Looking back at the two matches against Tokyo Verdy 1969 on Sunday, which finished 5-0 to Omiya in the morning and 1-1 in the afternoon, there were a lot of substitutions made in both encounters. Toshiya Miura's main policy was to play something approaching last season's first team in the opening periods and then introduce the new signings at half-time, something that paid dividends in the hard-fought drawn match, when a Daigo Kobayashi free-kick a minute from time was headed in for an equaliser by Manabu Wakabayashi.
In the five matches played up until the second game against Verdy, the new team has gradually taken shape. "We're just trying to take a look at which combinations of players seem to work. There haven't been any decisions made about who the starting members against JEF will be. But everyone understands what we're trying to do and Daigo, Yoshiyuki Kobayashi and Naoya Saeki in particular have added strength to the midfield," said Miura.
With Chikara Fujimoto taking up his regular position on the left, Ardija's midfield is looking more effective at keeping possession and passing the ball, and correspondingly there also seems to have been a step up in terms of the number of chances created by the Squirrels as an attacking force. This has most notably been the case with Yasuhiro Hato and Daigo linking up impressively on the right-hand side, the latter catching the eye for the quality of his crossing as end product - a fact that will surely set alarm bells ringing for Tatsunori Hisanaga.
But one of the leading lights of the camp has been, somewhat unexpectedly, Manabu Wakabayashi - signed during the middle of the 2005 campaign from JFL side Tochigi SC, he grabbed the winner in an Emperor's Cup tie against Kyoto Purple Sanga and generally looked promising in a small number of run-outs in the league towards the end of the year. But two goals against Verdy took him to the top of the pre-season Omiya scoring chart with three (having also been on target against Niigata) and he later commented that the high standard of crossing from the new players made his job as a striker that much easier.
New star Daigo Kobayashi, meanwhile, is quickly becoming a lynchpin of the Squirrels team. "The coach has just told me to play freely and try to create things," he said and he has slotted in well as a positive force in midfield and also as someone who gives Omiya further options when it comes to set pieces, in addition to Chikara Fujimoto - who coincidentally provided Daigo with an assist to score his first goal for the men in orange against his old team, Verdy.