After a curiously-timed break of one weekend, J1 recommences tomorrow, with Omiya Ardija travelling north to Hokkaido for a potentially crucial clash with Consadole Sapporo. The teams met as recently as mid-May, when ex-Squirrels boss Toshiya Miura returned to Saitama to inflict a 2-1 defeat on his former charges, who put in a particularly poor performance on a rainy afternoon at Omiya Park.
Since that time, Yasuhiro Higuchi's team have picked up just seven points from seven games and are currently on a run of having scored just once in five outings - relegation form, by any other name. Ardija seem to have fallen into the habit of starting matches badly, going behind and therefore leaving themselves chasing the game. Too many players are now too badly out of form to enable any kind of fight-back to occur.
That said, some of Higuchi's substitutions lately have had a reasonably positive effect on the team, the likes of wide midfielder Hayato Hashimoto showing some sign of being able to link up with fellow bench resident Klemen Lavric. Even fans' favourite Hiroshi Morita deserves some credit for almost nicking three points in the last fixture against Shimizu S-Pulse.
No doubt Squirrels fans would be pleased to see Slovenian international Lavric begin a match for the first time as an Omiya player against Consadole. And a partnership with top scorer Denis Marques would appear to be the option most likely to pay dividends, given how consistently Kota Yoshihara has failed to deliver the goods this season. But the giant former Duisburg player needs good service to make the most of his talents - and right now, it's hard to see who's going to provide that service.