Archive for December 2014

Tsutsumi and Nakahara   Leave a comment

No big surprise but Tsutsumi and Nakahara have both renewed their contracts for another season.

It suits everyone. Nakahara is a decent youngish midfielder who will continue to get games and get better here. Tsutsumi is an under-achieving central defender who will be given lots of chances to start performing because we don’t have any other options and the fans have seen that he can do it when he is switched on.

Shunsuke Tsutsumi Has all the physical and technical ability to be the best defender in the division, but is unfortunately not very well equipped mentally.
It seems to be an issue of application rather than intelligence, but any time that the club look to him to take the step up for the team he goes missing. In times when we are up against it (like after a red card, or up against a top team) he is able to raise his game and take control, but in other times, when we still need him to perform and improve the performance of those around him then he doesn’t seem able to motivate himself or stay concentrated.
I really hope that he takes this season to become the player he could be, but he will need to have someone playing alongside him in a set defensive pair (or 3) and build communication and resolve.

Shuto Nakahara A bit of a paradox in that he was one of our better players last season, but plays in a position where we really need to get new players.
The problem will then be that I don’t really see where he fits into the team. He isn’t god enough defensively to sit furthest back, he isn’t dynamic enough to go box-to-box, he doesn’t look to pass forward enough to direct the play and his long shooting is appalling.
Of those things I think he could become a much better player if he starts to think that every time he makes a pass he needs to make it forwards. There is no point in him going back to stand next to Tsutsumi to get the ball, just to pass it back to him. It means that he gets good statistics for passing, and pass completion, but it achieves nothing. If he is dropping back to get the ball it needs to be to turn and pass forwards, not simply to hold the ball and pass it again.
He must also work on his shooting. I can’t believe he is actually as bad as he seems in games (genuinely I would do a better job with shots at goal than he does, firing them 25m high and wide) but is probably snatching at shots under pressure and just needs to calm down a bit.

With the players now signed for the season we can start to look at the team a little. I have no idea what formation we are likely to play, but here is how we could look in a fairly straight-forward 433 (I think Ihara will try to stick to what he knows with a flat-back 4, and I don’t believe you can succeed in J2 with 2 in the middle unless you played a very direct game).

………………………xxxxxxxx………………….

Mitsunaga……………………………….Ushinohama

………………………Sakata…………………………..

…………Suzuki……………….Nakahara……………..

Hokuto…….Tsutsumi…..xxxxx……Mishima

……………………Kamiyama…………………………

This team would be ok already in the division, even without the 12 more players who will be announced in the next week.

What it does show is that we really need a high quality central defender and striker.

The formation as I’ve written it places a lot of emphasis on the central striker as all of the attacks will be focused through that 1 player, whether that is crosses from the wings aiming for him or holding the ball up to allow Sakata and the wing players to play off him.
By virtue of that it would need to be someone quite big, and that basically means someone who isn’t Japanese (or Jumbo if we really are obsessed with this route of trying to bring back everyone who has played for the team previously (or Hirayama)).

Posted December 31, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

Hokuto (Official) and Sakata   Leave a comment

After the disappointment of signing Suzuki Jun earlier there was some good news today as the news which I reported last week became official and Hokuto Nakamura was signed back by the club.

As I said last week I think that this is potentially a really big signing for the club. He will probably become the biggest seller of shirts at the club, and I suspect he might immediately be made Captain too.
This will hopefully have a new leader at the club as the young players don’t just look to follow the failed leadership of Jogo, Koga and Kamiyama who have been the mainstays of a lacklustre period of 3 years when pride in the shirt and professionalism in respect to the manager seemed to slip.
I would hope that if a player comes out and says he should be playing in a different position (like Jogo did after the Oita game), or refuses to acknowledge the manager (like Kanamori did during the Yamaga game), or says that the manager is doing nothing in training (like Suzuki Jun did last time he was here) that someone like Hokuto could tell them to ‘be quiet’ in no uncertain terms.

I would really like him to be able to play in a midfield role, sitting back and protecting the defence. It is an area where he can have a bigger impact on the game, and is the position we have needed someone for 5 years.
We already know that Suzuki Jun cannot play this role, and having Hokuto play here each week would also mean that Suzuki Jun is probably on the bench which is another good thing.

