Archive for November 2014
Avispa 1 : 3 Roasso Kumamoto.
This game confirmed us as the worst team in Kyushu again, losing to a fairly poor Kumamoto team by having a squad of players who just didn’t seem to care about entertaining, or at least trying, for the nearly 800 supporters who had turned out after another season where the players seemed to go on holiday from September onwards.
It seems crazy to think that at the end of August we were in 7th place and talked about as being a surprise pick for the play-offs.
Why did we lose? I can’t be bothered to write a full match report. By doing so I would expound more energy than some of the players did over 90 minutes, and they were being paid for it.
Basically the Kumamoto team worked out that if they put a low cross anywhere between the penalty spot and the goal then Kamiyama wouldn’t move off his line or attempt to save the shot which came at him.
A fairly simple tactic, but one which worked 3 times and ended up with 3 goals. Similarly to the Sapporo game, you can’t give away 2-3 goals and expect to finish anywhere other than in the bottom 5-6 teams.
For the second seasno Kamiyama has ended up being statistically the best keeper in J2. That’s because they keep statistics for shots saved; something which Kamiyama is very good at. If they kept stats for crosses which the keeper stayed on his line doing nothing, or kicked the ball straight into touch, or parried the ball straight onto the penalty spot then Kamiyama would rank highest for those league tables too.
I think I have mentioned it before (and I don’t like to do so gain as I don’t have a lot of respect for him) but Harry Redknapp once got rid of Heurelho Gomez because he said he could pull off saves which would win you games, but he’d prefer a keeper who didn’t also cost you 3 times as many games.
We scored a goal from a welltaken galncing header from a set piece. Kanamori deserved his goal, and is already being linked with a move away from the club, but set pieces are the domain of the manager and the training ground. Where would we have been without the hard work put in by Pusnik and his coaches in the last 2 seasons to make us have some threat at set pieces.
And here I’ll come on to the reason why I think we lost this game, and the reason why I think we have struggled with many games since August: Hisashi Jogo.
Our glorious captain. I know that I’ll probably upset people with this post, but he has been absolutely hopeless, embarrassing, since August till now at the point of the season we needed him to step up and push us from 7th to 6th.
After 15 minutes of the game I realised that Jogo hadn’t touched the ball.
I thought that it might provide for entertainment for me in the game if i started counting how many times he touched the ball.
This isn’t having a go at some guy who just isn’t very good. This is a guy who must be in the top 4 paid players at the club (Koga-> Sakata-> Jogo, would be my guess).
Here are my stats…
Total touches in the whole game = 15.
Breakdown of touches = 1 pass, 1 shot, 1 clearing header, 12 bad controls. 0 tackles.
Minutes until first touch in 1st half = 22 minutes.
Minutes until first touch in 2nd half = 17 minutes.
Number of times the “Ultras” chanted his name despite doing nothing = 5
Number of times Ushinohama touched the ball in 30 minutes = 16 (1 more, and much more usefully than “King” Jogo).
This is ridiculous. The supporters (as much as i love their total support) have to take some responsibility for what has happened in the last 4 years.
Our club has stopped playing in August every year for 4 years, and the players are still supported as if they are doing a great job. At some point the fans have to say that enough is enough, and the sort of crap served up by supposed best players at the club won’t be accepted from now on.
I’ previously thought Jogo was a puzzle; I now think he is broken.
Avispa 2 : 2 Consadole Sapporo
As anything meaningful this season is pretty much over for Avispa, we’ll finish somewhere between 17th and 11th and it won’t change anything about the club for which position we end up.
What we can do which is useful is try to find a solution to the problem which has existed at the club since the summer and seen us pick up just a handful of points against teams in the bottom 6 of the table while previously being in 7th spot and primed for a run at the play-offs.
I was very pleased to see the defence lining up in a back-4 in this game. The only performance of any note since Ishizu left the club has been the second half against Kitakyushu where we scored 5 goals after switching away from the 3xx formation.
