An understrength Omiya Ardija side sank to their fifth defeat in seven J1 outings on Saturday, as Kohei Kudo's goal just before the hour proved sufficient to win the match for JEF United. Not surprisingly, coach Robert Verbeek's approach was as far as possible to replicate the 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation that the previous weekend had defeated high-flying Nagoya Grampus 8.
Salles again played as main striker supported by wide men Hayato Hashimoto and - for the first time ever in such an advanced position - regular full-back Takuro Nishimura. Masato Saito, Yoshiyuki Kobayashi and Yosuke Kataoka occupied the three central midfield roles, while former skipper Seiichiro Okuno came into the back four for a rare start, while youngster Terukazu Tanaka also made his full J-League debut at right-back.
Missing four key players through a mixture of injury an suspension, Verbeek was always going to be up against it in trying to gain points from such a vital fixture. And the lack of strength in depth available to the Dutchman was clearly revealed by the makeshift nature of the team fielded in Chiba. Nevertheless, this is to gloss over the fact that - following on from JEF and the Squirrels' poor starts to the season - this was a game that Ardija couldn't afford to lose, but of course did precisely that in the only way that this Omiya side seems to know how. Namely, by playing poorly and not scoring any goals.
A true legend of the game from Holland, Ruud Gullit, once famously referred to "sexy football." Make no mistake, the current Omiya Ardija team are without doubt the antithesis of this, manifesting itself as it does with zero creativity, a lack of care when in possession and a bewilderingly excessive amount of backpassing - which on one occasion came with the Squirrels in the middle of a rare attack.
Ardija deserved to lose today without question, although the incessant diving, timewasting and general gamesmanship from the home team made the visiting support long for an unexpected and frankly undeserved equaliser. This nearly came late on in the second half from a Hashimoto long range strike that was palmed on to the crossbar by keeper Tomonori Tateishi.
Omiya's only other two efforts of note came from Daisuke Tomita, who blasted straight at the keeper from close range; and from the hapless, totally-out-of-his-depth-in-J1 Manabu Wakabayashi, who spurned a golden opportunity by blazing over near the end. By this time, JEF were 1-0 up through Koda's overhead kick with an assist from Naotake Hanyu - something that was always coming - and frustratingly, Verbeek's team didn't start to play until they were already behind. Keeper Hiroki Aratani made some good saves, Tomita was solid and Okuno played well in the first half, but these were the only positives to emerge from such a despondent performance.
For the truth of the matter is that Omiya look like a relegation side, unable to score and on this evidence lacking in organisation. The appearance of Takuro Nishimura as an attacking player in the first half, selected in favour of Yusuke Shimada, was in particular something that baffled the travelling support. To add insult to injury, Masato Saito also made it a staggering four reds cards awarded to Ardija players in consecutive games, by getting sent off while actually already substituted.
Perhaps significantly, the Omiya team received from the fans a mixture of cheers and boos at the final whistle. Something needs to be done to stop the rot and to set this club back on the road up the J1 table - be it signing a new forward to replace the unsurprisingly disastrous Enilton, who was dropped from the squad today - or indeed by hiring a manager who knows how to attack. If not, Omiya Ardija are going back down to J2. It's as simple as that.