Friday, 9 April 2010

Gamba Preview

It's been a quiet week in the Squirrel Nation this week, following on from a perhaps inconclusive draw at Albirex Niigata which did at least serve to bring to an end Ardija's three-game losing streak in J1. Omiya coach Jang Wae Ryong at Albirex continued with the experiment begun in the Nabisco Cup at Kyoto Sanga, playing speedy striker Naoki Ishihara off a forward pairing of Yoshihito Fujita and Masahiko Ichikawa. This has provided some promising moments - indeed, the Ichikawa / Fujita partnership against Sanga contributed one of the best moments of Ardija's season so far - but must still be regarded as something of a trial.

The fact remains that Ishihara is perhaps the best finisher or close-range goal-poacher on the club's books and therefore by definition there is the strong possibility that moving him away from a direct striker role risks making the Squirrels less of an attacking threat. There is a decision for Jang to make as to whether the use of Ishihara in a different position will bring other benefits, for example a corresponding increase in the number of chances created for team-mates. But despite their undoubted enthusiasm and hard work, Ichikawa and Fujita have not yet consistently demonstrated that they are true J1-quality goalscorers.

Could either of them have found the net against Cerezo Osaka, when Ishihara demonstrated quick thinking and a killer instinct to convert Rafael's low cross? It seems unlikely, although tomorrow's opponents - and clear frontrunners in the Most Disappointing Team in the J-League 2010 competition - Gamba Osaka may present opportunities for Omiya's forwards to prove this theory wrong, given the Blue and Blacks' poor defensive record. Amazingly, the Squirrels will almost go into the match as favourites, but Jang's selection needs to turn the cautious optimism from Kyoto and Niigata into points on the board.



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