My only concern is his fitness. He has struggled with injuries his whole career, but at 29 will hopefully still have some energy left in his legs and be able to play over 30 games this season.

His comments on signing…
“After 7 seasons I am back to the club.
I had 5 seasons at FC Tokyo, 1 at Omiya, and always wanted to play in my style; looking back my time at Fukuoka was when I could play at my best. Taking advantge of my experience, I can’t escape this word experience, I want to show that playing in a dynamic style is my main skill.

Having been here before there is some pressure to come back and perform, but I want to play well and help pull the team forward.

Thank you for your support.”

In addition to Hokuto coming back there was also the announcement that Sakata has signed for another season.

During his time here Sakata has probably been my favorite player, both with his play and his attitude on and off the pitch, but I hope that he is able to stay fit for another season.

I think that he probably needs to be used more sparingly this season as he was picking up more and more little niggles during games. When he first came to the club he could only last 65 minutes in a game, then under Pusnik his fitness improved a lot and he was running all game, but time may be starting to catch up with him now.
Generally I think he should probably start games, and if the game is won (or lost) then be brought off quickly for Ushinohama to try to look after his legs.

The key point of any player is to make sure their legs go for a different team and manager than yours. If he is looked after then he can be a key player for another season (possibly 2), but it needs to be a balancing act between games and training now to make sure he is fit and fresh come game time.

Other news saw Futoshi ikeda have his contract renewed (I’m glad about this, we needed some link to the past and he is the coach who has been most pro-active) and Ken Ishikawa has also got a new contract (he is the goalkeeping coach. I don’t know what good he has done, but I guess the statistics which falsely show Kamiyama is the best keeper in the division also brushes off on him).

Posted December 30, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

Suzuki Jun back.   Leave a comment

After the rumoros that one old boy might be coming back as Hokuto Nakamura was linked yesterday, there was news of 2 more old boys who might be coming back.

Generally I don’t mind old players coming back, and think players like Yusuke Tanaka and Genki Nagasato could be really good for us, but the names linked last night were very underwhelming.

Firstly there was a link to our former left-back Alex http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Ant%C3%B4nio_de_Melo_Santos who was good for us as a left winger in 2007 (he scored a barely believable 26 goals!), and has since moved back to left-back. He is a player who would have been great for us 2 years ago when he signed for Tokushima and helped them get promotion, but he will be 32 at the start of the season and isn’t really a very forward-thinking transfer.
As with Hokuto it is another player who will walk in and command a certain amount of respect which is clearly something the club are looking for with some of the players we are being linked with.

Then we were linked with former midfield dunce Suzuki Jun, who after ‘helping us’ to an 18th place finish in his last season here then jumped ship to Tokyo Verdy where he went even better and helped them to finish 20th last year.
I thought it was some sort of joke, probably started by his agent, because in addition to being useless on the pitch he is quite widely hated by the fans after celebrating wildly when Tokyo beat us in 2013 having left the club after our worst ever season.

The joke was on me because by lunch-time today the club had announced that it was official that he was coming back.

I have absolutely no idea what they are thinking. The first player to come into the club from outside is awful, and disliked by the fans.
Nothing will surprise me with this club any more, after being optimistic about maybe getting a midfiield for the first time in 5 years we have signed Suzuki Jun.
If he walks back in and gets the #8 shirt and starts being cheered by the ‘Ultras’it’ll be even harder to take than their adulation of ‘King’ Jogo,

Here is what he had to say for himself when he came back…

“To everyone involved with Avispa Fukuoka, this is Suzuki Jun.
It has been 2 years since I transefrred away from Avispa Fukuoka in 2012. During this time the results have not been what I would have liked but I have experienced and learned a lot of things which has made it an important part of my footballing life.

Thinking of all the people who have supported me during my time as a professional I will try to take advantage of this experience and carry the Avispa emblem with joy and start again from zero at the club.
Thank you for your support.”

Posted December 29, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

Hokuto Nakamura?   5 comments

As Avispa still chase their first new player for 2015 another name is being mentioned as Hokuto Nakamura is being linked with a return to the club.

