Saturday, 4 February 2012

Agent Orange: Two Left Feet

For all the mysteries surrounding the lineup choices of Omiya coach Jun "Fucking Dope" Suzuki, there are some things that we do know.
1. Takashi Kitano, Rafael and Takuya Aoki are pretty certain to be in the starting lineup against FC Tokyo on opening day. During Suzuki's reign, all three have been consistent starters, only missing because of injury or suspension. Both Aoki and Kitano started every game last year.
2. New guys get shots. Unless you are 18 years old, chances are you will get an extended look during your first year with Jun Suzuki. Some numbers to back that up:
  • Norio Suzuki  19 games
  • Lee Chun Soo  16 games
  • Lee Ho 15 games
  • Kota Ueda  31 games
  • Keigo Higashi 27 games
  • Daigo Watanabe 23 games
  • Kim Young Gwon 27 games
  • Yosuke Kataoka 15 games
  • Rodrigo Pimpao  9 games
Chances are that in 2012 Cho Young Cheol, Kosuke Kikuchi, Takumi Shimohira, Yu Hasegawa, Masahiko Ichikawa and Carlinhos will get all the chances in the world. 
3. There will be guys who don't play. Suzuki makes it pretty clear when he is not that enamored with players. He hinted at not being all that high on Chikara Fujimoto at the end of 2010, when the longtime captain was benched in favor of Daisuke Watabe for the two final matches of the season. He then went and signed a replacement for Fujimoto in the form of Keigo Higashi. Mato Neretljak saw his minutes curtailed during the long Nabisco Cup break when Shusuke Tsubouchi took his spot. An Yong Hak lost his position after, ironically, a strong showing in the World Cup. 
I guess what I'm saying in a roundabout way is this: if you are Kota Ueda, you should watch your back. For some inexplicable reason, Suzuki soured on his key playmaker near the end of last year, benching him in favor of the hardworking but limited Shin Kanazawa. The most recent deal made during the offseason has brought in FC Sao Paulo conductor Carlinhos, whom I know little about except for the fact that he's small, getting paid a lot, and Cerezo Osaka seemed to really want him. 
There have been some questions about who Carlinhos is going to compete against in the center of the field, with the presumption being that Aoki would be replaced. I think that's wrong. It's going to be Ueda. We've seen that Suzuki rates Aoki while showing signs of squish about the former Jubilo man. 
More importantly though, it's about the feet. Both Carlinhos and Ueda are reliant on their left foot. And conventional wisdom in the J-League is that if you are left-footed (and not a striker), you play on the left.
Weekly Soccer Digest projected starting lineups for all eighteen teams in J1. Of the 72 left side positions (centerback, sideback, center mid and wing) over forty were predicted to be left-footed players. The 72 right side positions only provided starting slots for three left-footed players (two were midfield/striker hybrids in the Mihailo Petrovic system, Yosuke Kashiwagi and Koji Morisaki, and one was Shunsuke Nakamura). 
I guess what I'm saying in a roundabout way is that, unless you are Shunsuke Nakamura, you aren't going to play on the right with your left foot affliction. As a left footer, I'm clearly offended [me too - F]. 
I hope that Suzuki finds a creative way to get all of his best players on the field. Past precedent suggests that I should not get my hopes up. 
What To Expect When You're Not Expecting Much
I think Suzuki will start out with a 4-2-3-1. I don't think it's going to be 4-4-2 considering that we don't have many strikers on the squad. I'd like to see this lineup on opening day:

GK Kitano
LSB Shimohira
RCB Kikuchi
RSB Watabe
LCM Carlinhos
RCM Aoki
LW Cho
RW Higashi
UT Ueda
FW Rafael
I think on paper this is our strongest attacking lineup. There's size, speed and coverage against an FC Tokyo squad that will be playing their third game in a week. Unfortunately, I know there's not a chance in hell of seeing this lineup on opening day. Instead I think the lineup is going to look more like this:

GK Kitano
LCB Kikuchi
RCB Fukaya
RSB Murakami
LCM Carlinhos
RCM Aoki
LW Cho
RW Watanabe
UT Higashi
FW Rafael
In the past, Suzuki has used Kazuhiro Murakami and Yuki Fukaya like a security blanket. He's not afraid to pull them for a couple of games but he always seems to stay very close to the veteran duo. It's pretty much a lock that all four foreign players will get on the field. Where Kim plays is the big question. Hey, just for kicks:
The Fucking Dope

GK Kitano
LSB Murakami
LCB Kikuchi
RCB Kataoka
RSB Watanabe
LCM Carlinhos
RCM Aoki
LW Hashimoto
RW Cho
FW Hasegawa
FW Rafael
I know that once during training camp in Miyazaki Suzuki will trot out a lineup like this against a girls' junior high school and the team will look moderately reasonable. I know we will see a lineup like this at least once during the season and I will be angry before, during and after the game. 
Maybe Rafael gets injured and it's Masahiko Ichikawa, maybe Shin does a start for Carlinhos. Whatever. I know this because it happens every year.

It's why I think we will finish in our normal spot between twelfth and fourteenth. We have the talent to push up near the top half, but for whatever reason the cockroaches on our team always survive the atomic devastation of their bad performances and live to scatter around in the crevices of NACK5. 
I do like the uniforms though!
Orange! Happy!! Uniforms!!!



cashman27 18 February 2012 at 18:33  

Very interesting read. I'm an English Omiya Ardija fan who moved to Tokyo in June 2011. I think the club has made some decent signings in the close seasons and if Rafeal can stay fit I can see a top ten finish. Our away form last season was outstanding, hopefully we can win a few more games at the NACK which should propel us up the table or at least ahead of Urawa.

Furtho 19 February 2012 at 03:06  

Welcome cashman27. My opinion on Rafael is it depends on how he's used. He has skill but God knows he slows the team down because he always wants to put his foot on the ball and consider his options so carefully. Ishihara is, again in my opinion, a better player and one more suited not only to J-League football but to Omiya's needs. That's not to be, of course. Here's hoping for a record-breaking 2012 and, who knows, perhaps even our first-ever top 11 finish.

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