Archive for March 2015
Avispa 1 : 0 Roasso
Avispa have finally got some points for the season and lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with a derby day win against visitors Roasso from the neighbouring prefecture of Kumamoto.
It is a game which Avispa should be expected to win, especially after the investment which has gone into the team during the off-season and while they made heavy work of it at times, they deserved the win in this game.
As I had expected it was Eita who was the fall-guy from Sapporo; a poor performance from many of the players forgotten after his late goalkeeping howler meant that the team was unchanged from that match with the exception of Kamiyama coming back in goal.
While I do like to see consistency in team selection it isn’t something I agree with in this case as the team looks unbalanced in terms of energy in midfield and attack, and has a defensive 5 who stroll around for much of the time and somehow manage to leave huge spaces at the back.
I still think we need a dedicated 3 in central midfield, and with Nakahara and Park on the bench do have some options for the first time in 4 years, but it would mean dropping Jogo which just doesn’t seem possible.
The game was very scrappy, and low on any quality from either team, but it was Avispa who looked the more likely to score. They should have been 1 up after 15 minutes when they somehow managed to hit the bar or post 3 times in 2 minutes. From a corner Suzuki Jun sent in a flat low cross to the D where Sueyoshi was waiting to attempt something he had seen someone famous do on TV. To be fair to him he can hit a ball well on the volley, and while his connection here wasn’t good it was on target and bounced towards goal before ending up hitting the bar. The ball bounced down before someone (Hamada?) tried to turn and hit it at goal again but hit the bar for a second time.
Kumamoto managed to scramble the ball away for a throw-in, but Lee Kwang Seon stayed up after the corner and headed on the throw for Sakata to attempt to turn and volley home. He probably just needed to get the ball on target to score but tried to do much and ended up hitting the inside of the post.
It was a promising start, and moreso did at least show that they are working on things in training and then trying them on the pitch. This was something which became a big feature of the last 2 seasons under Pusnik when we scored a large number of our goals from set-pieces and training ground routines.
The season before with Maeda (when we had lots of the same players as now) we never had any idea apart from send a ball to the back-post for Koga to try but fail to head.
The other promising thing is that in 2 games now we have scored (or nearly scored) from goals with flick headers by the target striker being picked up on the second ball by Sakata. This is something else which I remember seeing being practiced over and over again last season in training, but never really working out due to the lack of a target man capable of doing it with consistency. In the 2 instances listed here the flick header has come from Lee and Jogo, rather than the more obvious Nakahara, but again at least it shows that a plan from training is being used in games.
Both teams toiled to try and string some passes together, but are both poor quality teams who are destined to finish the season in the bottom half of the table. Of the games I’ve seen so for only Sapporo and particularly Kyoto have any reasonable chance of challenging for a play-off spot.
The game was only ever going to be settled by a set piece in the second half. Avispa have been incredibly fragile with their ill-advised zonal defence plan for set-pieces this season, but they do have 5-6 tall players capable of attacking the ball at offensive corners and free-kicks.
It was Avispa who got the breakthrough first as Hamada met a Suzuki Jun corner very well to head and unstoppable shot into the top corner. I’ve been very critical of Suzuki Jun in the past, but one thing I have always said is that he has excellent ability with his left foot. He is usually guilty of trying to do too much with the ball, and here was an example of a simple near post cross which found his player in acres of space and able to head home easily. His falt cross in the first half to Sueyoshi needed a far higher degree of technical skill, but he shouldn’t forget that it was this simple near post cross which got the goal.
There were glimpses that the partnership of Sueyoshi and Suzuki could work in this game, they do both have creativity and the ability to pick a pass, but unfortunately they are both half decent players in a position which they don’t yet think is their own.
When he was 21/22 I used to say that Suauki Jun should be on the left of the 3 in a 4231 but he clearly doesn’t have the pace or skill to trust himself in that position in it’s traditional form. That has just left the role of volante (where he clearly sees himself) but equally he doesn’t have the skill-set to play there either. Sueyoshi is very similar.
From what I saw in this game they should both be playing higher up the pitch where their ability to play slide rule passes, or take long shots is more effective. They have zero ability at providing any shield to the defence and just leave huge areas for opposition forwards to take their time and dissect our defence.
The defence seem determined to play with 3 at the back, but to do so I think we need to play a formation more like the one which van Gaal was trying to make work at Manchester United.
