Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The 2010 Squad, pt 2 - Defense! Defense!

Agent Orange: As with everything that Omiya does, the defensive adjustments have been sort of a Good News/ Bad News type of affair. Omiya did have eight true defenders on the squad (not counting the Park Won Jae and Kohei Tokita fiascos) and over the winter have let five go. Four of those five were at times pretty big contributors to a fairly mediocre defense during their stay in Omiya. A quick review:

  • Yasuhiro Hato was the biggest name to come in to the squad in 2006 and the former Marinos, Flugels and Reysol man went on to be a starter for four seasons. While he used his years of soccer wisdom and veteran leadership to steady a sometimes shaky back line, his lack of athleticism and overly cautious style held back the offense on occasion.
  • Daisuke Tomita came to Omiya from Mito six years ago and filled every job asked of him. Tomita became a full-time starter under Robert Verbeek and stayed there until Jang decided that he wasn't fit to be in the first XI.
  • Yosuke Kataoka was my least favorite player of all-time. An absolute sieve in the midfield, Kataoka followed short spurts of decent play with long stretches of awful. Last year, though, the Kokushikan University product had his best overall season as a stopgap to a leaky back four, playing solid defense and cutting back on the plethora of mental mistakes that had plagued his career.
  • Yusuke Murayama came to Ardija in 2007 and played adequately enough to help the team stay afloat. He punished the squad for that with two years of the worst defense in J1.
  • Haruki Nishimura didn't play, ever.
On the surface, it looks like a real no-brainer on the cuts. The squad needed to get younger and more athletic and the defense was sporting four guys pushing past thirty, so it made sense. The real key was going to be who the front office brought in to replace them and the first addition was a defender who can best be described as high risk / high reward. Yuki Fukaya was the anchor for a defense that allowed only 24 goals in 2008 and helped Oita Trinita win a Nabisco Cup campaign. 2009 was horrific, as injury robbed him of half of his season and caused Oita to spiral into a fourteen-game losing abyss. If - and the key word is if - Fukaya is able to come back to full strength and mesh with Mato Neretljak, the combination of that pairing with Takashi Kitano is one of the best defensive cores in the J-League... on paper.

The second and third additions have similar resumes, a pair of sidebacks who will be 29 when the season starts. Both Kazuhiro Murakami and Arata Sugiyama have bounced between J1 and J2. Both were deemed of no use to their clubs at the close of the 2009 season. Both were second options for Omiya after younger and more promising players - that's Takanobu Komiyama and Masato Fujita - chose to play for Kanagawa teams instead. And both have departed squads that weren't known for their defensive prowess: Murakami comes from a Kawasaki team that on occasion has been known to leak like a collander, while Sugiyama played most of his minutes for J2 Kofu as a midfield wing in a 3-5-2 (a midfielder at wingback, sound familiar?).

Finally, Omiya brought in rental player Shusuke Tsubouchi from Vissel Kobe via Oita. Many jokes have been made about the move, specifically that Yusuke Murayama is being replaced by a guy who has helped his team get relegated everywhere he went. Personally, I think that's unfair to Murayama: he did everything he possibly could to get Omiya relegated, too.

I'll like these moves a lot better if Taishi Tsukamoto is the starter and Sugiyama is the guy off the bench. The other way around doesn't thrill me. Are we improved in the back four? Yes, but not as much as we should be. Who starts in 2010 is a huge question and one not easily answered with Jang at the helm.

Furtho: Well, first of all it would be fair to point out that Fukaya's return to the Oita team in mid-2009 coincides precisely with the post-Pericles Chamusca upturn in their fortunes. Indeed, as I've said on here, in his very first match back in the Turtles team he scored the goal that beat Urawa Reds and brought to an end their catastrophic losing streak. After he came back, Fukaya ended up playing every game apart from the last three. If he can work with Mato and his fitness is really okay, as you say that does have the makings of a strong defensive core.

I guess the point here from Jang's perspective is that he expected to be able to rely on Tomita, whose dip in form meant that Kataoka had to fill in. Luckily Kataoka played the best football of his career, but anyone who has followed him throughout his time at Ardija knows that those comparatively error-free performances were unrepresentative of him as a player. If the club were able to get a decent price for him from Kyoto, well, that's good business.

The arrival of someone like Sugiyama makes me feel rather more despondent and like you, AO, that is a feeling which will increase in intensity if he gets chosen over Tsukamoto for the first game. A club like Ardija is inevitably going to have to spend energy hunting around for decent J2 players, but with someone who is that age it's hard to see potential. He's a J2 player - a good one, for all I know - but at 29 he is not suddenly going to be a decent J1 player.

I guess we can assume that Murakami will replace Hato on the left and although it is unarguable that the defence has long been Kawasaki's weak link, well, at least we are signing a player who was a first-choice for one of the best teams in the country, rather than getting in people who are desperate to leave relegated squads (Fukaya and Oita is kind of a different situation). If Murakami has more dynamism than Hato, that'll be good, and on paper we are probably looking a little stronger now across the defence - but as everyone but Jang and Yuuki seems to understand, it's not especially that part of the squad that has been needing attention.



  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP