So, what should Satoru Sakuma do now? The Squirrels' on-the-field progress since their former chief scout took over as coach has been well documented, but after a promising draw at Shimizu S-Pulse, the team have fallen into disarray with defeats at the hands of Vissel Kobe and Kashima Antlers. The patchy availability of key central defender Leandro has prevented Sakuma from playing a settled side and, while Kota Yoshihara has scored a pair of confidence-boosting goals, it is really only new signing Denis Marques who has emerged from the three August fixtures with any credit.
And although the Brazilian forward is the exception, in making recent additions to the squad the early evidence would suggest that Sakuma has generally repeated his familiar trick of buying players who are not in a position to improve the team immediately - when that is exactly what is required. Takashi Hirano has not made his debut, yet Yasuhiro Hato continues to frustrate Ardija fans with the consistently poor quality of his displays at left back.
Similarly, it is hard to imagine how Yusuke Murayama can make the step up from Shonan Bellmare reserves to raise the standard of even the Squirrels' budgie-hearted defence, while at the age of 20 the promising but necessarily inexperienced Pedro Junior - playing outside his native country for the first time - is a much greater gamble than mid-season transfer target Steffen Iversen would have been.
Atsuto Uchida and Denis Marques fight for possession
Puzzling over the apparently whimsical nature of Satoru Sakuma's transfer policy is always going to be an unsatisfying business for any Squirrels fan - but how to address the broader problems of team selection at present looks an even more difficult task. In recent days, even the previously untouchable Daigo Kobayashi has come in for criticism from supporters, with questions being asked as to what his best position really is; a David Beckham-esque conundrum of whether the Ardija star man can have a greater impact on the right-hand side of midfield, or whether he has the characteristics required to boss the team from a more central role.
Likewise, some have drawn attention to the unimpressive return for all the playing time that captain Chikara Fujimoto has enjoyed this season. A solitary penalty scored against Ventforet Kofu and a mere handful of assists is not enough from a player who clearly has a good footballing brain, but whose ideas so often seem to fall down at the execution stage. Indeed, these thoughts must be on the mind of coach Sakuma himself, as in the 3-1 defeat to Vissel Kobe last week he took the step of replacing for the last fifteen minutes with fans' favourite - and 2006 J2 assist king - Yusuke Shimada.
GGOA has made the point before that what Sakuma needs most of all at the moment is big performances from his big players. The coach has been unlucky that much-improved goalkeeper Hiroki Aratani has yet to recover from a broken arm; Daigo and Fujimoto, however, have failed to come up with the goods not only in the last three games, but all season long. The former is not a leader by nature, but by virtue of the fact that the former Tokyo Verdy 1969 midfielder is the best player on the club's books, he has to take responsibility for his own performances and also for giving those around him a boost when it is needed.
Frode Johnsen celebrates scoring against Hiroshima
Meanwhile, Sef Vergoossen's Nagoya Grampus 8 currently lie in eleventh spot and a couple of bad recent results have seen them fall behind the mid-table pack of clubs. They have in all probability picked up enough points not to be drawn into a late season relegation battle - something that cannot be said for Sanfrecce Hiroshima or FC Tokyo - but at the same time, the team have scarcely built upon last year's seventh place finish.
At the re-start of the J1 campaign two weeks ago, while Omiya were tying with S-Pulse, the Whales picked up a good 3-1 win over Hiroshima with goals from danger men Frode Johnsen and Keita Sugimoto. Subsequently, however, Johnsen picked up a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out of first team action for a month during a 4-0 drubbing at Albirex Niigata. And in the absence of the Norwegian international striker at the weekend, Nagoya were outplayed in a 3-0 home defeat by Yokohama F Marinos.
Giant defender Takahiro Masukawa will also be unavailable for Saturday's game with a leg injury, meaning that Vergoossen will be missing two key players against Omiya - and that there will scarcely be a better opportunity for Ardija to repeat the win they managed when the two teams met at Komaba in April. Ironically enough, it was another Sakuma misfit signing, Salles, who headed home a Fujimoto cross to beat Nagoya that day. The Squirrels need a similar result on Saturday, but almost equally importantly they must demonstrate to the fans that they have the capacity to recover from a setback; that they have a unity and a sense of desire. Sakuma's job in the meantime is to identify the eleven players who have those characteristics.