Avispa have their second home game in 2 weeks, in a match which should have been a celebration of a run of games which made us a hot favorite for a play-off spot.
Home games against Mito, Verdy, Sanuki and Gunma should be looked at as an almost guaranteed 12 points. In fact we have lost all 3 of the last home games to record zero points so far.
To put some perspective onto that if we have won those 3 games against clubs in the bottom 5 of the division we would now be in 5th place in the table with 56 points.
It is so frustrating, not in that it has happened this year, but that it has happened every season going back to 2010 for 4 different managers. The team gave up in the relegation season from J1 for Shinoda and Asano, they basically stopped playing entirely for Maeda in July, and now in 2 seasons for Pusnik the club have announced financial problems (and then this year let our biggest goal threat go out on loan) and seemed to forget how to pass the ball from September onwards.
Young players will have this happen, in addition to bursts of form and sporadic lethargy they don’t have the psyche to take on and lift a changing room. What has been totally absent has been any sort of heart from the experienced pros at the club.
In a month when books by Roy Keane have come out commenting on how the dressing room needs to be run (and a similar narrative from Kevin Pietersen’s cricket autobiography) we have a set of players in Kamiyama, Jogo, Koga, and Kazuki who seem to be 7 year olds trapped in adult bodies when it comes to taking responsibility.
A large part of this is probably down to the structure at the club which has allowed the players to take charge and make previous managers like Maeda and Asano untenable. The club needs to take a hard line with the players now and let them know that the responsibility come 1pm on a Sunday when the whistle blows is with them.
The fans also have a large part to play in this. Should the players come out with another heartless, sleep-walk of a performance like the last 3 games they should be booed off the pitch.
So what would I do to reverse this problem?
I’d play a team which has 1 eye on next season, and 1 eye on picking players who are going to go out and fight.
They might lose the game, but at the least the fans could say they gave an honest performance and were at least doing their best.
It is a surprise lineup with some big changes.
On paper it looks 4141, but in reality when we have the ball the full-backs can push on and Park can stay to revert back to the 3 at the back we have played for most of this season.
If we are totally dominating it could even look like a 2 at the back. Under huge pressure (from Gunma!) it could turn to 5xx.
Tsutsumi is out of the team. He can offer a lot to the team (or any team in J2) but can also be a problem. He needs to get his head back to where it was when Pusnik first came to the club and gave him more responsibility. He was a joke for Maeda when he switched off, and he is turning into a joke again now. One of the players who really needs to learn not to simply look to others to blame.
Kazuki is very limited, but has never let the club down for heart; and this season has done well on the pitch whenever given a chance. Koga should be out of the club.
Ushinohama plays. Another limited player, but again one who can be relied upon to turn up when he is on the pitch. Alternatives are Hirai who has done almost nothing to justify the hype when he came to the club, and Sakai who has the first touch of a baby elephant.
Mitsunaga will make mistakes, but has to be given experience and could be the one positive to take from the season.
Morimura and Sakai can’t play again until they stop chewing gum on the pitch.
The most important thing for the players to think is that it isn’t all doom and gloom. We should be in the play-offs, something no-one expected at the start of the season.
Their form has been awful, but if they win every game between now and the end of the season they will get 6th spot.