Thursday, 26 January 2012

2012 Squirrels Are Go!

Omiya Ardija on Wednesday released the numbered squad list of players that now look set to kick off the 2012 J-League season against FC Tokyo on 10 March. It confirms the arrival over the winter of five brand new players and the return from loan of one other. The new signings are:

  • Kosuke Kikuchi, a defender from Kawasaki Frontale
  • Takumi Shimohira, a defender from Gamba Osaka
  • Carlinhos Paraiba, a defensive midfielder from FC Sao Paulo
  • Cho Young Cheol, a wide midfielder from Albirex Niigata
  • Yu Hasegawa, a forward from Montedio Yamagata
The returning loan player is forward Masahiko Ichikawa, who spent 2011 at J2 outfit Tokyo Verdy. Midfield star Kota Ueda meanwhile shifts his designated number from 17 to 7 and the full squad listed below also sees a handful of players change their official positions:
  • Daisuke Watabe moves from midfielder to defender
  • Daigo Watanabe moves from defender to midfielder
  • Kazuhiro Murakami moves from midfielder to defender
Here's the full squad:

GK 1 Takashi Kitano
GK 21 Koji Ezumi
GK 31 Keiki Shimizu
GK 35 Shuhei Kawata

DF 2 Kosuke Kikuchi (new)
DF 4 Yuki Fukaya
DF 14 Shusuke Tsubouchi
DF 20 Kim Young Gwon
DF 22 Takumi Shimohira (new)
DF 24 Norio Suzuki
DF 26 Kazuhiro Murakami
DF 30 Daisuke Watabe
DF 34 Yosuke Kataoka

MF 5 Carlinhos Paraiba (new)
MF 6 Takuya Aoki
MF 7 Kota Ueda
MF 8 Keigo Higashi
MF 9 Cho Young Cheol (new)
MF 13 Daigo Watanabe
MF 16 Jun Kanakubo
MF 18 Hayato Hashimoto
MF 23 Shin Kanazawa

FW 10 Rafael
FW 27 Masahiko Ichikawa (returnee)
FW 29 Shintaro Shimizu
FW 32 Yu Hasegawa (new)

But what might this mean when it comes to coach Jun Suzuki's starting line-up against J2 champions and Emperor's Cup winners FC Tokyo? Experience says it is brain-meltingly impossible to predict how Suzuki might deploy the players at his disposal.

For example, if we assume - perhaps wrongly - that Omiya will play a basic 4-4-2 in 2012, the obvious front two following the departure of Naoki Ishihara and Lee Chun Soo is Rafael and Yu Hasegawa, with Ichikawa and youngster Shintaro Shimizu in reserve. However, it is equally possible that Keigo Higashi and dynamic South Korean newcomer Cho might be allocated one of the forward slots, perhaps alongside Rafael and, hey, who knows, perhaps relegating Hasegawa to the bench.

But it's all absolute bloody guesswork with Suzuki. He might perfectly well use Shimohira as a striker and Carlinhos as a substitute goalkeeper for the U12s.

You want an absolute bloody guess as to how things might look? Well OK then. Let's say for the sake of argument that it's a 4-4-2, or otherwise we'll be here all day:

GK Kitano
RB Watabe
CB Kikuchi
CB Young
LB Murakami
RM Higashi
CM Ueda
CM Carlinhos
LM Cho
FW Rafael
FW Hasegawa

For a start there's no reason to think that Takashi Kitano won't continue as first choice keeper after two decent years in the number 1 spot. In 2011 Daisuke Watabe looked like the most favoured right-sided defender until injury ruled him out of the last few months of the season. He's a decent player and deserves the chance.

On the left, the arrival of Shimohira as competition for Kazuhiro Murakami suggests that Suzuki sees Kim Young Gwon's main role as being in the middle of the defence. Potentially, then, the South Korean international will get a starting position in spite of a disappointing 2011 as a partner to experienced new signing Kosuke Kikuchi. Oh, who am I kidding, I have no idea.

Onwards and upwards. In midfield, the final few matches of last season seemed to suggest that Jun Suzuki was losing faith in Kota Ueda as a playmaker. A neat piece of I-have-not-the-first-notion-of-what-I'm-talking-about may indicate that Ueda will get another chance as a creative hub, with Carlinhos taking the place of Takuya Aoki as midfield destroyer.

As far as the wide players are concerned, at least on paper it would be exciting for both Cho and Higashi to get starting places, which surely means that Watanabe and Hayato freakin' Hashimoto will get the nod. Rafael and Hasegawa have to be first choice strikers, although with Suzuki you never know and he might go into the new campaign in the belief that Ichikawa is a world-beater. Let's see how pre-season goes.



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