Monday, 11 January 2010

The 2010 Squad, pt 1

Furtho: A somewhat belated Happy New Year to you, Agent Orange, and I hope that you had a relaxing holiday time. Towards the end of 2009, we took a look at the Ardija squad to see which players we wanted to retain for this season and which were more Sayonara material. The general conclusion, if memory serves, is that it was the midfield that Jang Wae Ryong and Haruo Yuuki needed to give their attention to improving over the winter. Since then there's been a fair amount of transfer activity at Omiya - both incoming and outgoing - so shall we take this opportunity to cast our eyes that are expert over the 2010 squad as it stands?

If we start as we did before with the goalkeepers, we both felt that there wasn't a whole lot of point in giving Nobuhisa Kobayashi another season and indeed he's one of the guys who was quickly released after the last game at Oita. On balance I think it's probably a good thing for the player that first reserve Takahiro Takagi has left the club as well - barring injury or a major slump in form on behalf of Koji Ezumi, Takagi was unlikely to get into the starting XI and as such his career was unlikely to progress at Omiya. He has a fresh start with Niigata and given how the close season has gone so far at Albirex, you would have to say that there is the chance that he will be first choice.

So if Kobayashi and Takagi have departed and Ezumi and third / fourth choice Keiki Shimizu are still around, how do we assess the cohort of keepers now? Well, Takashi Kitano has come from Niigata to put Ezumi under some real pressure. He's been first choice up there for pretty much the last four years and as such has a level of top division experience that Takagi couldn't offer. Ezumi probably slipped a little in 2009 from the high standard that he had set himself the previous year and although most Squirrels fans would probably have been happy enough if he were to have remained as #1 for 2010, with the arrival of Kitano and also Daisuke Tada on loan from Cerezo Osaka, overall we seem to have a stronger group than before. The big question is, who will be Jang's first choice?

Agent Orange: I don't think there's any question who will be starter in 2010. It's Kitano. For whatever reason, Yuuki and company want to expunge all institutional memory from Omiya and start anew. The last member from the ultimately doomed class of 2006 is Ezumi. I think part of getting a new keeper was in order to get rid of anything before Ardija v2.0. That being said, picking up Kitano makes a fair amount of sense. He is four years younger than Ezumi, which means he has yet to start his peak years as a keeper; Ezumi is in his prime right now. But in 2009, Kitano was second best in goals allowed, had more saves, had a better percentage than Ezumi of successful feeds on kicks and throws and put up more shutouts (eleven to seven) while allowing fewer three-goal games (two to seven) during the season.

For all the moaning that I do about the Omiya front office, getting the starting keeper from the second best defense in the J-League and adding him to the fourteenth best makes a fair amount of sense. I think the best part of this move is that it cripples a team that is above us in the standings. While Takahiro Takagi had a few bright moments during the Nabisco Cup, he was always threatening to blow up at any momnet, be it the disastrous 7-0 performance against Sanfrecce or the second half meltdown versus Marinos. I'd make that trade in a second.

As for Daisuke Tada, I don't know enough about him to have a real opinion. Honestly, if we are down to the third keeper we have problems. On paper, I'd say we have the one of the strongest collections of keepers in the J-League. It wasn't our biggest need to upgrade - but if we could do it, it was the right decision and something that should be commended.



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