I know I had most of you hooked with the title, but just let me check:
80’s music references? ✅
Rob van Winkle?✅
Aria Jasuru Hasegawa? ✅
I’ve a feeling you’re going to enjoy @AgentOrange2009‘s season debut – and it doesn’t make pleasant reading for slumping Squirrel fans…..
A very old joke about age goes like this…..”When I was a kid, MTV used to actually play music videos!”. Arguably not very funny, but absolutely true. I still can remember vividly those awful videos with a parade of artists who would have one catchy tune and disappear. From Dexy’s Midnight Runners to Nena, Men Without Hats to the Buggles, there were a lot of guys who had their 15 minutes and faded away. Arguably nobody embraced this more than a white kid from Texas who combined a classic tune with a gritty story about running drugs in Miami. Ice Ice baby, too cold!
I guess in a long winded way, this is my attempt to say that Hiroki Shibuya is kind of the Rob Van Winkle of the J League. He got “props”, as the kids like to say, for pushing Omiya up to 5th place behind a simple plan of getting the ball to talismanic midfielder Akihiro Ienaga. You could sit there and criticize the simplicity and lack of creativity (which I did). You could point out the lack of a true plan B (which I did). You could even criticize the indifferent effort put out by Ienaga on many a night (You better believe I did). What you can’t deny is that for whatever reason, it worked. The rest of the squad seemed to raise their game with Ienaga on the pitch.
Omiya is very much like a 3rd world country who overthrows a dictator and has no clear successor. Chaos is reigning right now….. ok, maybe that’s a bit strong, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear plan at the moment. At the end of the Kofu loss, supporters were booing, and a handful of shirtless “ultras” were shouting epithets and telling Shibuya and the squad to go do something unpleasant to themselves.
It’s difficult when the heart of your team takes off for a payday and immediately flops with a team directly above you. It hurts even more when your most talented and creative player (Jin Izumisawa) also departs for a “big” club and doesn’t get playing time. We knew this was going to be painful. Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong to start this season. The team has had numerous players miss time with injuries. Players are either getting injured or coming back from injury and not being in top condition or rusty. The new quartet of signings, Genki Omae, Aria Jasuru Hasegawa, Yusuke Segawa, and Akimi Barada have all failed to fill in at critical spots. Finally, veterans like Kosuke Kikuchi, Dragan Mrdja, Hitoshi Shiota, Hiroyuki Komoto, and Tsubasa Oya have all been pretty bad, making numerous mistakes and costing the team at critical junctures.
I think Shibuya made a mistake in throwing all four of the new signings in to the starting lineup right from the start, outside of the hard working Omae, none of them have made a real impression. The insertion of Barada has actually derailed young midfielder Keisuke Oyama and destabilized the defense, last year’s strong point. If El Golazo is correct, the non-running combination of Shin Kanazawa and Shigeru Yokotani is preparing to rear it’s ugly, passive head. The team looks like they are still trying desperately to go with the same plan of passing the ball to Ienaga even though he’s gone. It doesn’t work if you don’t have a player who can fit that role (arguably Keisuke Honda is the only player that could play that role with the proper Ienaga mix of ego and disdain, and he ain’t coming to Omiya anytime soon). It looks bleak right now and the schedule isn’t going to get easier. Omiya faces Kashima tomorrow (only the second best team in the world!). That’s followed up by undefeated Vissel Kobe, Shimizu S Pulse away (Genki Omae goes home to a place where they hate him….and Omiya has never won), Gamba Osaka and Urawa in the derby. It’s likely that they are still winless by May, when they face off against Consadole away.
Shibuya is on the clock. If he doesn’t get points soon, he’s done. I’m not sure how I feel about it considering he’s been the best manager in Omiya’s less than stellar J1 history. He’s going to have to follow up his “Ice, Ice, Baby” with something strong because at the moment were stuck with “go Ninja, go Ninja, go” – and that has satisfied no one.
NEXT UP…..Sanfrecce and Kashiwa in a Relegation 3 pointer? THANKS DONALD TRUMP!!!!
* header photo from Soccer Digest