The obvious problem with this being that Jogo isn’t in the team. What it would mean is that he could play in his favoured central forwards role during the many, many times when Sakata and nakahara are injured or tired (along with Kanemori when he comes back).
Consadole 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
3 games into the season and we are looking absolutely shambolic. While this match and result don’t look as bad as being out-played and out-fought by Ehime in the last match there are many things which worried me even more.
Typically Avispa have travelled quite badly to their longest away trip in Saporro, but I couldn’t help thinking back to the last game I watched us play there.
Last season we had a real shortage of players capable of really doing anything in this match, especially in midfield, and Pusnik came up with a strategy which I genuinely thought I’d not seen before.
With a total absence of midfielders Kazuki was being asked to go forward for goal-kicks from defence to try and add some sort of ball winning ability in the final 2/3rds of the pitch. It was bonkers, but it worked really quite well (I was sorry to not see it again!), and one thing it showed for sure was a manager in Pusnik who was thinking and trying to make things happen with an inadequate bunch of players.
What worried me most about this match was that Ihara looks to have run out of ideas already. The formation and players selected here looked a lot like he had asked the players what position they wanted to play and hoped that if he just made them happy that they would put on a performance for him.
That’s no way to run a football club, especially as this group of players have proved over and over again to be a huge underwhelming disappointment.
We had a back 3 again, but one which was still beaten in the air over and over again and had huge gaps all over the final third.
We had just 2 players in midfield, and those 2 players were Sueyoshi and Suzuki, 2 plyers who proved 3 years ago that they aren’t good enough to ever play together even at J2 level.
Finishing the 523 formation was Jogo floating around doing nothing and Sakata trying to run, each side of a Nakahara who was trying to fulfil the Kazuki non-moving target man role from last season.
It was like someone was playing a football management computer game and trying to find a formation to keep all the ‘big name’ player happy.
In goal Kamiyama was replaced by Eita in a switch which will get all the headlines due to what happened late in the game. I really want to know if Ihara has discovered after 2 games what the previous managers found out (that Kamiyama is a liability), or if Kamiyama didn’t fancy a game under lights with a team who looked like they were going to lose.
Whatever the reason we had a guy making only his 3rd appearance in 3 years in an indoor stadium against above average opposition (and without any other options for keeper in the squad).
This game will be remembered for Eita costing us the points with at least 1 terrible mistake, but in reality I thought he took charge of his box much better than Kamiyama does, and worked as a sweeper-keeper quite bravely.
As is typical for Avispa we conceded inside 15 minutes, and after being given a big warning.
The Sapporo striker had already found space on the right (where Abe was hopeless and looked like he just didn’t care) but had his shot half-blocked by Kasagawa. The second time he found space in the same position on the edge of the box he cut inside to make space and curled a shot over and around Eita into the far corner.
It looked like maybe Eita had dived with his wrong hand, but in reality I don’t really ever expect Japanese keepers to make many saves like that.
Avispa were hopeless, and the game was dull. At least when we have been losing game after game previously the game was entertaining and you could see what the team were trying to do, even if the players weren’t good enough to do it. Now it is just dull to watch them jog around the pitch taking the piss.
We did actually equalise with quite a nice goal. It seems petty to not be pleased about a goal, but I think it will just paper over cracks a little bit and make the club think that maybe the outfield players are quite good.
A ball was sent in from the right for Jogo to glance it on for the on-rushing Sakata to hit well first-time into the goal.
It was a nice goal, and it will look nice on someone’s youtube highlights but it doesn’t excuse the 75 minutes of drivel which preceded it.
A goal woke Avispa up and with Kasagawa pushing right out to act as sweeper Avispa pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
Unfortunately for the habitually mistake-prone keeper he passed the ball to a Saporro striker while 30m outside his goal and was forced to chase back and try to get something in the way of a most embarrassing goal. He couldn’t get anywhere near it, and must be being slaughtered in newspapers and message-boards across Japan.
The most fortunate people are Sueyoshi, Suzuki, Abe and Jogo because without Eita’s mistake to take attention away from them maybe someone would be questioning why they are so poor.
Ehime 2 : 1 Avispa
I’d considered myself a bit dramatic by hoping for a win away to Ehime after the opening weekend (this is a team we should be beating quite easily) but unfortunately Avispa proved that they really are as bad as they looked against Kyoto, going down in another dispiriting, lethargic display.
