The title has already revealed the fate of Ken Sasaki, the Japanese manager who is the focus of VivaGlobetrotting. Previously, we saw Sasaki save his job before taking his side on a magical cup run in the Copa Chile. Unfortunately, progress could not be made and Deportes Puerto Montt sacked Sasaki midway through the 2021 season with the club falling short of their demanding expectations. This post will review what went wrong before looking towards the future.
Pre-season and transfers
Last season, Sasaki underperformed with Puerto Montt in the league, finishing in 11th when a top-half (8th or above) finish was expected. As part of the club’s five-year plan, Puerto Montt would now be expected to compete for a playoff place (6th or above) in the upcoming 2021 season. Were these expectations realistic and achievable for Sasaki and co?
Bringing in the right players would be important for Sasaki. Unfortunately for the club, star man Oscar Hernandez was targetted and then signed by Deportes Nublense for £110k. Hernandez was a key component of Sasaki’s side last year, starring in the advanced playmaker role. He would prove to be an irreplaceable talent.
Sasaki made eight signings prior to the 2021 season, four of which were players coming in on loan. Of the eight signings, Felipe Fritz, Jaime Carreno and Jose Luis Sierra were ones to keep an eye on, all arriving on loan from top-tier Chilean sides.
Tactically, Sasaki had to move away from the 4-5-1 system deployed last season, largely due to the sale of Hernandez and inability to find an adequate replacement. Rather than focus on one solid tactic, Sasaki decided to train three different tactics – a standard 4-4-2, a 4-1-4-1 (DM) and a 4-4-2 Diamond. This proved effective in pre-season as Puerto Montt took on two top-tier sides, winning one and drawing the other, and two lower-tier sides, winning both. In those four matches, Puerto Montt impressed enough to see the media predict them to finish 2nd in the league.
Ken Sasaki and Puerto Montt will be hoping that pre-season form carries on into the season.
Inconsistency’s a killer
Inconsistency was a huge factor behind last season’s disappointing league campaign. Puerto Montt began last season going winless in eight matches before winning eight of the next ten matches. Then, Puerto Montt failed to win in the next five games before ending the season with 3 wins from 7.
In the 2021 season, Puerto Montt began with victory, beating Copiapo 3-1 at home, a result which left the side top of the league after the opening weekend. This, unfortunately for Sasaki, was as good as it got. Following the opening day weekend came 1 win in 6, including three goalless draws that confirmed the striker problems from last season remain this season.
By the time the 1st round of the Copa Chile came, Puerto Montt were placed in mid-table with three wins from ten matches. Magallanes were comfortably dealt with, a 4-2 aggregate win saw Puerto Montt progress through to the 2nd round to play Curico Unido.
It was here that the inconsistency demonstrated earlier throughout the season was fully appreciated. A 3-0 defeat in the 1st leg angered Sasaki. Last season, Puerto Montt fell to a 4-0 defeat to the same opponents and Sasaki was furious to see his side perform abysmally once more. The second leg was a completely different story. Puerto Montt dominated the game and ran out 4-1 winners, meaning that the tie would be settled on penalties, as was last years semi-final. Sadly, Puerto Montt were defeated and exited the Copa Chile in the 2nd round.
Following the defeat to Curico Unido, Ken Sasaki was summoned to meet with the board. The board wished to discuss the poor result in the Copa Chile. This meeting came to a fairly early close a Sasaki explained how, with just a little bit more luck, Puerto Montt could have progressed through to the 2nd round of the cup. Exiting on penalties was an unfortunate way to be knocked out. The board agreed.
Just over a month later, Sasaki was again called into a board meeting.
This meeting was to discuss the form of Camilo Becerra, a centre-back who was first-choice last season and more of a backup player this season. The board agreed with fans that he should be dropped and it was agreed that he would be, otherwise Sasaki would lose his job!
After two more league defeats, seeing Puerto Montt drop down to 12th in the table, the board summoned Sasaki for the third time in less than two months. This time, a points target would be set.
Last season, Ken Sasaki needed nine points from five games to save his job. Puerto Montt managed to gain 12 points from those five matches. This season, the board want eleven. Possible, yes. But considering the insipid form displayed by Puerto Montt, it was highly unlikely.
Indeed, two more consecutive losses secured Sasaki’s fate.
Being sacked from Puerto Montt could easily have discouraged Sasaki from returning promptly to management. However, prior to his final match in charge, Deportes Temuco approached Sasaki to attend an interview for their unfilled managerial position. Losing the final match resulted in his sacking, and although Temuco chose to overlook Sasaki, his desire to return to a club was clear.
With a sacking under his belt, Sasaki may not be considered the perfect fit for any club in the near future. Yet his performance in the Copa Chile last season may count in his favour. Taking a second-tier side, especially one of Puerto Montt’s stature, to the semi-final of the cup was a significant achievement and it certainly raised his reputation in Chilean football.
Just days after his sacking, Sasaki applied for the vacant Coquimbo Unido role. Having been denied the chance to manage Temuco, a second-tier side, Sasaki wasn’t confident of being chosen to manage top-tier Coquimbo.
However, Coquimbo gave Sasaki an interview and he was thereafter approached to become their new manager! Will Sasaki accept their offer and become the Coquimbo Unido manager? Here is how the 2021 season has gone for Sasaki’s prospective new club.
In the league, Coquimbo have underperformed, winning five matches from twenty. The club have won just once in the past six games, a run that saw them sack the previous manager Jaime Vera. In the Copa Chile, they crashed out in the 3rd round, losing to fellow Campeonato Nacional side Cobresal. Interestingly, Coquimbo also participated in a continental competition this year, losing out to Brazilian side Vitoria in the Copa Sudamericana 1st round.
The board expect a mid-table finish this season. So, with ten matches to go, will Sasaki take the job and end the 2021 season on a high?
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