9. Kota Yoshihara - 吉原 宏太 - 02 Feb 1978 - 170cm / 66kg
Former international and a consistent scorer with Sapporo and Gamba, found himself squeezed out during the latter's title year in 2005 due to the success of Araujo and Masashi Oguro. The move to Saitama twelve months ago turned into a disaster; picked up an injury pre-season and ended up making only a handful of starts in the latter stages of the campaign. Has pace and always makes himself available, but missed chances when he did get to play suggest a player with little confidence.
10. Enilton - エニウトン - 11 Oct 1977 - 176cm / 75kg - Left the club middle of July 2007
Ever since Bare left, Squirrels fans have been hoping for a striker who scores goals - could Enilton be that striker? Has played for ten clubs in four countries, including four years in Switzerland, but moves to Omiya from Palmeiras in his native Brazil. Mobile, aware and with a respectable record in front of goal, let's just hope he isn't another Saul "Speedy" Martinez.
Halfway through 2005 made the step up to Omiya from JFL side Tochigi SC. Was top scorer in Japan's third tier at the time and quickly made an impact with Ardija, getting the winner in an Emperor's Cup tie against Kyoto. Despite the scoring problems throughout last season, Wakabayashi picked up limited playing time and was seemingly behind Hiroshi Morita in the queue as the tall striker. Likes to attack the ball and decent heading ability, but whether he's good enough to be a first-choice J1 striker is questionable.
Since originally coming to Omiya from Niigata during the 2004 season has scored some vital goals, but last year offered far too many examples of his limitations for the liking of many Ardija fans. Gets frustratingly few goals with his head for such a tall player and also poor at holding up play as a target man. Was selected bewilderingly often by coach Miura, but nevertheless retains his place in the squad. Whether Morita will feature in the plans of Robert Verbeek remains to be seen.
16. Alison - アリソン - 30 Jun 1982 - 171cm / 68kg - Left the club end of March 2007
Pug-ugly but pacey forward or wide midfield player. Like Enilton, Alison has moved around a lot in his short career and made a big impact in two years at Daejeon Citizen in the K-League. Imaginative and unpredictable, can make life difficult for defenders but has a streak of inconsistency which means he can drift out of games.
27. Salles - サーレス - 01 Mar 1978 - 188cm / 84kg - Left the club end of June 2007
Big Brazilian forward / attacking midfield player, who arrived at Omiya from USL side Atlanta Silverbacks at the end of March 2007, a replacement for the departed Alison. Strong, with a good long-range shot and a decent left foot, Squirrels fans were nevertheless puzzled at the arrival of a player whose career has been spent in the lower leagues of the US, Ecuador, Brazil and Spain. Infamously - and unluckily - given a straight red card on his Ardija debut.
29. Denis Marques - デニス・マルケス - 22 Feb 1981 - 183cm / 74kg - NEW
Signed for the Squirrels from Atletico Paranaense on a year's contract during the 2007 mid-season break. As such, the latest in a long line of foreign forwards that the fans will be hoping actually manages to live up to expectations - and after the departure of Enilton and Salles, total number of J1 goals between them: one, Omiya need someone to get the goals that will keep them in the division. Denis Marques is reputed to be quick and was previously the strike partner of Washington, now also in Japan with Urawa Reds. Whether this means he can score for Omiya remains to be seen.
Brought from Verdy two years ago, like Fujimoto to offer some top flight experience to the then J1 rookie Squirrels. An immediate hit, scoring the 2005 opener to set up a win at Gamba, the speedy Sakurai has had an injury-affected time with Omiya that has restricted his contribution. Tends to shine in bigger games, but conversely can go missing when Ardija's under-pressure defence need reliable attacking outlets. Surprise choice as vice-captain.
33. Pedro Junior - ペドロ ジュニオール - 29 Jan 1987 - 182cm / 73kg - NEW
Youthful Brazilian striker signed in mid-August 07 after the departure of Robert Verbeek. Video evidence would suggest he has energy, pace and even - shock - an eye for goal, but is very much an unfinished product. Presumably bought to play alongside fellow countryman Denis Marques,Pedro Junior had the misfortune to make his debut as a substitute in the disastrous 2-1 home defeat in which Omiya were utterly outplayed by a ten-man Kashima Antlers. Whether he will get the playing time to have the required impact is a key issue.
