Avispa finished up their pre-season matches with 2 games against J1 opposition.
vs. FC Tokyo.
First playing against Hiroshima in Miyazaki it was a match which sounded like it had some positive sides to it, and was watched by regular commenter to this site Perogyo.
“I went over to the Hiroshima game yesterday and it was really good too. They were a lot more organized than they had been in the other J1 match, against Kashima, and I guess it showed in the score (3-2 over 4 sets). I’m really impressed with the new Nakahara, Sueyoshi, Sakata, Nakaharo Shuto, Kanamori, and Hokuto, but the real stars of the day were Kuni and Hirai (that was a surprise). I think they are going to use Kuni the same way they have been using Taku, coming in to revive the team and it worked in both sets he came on. I like what Nakahara (Taku) is doing but I don’t see him scoring a lot, I don’t think he’s a striker from what I have seen.
I am less impressed with some of the other players. The new #2 keeper is not going to challenge Kamiyama and I don’t even think he’s going to challenge Eita. He seems completely unprepared. I know I am preaching to the choir but Koga is outrun and outclassed by everyone on the pitch and it beggars belief that he is out there again. And I am not sure what is going on with Sakai. He doesn’t seem to be in peak physical shape. The first time I saw him at camp I thought he must have a fever or be ill or something but he looked the same way yesterday too. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he has lost 10 or so kg since last year’s camp. I hope they can figure out what is going on.
I didn’t realize Jogo was on the pitch for the first 45 minutes, not sure if he touched the ball at all. Hope he pulls something out of his sleeve for regular season.”
A very nice summary of what was observed from that game, and generally positive but also with the same reservations about Jogo which I have had for about 18 months now (possibly longer).
vs. Tokyo FC
I was actually quite excited for this game, the first back at Level-5 for the new season, and an opportunity to see how the new players brought to the club were going to perform.
There has been a lot more money thrown at the squad this season than for the previous 3 years, and while I don’t think that it has been spent very wisely in many cases, I was happy to be proved wrong after tha positive vibes to come out from Miyazaki.
Imagine then my shock when I saw a team sheet which had what appeared to be a 442 formation from about 10 years ago, with Sueyoshi and Suzuki Jun playing as a central 2; the same central 2 which contributed to the worst season of football I have seen at the club as we finished 18th under Maeda.
I am not saying that these players cannot succeed at the club, but I am definitely saying that they cannot succeed as part of a midfield 2. They do not have the dynamism to do so against even J2 opposition.
The issue was componded by playing Jogo on the right-wing, which is probably his favored position, but is also the position which he played in our awful season with Maeda. In this position he is totally anonymous and just stands waiting for the ball rather than helping the midfield 2 in any way.
On the other wing was Kanamori, again a player who could be successful if he applies himself correctly, but never a player who is going to have the tactical discipline and commitment to tackle to help in midfield.
Sakata played through the middle with Hirai. Sakata needs to drop deeper to make use of his energy for 60 minutes, Hirai is a luxury player who doesn’t do anything in games when he doesn’t score, and has only scored in about 5 games.
Finally the limitations of the squad were exposed at right-back where we don’t have a player to come in for the games when Hokuto is inevitably injured. Mishima has dropped out of contention with some patchy performances, and new Chinese 19 year old Gao was asked to play there and was an obvious area for FC Tokyo to attack on.
The game went exactly as anyone who could see that this team was the same as the one which had failed for Maeda as we couldn’t get anywhere near the ball in midfield. Now I understand that FC Tokyo are a level above us in every area, but we really didn’t even compete.
Jogo offered no cover to the inexperienced and out of position Gao, even as Captain, and FC Tokyo scored an easy goal after a simple attack down the left resulted in a ball being crossed into the box with Hamada pulled out of position to come and help his right-back. Maeda vs. Tsutsumi is a mismatch in the middle and the new FC Tokyo striker scored without any trouble.
Avispa couldn’t get close to threatening the Tokyo goal, and would have ended the first half with no shots on goal had it not been for a couple of speculative long shots which were never going to trouble the keeper.
Sadly the well-worked free-kicks which were a success story of the last season are going to be replaced by Sueyoshi or Suzuki just hitting every free-kick at goal all season. They will score 1 or 2 and it will look good on youtube, but will come at the cost of about 40 free-kicks wasted.
Our only decent chance fell to Hirai after the Tokyo defence had been sloppy and allowed Sakata to press possession and put him through on goal. Hirai showed why he really isn’t the quality player that people think he could be by not even making the keeper have to save when through on goal in a 1-on-1.
The Avispa fans were at least seeing some quality players in the Tokyo team, with new star Muto getting a goal to finish the scoring for the day in the 2nd half.
The Avispa central defenders must be the only people who haven’t heard of his rise in recent months as they left him totally alone in the box to head home unmarked from directly between them.
Overall I think this game was a disaster.
We started with an out-dated formation using players who we already know are going to fail in this division.
We blasted every free-kick high and wide of goal rather than building on the successes of last year.
We went back to zonal-marking having conceded at least a goal a game from this last time we tried it.
This has all come at a time when a huge amount of money has come into the club.