Monday, 15 June 2009

The Squirrel's Eye View - What's Happening?

What is happening at Omiya Ardija?

Team morale would appear to have collapsed completely in the last few weeks, popular captain Yoshiyuki Kobayashi has left the club on loan amid strong rumours of a falling out with coach Jang Wae Ryong, replacement captain Chikara Fujimoto suggests that this is the most difficult situation that the Squirrels have ever been in and then the same player promptly gets himself sent off in a 6-2 rout by deadly rivals Urawa Reds. Throw in a record defeat, a fan protest and the club's bizarre management of the resulting meeting on Wednesday evening and, as has been commented on this website, it is not difficult to raise questions about the competence of the people running things on and off the pitch at Omiya.

Remember that 2009 was the year that the Squirrels were supposed to make their big breakthrough, with talk pre-season of achieving an Asian Champions League spot. Yasuhiro Higuchi departed as coach, probably correctly, and Jang was brought in from the K-League alongside Mato Neretljak and Park Won Jae - players intended to improve the defence, which Jang had identified as the weakest area of Higuchi's squad. Elsewhere, money was spent to retain foreign stars Denis Marques and Klemen Lavric, as well as bringing in proven J2 goalscorers in Yoshihito Fujita and Naoki Ishihara.

Given that these newcomers replaced players who almost all left for teams that play at a lower level than Omiya, there is little doubt that Jang, general manager Haruo Yuuki and club president Seigo Watanabe have put together what is on paper the strongest squad in the Squirrels' history. But in executing a plan to play more direct, attacking football, Jang has succeeded only in alienating and confusing his players, the mantra of flexibility leading to such bizarre selections as Ardija legend Masato Saito - a composed defensive midfield player - being fielded alongside Fujita as a striker in the aforementioned Saitama Derby.

No blame can of course be attached to Saito himself for such an idea, but one has to wonder what the likes of Daisuke Watabe and Lavric must have thought when they saw the teamsheet. And now, with the experienced head of Yoshiyuki Kobayashi aiding Kashiwa Reysol in their own fight to avoid relegation, Jang and his colleagues seem suddenly to have turned their attention to the midfield, as the club are linked in the media with a move for Junichi Inamoto - aka the forgotten man of the Japan national team.

It's impossible to say whether the addition of Inamoto to the squad is a genuine aim, or merely media bluff to distract attention away from what looks set to be a frank exchange of views on Wednesday between Ardija fans and Watanabe. But even without Kobayashi, the best Omiya squad ever is better than its current league position. They will not win J1, but this is a group of players that can achieve a reasonable placing and they can do this without the arrival of an unknown quantity like Inamoto. The problem at Ardija doesn't lie with the squad, but with the coach who has overseen their fall down the standings and the organisation within the club that led him to be appointed.

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4 comments:

Omiya Fan,  16 June 2009 at 22:13  

By the way tried the green tea/cola hybrid today. Agent Orange is right!

Furtho 17 June 2009 at 02:56  

I think it would be both useful and instructive for all of us if Agent Orange were to purchase some - for research purposes, naturally - and post here on this website an in-depth review. Indeed, his public demands that he does so.

Daniel 18 June 2009 at 04:23  

Tea and cola??? only in Japan I guess haha

What is happening with the protest?

Furtho 18 June 2009 at 06:46  

It seems as if the club decided that they want to persevere with Jang, coupled with the tantalising glimpse of maybe bringing in some new players. We'll see.

We'll also see what the supporters have to say if league results don't start improving very rapidly - the league recommences at the weekend and Omiya have a home game against Kyoto, which is the kind of fixture they'd normally expect to have a decent chance of winning. Having stood by their man, Watanabe and Yuuki are going to look pretty bloody silly if they have to sack him in a couple of months' time because we're heading to J2.

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