The club are clearly trying to make their first signing to be something which will make an impact with the fans having first been linked with Inamoto, then Pecnik, and now a player who is still a huge favorite with the fans despite having left here over 6 years ago.

He is a combative full-back or wing-back who was very highly rated as a youngster, playing for Japan at representative level, and being highlighted by Ivica Osim as a Japanese youngster who would be able to make it in Europe.
Unfortunately he then had a series of knee injuries which slowed down his progress, but still recovered well enough to get a transfer to FC Tokyo from Avispa and play close to 100 games for them.

He is currently at Omiya Ardija, but it is being rumored that someone at the club wants to try and bring him back.

If he is fit then I think it is a really good signing; really good on a number of different levels.

Obviously the main concern would be on the pitch where he would immediately be our best player, and help with the defensive aspect of our game which needs to have someone who can put a boot in. Personally I’d explore whether he feels he could come here and play in a midfield destroyer role alongside Nakahara.
He has played as a volante early in his career, and as with Takeda last year could be asked to come in and sit in midfield rather than chasing young wingers from J2.

Secondly I think he should immediately be installed as Captain at the club. He is a huge favorite with the fans, will become the biggest seller of shirts, and is a Captain who will try to encourage others rather than sit back silently like Jogo did last year. It also gives Jogo something of a kick up the backside, here is a player who started at a similar time to Jogo, went away and played in J1 and can come back to be a bigger name and better player for the young players around the club to look up to.

I wonder if he could convince his ex-team-mate Hirayama to come with him. That’s the player I really think could score goals in J2 and get us promotion straight up to J1.

Posted December 28, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

First players signed.   2 comments

The lead to Pecnik turned out to be false, or as with Inamoto we may have been gazumped in the deal as JEF United appear to have officially announced that he will be playing for them next season.
I am still quite optimistic that despite missing out on both these players we are at least being linked with midfielders who would probably command ‘Key player’ type wages.

While that deal didn’t come through the first players for next season have been announced:

Ryuichi Kamiyama – It was fairly predictable that he would be staying at the club, he has been ranked as the best goalkeeper in J2 for the last 2 season by J-League Labo so unless he wanted to leave we were always going to offer him a deal, and he has been at the club for longer than anyone else.
I think he is a decent enough J2 keeper, but don’t agree with the hype which seems to suggest he is good. While goal-keeping stats track saves made they don’t tracks blunders, missed crosses or balls parried back into the middle of the box. They don’t track goal-kicks kicked straight into touch. All of these things Kamiyama does at least 2-3 times every game.
I’m clearly not alone in thinking this; in the time I have supported the club he has been dropped for Rokutan (twice), Kawata, Mizutani, and Shimizu. None of those goal-keepers are very good, but at one time or another, by many different managers they have been preferred to Kamiyama.
Personally I hope he is our #2 Goal-keeper this year.

Eita Kasagawa – The only goal-keeper that Kamiyama has never been dropped for is Kasagawa. I think he has little things which make me think he could be ok, but then seems to make even worse mistakes, more often than Kamiyama.
This is his last chance season. If he doesn’t break through this year then he never will.

Taku Ushinohama  – I was a little worried about Ushinohama. With all the hype around Kanamori he turned into a little bit of a forgotten man at times, but never let the team down for heart when he got chances.
It isn’t his fault that he doesn’t have the same impact as Kanamori, but I think he is still a useful player. Seems to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and I get the impression he probably does better in a match than he does in training.
Would be good to gain some muscle but after playing a quarter of the games for Pusnik he should now be looking to step up as a regular player from the bench, and play with the energy needed to stay a fan’s favorite when he does get chances.

Yuta Mishima – I’m not really sure what happened to Mishima last season. I was looking to him to step up from his rookie year and become a key player for us, but then he just seemed to stop playing with the same heart.
He isn’t the best player, but he has a good engine and when he is fully committed he can do well at J2 level. If he loses his enthusiasm then he has very little, and his inability to cross is a huge frustration.
I would hope that he has spent every day of the off-season training on his own putting crosses into the box, and chugging whole boxes of protein shake to build up some muscle mass. Unfortunately I think he might be another kid who gets to an average J2 level and thinks he has achieved all he can or needs to.

