a tight game, but coming off the back of the win against Jubilo the team should be willing to attack and I can see Kanamori scoring on his return to the team.
Nagasaki did beat Thespa last week, but it took 2 goals in the last 5 minutes to come from behind and Avispa need to be aware with that performance fresh in the memory they aren’t going to sit down if a goal behind with 3 minutes left to play.

Posted August 15, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

Ishizu goes to Kobe   2 comments

The great win at the weekend was being played to a back-drop of being left-winger Daisuke Ishizu’s last game at the club.

He has been a popular player at the club, coming to us as a Designated Player from Fukuoka University and gradually becoming more and more important as his goals started to win matches and his stats for dribbling started to pick up plaudits.
Off the pitch he seems like a nice guy, who I ave seen give up his time off the training pitch to talk to fans, and as a home-town player had become one of the most popular players at the club.

Despite this he has never been what I would consider a genuine indispensible player for the club, and hasn’t been for any of the 4 managers I have seen him play under. Shinoda and Asano didn’t give him a game at all, Maeda used him mainly from the bench, and while Pusnik has seen him as a much more important player and given him far more chances he hasn’t ever really been guaranteed a place in the starting XI.

There must be a reason for all these managers to not 100% trust him to guarantee a first team spot.
I think a large part of this is that he can try to do too much individually when he has the ball, and needs to think more in terms of which decisions help the team more when he has the ball, and how to help win it back when he doesn’t have the ball.

The extra game time he has received under Pusnik is the only real way to improve these aspects of his game, and the experience he has had in the last season and a half has made him a much better player, but I think he is probably leaving 18 months too early.
As players like Genki Nagasato, Takuya Mastsuura, Jun Kanakubo (all better players than Ishizu in my opinion) have shown it is very difficult to improve your game much when you are sitting on a bench. As games go by you start to get a little rusty and in the case of Nagasato end up in Thailand.
Vissel Kobe are a very rich club and they can afford to leave him on the bench or in the reserves if things don’t work out immediately, and that will be hugely damaging for his long term career.

While I think he may have left a little early I still think that his career model has shown the Avispa hierarchy what they need to be doing to make Avispa Fukuoka work.
They took a young guy from University, hired a manager who is willing to give young players a chance and try to develop their talents, and after 3-4 seasons allow them to move onto clubs at a higher level in the league structure.
I have no idea what sort of deal has gone on between Avispa and Vissel for Ishizu to leave mid-season, I’m assuming to let one of our better players leave while we are on the edge of the play-offs to J1 it must have been a good deal for Avispa, and will hopefully see the money received be re-invested in making sure we get the next batch of top University players and High School players to try and get 5-6 more Ishizus.

The current model of getting over-paid, over-the-hill 33/34/35 year old J1 players who are basically coming to Avispa to retire is broken. The entire contract of Daisuke Ishizu at Avispa over the last 4 seasons is probably less than that which we have paid Makoto Tanaka, Norihisa Shimizu, or Masahiro Koga for just 1 season.

Posted August 13, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. Jubilo Iwata (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

Avispa Fukuoka 3 : 1 Jubilo Iwata

So far this seaon we have beaten Kyoto, JEF and Tochigi as teams competing with us for a play-off place, drawn away at Sapporo and Okayama as 2 more teams aiming for promotion, and drew with Shonan as 1 of only 2 teams who hadn’t lost against them this season.
It shows that when the team are focussed and stick to a plan, working as a team we are a match for anyone in the division and should be getting a play-off place.
No result or performance was as good as we were in this game.

It was definitely the best performance of the season, and thinking back through my 5 years of supporting the club it might be the single best performance I have ever seen from the club.
We didn’t just beat Jubilo (a team which still has J1 quality players, including a National team player Inoha), we took them apart time and time again and limited them in attack to the point that the goal they scored was their only real shot on goal.

It was an evening when everything just came together. There were changes in the team as Jogo moved up to a midfield/forward role alongside Nakahara and Sakata, and Takeda came back into the team at left-back.
The back-3 was an all-Japanese line with Tsutsumi and Kazuki either side of Koga.
All of these changes had a big effect on the game in my opinion.

