Friday, 10 September 2010

S-Pulse Preview

Lee Chun Soo emerged from the 4-1 Emperor's Cup win over Kamatamare Sanuki last weekend as the Ardija hero, scoring on two occasions with shots from the edge of the penalty area. Against non-league opponents, the Korean was able to find space in a way that he has found impossible during league matches, but nevertheless Lee's first couple of Omiya goals can only be a source of encouragement as the team return to J1 action on Saturday with the visit to Omiya Koen of Shimizu S-Pulse. This constitutes the next in a series of tough-looking fixtures, from which the Squirrels desperately need to take points.

But Ardija again find themselves at a crossroads. The 2010 season could go any way from this point: a climb up the table towards the safety of mid-table, or an inconsistent battle against relegation that ends somewhat arbitrarily in either success or failure, depending just as much on how other teams perform as the Squirrels themselves, or a decline to the drop alongside the division's deadmen, Shonan Bellmare and Kyoto Sanga. At the end of July and into August, Jun Suzuki appeared to have a plan, as a series of tight defensive performances combined with some opportunistic moments in attack gave Omiya eleven points in five games.

Since then, however, there have been what appear to be significant disruptions to the team, the arrival at the club and subsequent integration into the squad of Lee Chun Soo and Lee Ho coinciding with injuries and suspension among other players. And Chun Soo's goals against Kamatamare notwithstanding, Suzuki surely cannot be satisfied with how the two South Koreans have begun their careers with Ardija. The Squirrels therefore go into the game with high-flying S-Pulse in a depressingly familiar state of disarray. A scrambled draw, or desperate defending following an Omiya goal? It's looking like the best we can hope for at present.



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