Yuya Mitsunaga – Now this is the player I want to see in 2015. People talk about Kanamori, I think Mitsunaga has the potential to be even better.
The way he covers the ground reminds me of Gareth Bale, almost floating across the pitch when he runs, and he has the skill and intelligence which means he is probably already the best crosser of the ball at the club.
I have only seen short cameos by him, and training games, but this kid is the one to watch in my opinion.
Unfortunately we have just lost our manager who was brave enough to play young players. With Ihara a new manager himself I don’t think he will be brave enough to play younger players, or to drop those with more experience.

Posted December 27, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

Shirt front sponsor.   1 comment

Things seem to be happening at Avispa after our new shareholders have arrived.

It looks like some of the office staff at the club have finally been able to sell the idea of the club to some local businesses, and managed to get a shirt front sponsor from “Fukuoka Jisho Ltd”.

This name won’t mean anything to anyone who lives outside of Fukuoka, and on it’s own probably doesn’t mean very much to most people who do live here, but is actually quite a big player in the commercial real-estate world within Fukuoka City.

Inside Fukuoka City there are a few large shopping complexes and this company owns 2 of the most famous; Canal City (a fairly high-end shopping mall along the river in Tenjin) and Marinoa City (an outlet type shopping mall near the harbour).
It also has interests in Konoha Mall, Riverside in Kitakyushu, and the Grand Hyatt hotel.
All of these are fairly high profile businesses in the city, and I would guess the only way to get this sort of business is to sell a club which will be pushing for promotion to J1 this year, rather than struggling mid-table with a low budget.

The contract with this company is for 3 years, and I would guess that they will expect us to be pushing for the play-offs and promotion in that time.

Posted December 27, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

Kazuki Retires.   Leave a comment

I’m not really sure what is going on at the club at the moment.

Yesterday I was surprised to see that they are being linked with players from Europe before getting any players announced for next season; today I am shocked to see that they are ripping the heart of the club out by releasing the 1 player at the club who ever seems to care about results on the pitch or genuinely have any attachment to the fans and club.

I have quite regularly commented on the technical deficiencies of Kazuki’s game, but he has never let the club down any time he has been asked to play, and only on a couple of occasions has made bad mistakes on the pitch which has cost us games (last season against JEF being the easiest to remember).
In terms of being useful as a player he has certainly been more use than Koga over the last 3 seasons, and in terms of what he does for the club off the pitch he is the best player at the club.

After seeing the local-born coaches leave, and now Kazuki being released it makes me think that maybe they are planning big changes for this season, and might be (hopefully) be thinking that this is also the season to cut ties with Jogo, Koga and Kamiyama and start totally fresh in the changing room with a totally new set of players.
In my opinion that isn’t a bad idea; but if they are letting Kazuki go know and keeping Jogo, Koga and Kamiyama (the players who have been on the pitch for the last 3 seasons when we have stopped playing in September) then I really don’t understand the thinking behind it.

I fully expect Kazuki to be back at the club soon. Probably not as a player (unless we have some huge defensive crisis mid-season), but as someone who works hard and gets along well with people there are few better players I can think of to run one of the younger youth teams. (Edit: I have now found that he is actually staying as a ‘businessman’ at the club).

After being released by the club he has decided to retire aged just 27, and should show to a few people how much being at this club meant to him.

His statement on leaving shows that he really was a club-man (if anyone needed any more convincing after seeing him as the only player walking round the pitch with his Avispa shirt on at the end-of-season game).

“I’ve decided to retire this season. Thank-you for the last 6 years.
Thank-you to everyone, the directors, coaches, supporters, sincerely to the players, and my family and everyone else around me.

It was decided that from next season I will be a non-playing employee of Avispa.
I had an offer to go to another club, but I was born and raised in Fukuoka and want to stay in this city which I love.
I was raised by Avispa, and cheered by the fans, so in spite of my poor ability I always tried to give back. 

Thank-you always, Kazuki Yamaguchi.”

I know this won’t have all been done today, but what a Christmas present for a club-man with a 2 month old baby! At least he still has a job at the club, and I expect it will be in some sort of community/ambassadorial role.

All the best Kazuki, you’ll be remembered a long time by the fans of the club.

Posted December 25, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

First signed players – Europeans?!   Leave a comment

One of the last things I would have expected during this transfer window is for the first players to be comitted to the club for next season would be arrivals from Europe, but a Serbian website is suggesting that that is exactly what has happened.

This page:  http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/sport.294.html:525867-Pecnik-potpisao-za-japanskog-drugoligasa

says that we have signed a player called Nejc Pecnik, who has up to now been playing for Red Star Belgrade.

It also has a sentence about a right-back called Predrag Djordjevic, but I’m not sure if that is in association with us, or who the player is (the only Predrag Djordjevic I know being the now retired player from Olympiakos).

The player Nejc Pecnik is the more interesting as he is a tall midfielder who knows how to score a goal and has had experience in leagues in many different countries including in England. He also has 27 National Team caps, and would appear to be a player who could be very useful for us and in exactly the position we need.

Even if this deal doesn’t ever get finalised it is at least encouraging that the club appear to be looking at central midfield as a position they need to fill (after apparently coming close to sign Junichi Inamoto), which has been the biggest problem at the club for 5 years.

Apart from these 2 deals (Pecnik & Inamoto) 2ch has been very, very quiet about any comings or goings at the club.

Posted December 24, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

New management structure – Masami Ihara   Leave a comment

It hasn’t been a very well kept secret (it was actually announced on 2ch in Mid-November and in the newspapers shortly afterwards) but the new Manager at Avispa has now been officially announced as Masami Ihara.

It is a name which will be familiar to followers of Japanese football as one of Japan’s most famous ever defenders. His record of 122 National Team Capa was only recently surpassed by Yasuhito Endo, and he was the Captain of the Japan National Team which broke through onto the International stage at the 1998 World Cup.
Japan may have been a stalwart of World Cups beyond this point, but had not attended up until this point.
With an Asian Footballer of the Year award (1995) under his belt to boot it is clear that the new investors at the club really wanted to hire somebody with a name known across Japan to be the first manager of their ownership of the club.

While he had a glittering playing career he doesn’t have much pedigree in management, and this will be his first job as manager of a club.
As with any new manager this will come with a risk associated with it, and has been described as something of a roll of a dice rather than wee-thought out appointment.
It is incorrect to say he has no prior experience, he was attached to the Olympic (U-23) team from 2006 to 2008, and has been assistant coach at Kashiwa Reysol since then, a period during which time Reysol got promotion from J2 and won J1, but will still be something of a mystery as to how he will fair.

I would preidct that he will opt for a flat-back 4 having been part of that during his long and distinguished defensive career, and is hopefully someone who will be able to walk into the dressing room and demand respect for his reputation in Japan, but it all be something of an unknown until pre-season (and players for next season) start being announced.

Along with Ihara arriving there has been an almost total overhaul of the coaching staff at the club.

Probably the most important man among this will be the General Manager. Our previous General Manager Jinno did a terrible job and brought in awful players in positions we didn’t really need more players, making the job of performing on the pitch near-impossible.
WIth a new and inexperienced Manager being brought in there will be even more emphasis on the GM to sort out a group of players who will perform on the pitch, and most importantly try to get competition for places in midfield (something we haven’t had in 5 years).

The man brought in to do this is Takehito Suzuki.
This is someone I know nothing about, but am moderately optimistic about for 2 reasons.
Firstly he is coming to Avispa from Albirex Niigata, a club who I consider to be pretty much the best run club in the country. Despite being in an unfashionable area of the country they are one of the best supported clubs in the country, have remained in J1 quite comfortably, and have excellent links to the community and youth development.
The second is that for the last 10 years he has been in a position at the club of co-ordinating scouts, the main area at Avispa which we have been terrible at. I don’t know if we have any scouts, but the players who have come to the club have been awful since our promotion year when someone brought Nagasato and Nakamachi.
If he is able to concentrate on bringing a better set of players to the club, and trying to establish a network of sports clubs and soccer schools like they have at Albirex then the manager should be able to worry about what is going on on the pitch.

While Ihara will catch the head-lines I think that Suzuki will actually be the main player behind the scenes as a new head coach has also been brought to the club.
Replacing the Fukuoka natives who were retained for the last 5 seasons he has brought Fumitake Miura with him from Albirex Niigata to be the Head Coach. As someone who he knows from Albirex, and was able to bring with him it gives me a small indication of where the power will lie in the structure at the club.
Miura has nearly 300 appearances as a midfielder in the J-League, but along with Ihara and Suzuki will be doing a job for the first time at this level.

Avispa have rolled the dice.
Either it is going to work and all our management team will leave to go to a better club in 2 years, or it will go badly and all our management team will leave sacked in 2 years, but that seems to be the style of Avispa.

Posted December 23, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

More players gone.   Leave a comment

There are still a few names announced as leaving the club, but nothing very significant, and no real surprises.

In fact a bigger surprise is that there has been so little movement at the club.
We were apparently far into talks with Junichi Inamoto before he decided to head to Sapporo, which is positive in that it means that we have a lot of money to spend and are looking for midfielders, but negative in that we might be repeating the mistake of bringing past it J1 players down to Fukuoka to retire.

Players gone:

Keisuke Shimizu
At some point in a goal-keepers career he should probably be told that if he is under 1m75 and can’t jump then he should probably look at doing something different.
I know he was listed as 1m83 on the Avispa homepage, but having stood near the guy I think that is probably wishful thinking, and while wearing his winter studs.
He’ll get a club somewhere, and will sit on the bench somewhere new for another season, but will be quickly forgotten in Fukuoka.
His farewell comment could potentially be seen as trying to make a statement of sorts:
“It was short period of just one year, but thanks to the fans and supporters at Avispa Fukuoka. The goal was to get promotion to j1, and we were not able to achieve that goal.
It became a very frustrating season in not being able to contribute towards the team, but I think that under the new leadership of Mr. Ihara Avispa can fight for promotion to J1. Thank you very much.

Eijiro Takeda
A much bigger surprise that the failed Shimizu going back after his loan is seeing Takeda go back to his parent club at the end of the season.
He will not get anywhere near the Yokohama F Marinos team, and I would have thought it would be in the interest of everyone to try to keep him at the club. Maybe he will come back, but in previous years this hasn’t happened with loan players who were allowed back to their previous clubs.
Takeda seemed like a player who made up for his technical and physical deficiencies by working very hard and playing with intelligence. As part of that I’d expect him to have the intelligence to know he has just had his best season, playing in a new role and become and important part of a decent sized club. This hasn’t happened previously in his career, and while he may be able to get a contract at somewhere like Kumamoto or Thespa the money he already has in the bank from this season would give him a head-start on a new club.
For these reasons I think it is more likely that the club chose not to offer him another year, which unless we have some serious players coming in for midfield and left-back is likely to be a mistake.
To think Abe still hasn’t been sent home while Takeda has is a fairly crazy situation.

A translation of his comments (apologies to Takeda if this is wrong, I know he can speak English and see where it is wrong!)
“I will now leave Avispa Fukuoka; Thank you to everyone who has supported me. I will not forget this one year fighting for this team called Avispa, the fans, and the city we love. Especially I will not forget the fans at the club who always cheered the team regardless of what was on the pitch. Of course I had a feeling to stay at Avispa, but I also felt that as a professional player I wanted to continue to challenge myself so decided to leave Avispa.
I will fight for a different team, but will try to stay active and want to come back. Thank you.”

Atomu Nabeta
I cannot understand how some of these players are still professional at 23 years old, in J1 clubs, and make such little impact dropping down a division to play against bottom half J2 clubs.
It is an even bigger mystery how Jinno thought he might be able to come in and replace the goal threat of Ishizu. He had clearly never seen the guy play.
Needs to start looking for a club in J3 where he will play every match, get chances to improve his game on the pitch. An example of what happens to young Japanese players who end ups itiing on the bench for their early 20s.
I can’t be bothered to translate his goodbye speech.

Posted December 23, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized