After a weakened Squirrels side went down fighting - but still went down - in last weekend's J1 clash with Urawa Reds, it makes for something of a change to talk about not the team's front line nor even the likelihood of new signing Alison making his full debut on Sunday at Ventforet Kofu. Because the focus of attention as far as Ardija fans are concerned is upon indications that key defender Yukio Tsuchiya and midfield star Daigo Kobayashi will both make their desperately-needed returns to the first team. Tsuchiya has been a steadying influence in the middle of the back four throughout most of the season, a fact underlined by Omiya having conceded nine times in the three matches that the former Kashiwa Reysol utility player has missed.
Similarly, one is forced to ponder what might have been if Daigo as far and away Ardija's most creative player of the year had been able to play against Reds, a match in which his team-mates pressed and pressed but somehow never looked likely to break down the resolute and organised Urawa defence. The squad's other main long-term injury victim is Chikara Fujimoto, who has returned to action with the reserves but still seems some way short of match fitness as far as the rough-and-tumble of real J1 action is concerned.
Combine this with the enforced absence through suspension of Tatsunori Hisanaga and the more whimsically optimistic Omiya supporter might almost be tempted to believe that a start for promising wide player Hayato Hashimoto could be on the cards. A more realistic view, especially bearing in mind that the Kofu game is away from home, will surely incorporate instead a midfield of Daigo and Yoshiyuki Kobayashi and Yosuke Kataoka, perhaps with Jun Marques Davidson partnering Kataoka in the middle.
If Omiya's results lately have been worryingly poor, Ventforet are looking an inconsistent side, just as capable of picking up a good win at FC Tokyo as being crushed by Shimizu S-Pulse. The J1 newcomers would never claim to have the same level of skill as Urawa Reds and have based their approach on tenacity, work-rate and the application of pressure on the man in possession.
This being the case, Toshiya Miura's first task in approaching the game is to motivate his fragile team to prepare for a physical battle - for only if this is won will Omiya have the opportunity to play a more creative game that can hurt Kofu. With the 2006 season turning out as it is, it remains very difficult to predict which Squirrels team will turn up for what is a vital, winnable fixture, but one thing is sure: this winless run cannot be allowed to go on for much longer before concern turns to genuine crisis.