Immediately we looked to have got an extra man from previous performances as the full-backs (Takeda and Oh) continued to try to push up with Park able to sit deep if an extra man was needed at the back. It is a formation I have hoped for for a long time, and we looked a lot better straight away.
Unfortunately it looked like everything might unwind very quickly as the defence went totally to sleep and gave away a goal inside 3 minutes. The referee awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box after Kanamori had chased a ball (and definitely not fouled, I was 10 metres away from what was called a push).
It may be seen as a frailty caused by changing away from 3 at the back, but the reality was we had everyone back in the box, and the change in defensive shape made no difference as Consadole’s tall #39 was allowed to run unmarked and head simply into goal past a statuesque Kamiyama.
Avispa didn’t drop their heads and went on the attack with a shape which allowed runners from the front line to be hit by passes from Nakahara or Tsutsumi. First Kanamori ran through but took too much time to take his shot allowing the keeper to get close enough to block the shot, and then Sakata hit the post with a diving header from a cross on the right.
It was a mystery hoe we didn’t score when the ball was parried back into the box from a Park shot, but Consadole managed to throw enough men behind the ball on the line to somehow keep it out.
Avispa looked the better team, and got the goal they deserved. Acorner from the right was headed on by a Consadole defender and looked like it might be heading in as an own goal, but was forced home by a jumping Jogo at the back post.
The players went across to the bench to celebrate with Kazuki who’d just become a father.
We looked to keep on the offensive and Sakata was the best player on the pitch; playing with an energy which belied his status as the oldest and most established player on the pitch, as well as one just coming back from injury. If the other Avispa players could play with his commitment we’d be in the play-offs for sure.
Despite having a man less in defence than we have since July the back-4 didn’t really look any more vulnerable, but we were much better going forward and were gifted a goal by a poor clearance which fell straight to Jogo. He clearly looks like a player really low on confidence and didn’t trust himself to take on the goal and run himself, but did manage to slide the ball through to Kanamori who finished well to take the lead.
At this point I looked at the table to see where Sapporo were because we were making things look wuite easy against them and were clearly the better team. They were in 8th place and on the edge of the play-offs, which really showed how things could have been different if the players had shown more commitment since August.
Acontentious moment saw the Sapporo #39 grab Kanamori’s face right by the corner flag. I’m very pleased to support a team where the players don’t react with a huge fuss to incidents like that, but referees are so reactive in Japan maybe they need some convincing. The #39 had been winning everything in the air, he should have at least received a yellow card and applying the laws of the game a red.
Unfortunately we then gifted another goal right before half-time as a scrappy period of play on half-way saw Sapporo cente-back Nara break forward into the right-back position as an extra man. He had so much space, and looked a little like he’d chased down a ball which everyone else had given up on he had so much space. He put in a cross to the box, but coming from a centre-back it was a floated cross which should be easy to deal with.
Inexplicably not a single Avispa centre-back challenged for the ball again against #39, and Kamiyama again just watched the cross come in to be headed inside the post with no challenge.
The Avispa back 2 are quite good at dealing with balls in the air coming at them straight, but seem to have serious problems with crosses. Kamiyama, despite what all the stats seem to show, has a reason why Shinoda, Asano, Maeda and Pusnik have all dropped him at times (for Rokutan, Kamata or Shimizu).
The first half had been entertaining, but the second half went a bit damp.
Both teams had chances, the best falling to Kanamori from an early hit Oh cross, and Consadole nearly sneaking it in the last 10 minutes as a player was set free 1-on-1 with Kamiyama, but a lot of the energy had gone.
For Avispa this was largely because Sakata got taken off, and despite his good play also didn’t really look totally recovered from injury, walking quite gingerly after going on some of his runs tracking back.
Sapporo may have chosen to sit back a little more as half-time results would have shown them that their chances of sneaking into the play-offs were looking slim regardless of whether they could find a goal, but a draw is probably a result which neither team is that happy with.
After the club announced this week that Marijan would be returning to his home country of Slovenia I have been thinking about what direction the club is now moving in.