A rookie in 2005 having joined the club from Kokushikan University, Kataoka put in a series of increasingly impressive performances when given an opportunity in the latter part of his inaugural season, capped with a stunning free-kick in the Emperor's Cup against Urawa. Toshiya Miura played him in central midfield ahead of Jun Marques Davidson throughout 2006, but indications are that a defensive role may be required this year.
One of the few bright spots in Kobe's dismal 2005 relegation season, Saeki is a thoughtful, creative defensive midfield player... probably. Omiya fans saw almost nothing of him following his move from Vissel and unsurprisingly he took a loan move to Fukuoka to gain some playing time. After another good pre-season, is Saeki going to be luckier in 2007 and actually get a regular first team spot?
Broke the hearts of Verdy fans when he opted to join Ardija following the Greens' relegation at the end of 2005 and was without doubt the star of the Squirrels' show last year. Attacking midfielder always seeking to make the pinpoint killer pass, was the team's main attacking option as the strikers themselves failed to take responsibility and Fujimoto had an injury-hit season. The club's first-ever full Japanese international and thus guaranteed legendary status.
A key signing two years ago, Fujimoto moved from Kobe to bring flair and experience to Omiya's novice J1 team. Chikara seized the opportunity offered by Miura to have his most successful campaign to date as a left-sided playmaker. But he made less of an impact in 2006, even before a lengthy spell out with injury. Made captain by incoming coach Verbeek, he has more responsibility and more to prove.
Hard to imagine an Omiya squad without Saito, with the club as an amateur since the JFL days of 1998 and still technically an NTT employee. Calm, reliable and a notably intelligent footballer, he may not have the profile of other squad members but can be counted on to do a composed job in the centre of midfield or the back four. Will doubtless make a good number of appearances as a starting member or from the subs' bench throughout the season.
A fringe player at the start of 2006, Hashimoto was finally given a run in the side thanks mainly to Chikara Fujimoto's injury. Left-sided midfield player with a good cross and a fine line in free kicks, he actually emerged as one of the stars of the season and more or less forced Miura into keeping him in the side after the recovery of Fujimoto. Likely now to be a starting member.
24. Takaya Kawanabe - 川辺 隆弥 - 22 Dec 1988 - 174cm / 62kg - NEW
This year's rookie, promoted from Omiya Youth. His hair is already a lot, lot shorter than this photo would suggest.
Creative midfielder who picked up more than fifty appearances for the Squirrels in J2, but lost out when the squad was strengthened following promotion. Barely featured in 2005, but was virtually an ever-present in a successful season-long loan last year to minnows Thespa Kusatsu, where he became a local star. Now back with the big boys, opportunities may be limited again thanks to competition with the likes of Fujimoto, Hashimoto and Daigo.
On signing for Ardija, Hirano had played 349 J-League matches and at 33 there's no doubting his experience. Originally a left-sided midfield player, but indications in training and practice matches are that he will slot into defence, with Yasuhiro Hato moving to the right in place of Takuro Nishimura. The hope is that Hirano, who has played for six other Japanese clubs, will support Chikara Fujimoto in attack and provide more of a threat on the overlap.
On his arrival from very a year ago, hopes were high that Yoshiyuki would offer a genuine boost to the quality of the central midfield. He's versatile enough and chipped in with the odd much-needed goal, but in reality has added little; it could even be argued that Omiya have in effect traded Yoshiyuki for Jun Marques Davidson, now departed for Niigata. Whether Robert Verbeek will make tactical alterations and enable him to shine is an unknown factor, but he's likely to compete with Naoya Saeki and Masato Saito for the defensive midfield roles.
Former club captain, Okuno joined Omiya as the club entered the new J2 from the defunct Yokohama Flugels. Since promotion, however, has struggled to give a good account of himself and in a poor start to 2005 seemed as if he was conceding a penalty virtually every time he stepped onto the pitch. Last season was injury-affected, but Okuno was still left out in the cold by the Toninho / Yukio Tsuchiya central defensive partnership. With rumours circulating that he was even interested in succeeding Miura as coach, it's hard to avoid the feeling that Okuno is more focused on planning for retirement rather than playing for the team. Better hair than last year, mind.
3. Leandro - レアンドロ - 18 Aug 1981 - 187cm / 83kg - NEW
25-year-old Leandro has big boots to fill, coming in to the squad as he does to replace the departed Toninho in the middle of the back four. Physically imposing but with some polish, he is almost certain to slot into the line-up as Robert Verbeek aims to provide the team with a solid backbone - and the middle of defence is a particular area of concern. Leandro himself is inevitably an unknown quantity, in that he's never played outside Brazil before, and there will be pressure to play with authority and confidence from the word Go.
