Sunday, 14 November 2010

Agent Orange: Five - Your Relegation Primer

Down to the wire again and we are in the most obnoxious time of year, when the geniuses in the media and on the online forums ignore history and theorize that, without a doubt, Omiya Ardija will be crashing out of J1. It's become a time-honored tradition and I'm glad to report that it's happening now! Hooray! Christmas is just around the corner! So I think that now we should take a look at five - specifically, the five games that the five, um, contenders for J2 next year are faced with...

Montedio Yamagata

Home games: Cerezo Osaka, Kyoto Sanga, Kashima Antlers
Home record: 6-4-4
Away games: Jubilo Iwata, FC Tokyo
Away record: 4-1-10

Major injuries: Tatsuya Furuhashi (out for the season)
Naughty boys: Tatsuya Ishikawa (one card away from purgatory)

Montedio looks likely to be the safest of the teams stuck in relegation muck. They have a very tough game against Cerezo Osaka and a possible relegation six-pointer on the road against FC Tokyo. In between that are games against the second-worst road team in the J-League, Kyoto Sanga, and the hottest team in the J-League, Jubilo Iwata. The good news for Yamagata is that they seem to own Jubilo, posting a gaudy 3-0-0 record against the Nabisco Cup holders. Less positively, the last game on their schedule is against the always-imposing Kashima Antlers.

And Yamagata has been in pretty bad form lately, posting an underwhelming 2-2-6 record in their last ten. Their two wins were against giants Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka, but in the same stretch they dropped points to Vissel Kobe (0-0 tie), Vegalta Sendai (2-0 loss), Shonan Bellmare (0-0 tie) and the Squirrels (2-1 loss). Four more points should be enough to keep them around for another year; however, if they drop points to Kyoto and Jubilo, we might yet see them heading to the basement.

Vegalta Sendai

Home games: Jubilo Iwata, Shimizu S-Pulse, Kawasaki Frontale
Home record: 6-3-5
Away games: Albirex Niigata, Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Away record: 3-4-8

Major injuries: Shingo Tomita (out for the season), Kunimitsu Sekiguchi (day to day)
Naughty boys: Shingo Akamine, Eliseu, Park Ju Sung

The fate of Sendai will be known fairly quickly. They are the only ones that have no remaining encounters with any of the other relegation battlers, so really they are a bit isolated. It will come down to the Shizuoka double, with home games against Jubilo and Shimizu in a back-to-back fashion. It is imperative for the team to grab at least three points in this stretch. Facing Sendai after the home stand is a short week road swing against tough home teams Albirex and Sanfrecce and then a road game against wildly unpredictable Kawasaki Frontale in the last fixture.

Their last ten games have been a gaudy 6-3-1 with Vegalta cleaning up against Omiya, FC Tokyo, Yamagata, Shonan and Kyoto. A small warning sign is the completely lackluster effort they put out against Vissel in a really bad 2-0 loss. The team is very streaky - before the current run of good form, they stumbled through a fourteen-game winless run that commenced with a blowout loss to Shimizu. A talented team but a little fragile emotionally. One bad loss could end up throwing them into J2, although I'd bet against it.

Omiya Ardija

Home games: Vissel Kobe, Albirex Niigata
Home record: 5-4-6
Away games: Nagoya Grampus, Kyoto Sanga, Yokohama F Marinos
Away record: 4-3-7

Major injuries: Shusuke Tsubouchi (three weeks. Hopefully back by Niigata, maybe back by Marinos?)
Naughty boys: Lee Chun Soo, Lee Ho, Captain Ego, Kazuhiro Murakami, Yuki Fukaya, Arata Sugiyama, Shunsuke Fukuda

Of the infamous five, Omiya is the most unpredictable and this coming week is going to be crucial. It starts tomorrow against a weakened Nagoya, who has run roughshod over the bottom seven teams, posting a gaudy 11-0-0 record. Grampus' Mizuho Stadium has been a veritable house of horrors for Omiya, with the squad dropping all three games played there by very ugly scorelines. Following that is a rumored judgement by the J-League on Monday over the Seigo Watanabe scandal - we could conceivably see the team upset a depleted Nagoya team and wake up the next morning in sixteenth place following a points deduction from J-League HQ.

On Wednesday is a delightful but unnecessary Tennohai matchup with Avispa Fukuoka; 120 minutes is the very worst outcome of this match, win or lose. Omiya then ventures to Kyoto against the worst home team in the J-League, who depending on the outcome of tomorrow's game with Urawa Reds might by that time already be out of J1... well-rested, very bitter and motivated to exert punishment on anyone coming down to the Ancient Capital. In other words, potentially another scary match against a bottom team. We also can't forget the rotund master of goal poaching, Diego, who absolutely loves playing against us for some reason. He might be especially keen to get some points, especially since he could be in the position of auditioning for suitors for next year.

The home schedule sees two dangerous matchups, the Iron Fist of Vissel and the Silk Glove of Albirex. Finally we get to visit Yokohama and a team who is motivated to win against us. The last ten games have seen Omiya put up a reasonable 4-1-5 record, the only really inexcusable loss of the bunch being a lackluster 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Vegalta. The keys to survival for Jun Suzuki's squad are threefold:

1. They have to beat Kyoto and compete in the other four games
2. They have to not pick up stupid cards
3. They have to manage a packed schedule

Do all those things (and pray that the J-League finds other nefarious attendance-padders, or only decides to go after the pocketbook) and the team will live to see a seventh season in J1.

FC Tokyo

Home games: Kawasaki Frontale, Montedio Yamagata
Home record: 2-9-4
Away games: Yokohama F Marinos, Nagoya Grampus, Kyoto Sanga
Away record: 4-2-8

Major injuries: Tatsuya Suzuki, Kentaro Shigemitsu, Hideto Takahashi
Naughty boys: Sota Hirayama, Yasuyuki Konno

FC Tokyo has been hands down the disappointment of the year after being touted pre-season as a dark horse candidate to contend for the title. Part of it has been bad luck and part has been bad personnel judgements and strategy. Right now the Gasmen find themselves in the unexpected position of being only goal differential margins away from being in J2 next year. They have managed to turn wins into ties on many occasions and all the dropped points have cost them.

On Sunday FC Tokyo face a Marinos team over which they have the historical edge and who will be coming into the game without their two National Team centerbacks. They also have a derby matchup looming against Kawasaki and two tough-to-call games against frontrunner Nagoya and struggler Yamagata. Depending on the outcomes in the next couple of weeks, those two games could be against squads playing for everything... or nothing. Finally FC Tokyo go to Kyoto, who nobody can predict what type of performance they will put on display.

FC Tokyo is on a 2-3-5 stretch, their wins coming against a flatlining Shimizu side and J2-bound Shonan Bellmare. The good news for the team is that they finally have their first choice midfield intact with the return of Takuji Yonemoto and Naotake Hanyu. The bad news is that the team still can't figure out how to score consistently or hold leads. Ironically, letting the mercurial Shingo Akamine go to Vegalta and bringing in the underachieving Masashi Oguro might doom the squad to J2, although there are signs that the striker is shaking off the cobwebs and contributing.

Vissel Kobe

Home games: Kashima Antlers, Shimizu S-Pulse
Home record: 5-4-6
Away games: Albirex Niigata, Omiya Ardija, Urawa Reds
Away record: 2-4-8

Major injuries: None
Naughty boys: Hiroto Mogi, Yosuke Ishibitsu, Park Kang Jo, Takayuki Yoshida, Kunie Kitamoto

The team now in the driver's seat on the Highway to Hell is Vissel, who has arguably the toughest schedule of the five. Kobe managed to grab two big wins against Gamba and Vegalta and still did not gain ground on Omiya, managing only to inch up a little on FC Tokyo. The team starts the final stretch at Albirex Niigata, an opponent they have never managed to beat at Big Swan Stadium, and a home game against powerhouse Kashima Antlers. The most crucial match of the stretch is the midweek game at Omiya, the most important six-pointer this year.

Following that is a meeting with S-Pulse and then a rematch of the memorable game against Urawa from which Kobe emerged victorious after playing one man down for a full half. The major storyline of Vissel's year has been its problems with officials: Kobe leads the league in yellows with 64 and reds with eleven, so how they deal with balancing a physical style of play while not getting sanctioned is going to be the key to their survival. Vissel has a 2-4-4 record in their last ten, with the two wins coming in the most recent games. They must beat Shimizu and Omiya and hope to steal points against the other three to survive.


The good news for Ardija is that the Squirrels have a tendency to do well near the end of the year. I believe that they are undefeated in home finales and ending the season. For us to go down to J2, historical trends against Kyoto (we have a 4-2-1 record in J1), Niigata (we're undefeated against them in games at NACK 5 and it's a home finale) and Marinos (we have a 5-5-1 record in J1 and it's a season finale) would have to be overturned, while the season-long ineptitude of Vissel Kobe on the road would also have to be reversed. The bad news is that we will likely be starting a very slow back four of Kazuhiro Murakami, Mato Neretljak, Yuki Fukaya and Norio Suzuki for most of the games. They are going to have to figure out a way to deal with speed while playing with tired legs.

I can't venture a guess as to who will go down to J2. We won't know what place we are in until after the weekend.

Gamba Osaka, part Deux

Just when I thought there were no decent English-speaking Gamba fans out there, along comes Ben Mabley to prove me wrong. If you haven't read English Blood, Osakan Heart, you are definitely missing out. The reason I mention Ben right now is because he took my comments about Gamba and made a very strong, reasoned argument to the contrary. If I had read a Gamba blog attacking Omiya, I would have vented a spleen posting ad hominem attacks on the blogger, Gamba, and their respective mothers... in fact I probably already have.

Anyhow, Ben gracefully dealt with the attack. That's one of the things that seperates him and myself - he's a professional and I'm a moron. Nice article, Ben... I still hate Gamba, though, that won't change with fancy words. However, the next time the teams play, I might give the Gamba supporters a second chance. Not the ones on BS though. That's too much to ask!

Back To My Blogging Roots

Unfortunately (or fortunately, considering Omiya is 3-1-2 in away games which I don't attend) I will not be venturing to Nagoya tomorrow. Instead I will be going to the always-miserable Ajinomoto Stadium for the big SAVE OUR VERDY rally and to see Tokyo Verdy play JEF United. Since 2008, when NTV announced they were pulling the plug, the team has been in dire financial straits. It was only last month that Xebio stepped in and offered a lifeline to the once-mighty franchise.

So because I promised my friend Nerdy at Tokyo Nerdy that I would haul my fat ass down to Chofu, well, I will indeed be headed down to Chofu. The good news is that I get to see a tense match between two clubs with outside chances for promotion for the low, low price of 1000 yen - and I get a free T-shirt that will in no way be close to covering my ample belly to boot! Huzzah!

And Finally...

I'm a little disappointed that my suggestion that Omiya try to deflect attention away from our current controversy by instigating a disinformation campaign about Vissel Kobe and panda assault has fallen on deaf ears. I guess I wasn't clear enough, so here is my suggestion on spreading this story. You start with a joke:

Q. What's black and white and red all over?
A. A panda's ass after a night locked in a room with a meth-bingeing Gakuto Kondo.

You are going to get people asking you, "who's Gakuto Kondo?" and, "what the fuck are you talking about?". You then calmly explain that there is systematic panda sexual assault going on in the corridors of Home's Stadium and that you were using this obviously hilarious and ironic (because Vissel used to wear black and white and now wears red) joke to illustrate the serious institutional crime being commited. I don't know how you explain who Gakuto Kondo is. Get on it people!

If we somehow survive this season, we will go down in history as the best worst team ever!

Orange! Please God help us survive the season!! Football!!!

Please beat Nagoya! Please please please!!



SMB 14 November 2010 at 12:13  


Starting 11

Lee Ho
Lee Chun Soo


Nagoya will be without Kennedy, Tulio, and Kanazaki

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