I know that there are also personal circumstances announced, but I really hope that the club did everything they could to work with those and keep what I believe is one of the best managers in J2 (and possibly J1 too) in the league.
It is impossible to comment on Pusnik’s work here without acknowledging the fact that it is a notoriously difficult place for foreign managers (and particularly non-Brazilian) to succeed.
Clubs, and the league as a whole, know that they need to try to modernise their clubs and bring in good practice from overseas, but then as with so many other areas of Japanese society and business are very closed to new ideas and change, making a fraught juxtaposition between foreign managers who walk into a club and see there are so many things they need to try to change, and a structure of coaches and players who are opposed to doing anything differently to how they have done it for the last 25 years.
You can go back through managers from just the last few years (Verdenijk/Omiya/JEF, Arnold/Sendai, Ghotbi/Shimizu, Badu/Kyoto, and so on and so on, even Avispa have tried it before with Littbarski), all coaches with decent experience who would know exactly how to get a team playing and what they should be doing in training, but all managers who have left clubs after less time than Pusnik.
Any club hiring a manager from overseas needs to know that they can get results that they wouldn’t otherwise achieve with a domestic manager, but it is through the foreign managers doing something differently and getting the most from players in areas which may otherwise be being missed within Japanese set-ups. If they club and players don’t buy into this fully, and oppose any changes brought in then the situation is impossible.
The foreign managers who have held positions for longer have quite often been managers who have played in Japan before becoming managers. I don’t think this is a coincidence, Japan is still a very different country to the rest of the world and the way certain things work is very unfamiliar to a foreigner new to the country.
Speaking from personal experience I know it took me some time to try to understand the ‘Japanese psyche’ in certain situations. By getting rid of these foreign managers so early clubs are going through the hard yards of acclimatization and then losing managers before reaping the rewards they could bring.
Pusnik did much better in this area than possibly any manager I’ve seen here as I have noticed that he does try to speak to his players and interviewers in Japanese at times, and shouts instructions in Japanese (to the enjoyment of the crowd!). His interaction with the supporters has been flawless from the day he came to the club, and every press release about going on parades and shrines he seems to be fully involved in public duties of the club.
When he came to the club I remember them saying that they had a 3 and 5 year plan for the club, and as far as I can see we have made giant steps with training and infrastructure, links to the youth team, sponsorship deals and sale of the club while Pusnik has been at the club; but it still a 5 year plan.
What is the point of stopping after 2 years?
To really assess how I think the manager has done during his time at the club I looked back at what I expected when he first game, and before I’d even seen a training session or press conference by the man.
In this post I said the following should be targets after coming to the club:
1) Bring a new era, with fresh tactics and formation.
When Pusnik came to the club we were as broken as it is possible to be as a club. We’d just finished 18th in the division, with the 2nd worst defence and a group of players who seemed to hate their manager.
We needed someone to come in and give the club a fresh start. Marijan did exactly that. From his first day the Maeda season wasn’t ever mentioned, and the fans gained enthusiasm with a manager who clearly had heart for the job.
Our tactics and formation changed, and after just 1 game we had more identity, and more of a gameplan than we had had in the 2 years previously.
2) Play in a more aggressive European style.
I’d said that a 3rd division English team would beat Avispa, and not because they are any better technically, but because of their style of play.
This is something which Pusnik clearly tried to introduce at the club with a high pressing style and aggression on the pitch.
There were times that it showed it really worked (2nd half against Kitakyushu away for example; 5 second half goals against a team who will finish 4th?!), but I don’t think the players ever really bought into it.
This should be to their shame, but after 10 years of floating round the pitch anonymously while being idolised for sporadic good goals, maybe players like Jogo just couldn’t change.
Jogo would be well advised to read internet message boards at the moment where is being compared to the ‘Unclothed emperor’, rather than the ‘King’.
3) Bring through young players.
Another thing which we saw from the very first game was that he gave 18 year old Kanamori a game to everyone’s surprise. Just look at Kanamori now. For any Japanese manager he would still be on the bench right now, maybe still waiting for his first game.
