Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The 2010 Squad, pt 4 - Forward Thinking

Agent Orange: If you read this GGOA report late last year speculating about which front players should stay or go ahead of the upcoming campaign, then you read everything there is to know about the personnel in regards to Ardija's strikers. That's right. There have been no changes to the forward pool of 2009. Now I'm not saying that there won't be a difference in the position, far from it. I think there will be a ton of questions in 2010. What questions, you ask? Well, for starters:

1. Will Rafael be better in 2010, or will he be figured out? It looked like in the later stages of 2009 teams had worked out Rafael a bit and started to get more physical with him as the season wore on. Not helping matters were Jang Wae Ryong's erratic lineups - one day Rafa would play a full match, the next he'd be off the bench for the last fifteen minutes. Not sure what that's about.

2. Is Yoshihito Fujita the new Hiroshi Morita? I hope not because I really like the kid. I think he's more talented than Morita, but his confidence was shot early during 2009 and it never fully recovered. He got some minutes back on the team near the end of the season and did an admirable job against Montedio Yamagata in the cold of November. If he can get started early in 2010, I think he will have a breakout year.

3. Will Naoki Ishihara be tainted again by his diving reputation? Unlike most of the egregious divers in J1, Ishihara is a hard worker who usually doesn't cut corners and gets his fair share of whacks. Those dives really came back to haunt him, though, and I wouldn't be so irritated about him being called out if they had applied it to other divers like Edmilson, Hisato Sato, Kisho Yano, Keiji Tamada, Kawasaki Frontale, Greg Louganis and Van Halen. All these guys are worse divers.

4. Can Masahiko Ichikawa build on his good start in 2009? Depends on how he recovers both physically and mentally. He's a bit cocky so that should help.

5. Dudu. That's all I got.

6. Have you seen Daisuke Watabe? Nobody else has since the FC Tokyo stinker. I hope he gets some time to redeem himself, because I do not want to see my new least favorite player Seo Yong Duk getting his minutes.

Never has the known been so unknown (well, except for why Jason Mraz was popular).

Furtho: Well, I'd never heard of Jason Mraz before - a fact that may cheer you up a little, AO - but the most interesting piece of information that a quick Google told me about him is that he was born in a place called Mechanicsville, Virginia. But anyway, here's another question for you: how on earth can anyone have a positive view of Dudu at this point? You know, maybe at the end of this season we'll look back and laugh and say, "Can you imagine thinking that our twenty-goal striker Dudu was awful?" but there is not one thing that might cause us to think that this is a possibility.

OK, there is one: his scoring record in 2008 in the K-League. But that's it. And after his disastrous, waste-of-bloody-time that was 2009, and the fact that the club announced his contract extension on the same day as your new friend Seo, AO, and the fact that he need surgery and seems to have believed it to be a good idea to wait around until this week to have that surgery, there really is no other reason to believe that the guy is going to be anything more than the new Enilton. And I don't think that any of us want that.

Rafael. Like you said about Fujita, I think that how he starts the season will be important. I would love for him - well, I'd love for anyone, really, but he's the most likely candidate I suppose - to be the first Ardija player to get ten in a season in J1, but you get the feeling that the confidence could be knocked out of Rafael if he goes a few games without scoring. Deny him space and he's a lot less likely to find the target, so teams that man mark him could squeeze him out of the play. However, he is very unselfish and if he is able to pull defenders out of position, someone like Ishihara might be able to take advantage.

Ishihara is the best Japanese finisher at the club, which at the moment is not saying all that much. As you say he does work hard and is unbelievably fast - I wonder what he would be like as an out-and-out winger, but Ardija are never likely to be able to afford the luxury of someone playing such a role. Still, with no changes to this part of the squad having been made, you have to assume that unless something revelatory happens in pre-season that it will be Rafael and Ishihara as the starting duo.

Ichikawa does have a kind of cocky demeanour, but at times his behaviour on the pitch gives the lie to that. He loses his nerve sometimes, snatches at opportunities simply because he's obviously so desperate to score. I'd like him to be a sub, to come on and get a couple of goals and calm down a little. Then we'll be able to see what kind of player he really is, because at the moment it's hidden by a little bit of bluster and a whole lot of nerves.



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