Monday, 9 March 2009

Thoughts Of Agent Orange - Ardija v S-Pulse

I don't want to get into the minutiae of doing a play-by-play of how the Ardija squad did against S-Pulse on Sunday; I saw some things I liked and some things I didn't. The one thing that did jump out at me was the difference in team play when Ryohei Arai was in compared to Yosuke Kataoka.

Everybody who has read one of my columns knows I hate Kataoka. Think he's useless. Today though I figured out why he does what he does. And it's pretty astounding. Arai had a pretty rough fifty minutes. There were flashes of good play and he nearly put one in on a rebound, but his passing was bad and he made a real clumsy tackle that could have got him sent off.

That being said, the team looked better when he was in than when he was substituted just after half time. He pressed people on defense and got up into the attack. When he went off, so did the offense. Omiya had eight shots before the break and three after. What I saw was that Kataoka played back off the attacker, giving them much more space to get shots off. It finally clicked.

Allow me to indulge in a personal story for a moment. When Furtho and I went to training last year, then head coach Jun Nakamura told us the difference between Robert Verbeek's system and Yasuhiro Higuchi's system. Verbeek had everyone fall back and absorb the attack and hope for a counter. Higuchi's system was more of a swarming defense. I believe Jang Wae Ryong has the same essential philosophy.

The first half saw a lot of pressing and more chances. The second half saw Kataoka slump back. The team was in effect playing two systems at the same time. Yoshihito Fujita and substitute Daisuke Watabe were trying to push up and Kataoka was slowing it down.

It spread like a virus: once Kataoka did it, Yasuhiro Hato took his cue and also slowed down. I don't remember seeing one backpass in the first half. The second half, I saw them. Another effect of this was Chikara Fujimoto abandoning the quick passing game and going rogue with one-on-five runs. I don't blame him. The two cenral mids were slumping by this time... Kataoka by choice and Shin Kanazawa by necessity: he was forced to close the gap.

Another difference I noticed between Arai and Kataoka was the mistakes. Arai was making a lot of errors. Short passing, bad passing, missing marks. However, his mistakes were "fast" mistakes - that is, he'd make it and react and the team would be able to react along with him. But Kataoka makes "slow" mistakes. He holds the ball too long and everyone is forced to watch. When he does make a move, if he fails, he freezes. Everyone else has trouble reacting, because they aren't moving.

I don't think the substitution of Arai was the wrong choice. He deserved to be pulled (on a side note, he did bow to the field when he left... it was endearing and it shows he's still a kid). I would have liked to see Chikara put up top instead of Watabe and Tomoya Uchida brought in, although it was great to see the youngsters getting some time.


Defense! Wow, Mato Neretljak and Daisuke Tomita did a great job together, even with the handbags in the first half. Taishi Tsukamoto and (yeah, I'll say it) Hato were very good on defense as well. And Koji Ezumi was stellar - he came up with a couple of big saves and controlled the box. Frode Johnsen only had one really big chance, so it was a nice job. The S-Pulse corners were handled with ease.

Shin Kanazawa. He played a great game in defensive midfield. He disrupted a lot of the Shimizu offense and paired nicely with Arai. Yaataa!


Fujita and Masahiko Ichikawa. The offense was dangerous in short bursts, but it seemed to disappear in large spurts. Both players were active on the defensive end, though, so it was a nice change from past years.

Chotto hetakusoo!

Hayato Hashimoto and Chikara. Not awful, but no corners and so-so crosses fall on the wings. Drifted too far in the middle on occasion. It was nice to see Hayato go a full ninety minutes.

The gaffer, Jang. Not bad. No major mistakes by the team means there is a better mindset.


1. Ezumi
2. Mato
3. Tomidai

One final thought

Great giveaway by the team. The seat cushions and bag are high quality indeed! Kudos!



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