He also gave games to Mishima, who also made the U21 team. Previous to Pusnik we had players like Yoshihara who couldn’t even make the bench despite being at the club for 3 years and also being called up to Japan teams.
I’ve been to exhibition games where U18 and U16 Avispa players have been given time on the pitch. Mitsunaga has the potential to be better than Kanamori.
This is another area where I think the players have let him down a bit. When substituted in the Yamaga game Kanamori even refused to shake the manager’s hand; this is a player who wouldn’t even be on the bench let alone starting a game if Pusnik hadn’t come to the club.
So the 3 things which I said that I hoped Pusnik would do at the club, he has done all 3. I guess that is why I am very disappointed that he is leaving the club.
Montedio Yamagata 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
After the events off the pitch this week which have seen the club take a huge step backwards in my opinion, I was actually quite apathetic towards this match.
In fact it was only the day after the match that I realised we had played. A large part of this was that I have been very busy with work and lost track of what day it was, but also because for yet another season the players seem to have stopped playing from September onwards and looked far more interested in finding someone to blame for not getting promotion, and making sure that they don’t get injured for when it comes to finding a new club in December.
The game was quite stale. Yamagata really needed the win as they look to sneak into the play-offs, but were caught in a tricky situation as all clubs in the division now know that the best way to beat Avispa is to absorb their attacks and catch them on the counter. If Avispa just sat back and didn’t give the ball away carelessly inside their own half then how were Yamagata going to score?
At times we remind me of the Liverpool team from 10 years ago when they played in Europe and the Roma coach said the way to beat Liverpool is to give them the ball and wait for a mistake rather than try to attack yourself and allow yourself to be caught on the counter attack.
Yamagata had the better of the first half, but never really looked like opening the scoring. They had kept Nakashima on the bench, favouring the more direct Diego; obviously no-one had told them that he always scores against us.
Kanamori started on the bench, a perhaps puzzling omission seeing how poorly Hirai, Jogo and Sakai have performed in attack, and with Sakata only just coming back from injury, but the reality is that after getting a surprise chance under Pusnik when only 18 years old he appears to have believed the hype a little and is a worse player now than he was when he broke into the team.
He used to be full of energy and bite, and do what he was asked against any player in any team. In recent games he looks like so many of the others, trying to get a goal for himself, or a piece of skill which will look good in a highlights package, rather than do what is best for the team.
I’m sure that he would point to the fact that when he came on he did one of these incredible pieces of skill to score what could have been the winning goal for Avispa. Receiving the ball outside the box he burst past 4 defenders with an incisive dribble into the box before coming up with a left foot passed finish which if Eden Hazard had done it would be being replayed around the world.
He would be right to point out how good it was as a goal, but he would be wrong not to listen to my criticism that there are plenty of other times when his finishing and decision making need a lot of work and he isn’t the finished article.
Avispa looked fairly comfortable. Able to sit back a little and concentrate on keeping things solid and fight for the ball in midfield without losing defensive shape they were restricting Yamagata to long range shots without the craft in midfield to stretch the defence.
Unfortunately we totally switched off, fairly inexplicably with just 5 minutes left to play as Yamagata scored 2 goals in 3 minutes to win the game.
I don’t really like our 3 man defence at the moment, with Park in midfield a back 2 should be sufficient, but one thing it does mean is that we should never be caught out by balls being played through the middle. In this game our central defence went totally missing twice when all we had to do was keep things narrow and tight for 5 minutes to win the game.
Both goals came from balls played straight through the middle from inside the Yamagata half, and both had a little controversy about them.
The first reached a Yamagata forward who saw his hot parried by Kamiyama, but parried right back into the middle. An incoming Yamagata defender hit the deflected ball first time into the corner to equalise. I have talked about Kamiyama’s parrying before, he can make himself big and make saves, but he does seem to regularly save them to the ‘wrong side’ and send the ball into the middle of the box rather than beyond the post or over the bar.
