Archive for the ‘Preview’ Category

vs. Jubilo Iwata (preview)   Leave a comment

Haven’t written too many previews this season due to being busy, but have a little time now to look at what is going to be another tough game this season as Jubilo Iwata come to Level-5 Stadium.

Jubilo are a team who have spent most of their history in J1, and relegated into J2 last season, in a fairly surprising drop in division.
They don’t have the biggest fan-base in the world, but they do have money behind them, and are probably the highest wage bill in the division this season and will be expecting to go back up to J1.
We meet them as they have dropped in form a little bit and allowed Matsumoto to overtake them into 2nd place, and be eager to get back into winning ways.

Avispa have had a very rocky week, and while scoreless draws with 10-men against Shonan and Ehime aren’t the worst results, we are going into this match with Daisuke Ishizu having left on loan to Vissel Kobe (I’ll write more on this after the match), and both Korean central defenders suspended.

Ishizu will be seen as the bigger loss by the fans, but I think that potentially this will make the team work a little harder, while the loss of our defence (and Kwang Seon in particular) is going to be very hard to deal with.

Avispa News.
I don’t expect Ishizu to play. I am sure that he will probably want to , but it makes sense for everyone if he doesn’t. It helps Avispa move on, and the prospect of Ishizu getting injured before he even reaches Kobe is likely to see him watching from the stands.
This means that Hirai will probably stay in the team, with Sakata moving back up into a forward’s role either side of Sakai. Kanemori was our star man for about a month earlier in the season but as with all young players he can blow hot and cold and might be going through a cold spell at the moment.

The other option could be to move Jogo forward. He has been good at right-back, and has the potential to be very good there, but against Iwata there is the risk of exposing him and damaging his confidence trying his best in a new position. I would like to see Tsutsumi at right-back, I like the extra power it gives us and think is is quite good at getting forward and can deliver a ball, but with the Koreans out suspended it isn’t really an option this game. Mishima is the more likely option.
Basically even with Ishizu gone we have options in attack.

Somewhere we don’t have options is in midfield. Takeda returns from suspension, and should go straight into the team.
At the start of the season it would seem unlikely that Takeda could be one of our key starting members, and in a midfield position (he got relegated to J3 with Gainare at left-back last year), and is a player who I would hope would be trying to stay at the club beyond his loan next season and thanking Pusnik for the stimulus in his career.

Abe is obvious to continue at left-back, and has been doing better as he gains more faith in the back-3 and allows himself to go forward, but is now going to be looking back at a new back-3.

Our biggest concern in this game is the central defence where Koga and Kazuki are going to have to play. It is a huge concern, but it is also a huge opportunity for these players to show they should be in the team each week. A good performance against Iwata will mean they keep their place, something which should be obvious for high earning Koga, but he hasn’t done anything to prove he came to do anything other than retire at Avispa.

…..Predicted team…….

………….Team I’d play…………

Jubilo News.
Jubilo have the big names of the division in ex-National Team players Maeda and Matsui, with Matsui in particular a player I was looking forward to seeing.
Unfortunately for the casual fan both are unlikely to be playing after picking up injury and suspension.

I do think this is likely to help Avispa as Maeda has been a big trouble to us in the 4 times I’ve seen us previously (hard to forget the game when he basically caused Makoto Tanaka to retire), and Matsui can play the sort of midfield through-balls our defence can’t handle, but they do also have some good young players who are going to come in now and try to impress the manager.

My Prediction:

Avispa 2 : 1 Jubilo

I actually think Koga might roll back the years and pull out a big performance, and with Ishizu gone it will mean the rest of the players will work hard and try to fill the ‘idol’ gap now vacated.

Posted August 10, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Shonan Bellmare (preview)   5 comments

I’ve heard people say that the English Championship is the hardest division to get out of in the world (to get promotion to the Premier League) because it is so competitive between so many teams.
I’m now thinking that promotion from J2 might be even harder.

