Friday, 6 August 2010

Shonan Preview

Squirrels fans could be forgiven for celebrating long and hard their team's defeat of rivals Urawa Reds on Saturday, but since the weekend attention has been firmly focused on the next match: a crucial one tomorrow at Kumagaya, when fellow relegation candidates Shonan Bellmare are the visitors. Wins over the likes of the Reds are all very nice when it comes to local bragging rights, or causing some degree of shake-up in the league - but as Agent Orange commented on this website, the Squirrels have picked up just four points all season from matches against clubs in the bottom half of the division. And it is victories in those games that ultimately will keep Omiya in J1.

So how do Ardija tend to react after a really big win such as that against Urawa? The stats are not particularly encouraging. Since their J1 debut season in 2005, Omiya have managed four somewhat arbitrarily-defined "big wins": three against the Reds and one last year against J-League champions Kashima Antlers. On only one of those occasions have Ardija been able to follow it up with three more points in the next match, a 1-0 defeat of Kawasaki Frontale in 2005. On every other occasion, Omiya have lost without scoring a goal. Looky here, I've actually done some research on this:


Big win: 2-1 A v Urawa
Next game: 1-0 H v Kawasaki


Big win: 1-0 A v Urawa
Next game: 0-2 H v Jubilo


Big win: 3-1 H v Kashima
Next game: 0-1 A v S-Pulse

Big win: 3-0 A v Urawa
Next game: 0-1 H v Hiroshima

Ardija will go into the Shonan game without defender Kazuhiro Murakami, suspended for a single fixture as a result of his dismissal against Urawa. This is especially frustrating given that the Omiya back line was showing some signs of stability following recent significant upheavals, with Daisuke Watabe having converted from forward to right-sided wingback and there being question marks over the form and / or fitness of Mato Neretljak. Even so, Norio Suzuki's versatility has counted for a lot since his arrival at the club from Angers in France, and he can be expected to fill in for Murakami on Saturday.

As for the Kanagawa Blue and Greens, their last match against Shimizu S-Pulse turned out to be one of the most extraordinary encounters of the J-League season so far. 4-0 down at home after less than half an hour, unsurprisingly Bellmare went on to lose the game, but nevertheless they were able to exploit S-Pulse's recently-revealed defensive weaknesses to rattle in three goals of their own. Omiya are likely to get chances against the team that has conceded the most goals in the division, meaning that fringe front players such as Masahiko Ichikawa need to start making a better contribution when scoring opportunities arise.



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