There are no two ways about it: Kota Yoshihara has had an absolutely appalling couple of seasons. 2005 saw him sidelined and forgotten at Gamba Osaka, where Araujo and Masashi Oguro could barely stop scoring, and come the end of the year it seemed an obvious move for the former Consadole Sapporo striker to kick start his career with a change to a smaller, hungrier club on the up like Omiya Ardija.
Almost unbelievably, however, during 2006 Yoshihara actually picked up less playing time in Saitama than he had done the season before in Osaka. A mixture of disastrously-timed injury, loss of form and a pathological sense of caution exhibited by then-coach Toshiya Miura ensured that Yoshihara turned out only fifteen times in the league - the majority of them as substitute - netting on just two occasions.
When Omiya supporters were able to see him play, they caught glimpses of his undoubted pace and a footballing brain that was quick to see moves and opportunities. The flipside of these positives, though, was a catalogue of missed chances that hinted at a major loss of confidence, something with which Miura seemed unable or unwilling to get to grips.
Unsurprisingly, incoming boss Robert Verbeek has begun the 2007 season by selecting up front last year's star turn and the main new Brazilian signing, leaving Yoshihara once again on the bench. But even so, the one-time Japanese international has displayed a remarkable commitment to the cause, knuckling down in training and apparently determined to show Ardija fans the football of which he still feels himself to be capable.
Verbeek has rewarded him for his hard work with lengthy substitute appearances against both FC Tokyo and Oita Trinita, as Enilton has in the meantime shown every indication of being but the latest in a long orange line of cataclysmically poor foreign forwards. In the Tokyo match, Yoshihara had one good late chance that undoubtedly should have been taken - but then at Oita, he succeeded in grabbing the Squirrels' only goal of the year so far with a cracking header, something that Enilton had notably failed to do when given a clear opportunity in the first half.
All of which leaves Omiya's new coach with a difficult decision to make ahead of Wednesday's Nabisco Cup clash at Yokohama F Marinos. Has Yoshihara done enough to earn a starting place in a team desperate for inspiration? Or should the Dutchman persevere with Enilton by giving him the opportunity to boost his self-belief away from the pressure cooker of the J-League?
For if there is another J1 team at a low ebb, it's the Marinos. Koji Yamase's early goal against Ventforet Kofu on the opening day has been their only positive moment, as Hiroshi Hayano's team subsequently went on to suffer the humiliation of a derby defeat to an ecstatic Yokohama FC side - and then on Saturday were crushed 4-1 at home by another newly-promoted side, Vissel Kobe.
Could Kota Yoshihara, a player individually on the up, be the man to exploit the fragility of the 2004 J1 champions? Robert Verbeek's side needs inspiration from somewhere, and a first team slot for Yoshihara might just provide it.