Finding An Identity | Coquimbo Unido #1 | VivaGlobetrotting #5 | Football Manager 2020 Stories

Football Manager can often be a very frustrating game. You can pile hours into preparation for a season, only for your tactics to fail and your squad to underperform. You can battle bravely to save your job or fail miserably. In Ken Sasaki’s first two seasons in management, he has done both.

In his first year with Puerto Montt, requiring nine points to save his job, Sasaki led his side to 12 points in five matches. This run culminated in an excellent cup run that saw Puerto Montt reach the semi-final. Only next season Sasaki was again summoned to the board room (three times in two months!) and he sadly was not able to save his job this time.

This post will discuss what went wrong at Puerto Montt and what Ken Sasaki must do in order to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated at his new club.

Coquimbo Unido – Why Sasaki?

ken sasakiCoquimbo Unido took a risk in appointing Ken Sasaki as their manager. The club were performing below expectations in the Campeonato Nacional, the top-tier of Chilean football, and as such needed a manager who could re-energise the squad to see a change of fortunes. Ken Sasaki was not able to motivate or inspire his Puerto Montt squad to success – instead he was sacked after four consecutive defeats.

So why did Coquimbo Unido choose Sasaki? Pundits have speculated that the excellent run in the Copa Chile that saw Puerto Montt reach the semi-finals – a game in which they lost on penalties – has something to do with the decision. But in reality, it was Sasaki’s standing in Chilean football that stood him in good stead. Sasaki spent the final three years of his playing career in Chile, playing for both Colo-Colo and Puerto Montt. This three-year stint endeared him to many in Chile and certainly contributed to Coquimbo Unido’s decision to hire him.

Sasaki has been given the opportunity to lead Coquimbo Unido in the final ten matches of the season. Will he be able to shake off the malaise from the Puerto Montt disaster to inspire a new group of footballers to succeed?

first game Sasaki’s first game in charge

Coquimbo Unido sat in 12th place on 22 points when Sasaki joined the club. With ten games left, and just three points above the relegation zone, he would need to begin well and pick up points against those around the club. Universidad de Concepcion sat in 14th place and therefore provided Sasaki with the perfect first game to prove Coquimbo right to hire him.

Unfortunately, a 0-0 draw followed and already placed doubts in Sasaki’s head.

first win Sasaki’s first win with Coquimbo Unido

These doubts were eradicated with the destruction of Palestino in Sasaki’s third game in charge. After a 4-0 crushing defeat by Universidad de ChileSasaki feared the worst. But a 5-1 win against Palestino allayed these fears.

last ten matches Sasaki’s ten matches in charge

The 5-1 win was as good as it got for Coquimbo, winning just once more in the remaining 7 games.

table end of season 14th in the league

Relegation was avoided, barely, and Sasaki knows that big changes are needed over the off-season. So, whats does he need to do to improve?

Upon reflection | What needs to improve?

Ken Sasaki needs an identity. He needs to remember what made his former manager Oscar Friberg successful in his playing days. He needs to adapt these methods to Chilean football. And he needs to do it before his reputation suffers any further. His sacking from Puerto Montt and subsequent poor start with Coquimbo Unido has dented his reputation and further damage could see it drop beyond repair.

Ken Sasaki was a pacey winger who thrived in an attacking system filled with young talents. He joined Swedish side Ostersund aged 21 and immediately became an integral part of the side, despite his relatively young age. Sasaki needs to remember his playing past as he looks to improve his managerial future. As such, Sasaki’s identity will include the following:

  • Attacking mindset

Sasaki will look to play attacking football, ensuring his players play a pressing style with a higher tempo. Even when the odds are against his team, Sasaki will look to see his side take the attack to the opposition, following the idea that attack is the best form of defence.

  • Focus on youth

Young players will take priority over older players. Though experienced players won’t be overlooked, Sasaki will look to give youth a chance to ensure his team is always full of the energy needed to play a fast-paced game.

  • Key attributes

Sasaki will focus on bringing in his type of player, specifically looking at players with certain attributes. Players who will play down the spine of the team, in particular centre-backs and central midfielders, will all need to be leaders. The leadership attribute will be prioritised when bringing in central players. Whilst managing in Chile, and perhaps all of South America, players will need to have a high bravery attribute. Finally, all players will need to have great teamwork. Physically, Sasaki will look for players with good stamina and good pace.

For all too long at Puerto Montt Sasaki had fallen away from his desired mentality. He has always been an attack-minded footballer, yet due to the pressures of management, he fell away from the midset in favour of a more cautious approach. This was not the case for his entire time with Puerto Montt – the magical cup run was largely played with a side taking the attack to the opposition. But poor form persuaded Sasaki to move away from this mindset and it proved costly.

He won’t be making the same mistake at Coquimbo Unido.

Implementation at Coquimbo Unido

Sasaki will now need to spend time over the off-season planning and preparing for the 2022 season.

board vision Coquimbo Unido vision

The board expect Sasaki to ensure that Coquimbo attain a mid-table finish this season before becoming the ‘best of the rest’ by the end of 2023. Sasaki is ambitious and will push for greater heights, but meeting the expectations is certainly the priority.

The next post will review the actions taken over pre-season. Sasaki’s identity will need to have been implemented!

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