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).