Monday, 16 November 2009

The Should They Stay Or Should They Go? Debate, pt 3

OK then, AO, let's be brave and move on to the midfielders...

7. Tomoya Uchida

We have a lot - and I really do mean a lot - of midfielders who fall into the same kind of category as Uchida. Not that they're the same kind of player or that they contribute similar things to the team, but looking at the season he's had is typical. Uchida is the star of the satellite league side, but when it comes to the first team he's in and out of the starting line-up and sometimes a substitute. As a wide midfield player, all too often he struggles to make an impact and to get involved in a game. It's easy enough for an aggressive and reasonably well-organised opponent to stop him and because I think that this is the area of the squad that needs to be improved above all others, I'd get rid of him.

11. Chikara Fujimoto

F: For some reason our now-captain has a higher profile than the likes of Uchida or Hayato Hashimoto and I can't really understand why. He isn't a better player than them and in fact I think Fujimoto is about the most frustrating member of the squad. Occasionally things will go well for him, for example in the recent Saitama derby, and he looks good. More usually, though, Chikara doesn't have the talent or the self-control to do properly what he's attempting and he causes an attack to break down. Successive coaches have tried to build the middle of the team around his creativity but it hasn't really worked since 2005. I think it's time for a change, one that could be beneficial for both the club and the player.

14. Park Won Jae

F: Won Jae must be pretty confused at how he's ended up being treated by Jang Wae Ryong. Having left Pohang Steelers - that's new ACL winners Pohang Steelers - like Uchida he doesn't seem to have a fixed role in the squad. Sometimes Won Jae is in the team, sometimes he isn't and the position allocated to him has varied throughout the year. It would be good to see him get another chance.

15. Masato Saito

F: Well, you know it had to happen sometime, but this has been the season when Mr Omiya has faded from view. Spread over four substitute appearances, Saito has barely played ninety minutes of first team football in 2009 and he's coming up to his 34th birthday. Obviously it's unimaginable that he might join another club and one assumes that following his retirement Masa will become a salaryman. I'm not going to be the one to suggest when he might find it appropriate to do that.

17. Hayato Hashimoto and 23. Shin Kanazawa

F: There are a lot of striking things that Jang has done in 2009, but perhaps the most unexpected of all has been to put these two at the heart of his team. Hashimoto has over the course of his Omiya career had coaches who have liked him and coaches who haven't, but no-one before Jang has played him consistently in central midfield. Likewise, not many supporters pre-season will have imagined that Kanazawa would be one of the first names on the teamsheet, or that he would be used as a volante.

I will have to be honest and say that I don't think that either of them are good enough to play such a key position in a team with aspirations. They don't have the strength to dominate a game or to control an opponent's midfield. Aside from Hashimoto occasionally at set pieces, they don't create nearly enough for their team mates and God knows they don't score enough themselves - one league goal between them tells you all you need to know about the quality of their shooting. Like Yusuke Shimada, Hashimoto and Kanazawa could be stars in J2, but they won't take a team to the top half of J1.

24. Takaya Kawanabe, 26. Takuya Aoki, 33. Ryohei Arai
and 34. Seo Yong Duk

F: The four fringe midfielders. Years ago, or in March at least, it might be hard to believe now but Ryohei Arai made his full debut in the starting line-up of the opening match of the season and it looked as if Jang was going to let the kids get a real chance. It was interesting to see that Seo also got a first team opportunity as soon as he arrived at the club, although both players have more or less dropped off the radar since then. I'm happy enough to see both retained.

Kawanabe and Aoki are in the kind of limbo that gets them substitute appearances in the Nabisco Cup. You get the impression that Kawanabe is a bit like Nobuhisa Kobayashi in that if Omiya keep offering him a minimum wage contract he'll keep taking it, because that means another year in which he won't have to go and look for a proper job. Would his not being in the squad really make a difference? I don't think so. A youth international, Aoki hasn't had a real crack of the whip in two years at Ardija. Mind you, Terukazu Tanaka was, as I recall, a promising young player.

Let me address our main bone of contention first. I think Shin Kanazawa has done a great job this year. His job is not to be a creator, it's to be a destroyer or a disruptor and he has done the job well. He's leading the league in tackles, he's the only one on the team that applies pressure defense and he gets the ball to creative players in a timely fashion.

His role isn't to score or assist, it's to ball hawk and he does that well. He needs someone creative and skilled next to him to succeed and Hayato Hashimoto is not that player. Time and again, I've seen Shin get the quick pass to Fujimoto, Hashimoto, Yasuhiro Hato, et al... and then watched the offense come to a screeching halt because these players paused and took time to make a decision.

We are in complete agreement, however, on Hashimoto, Fujimoto and Uchida. I'll take Fujimoto first. I don't understand the team's addiction to him. Our two worst years were when he assumed the captain's band. He has never scored more than five goals or assisted more than five times in any one season he has donned the orange and blue. He does not play defense on a regular basis and often disrupts the offensive flow with bouts of the fantasistas. He is a bad-team superstar - your team will go nowhere, but he will have highlight reel moments. I've talked with other fans and have yet to hear anybody say they really like him (except for the odd little guy who was hovering around me the other day for some reason... chalk him up to oddness). Is it the stupid dance that keeps him here?

Hashimoto and Uchida are frustrating for exactly the same reasons. They show flashes of solid play but inexplicably go down to injury, or don't show up when called. Uchida turns in about one good match in every five appearances. They both do free kicks... rarely do they put them in places where our team can capitalise. It seems like both have regressed as the season has worn on. Hashimoto turns the ball over at alarming rates and often Uchida is beaten to the ball by larger players. If you happen to be tiny, you better be fast or you have no business on the field. Neither is reliable and both should be shown the door.

Park is lightning quick and slightly insane. I want to see him get a full year at left mid. Seo is someone I would rather not see because he isn't good enough to take one of the four international (three world / one Asian) slots. I don't see the point in developing him for other people.

In the limited amounts of time I've seen Aoki play, I've come away impressed. He's only nineteen, so his being brought along slowly is not so distressing. I hope he gets starts in place of Kanazawa because now is a great time to see what he can do in a pressure situation. Arai has been disappointing because it looks like Jang has really messed with his head. He looked more poised last year when he was playing satellite matches as an U18 than he has this year. It's a shame, because the kid at Tokyo is only eighteen and they let him have time to grow into his position. Maybe a loan to a J2 squad for a year wouldn't be bad for either one if they could get some solid minutes.

I've seen Kawanabe play in an actual game before... can you say that? [You're hardcore, AO - F]

Finally Masa Saito gets to say when Masa Saito is finished. Although coaches like this don't help matters much. [Excellent call - F]



Dih x) 16 November 2009 at 23:48  

Daigo Kobayashi should BACK!

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