For this goal he could also be said that he should probably have at least made an effort for the follow up shot but may have been distracted by a defender to his left again (as with Seon’s own goal previously), and also by having a Yamagata player standing on the goal-line behind him in an offside position.
It would have been very harsh to disallow the goal, but it could be argued to be interfering with play by being 1m from the keeper.
Having had success with this simple ball through the middle approach Montedio repeated the trick. There was a bigger chance for the referee to intervene as it appeared the Yamagata striker handballed the ball to bring it down, but popping out to Diego his shot was again parried by Kamiyama into a dangerous position where Nakajima could score what has become a traditional goal for him when playing Avispa.
After a week of rumors across the internet and newspapers it was officially announced by the club that Marijan Pusnik will leave the club at the end of this season and return to Slovenia.
I have been very impressed with Pusnik from very early on during his tenure at the club when he showed a willingness to work hard and try to change things which needed to be changed, and more importantly conducted himself very well and built bridges between the club and the supporters which had been severely damaged by the lack of interaction or communication during the tenure of Maeda.
Despite the obvious language difficulties he has communicated his ideas to the supporters of the club, and become very popular during his two years at the club. I’ve not seen a manager have banners, songs and scarves made for him during his time at the club, and it pays the biggest compliment to his work that the supporters have taken him on board so quickly.
I’ll comment on how I feel his reign has gone in a later post but will now translate of his comments from the press conference given by the club (apologies to Pusnik and the club for errors I make, I don’t have the original statement in English and am translating back from Japanese!)
The press conference started with club director Nomiyama saying thank-you for the work put in during the last 2 seasons…
“We really appreciate the work Pusnik has done for Avispa Fukuoka over the last 2 seasons.
During this time the players have learned to start playing a more pressing form of football. The players have grown a lot in this over the last two seasons.
Marijan really loves the city of Fukuoka and the fans of the club. The supporters here really love their club. With their support the club has grown carrying the name of the city to be the club that it is today.
From now Avispa will try to use the foundation which has been laid by Pusnik, a foundation loved by everyone in the region, and grow into a strong club and build on the work done by Pusnik.
Marijan has reallt developed a sense of professionalism at the club during his 2 years at the club.
Thank-you very much.
Pusnik then talked about his time at the club…
I am very grateful for the chance to work here over the last 2 seasons.
Of course I came here for the football, but at the same time I have been able to experience the culture of this country and meet many wonderful people.
Thanks to that I’ve been able to continue working hard. I’ve also met the great supporters of the club. There are so many people who love Avispa that it has been a fun job for me to do.
Life is inherently up and down, and so is the job of a football manager. The last 2 months here have been some place other than ‘up’, maybe in a place called ‘a little down’.
From this period I felt it necessary to have a discussion with the leaders of the club and decided to resign from here. Firstly, there are personal reasons with a family situation which have meant it is a time which I should return to my home country. I was also worried about recent results here.
I came here with a plan to lead Avispa into J1. This season it has become impossible to make it to J1. Together with the club we have mutually agreed that due to personal issues in my home country, and recent results that I should resign at the end of this season.
I don’t want this to sound like an excuse for the results, because it isn’t meant as an excuse, but since coming to Avispa I have tried to introduce a modern style of football with an aggressive pressing style very quickly at the club. Some players have found this difficult, and some have improved their game very well.
I really hope that the players and staff can use the things they have learned through my coaching in the future.
The club and I have split at this time amicably, with great respect for each other.
I want Avispa to promote to J1 as soon as possible. I’ll do anything I can to help this happen. I consider the time I have spent at Avispa Fukuoka as the most important in my career.
If there is anything I can do in the future, regarding training or my opinions for example, then I’ll always be happy to do that.
It is not the results at the club here which have caused me to leave, but important family matters.
Life here in Fukuoka is just, just wonderful. The results on the pitch were frustrating at times, but I will continue to cheer alongside the supporters of the club. The supporters are the most important thing for any club.
I will not change anything going into these last 3 games, nothing has changed. I will try to get the players to fight for the win, fight for the people who are rooting for us.