I really like Jogo at right^back, not because he is a great defender, but because the position forces him to get involved in the game and lets him play with the ball ahead of him. His tackling is good, but he can sometimes go missing from games. In this game he took some of the things he has been forced to do at right-back and added then to his game higher up the pitch. He may not have enjoyed his time at right-back, but it has made him a much better player as a midfield/forward.

Before the game I’d said Takeda had been a surprise in the Fukuoka midfield, but here is returned to his previous role as left-back and was even better. As with Jogo the time he has spent in a new role has developed his game so that he was defending well as a left-back, but also had composure on the ball, could pick a pass, and took opportunities to get forward.

The result of this game depended a lot on how Koga and Kazuki would perform on their return to the team. Both were excellent, and of even more importance Tsutsumi stepped up his game and gave the sort of performance which he was doing at the start of the 2013 season.
Why the big improvement in performance? It is probably a combination of factors. The players do seem to like having Koga in the team, it is like a sort of father figure who helps to calm the nerves a bit. Communication is much better due to all of them being Japanese, and because they know that each player has their own deficiencies so they worked well to try to avoid Koga being caught in a foot race, or to make sure Kazuki was doing the things he does better like heading and blocking (but that is slightly unfair on him, he also played some good balls out from defence).
The results against some of the better teams in the division has shown that this bunch of players can compete with everyone, the mental side of the game is where they can suffer and these small factors all added up.

It also helped that we got a goal very early in the game.

Sakata collected a throw -in from Mishima and with a great first touch muscled past the Jubilo left-back to get to the byline and hit a cross into the box. Our crossing has been a little patchy this season but Sakata has spent enough time in penalty boxes to know where the ball should be going and pulled a low cross into the danger zone where a small deflection off a defender sent it into the path of Jogo who hit it first time and into the goal.

There was then a small incident, probably largely forgotten which Ithink had a huge part in the game. Jubilo’s Brazilian forward chased a ball into the channel and got totally cleaned out by Koga coming across from defence. It was a really hard challenge, and correctly called a foul, but exactly the sort of tackle which I want someone like Koga to be making. By virtue of being Koga he got up and jogged away without being spoken to by the referee; a lesser known player or Korean would have been carded in my opinion, and I could see the Jubilo strikers were playing like they were wondering if they were getting a kick for the rest of the half.

Quickly we had doubled the score and again Sakata was involved in a big way.
Playing as a left-back now comfortable in midfield Takeda stepped up and pressed a lazy touch in midfield from Jubilo, with Ishizu tracking back to help win possession (something Iwish I’d seen him do more during his time at the club) with both players exchanging passes to get the ball to Ishizu on the edge of the box.
A simple ball to Sakata was again collected with an amazing first touch which allowed Sakata to turn and shoot at goal to score.
It was a goal which all Avispa fans know Sakata is capable of, but apart from his first 8 games with us in 2012 he hasn’t really looked confident in front of goal. If he can now go on a run of scoring then we are sure to finish in the play-offs.

Avispa then controlled the game for the rest of the match. Kazuki was doing very well in getting some part of himself in front of the ball and not being caught on the wrong side of forwards, Tsutsumi was concentrating, and Hirai was moving as a striker.
Hirai has been the biggest disappointment of the season for me. I’ve previously said that if he doesn’t score he adds nothing to the team. He didn’t score in this game, but did more for the team than I have seen before as he kept running, using good movement and energy to open up space on the pitch. If he can keep this team ethic he will be a very useful player.

Jubilo didn’t look like they could get anywhere close to the box to try and score, but then with their first meaningful attack they did.
The Brazilian guy broke the off-side trap down the right and put a deep cross to the back of the box which was hit first time across goal to score.
It was a good finish, and showed how well Avispa had been defending up to that point. These players have real quality and if they were allowed chances would score, they just weren’t being allowed to make any chances by a midfield and defence which was keeping shape and working hard.

A nervous buzz went round the stadium, we have been in positions like this before, but the game was finished with a wonder-goal from substitute Kanamori.
As Avispa defended deep and tried to protect their lead the ball came to him alone on a break having been cleared from the edge of the box. He rode a couple of tackles and ran straight at goal past 2 defenders before smashing a screamer in off the underside of the bar.
It was direct running against tired defender and exactly what you want from a 60th minute substitute. Kanamori has the potential to win games, and should look as the role of a substitute as one where he can cause real damage with fresh legs and pace. This was a goal his idol Neymar would be proud of.

