Monday, 26 July 2010

Squirrel's Eye View: Survival? No Chance

So Ardija lost their must-win (or at least absolutely-must-not-lose) game at Vissel Kobe on Sunday evening. There wasn't much new on display from last week's defeat to Nagoya Grampus, but it's hard to imagine on recent evidence that the Squirrels won't be involved in a relegation battle for the rest of the season: the change of coach from Jang Wae Ryong to Jun Suzuki has made no difference to the results, performances or style of football. Kobe were a poor enough side and it's arguable whether or not Omiya deserved to lose by two goals, but a draw definitely would have flattered Suzuki and his team.

It was a display that lacked energy to an astounding degree, bearing in mind how important this match was. As against Nagoya, Ardija only played with any real urgency or commitment in the final ten minutes or so, as they tried for an equaliser following on from the deflected Norio Suzuki free kick that had pulled Omiya back into the game. But the points had been lost long before, as a consequence of a failure to clear defensive lines for Ryosuke Matsuoka's early opener and then a sliced cross-cum-shot from Gakuto Kondo that drifted over Takashi Kitano and into the net.

There was as much luck about Kondo's goal as there was about Suzuki's and in that respect things were evened out during the course of the match. But the Squirrels sluggishness was not a matter of fortune and neither was the ill-discipline that so consistently caused them to lose shape when going forward. Vissel's defensive tactics under former Ardija boss Toshiya Miura were simple enough: to keep a solid line of four, protected in the central area by two or even three midfield players. But Omiya never had the width or the numbers to cause problems for Kobe keeper Tatsuya Enomoto and his colleagues.

Time and again, someone like Naoki Ishihara would receive the ball in a central area thirty metres or so from goal, looking to pass to a team-mate out wide in order to stretch the home defence. But the overlap rarely came, Ishihara was forced to knock it back simply in order to keep possession with so many opponents around him and all attacking momentum was lost. Rafael had perhaps his worst game in an Omiya shirt and it's not surprising that this was the case, given the pressure on him as a creative force in a team that doesn't have even the simplest level of attacking co-ordination. No goals, no guts, no chance.



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