Squirrels midfielder Chikara Fujimoto has written controversially and extensively on his blog to defend the team's continued use of counter-attacking football, in spite of the poor results achieved throughout the season and particularly in recent weeks. Fujimoto describes how, following Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to JEF United, he was asked by a reporter why Omiya were apparently unable or unwilling to modify their tactical approach, even when the visitors had taken the lead just after the half-hour mark.
His response was effectively that a team should be able to use a consistent style of play throughout a match, only resorting to change in the last few minutes if necessary. Furthermore, the Ardija captain went on to say that the players as a group felt that the established ideal Omiya style of solid defence and counter-attacking play was the best way to achieve results in the remainder of the season. This is of course a view that ties in with the football that the Squirrels have played since Fujimoto arrived at the club prior to their first-ever J1 campaign in 2005.
That year and in 2006, however, coach Toshiya Miura's teams appeared to have just enough creativity and movement to take the pressure off the defence and to create sufficient chances. The players who were key to making that system work were the wide midfielders, whose job it is in a counter-attacking team to exploit space left by an opponent that is pressing forward. Ironically, in 2005 that chiefly meant Fujimoto himself, with Daigo Kobayashi and then later Hayato Hashimoto coming onto the scene last season.
Following the departure of Miura, under Robert Verbeek and Satoru Sakuma it is precisely those players - along with midfield lynchpin Yosuke Kataoka - who have underperformed so much in 2007. Daigo has admittedly had an injury-hit year, but even when fit has been far less effective than the man who at the start of his Ardija career seemed to contribute an assist or a goal every week. While Hashimoto has been in and out of the team, he too has notably failed to build upon the series of promising contributions which he made in the final two months of 2006.
But the uncomfortable reality is that it is arguably captain Chikara who has been the least effective of the trio. A single assist against Nagoya Grampus 8 and a penalty in the home defeat by Ventforet Kofu are an extremely disappointing return for a player who remains a first-team regular. As such, in the light of the team's position in the J1 standings with just eight matches remaining, Fujimoto's defence of the current system begs the question whether his team-mates are actually able to execute that style of play to the required standard. Alternatively, many Squirrels fans are now wondering if he himself should take responsibility for his potentially fatally poor performances this year and step down to the substitutes' bench.