Friday, 17 June 2011

Agent Orange: Bloodbath

Omiya got their first real homestand of the season on Wednesday and it wasn't pretty. The last week has seen two perfect nights to watch home games but the results were... unappealing. I'm not going to go into a big recap on either evening because Furtho hit the main points of the Reds game and Kawasaki was too depressing. Instead, let's jump right in to:

11 Things I Learned In NACK 5 Stadium

1. Lee Chun Soo starts because Naoki Ishihara is not aggressive enough. A big question this season has been why former Korean NT striker Lee is starting over last year's leading scorer and Twitter icon Ishihara. I think I have the answer. Everybody is looking at the multiple open shots Chun Soo botched in the past two games and rightly so. However, he is getting in position to get those shots. Ishihara for his part has come in and done the dirty work and tried to get valuable possessions for Omiya. His one failure though has been his aversion to taking shots.

This season, Ishihara has taken two shots in the eight games he's appeared in (compared to Chun Soo's 24 in nine games). Part of the problem is that the team isn't getting him many chances. Part of it is Ishihara isn't taking the chances he gets. He did that last year as well, making an incredible nine goals on a skimpy 23 shots. You may not agree with it, but the reason why Ishihara isn't playing is because he won't shoot. And strikers need to shoot.

2. Daigo Watanabe is a bust. Ten games in might be a bit early to judge a player but Watanabe has shown little in his stints on the right side. His two starts have resulted in two of Omiya's three losses and a lack of knowledge of the offside rule cost Ardija two points against Reds. If you had told me that a new player from Kyoto Sanga would come in and disappoint, I would have believed it. However, I thought it would be Yosuke Kataoka (who still has a chance to let us all down at Nagoya Grampus tomorrow, as he makes his long-awaited return at left centerback). Koji Yamase shredded the former Sanga player on Wednesday and I'm not sure if he has any confidence left.

3. Bad officiating comes in different stripes. Both officials were below par this week, to put it nicely. If I had to choose between the two though, I think the laissez faire attitude of Mr Yoshida in the Kawasaki game was much more palatable than the one-sided way that Mr Iemoto called the Saitama Derby. Kawasaki made a determined effort to take Rafael out of the game by holding and grabbing him and taking their chances on the foul being called. Like in the Kashima game, Yoshida didn't call the over-aggression at all. I don't fault Kawasaki for taking that tactic. They obviously knew the official and adapted to the way he calls games. We on the other hand didn't.

It was an ugly game but not an unwinnable one and it was fair calling (or non-calling, as the case might be). Rafael was probably fortunate that he did not get a red card when he made physical contact with Yoshida during an argument. Iemoto for his part altered the results of the game with a very questionable PK call. It would have been interesting to see if he had called a second PK had Genki Haraguchi missed the shot which tied things up for Urawa (frankly we were kind of lucky he made it because Daisuke Watabe could have gotten red carded for the foul). The total foul tally was a 23 to 12 advantage towards the visitors with a whopping eight to two differential on offside calls against Omiya. Lost in the whole Haraguchi lovefest (great effort - I don't blame anybody for praising that goal) and the Watanabe hatefest (again, I don't blame anybody for laughing at Watanabe) is the fact that Mr Iemoto was awful.

4. Bad Chikara Fujimoto has returned. My era of good feelings for our captain deflated on Saturday and died on Wednesday. Fujimoto was a real non-factor in the game against Urawa but at least he seemed to try. Kawasaki saw the absolute worst of Chikara. He broke off runs early on the wide ball, he yelled at Shusuke Tsubouchi for not getting to his errant passes and, most critically, he gave up early marking a hard-charging Yusuke Tasaka, allowing the wing to head in the game winner for Frontale. The whole squad was lacking something on the day but if you want to point a finger at someone, Chikara is the target.

5. Suffering Sidebacks. Apologies to Sylvester the Cat but we are having troubles with the sidebacks. It seems like Tsubouchi and Watabe our the best options but both are out of position. Part of the problem has been the relative ineffectiveness of the wings. When the wings are Fujimoto and Watanabe, the team suffers all over the field.

6. Yuki Fukaya has been great in the first half of games and I think that is refected in the paltry three goals allowed in ten opening periods. The second half has been a disastrous 13. Fukaya seems to run out of gas late in games and the team is vulnerable. It will be interesting [good choice of word - F] to see how he teams up with Kataoka tomorrow.

7. Olympic-quality talent. I for one have been constantly harping on the fact that our players don't ever get recognition by the National Squad. Well, we have two players who are going to be gone for U22 duty (one is Kim Yong Gwon, who won't be playing for Japan). The downside of having talent is that they leave. The lack of Keigo Higashi in Wednesday's game was clearly on display. He is faster and bigger than any of Omiya's other options at the wing. Omiya was overpowered basically because we had a very small midfield.

8. Better, but not good yet. Takuya Aoki has had an up and down campaign this season. Entering his second full year as a starter, the 21-year-old former Maebashi Ikuei product has shown improvement but still has a ways to go. Aoki and Watabe both have seen chances at Olympic glory squashed because they have yet to be consistent. I think with Aoki, it's a combination of strength and confidence. Against Yosuke Kashiwagi and Keita Suzuki, the young midfielder held his own. Against the much stronger duo of Junichi Inamoto and Kosei Shibasaki, he wilted.

9. Beating Omiya, part one. Want to score on Omiya? Start by cutting Kota Ueda off from the forwards. The two teams that have been most effective in this have been Frontale and Shimizu S-Pulse. Both were successful in getting the ball away from Ueda and forcing Aoki to make plays. Both teams counterattacked well after Aoki made mistakes and both teams caught Omiya on the break.

10. Beating Omiya, part two. Want to stop Omiya from scoring? Do the same thing. Also cut Rafael off and dare Fujimoto or Lee Chun Soo to beat you. Teams are starting to figure out that safest place to be is between Chun Soo and an open net. Fujimoto for his part has cut down his long, slow dribbles and is passing more, but he still is not a real threat.

11. 4-1-4-1? If Fukaya is struggling, the sidebacks are struggling and the wings are awful, why are we playing 4-4-2? I think we should consider the 4-1-4-1. You play the same back four of Watabe, Fukaya, Kim and Tsubouchi. Aoki and Ueda line up with either Higashi, Lee or Ishihara in the other four line. Rafael starts up top and you let Shin Kanazawa play cleaner in front of the back line. I think we need the coverage in back and it allows Ueda a more offensive role. I'm not exactly sure why Kanazawa has had no role this year after being a very dependable midfielder.

Pondering Pedro

In 2007, after a half season of watching Enilton and Mauricio Salles bumble around the goal area, some promising news came to Omiya. A young prospect with a good pedigree and a some hype moved to our squad. His name was Pedro Bispa Morelia Junior and he was absolutely useless.

2008 started and Pedro Junior began to up to his hype a bit with a commanding one goal, one assist performance against Albirex Niigata. However, he would only notch one more before being judged not to be in the plans of Omiya.

2009 saw him loaned out to Albirex, where he absolutely shone, scoring ten goals and propelling the squad to the top of the table, thereby getting the attention of Gamba Osaka. Omiya, still owning Pedro, said "SOLD!"

In a remarkable confluence of events, it was a sale that hurt all three squads. Pedro scored against Omiya in one of his first games for Gamba, Albirex lost all momentum and slumped to a mid-table finish and Pedro would get into a big flareup with Gamba coach Akira Nishino early in 2010 and be promptly sent out to Brazil.

2011 saw Pedro head to FC Tokyo on loan. Two games in he got injured and today he got released. Four teams later we're left to ponder what is quickly becoming at the age of 24 a waste of a career. Maybe he can figure it out but it doesn't look good.

Squirrels climb trees! Unfortunately they also get dry humped by sea mammals!! Good Lord, Whales on the horizon and Kataoka is anchoring the back!!!

I'm going back to bed.



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