Sunday, 11 April 2010

Agent Orange: To Sir With Loathe

Let me start this column off by saying thank God for Albirex Niigata. If it wasn't for them, we would be in last place at the moment. That being said, yesterday's match versus Gamba Osaka was one of the more frustrating displays I've seen in a long time. I guess that would make this a good time for this week's installment of...

Ten Things To Hate About... Jang Wae Ryong

1. Last year's treatment of guys who actually accomplished things for the team - I thought that the treatment of some of the veteran guys in 2009 was a joke. It was shameful to treat Yoshiyuki Kobayashi like he was a youth trainee, cutting him without giving him a chance to re-establish himself as a player. The fans didn't get the chance to say goodbye to Daisuke Tomita, who wasn't one of your favorites and obviously didn't matter. Finally, and most unforgivably, you had a chance to give an icon of Omiya football one last chance to have a run-out against Oita Trinita and you decided instead to play a kid who has shown none of the intangibles or skills of Masato Saito. You treat people badly, yakiniku party nonwithstanding.

2. There is no sign that our younger players are developing under you - I have to laugh every time I hear you mentioned in the same sentence as the South Korean Olympic team. Daisuke Watabe is a bit better, Takuya Aoki not so much. Ryohei Arai hasn't been seen in almost a year, I've talked too much about Seo Yon Duk already. The college guys and Taisuke Miyazaki haven't been around long enough to judge, although Jun Kanakubo looked like he regressed from the Albirex game. Shunsuke Fukuda will never get a game while you are in charge and Kohei Tokita is used inappropriately and is suffering the consequences. You came in with a reputation of developing young players and you have failed.

3. You can't make up your mind - You change line-ups and formations from week to week on a whim. We have played seven games and used three formations featuring seven different line-ups. Some of that has been due to injury but I'm not entirely sure that you wouldn't have changed things dramatically, even if you had all of your pieces in place. It was around this time last season when you blew up the team after one bad loss and fielded one of the worst line-ups ever, especially in the back (it was Mato Neretljak and the trio of an out-of-position Tokita, Yosuke Kataoka and the legendary Yusuke Murayama.)

4. You really can't make up your mind about the defense - Expanding on point #3, you are especially panicky with the back line. Mato is set in stone, but the other players are prone to being changed around on account of your "feelings". Last year you did the same thing. The team struggles? Throw out Taishi Tsukamoto. Move Yasuhiro Hato from one side to another. Put an out-of-position Park Won Jae to cover and out-of-position Denis Marques on the left side. Keep Kataoka in, no matter how bad he plays.

And this year? Move Shusuke Tsubouchi to the left and take out Kazuhiro Murakami. Move Tsubouchi to the right and take out Arata Sugiyama. Take out Sugiyama and move Shin Kanazawa to the back. Take out Murakami and move Tsubouchi over so you can bring in Sugiyama.

Defensive lines are organic and need time to gel and create a bond, so that communication is clear and easy and players know their responsibilities. Two of the mistakes against Gamba happened when Tsubouchi and Fukaya failed to communicate and left Shoki Hirai unguarded. Ironically (well, predictably is more like it), Tsubouchi and Fukaya were playing on the same side for the first time this season. Ohhh, you might be saying to yourself, "Agent Orange, didn't they play together for Oita last year?" Yes, smarty, they did. One time they appeared together on the right.

I am not too concerned about which four players you use in the back. If you have problems with Murakami, then Tsubouchi is fine on the left next to Mato. If you worry about Sugiyama's stamina, then put Tsubouchi on the right. Whatever. Pick four guys and stick with them. Let them make mistakes.

5. You rely on ill-performing players too long - The one major constant in your storm of indecision has been the woefully underperforming midfield. You made up your mind early that Chikara Fujimoto and Hayato Hashimoto are untouchable. They are written in to the line-up in ink, while most of the team is in pencil. Both players admittedly offer skills that the team lacks, but their negatives in most games overshadow their skills. Hashimoto is reliant on others to earn free kicks and corners. He doesn't do it himself. When his free kick is on, he is a weapon. When it's off, he is a defensive liability and a drain on the offense.

He can't hold the ball in traffic, his crossing is sub-par and he doesn't have the strength to play in the middle or the speed to play on the wings. His understudy, Tomoya Uchida, is just like him but smaller. Maybe they are the best we have on the team. That argument works for me... last year. We've all been screaming about the midfield here at GGOA. You seem to be the only one who won't address it. There were plenty of good targets in both J1 and J2 that could have competed on the wing and would have come at a reasonable price. You and the team decided to focus all your efforts on an unimpressed Junichi Inamoto. Not surprisingly, we sit in relegation.

6. You are quick to discard a player and can't replace them - Daigo Kobayashi left the team at the start of 2009. We are still waiting for a creative playmaker. You got rid of Denis Marques and Klemen Lavric because they were injury-prone and out of shape and replaced them with Rafael (good job on that one, actually) and Dudu, who reported out of shape, got injured and has yet to return. You brought in the much-heralded Park, messed around with his position and discarded him so you could fill the valuable Asian Player Slot with a vanity project.

