The Omiya Ardija first team squad have begun their preparations for the second half of the J-League season at their regular summer camp in the idyllic surroundings of Tsumagoi in Gunma prefecture. As reported here on GGOA, there are currently no foreign players participating in training following the departure from the club of Salles and Enilton, while key central defender Leandro has been allowed to return temporarily to Brazil in order to recover from injury.
But following the disastrous knee ligament injury he picked up during his first ever training session with the club almost two months ago, trialist and former Japanese international Takashi Hirano is back working with his would-be team-mates, hoping to impress sufficiently to earn a full contract with the club. In all probability it is left-sided defender Yasuhiro Hato whose place in the starting line-up is most under threat due to the likely arrival of the well-travelled Hirano.
Monday's session in Gunma was taken up mostly with physical preparation, in order to help the players get back into the routine of training after a two-week break that followed on from the disappointing 3-0 defeat at home to champions-elect Gamba Osaka in their last J1 fixture at the end of June. Coach Robert Verbeek again stressed the importance of bringing fresh blood into the squad in the form of one or two new strikers, acknowledging that the team's scoring rate of just ten goals in eighteen games was insufficient.
And while the Dutchman also called on his midfield players to contribute more and to take additional responsibility in front of goal, he also suggested that - with the exception of the Gamba match - the Omiya team that played the last seven or eight J1 fixtures was a completely different proposition from that which had begun the season back in March. Fans will nevertheless be paying as close attention to the squad in training as to the actions of General Manager Satoru Sakuma and his attempts to bring to the club the additional players that Verbeek requires.