Saturday, 21 April 2012

Urawa Preview

So what were the differences between the 3-0 loss to Cerezo Osaka two weeks ago and last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Yokohama F Marinos? Coach Jun Suzuki made one change to the Ardija starting line-up, bringing in Shusuke Tsubouchi for Daisuke Watabe on the right-hand side of defence, and it's arguable that the more experienced Tsubouchi brought a little additional stability to the Omiya back line.

Another positive was the deployment of big substitute Yu Hasegawa, who against Cerezo came on  in an attacking midfield role for which he is amazingly ill-suited. Chasing the game at Marinos, Suzuki switched from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 by introducing Hasegawa alongside Rafael. And by playing to the strengths of the former Montedio Yamagata man he was able to have an impact, scrambling home from close range the equalising goal. Use Hasegawa to lead the attack, in other words, and it's possible that he might score, while it was notable that Rafael's assist came about at precisely the point when he was no longer such an isolated figure.

A couple of good things, then, but from an Omiya perspective there really wasn't much difference between the two games: whichever way you look at it Suzuki's team is still a poor one, playing grey and directionless football. The single largest reason why one led to a heavy defeat and the other a draw was simply because the Sailors were a much worse opponent than Cerezo.

Yuji Ono scored a terrific goal when invited to shoot by the feeble Kosuke Kikuchi, but that aside Yasuhiro Higuchi's Marinos team looked just as weak as Ardija. Their defence lost concentration when put under only a modest amount of pressure and the resulting goal from Hasegawa meant that Omiya, bad as they might be, took a deserved point. It is no surprise to see that the Squirrels and the Sailors are struggling in the league and there must be question marks over the future of both coaches.

There has already been press speculation about Higuchi's position at Yokohama and this being the case it seems reasonable to ask what might lead to the dismissal of the underperforming Jun Suzuki. Well, one thing is perhaps a heavy defeat to a local rival... which as regular readers will recall is exactly what happened to former Squirrels boss Robert Verbeek in 2007, when his full-strength Ardija team were taken to the cleaners in a friendly by Urawa Reds' reserves.

... so anyway, yes, a preview of Saturday's game against, oh, look, Urawa Reds. It's going to be great! Well, maybe. It looks like Keigo Higashi is going to be back in the team after a period of injury, which is encouraging - but Mihailo Petrovic has had an excellent start to the season as Urawa's new coach and Omiya unquestionably go into the first Saitama derby of 2012 as solid underdogs. Has Suzuki really got anything up his sleeve? He needs to produce now, for Ardija and his own future.



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