Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Agent Orange Reports: Of Klemen And Kikuchi

In less than a year, the core of our team has been upturned by the Jang Wae Ryong / Haruo Yuuki regime. In a move that was shocking to no-one, Slovenian striker Klemen Lavric was on Monday released from the team after three very brief cameo appearances this season. The warning signs were there when, early in training Lavric was playing in the second string and even appearing out of position as a central defender. Much like the Yoshiyuki Kobayashi situation, it looked destined to fail.

I'm not close enough to things to say what happened. I could see that Lavric was unhappy when it looked like he got in a pretty heated argument over the "keep away" game at the start of one of the home matches. I thought it was a fairly cheap shot by Yuuki when in the June meeting he used Klemen's fitness as an excuse for not playing him. Viewing it from the outside, the team didn't treat him that well. And I don't get it.

He's not a perfect striker, but every time Lavric got the ball in a dangerous position, I felt like he was going to score. That's a feeling I never had with any other Omiya Ardija player. He's a rare combination of size, skill and speed who in my opinion scored the best goal in Omiya history at about six minutes of this clip.

Part of the problem was that Klemen was a big player on a small club. Officials had the Shaquille O'Neal conundrum - he probably was fouled every time in the box and the refs couldn't adjust to it. So they called fouls where there were none. I think that added to his frustration. I thought that he would have been a star in the J-League if he had played for Urawa Reds: the combination of German style, accurate passers among his team-mates and deference to their team by J-League officials would have allowed him the chance to score at least ten.

The moment I'm going to remember most, however, is the last match of 2008 against Jubilo Iwata, when Klemen (while not having the greatest game) managed to head a beautiful pass to a wide-open Daigo Kobayashi for a goal. Brilliance.

I get the fact that coaches have the right to bring in their own guys. What I don't get is why Klemen wasn't one of them. I wish that he had adapted better to bad officiating and the less-than-stellar coaching, but I appreciate everthing he did. Hvala, Klemen! You are an Ardija Legend!

And In Other News

Erstwhile Jubilo midfielder Naoya Kikuchi is reportedly the newest member of JEF United after two years in the wilderness. If you aren't familiar with Kikuchi, he was the guy that got popped for having relations with a fifteen-year-old girl and forgetting his wallet in her bicycle basket.

When I first heard about this, I was disgusted. I've mellowed on the stance, but I still have to question why a brand new coach like Atsuhiko Ejiri would make this his very first move. I don't doubt that Kikuchi has talent, being on the Olympic squad and getting trials at top-tier Bundesliga clubs. What I would question is bringing in a guy who at the very least had a problem with making good decisions.

JEF is in a dangerous position right now. Throwing a controversial figure into an already messy situation is a big risk, especially for a coach with no track record. I think there are teams where Kikuchi could thrive, but they'd have to have strong leadership and a coach who could do the move without being questioned; Dragan Stojkovic at Nagoya Grampus comes to mind.

Why do I bring up Naoya Kikuchi? Well, two reasons. He was rumored to be coming here and I'm glad he's not. The Sponichi article mentions specifically that Sapporo, Vissel and Omiya all offered bids to Kikuchi and all were turned down. It seems like his price would be double that of Shin Kanazawa, even though he is recovering from a serious injury and has been playing in Bundesliga 3 for the past year. He's not a sure thing by any means, even with the pedigree.

I don't like it from a business standpoint. Omiya has taken great lengths to market themselves as the family-friendly alternative to Urawa. They have had huge promotions for women and children. I have trouble seeing how you can continue doing that while featuring a guy convicted of a (arguably relatively minor and benign) sex crime. If he's not successful on the field, that kind of stuff gets magnified and not in a positive way.

Finally, I just don't want to feel creepy when I'm rooting for my team. I know it's not fair to Kikuchi that he has this stigma over one lapse in judgement, but I still feel how I feel. I want to root for a likeable team and guys who get arrested for sleeping with fifteen-year olds aren't that appealing. I'd feel like a hypocrite cheering for him and I know that's my issue, but that's how I feel. Looks like he's back on track and that's good. I wish him luck.



Furtho 30 July 2009 at 20:29  

The Kikuchi thing with JEF doesn't look like a done deal to me. I agree that Omiya mess with their family image at their peril, though.

Furtho 31 July 2009 at 03:42  

Klemen's Sayonara Party on Chikara Fujimoto's blog - - and Yusuke Murayama's blog -

Omiya Fan,  31 July 2009 at 23:20  

Lavric is rumoured to be off to Strasbourg in L'Equipe.

Furtho 1 August 2009 at 01:07  

As OF says, Strasbourg - who are in Ligue 2 - have a new president who's quoted in French sports paper L'Equipe as saying that the club are interested in Klemen:

Furtho 2 August 2009 at 06:24  

Tomoya Uchida on Klemen:

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