Each year there seem to be 1-2 teams who have a budget and squad which is far superior to every other team in the division, and then another 20 teams who are of a similar sort of standard fighting to get into the play-offs.
Tomorrow Avispa travel away to play 1 of those 2 teams which are far superior to everyone else as they go to Shonan Bellmare.

Shonan have started the season on fire. After putting together 13 consecutive victories they have the chance to equal the J-League record with a 14th win to start the season.
Avispa have the chance to spoil the party.

Bizarrely I think it might help Avispa. The players shouldn’t need any more encouraging than to know that they have the chance to be on the front of every web-page on Sunday night by stopping the record, and showing that they are some of the best players in the division.
I also think we have a chance with the referee. Referees in this country like to be the centre of attention, and what better way than to be in the middle in a game everyone is watching to see if a record can be broken.

Avispa News.
I think Avispa have 2 clear options for this game after 2 matches where they have performed quite well at times.
In the match against Okayama we did 343, and against Toyama we did 4141.

Personally I preferred the 4141, with Takeda and Morimura running and battling. But it needs all the players to be working hard. If we play it and they get scared of the occasion then it could turn into another Nagasaki.

343 is perhaps a little safer with bodies in the middle.

Either formation works better with Jogo at right-back. If he is happy to continue to work there then he can really help the team and continue to show he is a complete player.

My Prediction:

Shonan Bellmare 0 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka

I guess few people would predict no goals, and it would be an excellent result for Avispa which made the rest of the division take notice.
I think we will be set up to defend and play on the counter and it will suit us well.

Posted May 16, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Kateller Toyama (preview)   3 comments

Avispa have been having a fairly bad few weeks around Golden Week but had a much improved performance in their last game against Fagiano Okayama which hopefully shows that they might be turning a corner and be on the way to better results.

They will definitely be hoping for a win tomorrow as they face a Toyama team which had quite a lot of money put into them at the start of the season, but haven’t justified the investment with results on the pitch and lie second from bottom in the table.

The last time Toyama travelled to Level-5 they left with an away win courtesy of 4 goals, including a hatrick by support striker Kokeguchi.
He is likely to be the main danger men again tomorrow with his intelligent movement between lines and I would definitely play a dedicated anchor player. We have often tried to play with a more adventurous, attacking line-up at home, but I think the team now needs to build confidence with a fixed line-up, and hopefully a clean sheet from defence.

A 0-0 draw isn’t a good result, but apart from an Avispa win is the best result for us tomorrow to help the defence.

Avispa News

Kanemori is still injured, and Hirai and Punosevac didn’t do enough off the bench to displace Ishizu or Sakata in my opinion.
Sakai might be in more danger despite playing well as Mishima returns from suspension.

I would keep the same 3xx formation from last week which the players performed much better with, but as Mishima can come back in at right wing-back (a position which I think suits him more then full-back) It would allow Jogo to push up a little more in a more familiar forward role.
I like Jogo at right wing-back, especially if he learns that it potentially will give him more opportunities to avoid being tracked as he runs from deep, but I’m not convinced that he wants to play there.

Nakahara plays much better with Takeda alongside him to free him up defensively, and should continue trying to shoot from range.

Kamiyama stays in goal.

The big question will be the 3 at the back. Koga came back in for his first appearance against Okayama and did ok without ever looking spectacular. Will Pusnik have faith in Park, or keep with Koga? I think the other players like to have Koga in the team, and would keep him in for now so the team isn’t changed from a half-decent performance.


My Prediction:

Avispa 2 0 Toyama

I’m still hopeful of a big blow-out win to get out season up and running, but would settle for a win any way it comes.

Posted May 10, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Oita Trinita (preview)   1 comment

After less than 10 weeks we complete the first round of Kyushu derby matches for J2 this season as Oita Trinita make the trip across the north of the island to Fukuoka.

Having win the ‘Battle of Kyushu’ last season things seem to be going worse this season as we have played Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Kitakyushu and lost every game so far.
It is a fairly damning condemnation of the spirit of the players to have capitulated in every game so far and I hope they can restore some pride in the game today.