One-time Japanese international right-back who came from Kashiwa a year ago, although has picked up most of his experience with Marinos. It was hoped that he would bring some extra quality to the side of the defence, but in reality Hato didn't look better than the likes of Takuro Nishimura or the other existing members of the squad. Such is the depleted state of the Ardija squad, however, he may well find himself continuing in the team ahead of Terukazu Tanaka or Daisuke Tomita.
Not one of the stars of the team but Tomita has quietly picked up bags of experience with Mito Hollyhock and now starting his fourth season with Ardija. Can play anywhere in defence, but in the last couple of years has mainly been left back and kept his place in the team in 2006 despite the arrival of both Tsuchiya and Hato. Pre-season seems to have raised doubts that new coach Verbeek rates him so highly, and it's unclear whether or not Tomita will continue as a first choice.
Defender / midfielder whose versatility has probably ended up counting against him, in that the former Urawa man has failed to make himself indispensable in any specific position. Played mainly at right back in 2005, but also filled in as a defensive midfielder and lost out last year due to Toshiya Miura's defensive reshuffle. An intelligent player and one who seems to have re-focused his energy, understanding that the arrival of Verbeek is an opportunity to stake a claim for a regular starting place again.
21-year-old defender still waiting for a first-team opportunity, despite having been in the squad for three years now. Preparations for what is a vital season for Game-chan were dealt a major blow when he broke a bone in his foot in training, leaving him sidelined for three months. How he bounces back from that is likely to affect the direction of his entire career.
One of the great enigmas of the Omiya Ardija squad, Tanaka has famously appeared at international level for Japan U21, whilst never having been selected by Toshiya Miura for the Squirrels first team. Like Ishigame, 2007 is probably a make or break season for the Osaka native, who will be seeking to get past Takuro Nishimura and Yasuhiro Hato for his favoured right back position.
A rookie last year - and therefore utterly unable to feature in a Toshiya Miura first team - the former Squirrels Youth team player has impressed pre-season. There has even been talk of him having worked his way into the first team to play centre back regularly alongside Leandro. This is perhaps a step too far, but it seems likely that Nishimura will get some J1 experience during the course of the season.
Fringe central defender who has often found himself on the subs' bench since transferring to Omiya from Nagoya before the 2004 season. Was even let go at the end of 2006, but later signed a further contract when the Squirrels' money ran out and they didn't have enough players. How many first team opportunities Hiraoka will have this season will depend mainly on injuries to other squad members.
34. Yusuke Murayama - 村山 祐介 - 10 Jun 1981 - 180cm / 70kg - NEW
Utility defender signed by Satoru Sakuma under somewhat mysterious circumstances in mid-August 07, on a loan deal until January 08. After the end of the Robert Verbeek era, huge holes may have developed in the Ardija back line, but it is hard to see how they may be plugged by the arrival of a player who has been finding it hard to win a place in Shonan Bellmare's line-up. He may add more competition for the likes of Yasunari Hiraoka and Seiichiro Okuno, but they're not getting in the team anyway.
Began with Urawa, moved to Ardija following a brief spell at Kawasaki. Replaced Tomoyasu Ando in the first team during the promotion campaign and stayed as Toshiya Miura's #1 choice throughout 2005 and 2006, although Ezumi did get a brief run in the side. Some fans argue he is a weak link, as losses of concentration and careless errors have undoubtedly cost Omiya points. Whether Aratani remains Squirrels' main net-minder throughout 2007 remains to be seen.
Squad player who signed for Omiya alongside Ezumi a year ago following graduation from International Budo University in Chiba prefecture. Was restricted to run-outs in the reserves and subsequently was released at the end of the 2006. Re-signed when Sakuma realised he didn't have enough keepers and the other choice, Ando, had opted to retire.
21. Koji Ezumi - 江角 浩司 - 18 Dec 1978 - 191cm / 84kg
Picked up a small amount of first team experience with Oita before moving to Saitama a year ago. Spent most of 2006 on the subs' bench behind Aratani and will most likely do the same this season, given that Ezumi is ahead of both Kobayashi and Shibasaki. A handful of appearances in the League and Nabisco Cup is all he has to show for last year and confidence may be an issue as a result.