There's a lot of weight on the shoulders of Saul "Speedy" Martinez. The diminutive striker has begun both J1 games for Omiya Ardija so far this season, but has twice been substituted and never really looked like scoring a goal. Indeed, most observers agree that he would have ended up being sent off against Avispa Fukuoka at the weekend if coach Toshiya Miura hadn't replaced him with Naoto Sakurai at half-time, given the fact that his persistent fouling of Avispa defenders had earned him a yellow card, but still had not curtailed the excesses of his behaviour.
Although the closest that Martinez has come to opening his account for the Squirrels came from a Chikara Fujimoto cross late in the first half against JEF United, there's not much doubt that the key relationship as far as creation of chances is concerned is between Martinez and Daigo Kobayashi. The former Tokyo Verdy 1969 man has been Omiya's star performer so far, with one goal and no fewer than four assists - but when it comes to making opportunities in open play, there has definitely been something missing.
"Unless the ball comes direct to me, it's difficult," commented the Honduran international after training this week, "but I think that if we can get the timing worked out, we'll be able to get into scoring positions. Daigo and I have to develop an understanding, so that I can know where he's going to put the ball."
Martinez in training
The other main issue affecting Martinez and how he fits into the team is the fact that Miura has so far opted to use him as a lone striker, connected to his colleagues only by Daigo's role just ahead of the midfield quartet. The suggestion is that this situation will change when Kota Yoshihara returns to fitness - potentially in time for Saturday's clash with Albirex Niigata - and the Squirrels will revert to a more familiar 4-4-2 starting line-up, with the ex-Gamba Osaka star thus forming a partnership with Speedy based on both of them possessing pace aplenty and a powerful shot into the bargain.
It is notable, however, that Miura has shown a reluctance so far to try a different approach: a little-and-large front pairing of Martinez with either of the taller strikers in the squad, Hiroshi Morita and Manabu Wakabayashi, is not apparently on the agenda at present. But whatever the coach's long-term intention, it seems clear that his key new signing is finding things tough in his current isolated role.
Clearly the problem is not that he is getting lots of opportunities and missing them, but instead that the fundamental connections between team-mates are not in place or functioning. Speedy is a player who needs support in order to make the most of his abilities - and at the moment, the Squirrels are simply not geared up to get the most out of him, or to help him cope with the weight of expectation. No wonder he's frustrated.