Three Points The Requirement As Toninho Makes Double Century
Omiya Ardija pick up their faltering J1 campaign tomorrow against Oita Trinita at Komaba Stadium, in a match that most Squirrels followers will agree is a must-win fixture. For after a good win against Yokohama F Marinos, last week saw a poor display and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale that could have been heavier if Juninho and co had taken more of the opportunities presented to them by incisive attacking play combined with ponderous Ardija defending. It was not an acceptable performance from Toshiya Miura's team, given that they themselves have set a higher standard in terms of what they hope to achieve in the club's second season in the top flight.
Oita line up prior to their 4-1 defeat at Shimizu S-Pulse
Oita, too, have had something of a patchy beginning to 2006 and lie just one place higher than the Squirrels, in eleventh position. Coach Chamusca appeared to achieve miracles after his arrival from Botafogo mid-way through 2005, at a point when Trinita looked dead certs for relegation. But the forty-year-old Brazilian successfully re-focused the team's approach and harnessed the goalscoring potential of Magno Alves to finish the campaign well above the relegation zone.
Magno Alves has of course moved on to better things with Gamba Osaka and Daiki Takamatsu, Shota Matsuhashi and Osmar are providing the attacking threat this year and have eight goals between them. A team with a simple attacking style but the capability of turning defence to attack very quickly, Oita's up-and-down form has resulted in consecutive scorelines such as a 3-0 win away at Nagoya Grampus 8 being followed by a 2-1 home defeat to Jubilo Iwata, so which version of both of teams will turn up to the match - an encounter that incidentally is Toninho's 200th J-League appearance for Omiya - is obviously crucial to the outcome.
The frustrations of getting right an attacking formation have of course been uppermost in the minds of everyone connected with Omiya during 2006. Hopes were high for the Kawasaki game, when Kota Yoshihara and Naoto Sakurai were in partnership - and seemingly on form - up front, but the failure of the Squirrels' attacking players to impose themselves on the game and to retain possession in attacking positions kept pushing the direction of play back towards Hiroki Aratani's goal.
"There's not much satisfaction to be drawn from that match," admitted Toshiya Miura. "But I have to say that the response from the players has been tremendous, even better than last year - they've worked very hard this week. We know we have to put in a disciplined performance against Oita."
Toninho in early 2001, shortly after joining the Squirrels
"We'd played some good stuff in some of the previous matches, but just couldn't get into the match against Kawasaki," captain Seiichiro Okuno acknowledged. "But the Oita game is a clean slate. We're not satisfied at the results we've achieved this season and know we need to improve; so, we've done a lot of work on defence in training this week because we know it's important to have a secure basis for the whole team that will take us through a busy spell of fixtures over the next few weeks."