Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Squirrel's Eye View: Oh No, Not Again

Normally it takes a good while for a typical Ardija season to develop into crisis mode, but for 2010 the Squirrels are in no mood to fool around and so, just six league games in, Omiya find themselves staring disaster in the face. That certainly appears to be the view of a section of the NACK 5 crowd, at any rate, given that they booed Jang Wae Ryong's team off the pitch after an appalling second half performance against Gamba Osaka on Saturday. And given that when he was substituted, defender Kazuhiro Murakami reportedly ignored Jang's attempt at a handshake, neither does the mood in the squad look cheerful.

Going into the match neither team had much in the way of confidence, the visitors having failed to pick up a league win and Ardija being without a victory since the opening day triumph over Cerezo Osaka. Feeble in the first half, Gamba's defence gifted Yoshihito Fujita an early goal and subsequently there were at least two excellent opportunities for Omiya to extend their lead, Masahiko Ichikawa again failing to hit the net when through on goal and keeper Yosuke Fujigaya saving brilliantly a close-range Fujita shot. But Shoki Hirai picked up on a long through pass to equalise and the half ended level.

At this point, Akira Nishino must have known that his side had a real chance to win the match - that mental fragility can on occasions be made to work to your advantage. Hirai and his current sensational scoring form provided Nishino with the means to get out of trouble and Gamba surged forward after the re-start, scoring twice more in the opening few minutes of the second half. With the score standing at 3-1, suddenly the Blue and Blacks looked as if all their cares had been forgotten - as if being in the bottom three at start of play had just been a bad dream, or simply something that happens to other, lesser teams.

Conversely, when they had to chase the game, Jang's Omiya had no idea how to approach the task. In all honesty their opponents were finished as an attacking threat when the unlucky Hirai had to go off with what looked like a hamstring pull similar to that suffered by Rafael against Cerezo, but even with that problem out of the way the Squirrels could make no headway. The long ball didn't work - it won't, if you play little forwards against bigger defenders and have a midfield as immobile as Omiya's. There was little sign of coherent passing and moving, no good overlapping runs from the wingbacks.

There was no plan, in other words. Even when a clear chance was created against the Blue and Blacks' still-weak back line, Fujita demonstrated how far away he is from being a J1-calibre striker when he gently passed the ball into Fujigaya's hands from no more than fifteen yards. The Squirrels' hopes of getting back on level terms disappeared at that moment. And after four minutes of injury time, Gamba's place in the bottom three had been taken by another, lesser team whose coach seems unable to build a squad, develop and communicate tactical ideas or motivate a group of players. Yes, that looks like a crisis to me.

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