Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Fukuoka Preview

It's probably as well that Omiya play at Avispa Fukuoka on Wednesday because anything is welcome that will help to erase the memory of Sunday's frustrating defeat at home to Gamba Osaka. That said, having written again and again and again on these pages about how Naoki Ishihara should be in the Squirrels' starting line-up it was almost exhilarating to be so demonstrably right about something. Ishihara was brilliant. As well as scoring two superb and very different goals, he also held up the ball fantastically well, never giving it away. His policy seems to be that is he can't get in a shot himself he makes absolutely sure that the ball goes to a team-mate.

But what made that exhilarating was the incredible contrast when Lee Chun Soo came on after Ishihara picked up an unlucky ankle injury. I thought this would mean that the game would take a turn for the worse from an Ardija perspective but I didn't realise it would go that badly wrong. Of course Chun Soo never came close to scoring a goal - it's looking increasingly unlikely that he will do that again between now and the end of the season - but the South Korean couldn't maintain possession if he was on his own in the middle of a field with only a football and a giant pot of superglue for company.

And it was this latter aspect of Lee's play that turned the game so dramatically because when Ishihara had been there, Ardija were able to keep the ball in the attacking third of the pitch really very well. Once Omiya realised that Gamba's defence is terrible (doesn't everyone in the Eastern hemisphere know that Gamba's defence is terrible?) and that the lacklustre visitors appeared to believe they had won the game after scoring early, the Squirrels controlled the play for a good 30 minutes in the middle period of the match. That period of dominance ended the moment Ishihara went off, because the ball simply bounced off Lee and the Omiya defence is now too weak to be able to deal with the amount of pressure that they suddenly were under from Gamba's speedy front line.

Ardija have already announced that Ishihara will be out for three weeks, meaning that ahead of the Fukuoka game coach Jun Suzuki has fundamental decisions to make about virtually every area of his team: who will he play up front with Rafael? What's the best way for the midfield to provide additional defensive cover and to be able to support the attack quickly? And what can be done to bolster a back four that is looking increasingly shambolic? Ishihara's departure underlined the extent to which every part of a team is connected to every other part. His absence means that Suzuki has to solve the conundrum of how these things fit together and if the Squirrels are not to slip further down the standings, he has to do it quickly.



Anonymous,  13 July 2011 at 11:10  

I completely agree about Naoki. In the one live game I was able to see why alot of people excluding the coaching staff feel that he should be in the starting 11. Rafael was a good signing, but tends to fade in and out at times. Shame about the injury.

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