Saturday, 1 May 2010

Kyoto Preview: Suzuki And The Rafael Effect

When it comes to writing about Ardija, it's a striking thing that there are number of different but quite definable Effects which seem to impact upon the team's performances and results. Right at the start of this season, for instance, we had the Taishi Tsukamoto Effect, in which the announcement of the young defender's diagnosis with cancer seemed to spur on his team-mates in a tremendous 3-0 victory over Cerezo Osaka. Without the tragedy that has befallen Tsukamoto, would Omiya have performed so dazzlingly and won that game so comfortably? We can't say for sure, of course, but we can take a pretty good guess.

As regular readers of this site will know, the Jang Wae Ryong Effect is something that has been discussed here on GGOA at length over the last year-and-a-bit. Agent Orange observed just a couple of weeks or so ago that a particularly frustrating aspect of Jang's period in charge at Ardija was that, at times, the Korean was able to coax from his squad outstanding displays that made the Japanese football world sit up and take notice of Saitama's team in orange. But scorelines such as the 3-0 defeat of Urawa Reds and the 3-1 win over champions Kashima Antlers were simply too infrequent to save Jang's job.

That inconsistency is one thing that incoming coach Jun Suzuki will need to address if he is to guide the Squirrels up the table towards club president Seigo Watanabe's stated target position for the season of fifth. Omiya supporters have been out in force over the last couple of days to watch Suzuki take training ahead of Saturday's evening match at home to Kyoto Sanga and the former Albirex Niigata and Montedio Yamagata boss has a useful three league games leading into the World Cup break in order to assess his squad and work out how best to use the players at his disposal.

During those three fixtures, however, Suzuki has to try to get to grips with what can be called the Rafael Effect. Chewing over Saturday's loss at Shimizu S-Pulse, Agent Orange referred to 25th July last year as being the last time that Ardija won a match by a single goal - but it was also the last occasion that Ardija won a match without Rafael in the team. And although following the tall Brazilian's injury in the closing seconds of the Cerezo game Jang has tried several alternatives, the fact of the matter is that no combination of Naoki Ishihara, Yoshihito Fujita and Masahiko Ichikawa has delivered a victory.

And that's what the new coach has. Along with Chikara Fujimoto Rafael is back in training, but there's no indication as to whether he will be fit in time for, say, the final league game before the break against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in two weeks' time. In the short term, Suzuki has to find a way through motivation and man management to get better results than his predecessor with the same group of players. And it's that conundrum that makes the match with Sanga - somewhat unexpectedly - such a keenly anticipated match. Once again, GGOA says: Go Ishihara, Go Fujita, Go Ichikawa! And now, Go Suzuki!

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