Friday, 3 December 2010

Marinos Preview

Yesss! There's nothing riding on the last game of the season! Saturday's encounter with Yokohama F Marinos means pretty much zero for Omiya - and not much for the Sailors, either, comfortably stranded in mid-table but too far away from the top four to have a chance of an ACL spot. The Squirrels might not have hit GGOA's target of TENTH IN '10!! but we're still safe for another year, which after the traumas of Taishi Tsukamoto - the young player tragically diagnosed with cancer in his leg weeks before the start of the season - Jang Wae Ryong's inadequate coaching and more recently Seigo Watanabe's Crowdgate is on reflection probably satisfactory. Ardija could end up as high as twelfth if we win against Marinos and Montedio Yamagata fail to beat Kashima Antlers, which would actually equal the club's best-ever J1 final placing.

Pre-match media coverage has focused on whether the Sailors will give one final home appearance to the likes of Naoki Matsuda, the veteran defender whose end-of-contract release has already been announced. In a similar situation last week, Omiya coach Jun Suzuki was in no mood for sentimentality towards the departing Mato Neretljak, but at that time Suzuki's priority was still to make absolutely sure of J1 status. Now that has been assured, it's natural for fans to shift their attention to the traditional winter activity of speculating about players to leave and arrive ahead of the 2011 kick-off: we know that Mato has gone - and there is a major GGOA piece coming soon on the Croatian giant and his time as a Squirrel - but rumours have already started about players such as Yoshihito Fujita, Tomoya Uchida and... who else? We'll see, soon enough.

Nikkan Sports have suggested that Ardija have an interest in Brazilian midfielder Robson Ponte, released after several successful seasons with Urawa Reds and a player who also has Bundesliga experience with Bayer Leverkusen. Ponte is 34, while at the other end of his career Omiya have confirmed the signing of forward Shintaro Shimizu from Seibudai High School. It is to be hoped that under new president Shigeru Suzuki the Squirrels will give greater attention to the development of young players like Shimizu and Taisuke Miyazaki, one of only a handful of players who have made any transition from the youth set-up to the first team. In fact, that's something that the Marinos game could usefully accomplish: give speedy Miyazaki or Daisuke Watabe the chance to run at Yasuhiro Hato, the Sailors' sluggish former Omiya defender. Hope for the future, right there.



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