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vs. Mito Hollyhock (youtube)   Leave a comment

Watching these highlights back is still quite dull, but it has at least let me know that Jogo creaming it over the bar was when the score was at 0:0 rather than at 1:0 as I had thought.
Had we drawn that game then that would have been the crucial play, as it is who cares.

This is one of my favorite goals I’ve seen at Avispa, few things in football beat the romance of a diving header, and while this wasn’t totally diving the unexpected nature of who scored and the astonishment on his face for having done it makes this goal one of my all-time favorites for Avispa.


Posted April 6, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. Mito Hollyhock (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 0 Mito Hollyhock

So 7 points in the last 3 games, which had it not been for a 95th minutes equaliser could be 9 points in 3 games. Is it crisis over for Avispa, with a run for the play-offs and promotion back on course?

While I am very happy to be picking up these points it was again a fairly dire game for anyone watching the match, and one which looked destined to end 0:0 with a Mito team set-up to not lose and an Avispa attack which is based upon close to zero midfield.

Sueyoshi and Suzuki Jun are doing a little better than I expected, but the area which they seem to be quite competent is in an area about 10m outside the opposition penalty box where they are actually quite good at switching play from side to side or in taking long shots at goal. The problem being about how to get the ball to that position with no midfield behind them.

The first real opportunity of the game when the ball did come out to Sueyoshi on the edge of the box and he found himself in enough space to try and curl a shot into the far corner of the goal, but saw his shot well-saved by Mito’s veteran keeper.
It would have been a very similar goal to the one which Sueyoshi scored against Mito in 2010, and we went on to win that match 5:0. As nice as it is to get a win today with the money which has now been invested into the club this season that is the sort of scoreline we should be aiming for against clubs with much lower resources than ourselves like Mito.

Mito never looked like scoring, but then neither did we apart from that chance. The game was intensely dull to watch, with a succession of free-kicks and corners being sent into both boxes aimlessly and generally being headed away by the tall defenders from each team.
I saw that the local english events magazine was advertising this game as a fun day out for visitrs to the city. If anyone had turned up today for their first taste of J2 action then they won’t be coming back again. Both teams were playing at about the level of an English League 2 team (4th tier), with no likely chance of scoring apart from making a set piece work.

Then in the second half Avispa put together a nice move which saw us take the lead through an unexpected scorer. Good combination play down the right saw Jogo pass the ball back for Nakahara to cross into the box. Now this would usually represent a problem for Avispa because with Jogo and Nakahara both in the left-back position (where was Hokuto?) it meant we often have no-one to collect crosses in the box.
For this cross there was the unexpected sight of midget chipmunk Suzuki Jun leaping like a salmon and powering a header through the keeper and into the goal; he even managed to power past Sakai to get to the ball first.
I have been quite harsh on Suauki Jun, but this was eaxctly the sort of late run into the box which we have needed from midfielders for a long time, and the sort of run which will be made more possible if he has someone playing behind him and Sueyoshi to give the freedom to break.
He had a quite astonished look on his face at the goal he had just scored, I’m not sure if I have ever seen him head a ball before, let alone meet one at pace and power it at goal.

With more space opened up Avispa had 2 good chances to double their lead but saw both chances smashed about 5m over the bar from about the penalty spot.
The first came to Jogo after he had dummied to collect a return ball from Nakahara doing some good hold-up play, but missed a shot he’ll be embarrassed to watch later.
The second was a little harder, but similar in style as Sakai hit a shot too hard from inside the box which probably landed somewhere near the airport.

Mito should have shared the points late on as they pushed forward for an equaliser. Kamiyama showed his poor run of form is still ongoing as he ran out to get a ball which he was never going to get close to. It was nice to see him leave his line for the first time this season, just unfortunate he did it at exactly the wrong time. Fortunately he got a hand to the shot as he back-tracked back to goal.
Then the Mito #7 was guilty of missing an open header from about 3m out after a cross from the right went straight along the 6 yard box and the points were safe for Avispa.

Posted April 5, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. Yokohama FC (report / youtube)   2 comments

Yokohama FC 2 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka

With Yokohama having an OK start to the season, and Avispa being awful this will probably appear to be a half-decent result on a rainy day in Kanto.
Those who watched the match will know it is another poor result when put into context of what happened on the pitch.

The team was unsurprisingly little changed from the win against Kumamoto with Sakai being brought in for Sakata, and Mishima coming in for Hokuto the only changes. I would assume that this is due to tiredness rather than anything on the  pitch. Sakata dropped to the bench where he was joined by Kanemori who looks like he might be close to a return from his injury.

Avispa started quite brightly, but have a midfield which is very quickly going to get a reputation for trying to cheat the referee, with Suzuki Jun in particular trying to get a free-kick anyone comes near him and tries to tackle him. It suits his game as he doesn’t have the physical attributes to out pace or out-muscle anyone in the league and knows that his game is almost entirely based around delivery from free-kicks.
It worked early in this game after picking up a soft free-kick inside the Yokohama half and curling in a decent high ball knowing that Avispa now have some height to attack these balls. Nakahara did very well to lean back and get his head on the ball, and Lee Kwang Seon did even better to control the ball, turn and shoot at goal.
His shot wasn’t hit well, but as can happen when you just get shots on target it took a kind deflection which popped up for Sakai to reach a leg out and get a goal-poacher’s goal.

This is exactly the role which Sakai should be looking to grow into . Pusnik put him at the top of the formation and he got goals, he got another similar one today. He cannot ever play in midfield, however much his advisors and fans tell him that he can, he could be quite good as a combative striker who forces himself into scoring scrappy goals just like this.

We were the better team and doubled our lead 10 minutes later with a very dodgy penalty. Having been given a soft free-kick for the first goal the referee then blew for a foul against Yokohama’s Korean defender. I’m not sure what it was for, but Avispa had so many fouls and penalties awarded against Lee Kwang Seon last season for being tall and Korean I guess that this might be an official rule in J-League now.
There was contact between defender and Nakahara, and he got his body between player and ball to let the keeper come and collect it, but I really can’t see that it should be a penalty. Nakahara converted the penalty by absolutely smashing it; if he can guarantee a connection when he hits a ball like that he’ll score a lot of goals this season, but it looked a bit of a risky penalty taking strategy to me.

We had a 2:0 lead at half-time, and in the pouring rain that should have been game over. Unfortunately it then became the Kamiyma show.

I’m starting to wonder if I am missing something here, much like I don’t really understand why Jogo is so adored, Kamiyama is just awful. Please watch the highlights below and tell me what I don’t understand about this new style of goal-keeping and that there is some method to this madness.
You will see from all the clips from the 2nd half that Kamiyama is standing on his goal-line, right in the middle of goal as if he is about to face a penalty, as balls are coming into the box, crosses, shots, anything. If it was accepted that he is one of the worst goal-keepers in the league I’d get it, but people talk about him as being one of the best and now we don’t have any realistic back-up options. Is he injured? What is going on?

We conceded 2 goals, 1 of which was in the 95th minute, they had 4-5 other chances, Kamiyama never moved for anything. I can’t be bothered to write much more than that about it.

Eita has to play again in the next match, regardless of his mistake against Sapporo.

Posted April 5, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. Roasso Kumamoto (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

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).

Posted March 30, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. Consadole Sapporo (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

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.

Posted March 28, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Match Reports

vs. Ehime FC (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

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.

Posted March 20, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized

vs. Ehime FC (preview)   Leave a comment

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.

Avispa News

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 expect….





I would pick….






Ehime News.

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.

My Prediction:

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.

Posted March 14, 2015 by avispafukuoka in Uncategorized