Former club captain, Okuno joined Omiya as the club entered the new J2 from the defunct Yokohama Flugels. Since promotion, however, has struggled to give a good account of himself and in a poor start to 2005 seemed as if he was conceding a penalty virtually every time he stepped onto the pitch. Last season was injury-affected, but Okuno was still left out in the cold by the Toninho / Yukio Tsuchiya central defensive partnership. With rumours circulating that he was even interested in succeeding Miura as coach, it's hard to avoid the feeling that Okuno is more focused on planning for retirement rather than playing for the team. Better hair than last year, mind.
3. Leandro - レアンドロ - 18 Aug 1981 - 187cm / 83kg - NEW
25-year-old Leandro has big boots to fill, coming in to the squad as he does to replace the departed Toninho in the middle of the back four. Physically imposing but with some polish, he is almost certain to slot into the line-up as Robert Verbeek aims to provide the team with a solid backbone - and the middle of defence is a particular area of concern. Leandro himself is inevitably an unknown quantity, in that he's never played outside Brazil before, and there will be pressure to play with authority and confidence from the word Go.
One-time Japanese international right-back who came from Kashiwa a year ago, although has picked up most of his experience with Marinos. It was hoped that he would bring some extra quality to the side of the defence, but in reality Hato didn't look better than the likes of Takuro Nishimura or the other existing members of the squad. Such is the depleted state of the Ardija squad, however, he may well find himself continuing in the team ahead of Terukazu Tanaka or Daisuke Tomita.
Not one of the stars of the team but Tomita has quietly picked up bags of experience with Mito Hollyhock and now starting his fourth season with Ardija. Can play anywhere in defence, but in the last couple of years has mainly been left back and kept his place in the team in 2006 despite the arrival of both Tsuchiya and Hato. Pre-season seems to have raised doubts that new coach Verbeek rates him so highly, and it's unclear whether or not Tomita will continue as a first choice.
Defender / midfielder whose versatility has probably ended up counting against him, in that the former Urawa man has failed to make himself indispensable in any specific position. Played mainly at right back in 2005, but also filled in as a defensive midfielder and lost out last year due to Toshiya Miura's defensive reshuffle. An intelligent player and one who seems to have re-focused his energy, understanding that the arrival of Verbeek is an opportunity to stake a claim for a regular starting place again.
21-year-old defender still waiting for a first-team opportunity, despite having been in the squad for three years now. Preparations for what is a vital season for Game-chan were dealt a major blow when he broke a bone in his foot in training, leaving him sidelined for three months. How he bounces back from that is likely to affect the direction of his entire career.
One of the great enigmas of the Omiya Ardija squad, Tanaka has famously appeared at international level for Japan U21, whilst never having been selected by Toshiya Miura for the Squirrels first team. Like Ishigame, 2007 is probably a make or break season for the Osaka native, who will be seeking to get past Takuro Nishimura and Yasuhiro Hato for his favoured right back position.
A rookie last year - and therefore utterly unable to feature in a Toshiya Miura first team - the former Squirrels Youth team player has impressed pre-season. There has even been talk of him having worked his way into the first team to play centre back regularly alongside Leandro. This is perhaps a step too far, but it seems likely that Nishimura will get some J1 experience during the course of the season.
Fringe central defender who has often found himself on the subs' bench since transferring to Omiya from Nagoya before the 2004 season. Was even let go at the end of 2006, but later signed a further contract when the Squirrels' money ran out and they didn't have enough players. How many first team opportunities Hiraoka will have this season will depend mainly on injuries to other squad members.
34. Yusuke Murayama - 村山 祐介 - 10 Jun 1981 - 180cm / 70kg - NEW
Utility defender signed by Satoru Sakuma under somewhat mysterious circumstances in mid-August 07, on a loan deal until January 08. After the end of the Robert Verbeek era, huge holes may have developed in the Ardija back line, but it is hard to see how they may be plugged by the arrival of a player who has been finding it hard to win a place in Shonan Bellmare's line-up. He may add more competition for the likes of Yasunari Hiraoka and Seiichiro Okuno, but they're not getting in the team anyway.