Monday, March 2, 2009

J1 2009 preview: Omiya Ardija

Stadium: Omiya Park Stadium ( 15,500)
Average attendance 2008: 10,714
Last season's finish: 12th

2009 season's transfers:
MF Ryohei Arai (Promoted from youth team)
MF Tomoya Uchida (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
MF Park Won-Jae (Transferred from Pohang Steelers)
FW Yoshihito Fujita (Transferred from Sagan Tosu)
FW Naoki Ishihara (Transferred from Shonan Bellmare)
GK Hiroki Aratani (Transferred to Consadole Sapporo)
DF Leandro (End of loan from Cruzeiro Esporte Clube)
FW Naoto Sakurai (Retired)
DF Akira Ishigame (Retired)

My view on the transfers:
Omiya have lost one of their best players in Daigo Kobayashi to Stabæk, as well as MF Saeki and DF Leandro. Kobayashi gave the team an extra dimension in attack, and will be hard to replace. Omiya have brought in Croatian DF Neretjlak, who played for Suwon in Korea for several years. He will be a direct replacement for the departed Leandro. Korean international Park has also been brought in from Pohang Steelers, and although he's not the same kind of player as Kobayashi, he's expected to take his role. Up front Omiya have gotten rid of several fringe-players, and instead bought two merited J2-strikers in Fujita and Ishihara. Both have had tremendous success in J2, and the question is whether or not they have what it takes to compete at J1-level as well. But with Omiya already having two good strikers in Denis Marques and Lavric, there might not be too much playing time. Ishihara can work his way as a winger too though, and will probably be used a bit on the flank. Either way, Omiya looks to have more depth this season than previous years, especially up front.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Ezumi - Tsukamoto,Neretjlak,Tomita,Murayama - Park, Fujimoto,Kataoka/Uchida, Kanazawa/Ishihara - Marques,Lavric/Fujita

My view on the team:
In Ezumi Omiya have a solid goalkeeper, and with Neretjlak and Tomita forming the central-defence they doesn't look too bad in defence. There's question marks with the side-backs though, and against teams that attacks down the flanks Omiya might struggle. In midfield they are well-covered, but perhaps lacks the creative one that has the skills to provide the strikers with passes. That role will probably fall to Fujimoto this season, but he needs help from his team-mates around him if he's gonna succeed. Up front Marques and Lavric forms a very good partnership, and with solid back-up players in Fujita and Ishihara they should be able to score more goals than in previous seasons.

Player to watch: Mato Neretjlak

Manager: Chang Woe-Ryong
Chang won the title with Incheon his first year in charge in 2005, but didn't quite manage to follow up on that success the years after. He took a year's absence in 2007 to study english in London, but were back in the manager-seat the following season. Incheon only managed a lowly 7th place last season, but nevertheless Chang is a well-respected coach in South-Korea. He has brought in two players that played in Korea last season,and his english skills might come in handy when he's communicating with the players. Most of the players only speak japanese though, so he will still need an interpreter.

Omiya is perhaps the most football-frenzy providence in all of Japan, but unfortunately for Omiya most of the fans cheer for the cross-town rivals Urawa Reds instead. Omiya's stadium only takes about 15,500, and they average about 10 000 on their home-matches.

Where they will finish:
Omiya finished 12th last season, which is pretty high to their standards. They look better this year though, but will probably once again experience a battle against relegation. But I think they will avoid the drop, and finish a few places above.

12th - 14th

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