Injured Players' Returns Means "More Competition" - Miura
Omiya Ardija are now in a busy time of the season, with games coming thick and fast over the next few weeks as the group stage of the Nabisco Cup kicks off as well. While most J1 teams will on Wednesday night be starting their Nabisco Cup schedules - Nagoya host Kofu and Jubilo travel to Cerezo in Omiya's Group D - the Squirrels play their J1 game in hand. While opponents Gamba Osaka will provide one of the sternest challenges in the whole schedule, Ardija fans will draw some comfort from the fact that the champions were beaten home and away on the way to the title, but there have since been major changes made to both teams.
The additions to the Ardija squad have been well documented on these pages, but most importantly for Gamba, last season't top scorer Araujo has been replaced by Magno Alves from Oita Trinita. He's already rattled in five goals as part of another strong-looking attacking line-up, but Omiya will have noted that it was Oita who managed to dent Gamba's start to the season with a fine defensive performance resulting in a 3-1 win at Banpaku in round 3. Coach Toshiya Miura is keeping under wraps the possible selection tomorrow evening of former Gamba star Kota Yoshihara for what would be a dramatic debut, but an apprearance of some sort cannot be ruled out for a player whose career with Ardija has not yet been able to get going.
"With our injured players coming back, we'll have more competition for places, which has got to be a good thing," Miura acknowledged. "Gamba's two foreign strikers are really good players and I expect them to move up the league from where they are now [sixth, two places above the Squirrels]. They're the champions - and by definition, that means a hard match. Even if they have some absentees, they'll be able to put out a strong team with powerful motivation, so it's not going to make things any easier for us."
Daigo and his best mate at Omiya, Hayato Hashimoto
If anyone can get past the Gamba back line at the moment, it's the star of Omiya's season so far - Daigo Kobayashi, scorer of two goals and provider of an assist on every single one of the team's other five scores. While rumours of an official name-change to the likes of Omiya Daigo FC can be dismissed as fanciful - totally imaginary, in fact - at the same time the idea of an over-reliance on one player will be unsettling for Ardija fans.
"It was a better game we played against S-Pulse and so we can take some satisfaction from that, but an especially good result," he commented before the Gamba game. "In terms of what the coach wants us to do, we're gradually getting better and feeling more confident as a unit, with a sound defence. We've scored in every match so far, but really want to improve the number of goals. I think it's great that we're getting so many from set pieces, but obviously we need to concentrate on developing chances from open play."