7. You don't know how to utilize your personnel - You need to use a 4-3-3 system and stick with it. An Yong Hak is great as a defesive destroyer, but not so good as a playmaker. He is a much better version of Kataoka. In the 4-4-2, you sacrifice his best traits in order to put one of the underperformers on the field. It's a lose-lose situation. In the 4-3-3, you naturally have one guy who can cover the best scorer on the other team. Hirai was able to slip by easily without the extra man shadowing him. You get off the midfield wing and put in the offensive wing, who can focus more on scoring. The impact of Hashimoto's defensive liabilities is reduced because there is an extra guy behind him for protection. You can play long ball, because Yoshihito Fujita is capable of being a target man, while Masahiko Ichikawa and Naoki Ishihara can use their speed on the wings. With the personnel and plan you have, you can play long ball, push the offense and not sacrifice your defense.

8. You choose your formation to counter the strengths of the other team, rather than accentuate your own - I can see doing this against Kashima Antlers; against Gamba, though, not so much. Or Kyoto Sanga. Or FC Tokyo. This is like the defensive line. I have a preference, but if you think that your personnel is right for a 4-4-2, then let them play that system and build up their confidence in it. You change formations in the middle of games. Give it a little time.

9. You make bad in-game decisions - It looks like you panic when things aren't going perfectly. In week two, you take out Kanazawa and surrender the midfield in a 3-1 loss. In week three, Tokita is brought in as a late game defensive replacement and makes a mistake that costs Omiya the match, mere moments after coming in. Week four saw you take out Sugiyama for Aoki and move Kanazawa to the unfamiliar position of left back. Seconds later, FC Tokyo scores. Week five sees Niigata get not one but two breakaway chances after your substitutions force you to change the formation and juggle the personnel. Again Kanazawa is moved to the left side back position and gets exploited.

Against Gamba, after the team lets up a late goal, you panic again and bring in Kanakubo at half time. Gamba runs wild in a seven-minute span, getting two quick goals and icing the game. Your solution is to bring on an obviously injured Naoki Ishihara and play long ball with him as the high target. The outcome is a weak Fujita shot and two Hail Marys from Shin Kanazawa outside the box. Shin Kanazawa has never made that shot in a J1 game and I'm betting he never will.

10. You're not always wrong - This is the thing I hate the most, because you keep sucking me in to your vision. At times, this has been the most entertaining team and beautiful team to watch of all the Omiya J1 incarnations. When things are going to plan, the team looks like it can compete with anybody. Everything I hate about watching this team was perfectly summed up in the course yesterday's match. The first 35 minutes were us dominating the opposition. We had eight shots, four or five corner kicks and numerous dangerous chances. Fujita was stellar in that period. He anticipated the pass early and calmly put in a goal for our lead. He out-muscled the Gamba back line and kept his feet. He controlled the ball in the box and set up Ichikawa on a couple of plays.

Then the midfield took over and the game was lost. The back line started losing sight of Hirai. Takashi Kitano was a little out of kilter after getting his hand stepped on. The better manager on the other side of the field adapted and exploited your game plan. You panicked and couldn't counter. You shook everything up like a snow globe, expecting the snow to fall up and of course it didn't. You put your best eleven on the field in game one and everything went perfectly until Rafael pulled up lame and you still haven't found an answer. You don't have a plan B, you didn't address depth issues and now everybody is suffering.

You have set some sort of record in infamy. Gamba never beat us at Omiya Koen... until yesterday. Yokohama F Marinos never beat us in a league match, until you took over. We never let up seven goals in a game... until you took charge. You weren't good at Tokyo Verdy, you weren't good at Consadole Sapporo and not surprisingly, you are not good here. It's time for you to find new employment. If Haruo Yuuki can't get that through his head, maybe he should go with you.

Game Thoughts

1. I really hated the booing at the end of the game. I'm not going to tell other people how to express their frustration, but I don't think it was directed at the right target. It wasn't like the 5-0 slaughter at Nagoya Grampus during the Satoru Sakuma, reign or last year's gutless display against Marinos in the Nabisco Cup. It's a lot of new guys, playing sometimes out of position, trying to put a semblance of a consistent performance together. With a manager who is doing everything in his power to undermine that consistency.

2. For one half, Fujita was brilliant. If he played like that all of the time, we wouldn't have to worry about the offense. It was disappointing how easily the team crumbled in that seven-minute stretch. 3-1 was flattering to a very average Gamba side. Credit Nishino for making adjustments and getting the most out of what could be the weakest Gamba side in ten years.

3. In something of a minor miracle, the team did not pick up a card on the day. Two games in a row. One more and we all go out for yakiniku!


Who would have thought that 55 points would be over-ambitious? FIRE JANG!



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