Despite some terrible performances and bad results we are still not doing too badly this season, and a win here will likely take us back into 7th/8th and within a point of the playoffs.

Avispa News.
We have our first suspension of the season as Lee Kwang Seon is now going to miss a game which means that compatriot Park Gon will probably play alongside Tsutsumi in defence. It is a defensive pairing which worked well at times last season, but Lee has probably been our best player so far this season and will be missed.

Keisuke Shimizu has already stated he wants to play against his parent club. It would seem harsh to drop him for this game even though he has been pretty awful.

Full-backs stay the same because we have no other options.

Midfield remains a huge problem. There is still the problem of Nakahara (our only midfielder) plus 2, with our general plan so far to be to play Jogo and Sakata or Morimura in midfield. There is a huge pressure on Jogo to get angry and perform in this role.

Up front I think you need to play Ishizu on the left. Sakata is the most obvious false 9, but might be needed in midfield where he is the only player who seems to attack the game. Hirai is incapable of helping in defence, but who else can play on the right? Ushinohama?

All we really need to to settle on a midfield defensive 2, and the other players can come in and out different positions depending on who is in form.

Oitai News
Oita have been generally playing the 3xx formation which we have struggled with at time in the last 3 years.
To combat the numbers it provides in midfield the inside forward positions have to push the wing-backs into defensive positions or we will get over-whelmed in midfield.

It will be a loud homecoming reception for midfielder Sueyoshi who went from being Rookie of the year playing alongside Nakamachi in 2010, to anonymous ‘finished article’ in 2012.
His career then really took off as he went to Sagan Toss and watched his team on TV as he couldn’t even get on the bench.

I am fairly optimistic as Oita have sold the big fat striker they used to have who seemed to score 2 goals every time we played against them.

Avispa 2 : 0 Oita

I’m not sure if I even believe myself, but I have to say we will win. If I don’t them I’m not sure if I can face going to the game after what I witnessed in the previous Kyushu derbies this season.

Posted May 2, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Giravanz Kitakyushu (preview)   Leave a comment

With the games coming thick and fast over Golden Week we will play our 2nd game in 4 days as near neighbours Kitakyushu come to Fukuoka.

It is a fixture which has got quite serious in recent seasons. In Giravanz’ debut season they were looked down upon by Avispa, and despite being our closest neighbours (sharing a prefecture) didn’t really feel like a derby.
That all changed a couple of seasons later when we dropped down from J1 and got totally destroyed by them away from home, and then had a volatile match at home where Suzuki Jun probably put in his best performance for the club in midfield (probably the match which got him his later move to Tokyo Verdy as Kitakyushu’s manager went there, how is that going Jun?).

The game is likely to again be scrappy and fought in midfield, the area where we have struggled to get 3 players who have shown they should be playing there every week. At the moment it is Nakahara + 2, but the +2 isn’t because of high competition it’s because somehow we still don’t have any clear midfielders at the club.

Everything changed in the last 5 minutes at Thespa, and I hope the club are positive going into this match knowing that a win at lunch-time today could take us to 3rd in the table (well, 2nd if we win 4-0 and Oita beat Nagasaki 4-0!)

Avispa News.
I’d still favor Kamiyama in goal, but Shimizu didn’t do badly in the last couple of games (but also didn’t do amazingly well. Kamiyama can win a game (he can also lose one however).

The back 4 will stay unchanged, but I hope Mishima and Abe have done a couple of sessions on crossing. Unless Puni is on the pitch they only really need 3 balls. i) Slid to a forward-winger on the corner of the box to cut inside or hit the byline. ii) Whipped in fast towards the near-post/penalty spot, much faster pace than they generally seem to, or iii) hit low into an area 2-4m in front of where the keeper can comfortably reach.
The number of crosses they are trying to hit to the back post and just balloon straight for a goal-kick is crazy.