All the team needs to do now is try to make sure that they keep working as a team like they did tonight until the end of the season.
They had the emotion of Ishizu’s last game here to drive them forward, but they won’t have that again and need to find a way to work for each other and to a plan in the remaining games.

Posted August 11, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Match Reports

vs. Jubilo Iwata (preview)   Leave a comment

Haven’t written too many previews this season due to being busy, but have a little time now to look at what is going to be another tough game this season as Jubilo Iwata come to Level-5 Stadium.

Jubilo are a team who have spent most of their history in J1, and relegated into J2 last season, in a fairly surprising drop in division.
They don’t have the biggest fan-base in the world, but they do have money behind them, and are probably the highest wage bill in the division this season and will be expecting to go back up to J1.
We meet them as they have dropped in form a little bit and allowed Matsumoto to overtake them into 2nd place, and be eager to get back into winning ways.

Avispa have had a very rocky week, and while scoreless draws with 10-men against Shonan and Ehime aren’t the worst results, we are going into this match with Daisuke Ishizu having left on loan to Vissel Kobe (I’ll write more on this after the match), and both Korean central defenders suspended.

Ishizu will be seen as the bigger loss by the fans, but I think that potentially this will make the team work a little harder, while the loss of our defence (and Kwang Seon in particular) is going to be very hard to deal with.

Avispa News.
I don’t expect Ishizu to play. I am sure that he will probably want to , but it makes sense for everyone if he doesn’t. It helps Avispa move on, and the prospect of Ishizu getting injured before he even reaches Kobe is likely to see him watching from the stands.
This means that Hirai will probably stay in the team, with Sakata moving back up into a forward’s role either side of Sakai. Kanemori was our star man for about a month earlier in the season but as with all young players he can blow hot and cold and might be going through a cold spell at the moment.

The other option could be to move Jogo forward. He has been good at right-back, and has the potential to be very good there, but against Iwata there is the risk of exposing him and damaging his confidence trying his best in a new position. I would like to see Tsutsumi at right-back, I like the extra power it gives us and think is is quite good at getting forward and can deliver a ball, but with the Koreans out suspended it isn’t really an option this game. Mishima is the more likely option.
Basically even with Ishizu gone we have options in attack.

Somewhere we don’t have options is in midfield. Takeda returns from suspension, and should go straight into the team.
At the start of the season it would seem unlikely that Takeda could be one of our key starting members, and in a midfield position (he got relegated to J3 with Gainare at left-back last year), and is a player who I would hope would be trying to stay at the club beyond his loan next season and thanking Pusnik for the stimulus in his career.

Abe is obvious to continue at left-back, and has been doing better as he gains more faith in the back-3 and allows himself to go forward, but is now going to be looking back at a new back-3.

Our biggest concern in this game is the central defence where Koga and Kazuki are going to have to play. It is a huge concern, but it is also a huge opportunity for these players to show they should be in the team each week. A good performance against Iwata will mean they keep their place, something which should be obvious for high earning Koga, but he hasn’t done anything to prove he came to do anything other than retire at Avispa.

…..Predicted team…….

………….Team I’d play…………

Jubilo News.
Jubilo have the big names of the division in ex-National Team players Maeda and Matsui, with Matsui in particular a player I was looking forward to seeing.
Unfortunately for the casual fan both are unlikely to be playing after picking up injury and suspension.

I do think this is likely to help Avispa as Maeda has been a big trouble to us in the 4 times I’ve seen us previously (hard to forget the game when he basically caused Makoto Tanaka to retire), and Matsui can play the sort of midfield through-balls our defence can’t handle, but they do also have some good young players who are going to come in now and try to impress the manager.

My Prediction:

Avispa 2 : 1 Jubilo

I actually think Koga might roll back the years and pull out a big performance, and with Ishizu gone it will mean the rest of the players will work hard and try to fill the ‘idol’ gap now vacated.

Posted August 10, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview