Thursday, 6 August 2009

Ardija 2009 - The Great Debate, Pt 1

In which GGOA staffers Agent Orange and Furtho put down their well-thumbed copies of Penguin Post magazine and give the first half of Omiya Ardija's 2009 season a good going over. Part Two of the discussion to follow.

Agent Orange: Take a look at this line-up from Game 20 last season as an illustration of who the Jang Wae Ryong / Haruo Yuuki regime regards as talents and who they do not; the players in CAPITALS have all left the club in the intervening period. I'm not sure that a 19-year-old Korean playing out of position and a new striker severely out of form are really fair value replacements for the two we had, but who knows? All he has to do is get rid of Masato Saito and Daisuke Tomita and it will truly be Jang's team.

GK Ezumi
DF Murayama
DF LEANDRO
DF Kataoka
DF Hato
MF Fujimoto (Hashimoto 86')
MF KOBAYASHI Y
MF SAEKI
MF KOBAYASHI D (Saito 83')
FW DENIS MARQUES
FW LAVRIC (MORITA 89')

Subs not used

GK ARATANI
DF TANAKA
FW SAKURAI
FW YOSHIHARA

Furtho: I don't think there is anything wrong with a club supporting a coach by bringing in and getting rid of players. You can ask a question about Ardija throwing their weight behind a guy who has said he only wants the job for a year, but that is another issue. I don't think there is anything wrong, either, with a coach trying to play a more dynamic type of football. God knows this is something that Omiya have needed for years. My personal opinion is that Omiya won't make serious improvements until we have a really strong, intelligent midfield(er) who can dominate a match, combined up front with a speedy and consistent goalscorer.

Dudu might be the latter; Denis Marques, Klemen Lavric, Yoshihito Fujita and Naoki Ishihara are only ever half the deal at most - but Jang clearly favours the idea of movement and hard work over other characteristics. Looking back at the Reds J1 match in May, I can see why. It's not Jang's fault that Fujita and Kohei Tokita missed three really good chances between them that day, especially considering that they were chances that Denis and Klemen wouldn't have got on the end of in the first place. They wouldn't have run hard enough to be in a position to miss.



AO: I agree with you, but if you look at the guys Jang's keeping, they are either severely limited like Tokita and Yusuke Murayama, very young, or Chikara Fujimoto - who is as big of a dog as Kota Yoshihara. I get clearing a core out, but the guys you bring in have to be better and "Kataoka" and "dynamic football" should never be in the same sentence - unless you separate them with "is the enemy of". We're developing two Koreans who probably won't stay if Jang is being honest about wanting to be here for only a year and we're letting youth rot that's homegrown.

F: I don't know how long Seo Yong Duk and Park Won Jae's deals are, but again it isn't Jang's fault if the club makes short-term deals that tie in with his own contractual arrangements. The question here is, though, whether Jang is executing his plan very effectively and results so far would seem to indicate that he isn't. Sometimes his valuing of certain characteristics "works" (e.g., Fujita and Tokita got into position to score against Reds, whereas other players would probably have failed to do so), other times it doesn't (e.g., Fujimoto and Kataoka's perceived versatility enables them to get playing time, when they really aren't very good).

But the bottom line is that despite all the changes that Jang has instigated, we haven't made serious progress under him: to be exact, when compared with 2008, we are one point and two places better off. This would suggest that he is replacing the departed players with guys who are just different, not better or worse: Fujita and Ishihara aren't of a high enough quality to put opportunities away on a regular basis at J1 level. However, every coach we have had in J1 - not just Jang - seems to have believed that there is a big gap in quality between the guys who can be considered real candidates for the first team and the others who are more or less just populating the squad.

You could argue quite easily that Jang has been more open-minded than anyone else in that regard, given that he has given J1 playing time to Ryohei Arai and Masahiko Ichikawa. The fact that I don't hear anyone now expressing a desire to see Arai back in the team proves the point - and if the coach doesn't feel that there is enough competition for places because the likes of Arai are demonstrably not good enough, he has to do what he thinks is right as regards bringing new people in.



AO: He's had half a season and still seems squirmy when it comes to the team. He's changed line-ups and formations every game, no matter if we play good or bad. But it's funny that you mention the gap in quality in the squad, because Jang made a big demonstration before the first FC Tokyo game saying that there is not much difference between our best player and our worst. Then he went with Kataoka and Murayama over Haruki Nishimura and Shunsuke Fukuda.

Arai looked much better in his first games over where he is now; another one of the kids, Daisuke Watabe, started out great as well, but has been relegated to bench play. That's bad coaching when our players are regressing. And it is kind of is Jang's fault on the short-term deals because unlike previous coaches like Yasuhiro Higuchi or Robert Verbeek, he has a lot of say in who comes in. This is his team for the most part. We've all slagged Robert, but do you really think Salles would have been his first choice as a striker to bring in midway through the season?

F: As I've said, I think that Jang has had - quite appropriately - a lot of support from the club. It's stupid to appoint a coach and then tie one hand behind his back because you won't go along with his ideas about populating the squad. As you've said, that looked like it was the case for Robert and Higuchi and it is indeed difficult to imagine that Salles was going to be anyone's first choice. Previous coaches had to work with what they were given and Jang can have no complaints in that respect. That's why I concluded that he hasn't executed his plan well.

I take your point about Arai and Watabe, but Jang's priorities beyond those particular players - bearing in mind that the club have been stupid enough to give him a year's contract - will be, (a) finishing as high as possible in the league, no matter which players he has to pick; and then a long way behind that, (b) trying to take forward the development of younger players. To achieve both, he has at least given some playing time to Arai and Watabe and has found them not to be up to scratch.

I agree it is tough for them to be dumped back on the bench (or worse), but because much of the environment around the club is set up around shorter term goals (e.g. year-on-year contracts for the coach) and we don't have a strong enough squad overall to carry weaker members of the team while they develop, Jang can't afford to keep selecting guys who he thinks aren't good enough right now. Would it be better coaching for Arai and Watabe still to be in the team? Or not to have had any chance at all?



AO: The club has stated that the main goal is to get a championship by 2011, so really using retreads and guys who will not be a part of the squad by then kind of goes against that. I understand the need for a coach to have his team, but gutting the whole squad for a temporary appointment isn't the best idea. I'm hit or miss on Jang and the more he vacillates on decisions means that the guy who comes in as coach next year will have less say - it's like he's setting fire to the house to keep warm. His main priority (if I recall correctly) is to get the Korean Olympic team position and I think the signing of Seo factors in to that plan a bit. Really after the 7-0 drubbing by Sanfrecce Hiroshima, there was no reason to use Chikara, Mato Neretljak or Yasuhiro Hato in either the Reds or Marinos Nabisco Cup games - and there was absolutely no reason to use Murayama.

F: I completely agree that the club having a longer-term policy re: 2011 is undercut by appointing a short-term coach. As I said before, the coach's target can only be to make this individual season "a success", however you define that. But the fact that these contradictory priorities exist is the club's fault, not Jang's. I think I've made it clear that I don't think he's a good coach; however, the wider responsibility for the situation is not his.

AO: We're probably on the same page on Jang, I'm just pissed off that we do this crap every year.

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