Midfield is the problem. Generally at home we have played Nakahara as the furthest back midfielder. I think this is a big risk going into a derby match, especially if he has only Jogo and Sakata ahead of him like with Nagasaki.
On the flip side The only real options we have to play behind him are Park and Takeda. With the positive mood from being in 5th it would be good to have the best players on the pitch and even Takeda might say he shouldn’t be in the team ahead of Jogo and Sakata.
The other factor is that it is a game against Morimura’s old club, in a match after he has just scored the winning goal. In pre-season Morimura looked great, full of running and able to link up well. If he can pull it off he is the player we need.

The forward 3. I’d play Ishizu-Sakata-Jogo. Sakata will work and hold the ball up well, he rarely gives up possession. Jogo was very unlucky not to score last weekend, and he actually helps Mishima a lot when he plays in this position
There seems to be a bit of a trust issue with Ishizu and his failure to sometimes track back. I’d say he is consistently our most threatening player, the other players like to have him on the pitch, and with the team trying to build momentum he is invaluable. Even if he is replaced later, the player who comes on plays better having watched what he has done up to that point.

This means Punosevac and Hirai start on the bench. I think both have worked better as impact substitutes. Hirai this season, and Punosevac’s best games are still those from when he first came to the club and looked very exciting coming off the bench late on.

The player who is a little unfortunate in all that is Sakai who did well after coming on last week, and looked like he also had the spirit to carry the team. I’d bring him on first change.

The team I would pick: (front 4 must run, and preferably switch between positions)

My Prediction:

Avispa 2 : 0 Giravanz

Avispa play much better against the better teams, and when they are up against it and not complacent.
Giravanz are not one of the better teams, but being a derby match I expect the game to be played at a decent tempo and for Avispa to come out on top. The above formation gives them 6 players who can cope in midfield, and I’d have them playing a control-attack game for alternate 10 minute spells.

Posted April 28, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Thespa Kusatsu (preview)   Leave a comment

Avispa had a great start to the season gaining 12 points from the first bunch of fixtures before having a bad day at the office to lose 5-2 to Nagasaki in Level-5 stadium.

This game was something of a freak result against a good Nagasaki team playing with confidence and having everything they try come off. These results happen in football sometimes and in reality it didn’t cost us anything more than losing 1-0 to a deflected shot in the last minute; we still picked up 0 points from the game.

The facing Kamatamare Sanuki, the bottom club in the division, we had a chance to go 3rd in the table if we won (having already faced Jubilo and Kyoto in games this season).
We should have been 2/3-0 up in the first half and be heading to Gunma full of confidence being level with 3rd in J2, a position well above expectations for the season.
Instead the players totally stopped running, I have no idea why but hopefully someone at the club has an explanation for what happened at half-time and can correct it for this week, and we conceded a late equaliser.

That late equaliser means we are now in 10th place, 2 points outside the playoffs (having already played the teams in 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 8th in our 8 games this season) and with a chance of being 3rd if we win the game.

Most people would say this is hugely positive for a club who finished 18th 2 seasons ago, nearly went into bankruptcy last season and started the season hoping to sneak into a play-offs spot.
Instead there seems to be a bit of a wave of negativity around the club at the moment.
I know the 1st half performance against Nagasaki was terrible, and the 2nd half against Sanuki was anaemic, but step away from that 90 minutes and look at the results so far and few could say it has been a bad start to the season.
Everyone could also say ‘What if’s; What if we beat Roasso? What if we didn’t concede against Sanuki?; What if we’d got a goal against Ehime?; but that isn’t how football works.

What the team needs now going into Golden Week with 3 games in a week is to have the confidence of looking at the league table and seeing that they have picked up enough points to be well placed in the table.
The fans need to support what is going on on the pitch and try to help the players stay confident on the pitch.
The manager needs to see that his players have achieved good results, and put us in a good place in the table and barring a couple of poor performances haven’t become bad players and just need to have a boost in confidence to go out and play like they have against some of the top teams in the division.

Avispa News.
The players need confidence above and beyond anything else after the last couple of performances. self-doubt can be a big facet of Japanese football; the egos and arrogance of players in the Premiership are a long jump from the average Japanese footballer, but even those players are starting to use Sports Psychologists to get them into the right frame of mind for games.

The players need a little confidence boost going into the game, and I’d do this by finding out exactly where they want to play, and for the most part try to play those players in that position. It will mean that some players can’t play because of competition for places, but that’s something the players just need to deal with and maybe the next week will change their mind about where they want to play.

Having done this I would put Sakata, Jogo, Nakahara, Tsutsumi and Lee exactly where they want to play, and fill the other positions with players who want to be there and feel that it is their best position.
By doing this I’d hope to have players going onto the pitch confident that they know what they are going to do, and without any nagging self-doubts or excuses for not playing well.

SHould this happen then I think the team would end up looking like this:

A couple of points on that:
– Kamiyama returns in goal. He makes blunders, but he can also win games.
– Takeda has to play midfield. I don’t think this is the position he would choose, but is intelligent enough to deal with the change, and we don’t have anyone apart from Nakahara who would choose to play there (apart from Jang or Chris, 1 of which I would put on the bench).
– Hirai is on the bench. He hasn’t done enough to get ahead of Sakata.
– Kanamori is injured.

My Prediction.

Thespa Kusatsu 0 – 3 Avispa Fukuoka

More out of hope than expectation, we haven’t had a high win in a very long time, but if we can forget the first half at Nagasaki and the 2nd half at Sanuki the team can achieve 3-0 and 3rd place in the table with few problems.
The issues now are mental, and the players need a bit of an arm around the shoulder (I would probably say that 99% of Japanese players are in this mould rather than someone wanting a Fabio Capello type beasting).

Posted April 25, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Kamatamare Sanuki (preview)   Leave a comment

Avispa need to come back from what is probably the worst performance I have ever seen from them in losing the first half against Nagasaki 5-0, to get an away win and stay within touching distance of the play-offs.

They have already sort of come back from that half by winning the 2nd half against Nagasaki 2-0 with the players much more switched on, and with a much better tactical set-up for the team.

The big issue against Nagasaki was that our midfield got totally overwhelmed with Nakahara struggling in an anchor role, and Jogo and Sakata not doing enough to help alongside him. In the second half Jogo dropped deeper back and we started to look a lot better.
As an away game I expect us to be set up with a bit of a less attacking starting line-up, which paradoxically will probably make us better in attack as it will allow the forwards to concentrate on attacking and have someone to win the ball back and give it to them.

We couldn’t have hoped to meet a better team coming off a defeat like that as Sanuki are new to the division and have lost every match, conceding 20 goals in 7 games.

Avispa News.
Kanamori picked up his injury and will be absent for a couple of weeks, but otherwise have no injury problems that I know about.
I don’t expect Punosevac to be in the starting line-up after his ineffective performance last weekend and think he will likely start on the bench to be used as an impact substitute.
Hirai may stay in the team, but thanks largely to Kanamori’s injury giving us a front 3 with Sakata in the middle with Ishizu and Hirai cuting in each side of him.

I think Jogo would be preferred on the right, but that leaves us with very few options in midfield.
I have always said we need to be playing with a true anchor, regardless of who we are playing and whether we are home or away, and expect Park to play here.
I would prefer the legs of Takeda behind Nakahara and Jogo, but Park does help to make a defensive 3 when the full-backs have pushed up and has a good chance here to build confidence and understanding with Lee and Tsutsumi.

The only other option would be to play Park and Takeda alongside Nakahara and let Jogo move further forward, but I think Jogo’s natural position should be as a central midfielder making late runs into the box and again can use this match to learn the position.

Defence writes itself with Mishima and Abe as full-backs each side of Tsutsumi and Lee, with Park as anchor giving them more freedom to get forward.

Kamatamatare Sanuki
I’ve not watched any of their games so far this season, but know they have Yutaka Takahashi as one of their main strikers which makes me quite confident of keeping a clean sheet.

My Prediction:

Kamatare Sanuki 0 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka

Bounce back with a win, with the players starting fast and getting a goal within the first 10 minutes.

Posted April 19, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview