2024 J.League season preview: Avispa Fukuoka hoping to build on best season in club history

2024 J.League season preview: Avispa Fukuoka hoping to build on best season in club history

Avispa Fukuoka lived an unforgettable dream in 2023 and will be hoping for even more joy in 2024. Let's step back before we jump forward...

2023 review

Avispa lost their season opener, but then immediately went on a six-match unbeaten streak. They'd go even better during the summer when a six-match winning streak gave them hope of securing their best-ever J1 finish in club history.

They did just that by finishing in seventh, but the best memories of the season were made in the J.League YBC Levain Cup, which Fukuoka won in dramatic fashion over Urawa Reds at the National Stadium.

It was an unforgettable day and would mark the first major trophy in the history of the club.

Key loss

Yuya Yamagishi - The forward led the team with 10 goals last season and his four assists were tied for the most on the squad so Yamagishi’s departure to Nagoya Grampus leaves a big hole in the team.

Other notable losses include Yosuke Ideguchi, who heads to defending champs Vissel Kobe, and Lukian, who is off to Shonan Bellmare. Lukian wasn't at his best in Fukuoka but did add 5 goals and 3 assists last season in nearly 2000 minutes. He won't be so simple to replace.

Key addition

Daiki Matsuoka - With the loss of Ideguchi comes a tough-tackling 22-year-old who can anchor things in the center of the pitch and could be a centerpiece at the club for years to come.

The young star has a track record in J1 already from his time at Sagan Tosu and Shimizu S-Pulse — having amassed well over a century of appearances in the top flight — and last year spent time on loan in Brazil at Grêmio Novorizontino in the second tier.

Matsuoka was also on the Japan team that won the silver medal at the Asian Games. His availability for Avispa may be spotty this season due to the AFC U-23 Asian Cup and, if they qualify, the Olympics, but while any absences would come at a cost, it is worth it to get a player like Matsuoka.

Goal for 2024

What do you do after the best season in club history? Keep dreaming, of course.

The Wasps will look to continue flying and build off of their 2023 exploits. While climbing too high up the table is perhaps unlikely, they weren't far off fifth place last season, which would be an excellent stretch goal.

Ultimately, though, consolidation is key for this club that wants to remain in the upper half of the J1 table and continue to challenge for silverware.

The task this year is far from easy. Replacing Yamagishi is an especially mighty challenge for a team that only scored 37 goals last season, but they should also get an attacking boost from the arrival of Nassim Ben Khalifa from Sanfrecce Hiroshima. While Ben Khalifa wasn't at his best for the Three Arrows last year, a change of scenery could unlock his talent and give this side a force in the final third that would make all the difference.

With other exciting signings throughout the team, like Yuto Iwasaki from Sagan Tosu, it's clear that Fukuoka aren't content to rest on their achievements from last season and are looking for ways to improve while staying true to their unique DNA.