The team was barely changed from last week, and in fact looked a little worse as Taku started on the right in place of Nakahara in the middle. This meant that Jogo could go and be totally ineffective in his favored central forward role, and we were left with a central 2 of Sueyoshi and park who couldn’t get anywhere near the ball.
The truth is that I only really half watched the game. Within 3 minutes it was clear that it was going to be another awful performance, and not just awful but boringly awful (and awfully boring to boot).
Avispa were getting detoryed on the wings as their defence was being pulled out of shape again and again. They probably should have been 4-0 down by the end of the 1st half. but got lucky and ended the half only 2 down.
The first goal came from a break down the right where Kamekawa was playing very narrow and allowed the Ehime winger to float a cross into the box. It wasn’t whipped in, but our central defenders aren’t good enough to deal with crosses, and the whole division must now know Kamiyama will never leave his line and Nishida Go was able to sneak in front of Hamada and score a well-taken diving header.
They should have doubled their lead after a ball was played out to the left wing with Nakamura this time out of position, but the Ehime #6 hit straight at Kamiyama when through on goal 1-on-1.
Our zonal defence was again shown up from a corner as a cross was easily headed down, but in the scramble to hit the ball at goal it was again blocked by Kamiyama from about 2m out. It means that Kamiyama will probably again have good stats on paper from this game after making a couple of saves, but in reality was very poor and at fault again for Ehme’s second goal.
The defence was again in a total mess as both central defenders went over to the left to assist Kamekawa, but a quick switch of the play saw the ball able to be delivered to the Ehime #20 in the middle of the penalty box and up against Hokuto.
He held him off well and turned, but should never have been able to score past Kamiyama’s inside post, and the keeper has to take a look at his positioning to be beaten from that angle.
The match was over, but got slightly better in the second half after Nakahara came on and gave the team something to aim long balls towards.
Sakai also came on again, as did Hirai, and these two both showed that they have no right to be earning a living as footballers collecting a decent wage.
Avispa pulled one back from a corner as Nakahara scored his 2nd goal in 2 games by rising highest and heading home very well, but nobody cared by that point.
We would finish the 2nd week with no points, and face a trip to Sapporo in week 3 to play a Consadole team I have never seen us beat.
Avispa go to Shikoku for their first away trip of the season hoping to have a reaction from what was the worst opening day performance I have ever seen from them.
A new manager (with a big name) has been brought in to replace the previous manager who had been popular with the fans. Provided with a new input of money from new sponsors the money was bizarrely spent on a whole bunch of players who had been at the club during earlier unsuccessful periods for the club. It was a strategy which was a gamble on every front, and last week’s performance suggests it might be a gamble which has gone badly wrong.
Kyoto are one of the stronger teams in the division, but Ehime are a club in disarray. Habitually a club from around the bottom places of J2 they have now also gone into financial meltdown and it doesn’t seem to be totally sure that the club are even going to exist at some point in the future.
Despite that they had a much better opening day than we did by securing a draw with their Shikoku brethren Tokushima who had just just relegated from J1.
Avispa should be looking for a win here, but after last week’s debacle I think most fans would be happy just to pick up a point with an improved performance.
One advantage of last week was that it was so bad the management must know they have to change a lot of things.
A problem is that because of the situation in the dressing room it is not politically easy to change very much, especially with a manager in his first job.
Jogo is hopeless, but is now despite standing around on the right wing doing almost nothing but wait for someone to pass him the ball is Captain at the club, cheered by the fans for his every touch, and seemingly above criticism. The manager need to work out how to make him play, or stick him back at right-back or on the bench.
There is only one player at the club who has been there longer than Jogo and that is Kamiyama. He had an awful game against Kyoto, but we don’t even have any suitable replacement for him now. His replacement from last season was made to look like Iker Casillas when he was playing for Kyoto last week, but couldn’t get in the team ahead of him last year.
Tsutsumi has only ever looked like a player for the first 6 months that Pusnik came to Japan, and just looks like a depressed man running around on the pitch now.
Everyone knew that Sueyoshi couldn’t work in a midfield 2 unless he has someone very good next to him, and now we have to watch it all over again.
Sakai should never play in midfield ever again, no matter which hair-band he has chosen to wear that week.
The only bright spots from last week were after Nakahara came on, who has to start this week; and Ushinohama, who I still wouldn’t trust from the start.
Maybe Kanamori has got over his injury, but he is just another attacking forward when what we need is a midfield (again).
I am really, really pessimistic that ihara will be able to do anything to change things. I think that the worse things get the more he will just go back to what he knows; 442, a formation which will not work with the players we have unless Nakahara can work as a target and the full-backs can push on.
I would pick….
Ehime play with a back 3, and have done for a long time. They will have bodies in midfield and try to stifle the game.
At times last season they looked like they were playing without a striker, but with many guys who could break from midfield. They have lost their best player from last season Harukawa, but still have their big lump of a striker Watanabe who seems to really like playing against us and needs to have Lee Kwang Seon put against him.
There is a chance we will see an Avispa old-boy as Nishida Go will come back, and will get a good reception. While we were trying to bring back lots of players who had played for us before I’d certainly have taken Nishida Go before Suzuki or Sueyoshi.
There is probably a 50% chance he’ll play.
Ehime 2 : 2 Avispa
Predicting draws is rarely a good thing to do, but I think that both teams would take one today. Ehime will be looking to swamp midfield and play on the break, and against Kaqmiyama anyone can score.
Our attack should be able to get a goal or two.
Normally we only get this sort of performance in September when the team has decided to stop playing.
It is very worrying that in the first game of the season we are playing so badly.
The last 2 seasons we have been on the edge of the play-offs in August, and then lost every game after summer. What will happen if we also lose every game before summer too?!
Avispa 0 : 3 Kyoto Sanga
I would have loved to be proven wrong, especially in light of over 13000 fans coming to see the first game of the Ihara regime, but a limp, inadequate performance was actually worse than I was expecting against a decent, but not spectacular Kyoto team.
The line-up had been changed from the FC Tokyo friendly to have a more defensive out-look, but it didn’t improve the fluidity on the pitch.
It looked a better balanced team than the friendly but was still a team in which our midfield 5 included Jogo who was a passenger, Sakai who just can’t play in any midfield role, and Sueyoshi who was worse than I ever remembered him.
Despite having up to 5 in midfield (theoretically) Kyoto were able to find space and switch the play onto the flanks with some ease.
I had mentioned that the game would be decided by our continued lack of midfield, but also by the baffling decision to go back to the zonal marking system for free-kicks and corners which failed so badly 3 years ago.
We should have conceded the first goal of the J2 season after a free-kick from the right was crossed into the box for Oguro to sneak between 2 defenders and head into the far corner, safe in the knowledge that Kamiyama will never come out for a ball. Avispa were saved by the linesman who flagged for off-side, wrongly as the player off-side was Yamaguchi.
The warning wasn’t heeded and just 10 minutes later Sakai gave away another poor foul on the right which was crossed into the box and headed home by Yamaguchi who just timed his run between defenders and could head home thanks to the zonal marking system which after the ball cleared Hamada left space before the next man in the line.
Kyoto were by far the better team, and Avispa made no attacks of note. Sueyoshi was literally walking around for most of the half, and when the ball did get delivered to him he repeatedly fell over looking for fouls which the referee didn’t oblige with.
It wasn’t just his sense of entitlement at not having to run which was appalling, but also his decision making to shoot hopelessly at goal from distance rather than passing to players like Sakata running into space.
When he joined the club he said he knew he would have to start again and prove himself. His performance today did not suggest he is doing that.
Kyoto doubled their lead with an attack down the right which saw a cross come across the box, Kamiyama not make any move to get to it and Sakai get caught on the wrong side of Kyoto’s right-back who was able to meet the ball and shoot back across goal and score inside the far post.
Avispa went to a 343 formation, but didn’t look any better.
Going into the second half Park Gun was sacrificed to bring Ushinohama on. It sayd something about our performance that he was actually our best player today.
No-one can question his heart and attitude, and that was all that today needed; someone who was willing to run and try.
Unfortunately we went 3 behind with a ridiculous goal. Brushing past Ushinohama trying to use his ‘strength’ to brush the left winger off the ball a cross came in with no-one attacking in the box. Again there was no movement from Kamiyama, and inexplicably Sueyoshi headed unchallenged into his own net. I have no idea what he was trying to do, possibly just get his head out of the way, but it summed up his awful performance today.
Kyoto were in total control and should have scored a 4th as a ball was passed around the box until it reached Sasaki who cut inside to take up a central position but then thought about his shot too much and hit the angle of post and bar from the penalty spot.
Ihara threw on Nakahara who I think is our only hope for this season and we finally woke up a bit.
Ushinohama was trying to make things happen down the right and collected a diagonal ball from Sueyoshi (can he do anything else) before cutting inside, and releasing Hirai. Hirai cut the ball back low for Sakata to hit straight at Shimizu in goal (who we hadn’t tested in any way despite having total knowledge of his physical deficiencies). Nakahara got to the ball first to score on debut.
Avispa looked better in the last 10 minutes, but Kyoto had taken their foot off the gas by that point and the game was over.
All this game should have done is make everyone realise that the players have to start taking responsibility for serving up such poor performances.
Jogo, Kamiyama, Sueyoshi, Hirai, Sakai, Tsutsumi; all these players are just not good enough. The fans chant their names as though they are representing the club in any meaningful way, when in fact for the last 4 years they have not been fit to do the job.
The last 2 season in which we were on the edge of the play-offs in August with a group of players worse than what we have now is starting to look like a real achievement by Pusnik, but in each of these seasons the same group of players who have so under-performed today let the club down and are still there now serving up the same rubbish for another season with another new manager.
I wonder what the excuse will be this time?
The first game of the 2015 season is just a few hours away and it is the chance to see how another set of new players arriving at the club have settled in during the off-season; except this time it isn’t a whole new set of players.
The team now looks very similar in shape and personnel to what it did 3 years ago. Of the players who weren’t here during that awful season we have old-boys from even further back as Hokuto Nakamura also returns to the club.
Is it going to be an inspired choice to bring back a bunch of guys who ‘may’ want to fight for the club, or a disaster as a bunch of guys who failed to get us promotion before fail to get us promotion again (and drain the club of money in the process for a second time).
I really hope that the experiment with 442 against FC Tokyo showed that it isn’t going to work with these players, unfortunatey I think that Ihara is so entrenched in this formation which he played in for 100 plus national team games and a 15 year J1 career that we are going to see it again.
I think there will be a couple of change as Hokuto comes in at right-back after not being risked with his dodgy injury record against Tokyo. I also really hope that Nakahara (Taka) starts.
The only way that we have any chance with 442 (and probably in any of the other formations available) is with a target man who is able to lead the line and knock balls down for the technical players from forward positions. We haven’t had one of these since Jumbo, and it is no real surprise that we haven’t had a decent season since Jumbo (when we won promotion to J1!).
I would also bring the other Nakahara into midfield just to offer some contrast. Sueyoshi and Suzuki Jun can’t play together, however much they think they can. They are too similar as players, and want to fulfil the same role; it means they can sporadically work well together (much like Gerrard and Lampard for England) but generally are trying to occupy the same position and role on the pitch.
I don’t think Shuto is the long term solution, but I do think he offers a foil to their long shooting, diagonal ball playing role.
I’d also have Lee Kwang Seon starting instead of Tsutsumi, but that just isn’t going to happen.
Team I expect:
Team I want to see:
Kyoto are one of the strongest teams in the division, and shouldn’t be anywhere other than somewhere around the top of J1.
They have the name of one of Japan’s most famous cities, and possibly the richest owners in the League (albeit owners who don’t really have an inclination to spend much of their money).
They have had star young players come through (but lost most of them), and in Oguro have one of the most famous strikers in J2. He will always score 15+ goals in a season at this level, but the rest of the team seem very fragile and are liable to lose against anyone in the division on any given day.
Riki Harakawa returns to the club from a decent season at Ehime last year and will try to establish himself as the creative spark for Kyoto to build their team around this season.
Bajalica is their best defender, and poses good aerial qualities in both defence and attack and is why I would be starting Lee Kwang Seon in this game as Tsutsumi will get bullied by him if given the chance.
Avispa 0 : 2 Kyoto
An opening day defeat for Avispa I fear. Kyoto are always a decent team, if not spectacular and I just don’t think lessons have been learned for this Avispa team.
Maybe I’ll be surprised, but I think the 442 we will play with a failed central partnership, in front of a new back 4 and a dodgy keeper doesn’t represent good news.