Monday, 15 August 2011

Agent Orange: Crap Sundae

I'm writing this 24 hours after Omiya Ardija's awful 3-0 loss against Shimizu S-Pulse and I'm still angry. I can accept a mediocre opponent taking a result from us in a very cynical way. I can accept a ref being one sided. I can even accept the team having an off-day. What happened Saturday was pure, unadulterated crap. And I still have the stink on me.

Shimizu was coming off a string of 4-0 routs. They were boasting a backline of guys who previously had featured for Yokohama FC, Shonan Bellmare and JEF United - three of the worst teams in J1 history and defensive sieves. That's not what bothers me. They spent the last twenty minutes or so rolling on the ground in fake agony (I'm thinking six times they did that, but maybe it was seven*. Magically all the players were able to get up with no ill effects. Not one of them needed to go out and get checked).

OK, you do what you have to do, right. I guess if you can get away with it, then you do it. Referee Yuichi Nishimura was giving virtually every call to S-Pulse on the night. When Shinji Ono or Naohiro Takahara went down, Nishimura had his whistle ready to give the home team a plethora of dangerous chances around Omiya's goal, while waving off similar fouls by Shimizu players. To be fair, there was one debatable call that went Omiya's way on a hard shoulder charge by Takuma Edamura. Even that was arguably lenient for S-Pulse: Rodrigo Pimpao was in front of Edamura with a path to the goal free of other defenders. I'm not sure it was a foul, but if Nishimura thought it was - and he did - it should have been straight red.

So the actions of Shimizu and the one-sided hack job by Nishimura didn't help my mood, but even they really aren't the cause of me being angry. No, the major cause of me being angry is Jun Suzuki. And not really Jun Suzuki but Ardija in general. I've sung this song many a time and honestly over the past seven years I could have substituted Suzuki's name for a number of gentlemen who have shown that they weren't up for the job of J1 manager.

But in many ways, Suzuki has been the worst coach that we have had. Toshiya Miura kept a promoted team in J1 and exceeded expectations. Robert Verbeek had one of the least talented J1 squads in history and a front office not willing to spend. Satoru Sakuma was a temp who did enough not to get relegated. Yasuhiro Higuchi was a neophyte who had no J1 experience. Jang Wae Ryong was... odd... and was put in the middle of a total team overhaul (and he was odd). Every one of these coaches had a legitimate excuse not to succeed.

Suzuki doesn't have that. It started out encouragingly with Omiya bringing in Keigo Higashi and Kota Ueda to shore up an awful midfield. Mato Neretljak and An Yong Hak were cut from the squad and promising but untested Korean Kim Young Gwon was brought in to make the lineup stronger. In the early part of the season Daisuke Watabe was getting real playing time after some promising play at the close of last year. It looked like Omiya was serious about improving their athleticism and building for the future.

And then Yosuke Kataoka came back into the team. My mood turned sour last week when I saw his name in the starting lineup for the Vegalta Sendai home game alongside Arata Sugiyama, who proved long ago that he isn't capable of being a J1 player on a consistent basis. The back four last week was bombarded by a Vegalta team unlucky not to put five goals on the board.

My mood got worse during the week as previews touted the same duo as starters at Shimizu. It grew to a boil at kick-off when their places in the line-up were confirmed, blew up at half time as the pair bumbled through a 0-0 half - and then completely went code red as both conspired for two pathetic and very predictable goals for a previously impotent S-Pulse. Kataoka then flailed ridiculously in front of Takahara for the last of the Shimizu scores, managing to have the best view of all three goals. Kind of like a hat-trick for really lame centerbacks.

I wish these two were the only problems with Suzuki. They aren't. His lineup choices have been awful all year. The coach insists on playing disappointing forward Lee Chun Soo, first at the expense of 2010 top scorer Naoki Ishihara and now instead of U22 international Keigo Higashi. The one-dimensional Korean has rendered a very vulnerable right-hand side even more exposed with his lack of defensive acumen. On the left, Suzuki has opted to go with my personal whipping boy, Chikara Fujimoto. For his part Fujimoto has put out the effort, but like defender Kazuhiro Murakami doesn't these days have the athletic chops to keep up with most J1 wings.

Norio Suzuki has yet to see a minute of playing time this year after putting in reasonable performances last year. Shunsuke Fukuda was shipped to J2 and Kataller Toyama. Daigo Watanabe, who was brought in to challenge for the right back spot, doesn't even appear there in practice matches, instead playing the wing - badly - and pushing promising prospects Jun Kanakubo and Taisuke Miyasaki out of position, reducing their chances of picking up match experience. It seems as if Jun Suzuki is out of ideas.

So now it's almost Monday and I'm still upset. Upset about blowing money on a game that all the important actors seemed to conspire in to guarantee that Shimizu would win. Upset about having to see the same awful script played out another year. Upset about having to take a bite out of what seems to be the only item on Omiya's menu: the crap sundae. Referee Nishimura and the timewasting was only the rotten cherry on top.

* Let's see, goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto went down for about a minute on a collision, then Keisuke Iwashita went down in a heap on a yellow card call and stayed down for a very long time (you might remember him rolling on the ground in mock pain during Shimizu's 4-1 win at NACK, with his team up four and at a man advantage). Naohiro Takahara, not to be outdone, went down for a spell, Alex Brosque stayed down for a while after getting elbowed in the nose (and still having the facilities to spike Lee on his way down), Eddy Bosnar "cramped up" and had to take time to stretch and then finally two more Shimizu players went down and rolled on the ground in pain before looking up and seeing that play was stopped as their own team was making a substitution.



Michael 15 August 2011 at 02:39  

Increasingly, Suzuki reminds me of Glenn Roeder's time at Newcastle (or indeed anywhere). After a promising start he's clearly run out of ideas, picking the wrong players in the wrong positions, making predictable substitutions far too late to affect the pattern of the game, and generally looking like a man slowly, but surely, sinking.

The only consolation at the moment is the sheer awfulness of the three teams below us. If Yamagata manage to follow up their victory over Kofu with a win next weekend, even that might change.

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