Nomiyama then concluded the press conference by saying how much Pusnik is loved by the supporters at the club, and how his resignation was announced before the end of the season to give the supporters a chance to say thank-you and good-bye to him at the last home game against Kumamoto in Level-5 stadium.
Avispa 1 : 2 Matsumoto Yamaga
I wasn’t expecting too much from this game after previous home matches saw us lose to Tokyo Verdy, Mito Hollyhock and Kamatamare Sanuki, and the team didn’t surprise me.
For the 2nd time in 3 seasons a club came to Level-5 Stadium knowing that a win would secure automatic promotion and there can be few more accomodating teams in the division than Avispa in November.
For the 6th time in 7 years the players have basically stopped playing at the end of August and started looking for excuses as to why the season hasn’t ended in promotion. The one season when they did keep on playing we got promotion to J1 in 2010.
How things could have been different here. If the players hadn’t given up when Ishizu was sold (or even better if Ishizu had never been sold) then wins against Verdy, Mito, Sanuki and Thespa would have currently put us on 59 points, 1 point off Oita in 6th. That is just by getting home wins against clubs in the bottom 5 of the division in the last month.
We were never really likely to get anything from this game, but the performance was much better.
Matsumoto play in a style which I have been crying out for Avispa to look towards. They get the ball forward quickly, and look to hurt teams with set-pieces and by taking shots on goal.
An interesting stat before the game showed that Yamaga were in 22nd spot (last) when teams are ranked for number of passes, or time in possesssion of the ball; but have just secured promotion to J1. They have 2 players in the top 3 for shots at goal from midfield, and have an easy game plan which can be adjusted slightly to take into account star opposition players without changing the simple philosophy of the team.
It isn’t the prettiest team to watch, but ask the Yamaga fans from Saturday night if they care. It is like all of Japan has watched the Barcelona (Spain) team for the last decade and now all want to play in this tiki-taka style (even if they have a manager telling them not to), but Matsumoto Yamaga have been watching tapes of Real Madrid (or any Mourinho team from the last decade instead).
Yamaga were looking to get the ball up the field quickly and then use long flat throws into the box to cause problems.
Avispa were holding the bulk of possession (as pre-match stats would suggest) but not able to break down a well orgainsed defence marshalled by the excellent Iida.
I have no idea how Iida didn’t open the scoring from a set piece after about 25 minutes when a header unmarked from the middle of the goal would have been easier to score from rather than flash straight across goal.
Avispa weren’t awful, but found themselves camped on the edge of the final third without the quality to really break down a defence which was sitting deep and staying organised. Sakai is not really a competent attacker and will never score as many as he has this season for the rest of his career. Kanamori had lots of endeavor, but it was often badly judged and ended with him trying to do a little too much or taking the wrong option.
As has happened so often this season we got caught by a counter attack after struggling to break down an attack and sending more players forward.
A long clearance from the Yamaga defence was missed in the air by Koga, and headed on to Funayama. He looked to have been forced too far wide but his shot went under the diving Kamiyama way to easily to basically kill the game and see Yamaga promoted.
I expected Avispa’s heads to totally drop, but they actually did keep fighting a bit and kept looking for an equaliser. Our struggles in attack were highlighted as they were 2 seasons ago with the solution to our attacking problems being to send Lee Kwang Seon forward.
2 seasons ago it was Koga finishing every game as striker, now Seon, similar to having no midfield for 4 seasons I don’t really know how we can see this happen time and again and not try to get a striker who could do this role instead of a centre-back.
Fairly predictably Yamaga scored from another quick counter with players upfield. As the impressive #8 (probably the best player I’ve seen this year) started a quick direct counter his pass to Funayama was half blocked by Nakahara but fell to an onrushing Yamagastriker to finish well from the egde of the box.
Yamaga were promoted, although Avispa did have a chance to get a consoltaion goal as Kanamori rushed onto a pass in the box and collected a fairly soft penalty which was ocnverted by Tsutsumi.