Positives, NegativesI'm not going to do mini match reports, but since my last post the only positives have been the away draws against Urawa and Kashiwa, while we earned a spot in the semi finals of the Cracker Cup with a 2-0 home win over Sendai, a 4-2 aggregate win that set up a semi final against Shimizu, who we beat in the semis on our way to glory in '09 but lost to on away goals in the quarters in 2010. I should also add the fairly impressive 25-minute league debut from Nemanja Vucicevic against Omiya. His four-language website is pretty good too.
The negatives have been how poor we were in home losses to Niigata (2-0 in Matchday 19) and Omiya, 1-0 last Saturday. Both teams were 16th in the table at kickoff of those games, and were able to atone for wins we had at their stadiums by the same scorelines. Both played 'the blueprint' to varied degrees, and though we had 18 shots against Omiya we couldn't really complain at full time as we seemed very laboured in our build-up play and urgently in need of a freshen-up. I have to include the horrible service Edmilson has received since coming into the team in the negatives, and while he's clearly still working himself into playing shape, you could count the balls he's had played to his feet in dangerous areas on one hand.
Going Forward, Changes NeededVucicevic's signing led to Tatsuya Yazawa's return to J2 Chiba, and we wish Yaza all the best and thank him for a year and a half of service. He was an important player for us last season but, while he also impressed in the A.C.L. this year, he was unable to impose himself on J1 opponents and is returning to his true level, I believe.
The new Serbian looked a creator against Omiya, and I'd like to see him tried in the hole, with his arrival hopefully leading to a return to centre mid for Yohei Kajiyama. As the season has gone on we've seen how hit and miss Aria Hasegawa is, and his unfortunate habit of hiding on the pitch and shirking his work, especially in home games, means I think he should be the one to make way.
Here's how I'd like to see us set up going forward.
At the back:
I'm a massive fan of Hideto Takahashi in centre mid, but Kenichi Kaga's struggles have meant he is probably needed more at the back, though if he had've cleared the ball into the box as he should have, Novakovic wouldn't have scored Omiya's winner on Saturday. Mukuhara over Nakamura is a simple matter of preference for me, as I don't rate Hokuto as a defender.
Midfield & Upfront:
If Takahashi plays in defence then Takuji Yonemoto is the obvious choice as the ball-winner alongside Casual. Lucas has really looked knackered the past month, but I realise the manager is unlikely to throw Mita straight into the XI. Even so, the youngster's pace looks a weapon opposite Nao, and though he might not start many/any games he will hopefully become an important player in the last three months of the season.
We need to find a combination to get the best out of Edmilson, and I believe Casual a bit deeper and Vucicevic in the hole will be the answer.