In the previous VivaGlobetrotting post, we saw how Ken Sasaki had been hired by Coquimbo Unido, a Chilean top-tier club, with ten games remaining of the 2021 season. In this post, Ken Sasaki had identified his own managerial identity in order to try and improve his own performance as a manager. This post will take a look at the 2022 season to see if Sasaki’s identity has had an effect on Coquimbo Unido’s fortunes.
One of the key facets of Sasaki’s identity is having an attacking mindset. Last season, Sasaki came into a team who were out of form and struggling in the league. Rather than implement an attacking philosophy, Sasaki was more cautious. This simply is not in Sasaki’s nature. In his playing days he rarely played in a cautious team and as such his mindset is more of an attacking one.
The second part of the identity involved focusing on youth players. Brought up in Asia in the nineties meant that Sasaki was exposed to a lot of English Premier League football, This was a period of the PL that was dominated by Manchester United – a side with the foundation being to focus on youth. The ‘Class of 92’ consisted of several youngsters that went on to become first-team regulars. Sasaki was heavily invested in this idea and it was one shared by his manager at Ostersund, Oscar Friberg. Sasaki wants to carry this notion into his own managerial identity.
The final element of Sasaki’s identity was to highlight several key attributes that he looks for in his players. Central players, specifically centre-backs and central midfielders, with high leadership will be sought. The idea being that leaders in the spine of the team can help drag the club forward in difficult situations. Sasaki wants his players to be brave and so he will be looking to bring in players with high levels of bravery, especially whilst playing in Chile. Finally, all players will need to have a decent standard of teamwork.
Over the course of pre-season, Sasaki has spent time implementing his identity at the club. Let’s take a look at how he has done this.
Implementing the Identity
Implementing an attacking philosophy over the off-season was fairly simple. Making it work, on the other hand, would be less so.
Here is Coquimbo’s best XI in the formation used throughout the first half of the season. Some adjustments were made over the course of the first 15 games, including changing the midfield roles from BWM and DLP to BBM and CM and changing the central defender’s mentality to cover. However the overall mindset of the team is to take the attack to the opposition.
Prior to the first league match of the season, Coquimbo Unido had signed nine players on permanent deals, with four extra coming in on loan. All 13 players were signed with Sasaki’s desirable attributes in mind, albeit with some exceptions taking place. For example, Oscar Hernandez has relatively poor leadership and bravery for a player in the spine of the side. It was his previous relation with Sasaki – Hernandez starred in Puerto Montt’s side before leaving for Deportivo Nublense – that encouraged the signing.
Alongside the highest teamwork rating, Coquimbo Unido also have the highest passing and work rate attributes amongst Campeonato Nacional sides.
The final aspect of Sasaki’s identity was to focus on youth. This has been a problematic element of the identity to focus on over a short space of time. Focusing on youth is more of a long-term project and as such Sasaki has made some small strides in working towards this.
Ze, the final player on the list of pre-season signings, was signed in pre-season but arrived at the club in May on the turn of his 18th birthday. The Brazilian attacking player was definitely signed with an eye on the future. Diego Ibaceta, a young Chilean right-back, was signed from Colo-Colo on a free transfer. He, too, was signed with the future in mind, although he has played a bigger part in the 2022 season so far.
Coquimbo Unido’s facilities are poor and as such, it is unlikely that a star player will progress through the club’s academy system and be ready for the first-team. Nonetheless, Sasaki is still focused on using youth and will certainly aim to scout for more youth prospects to sign for the first-team.
The Effect of Sasaki’s Identity
The earlier screenshot has already highlighted how Sasaki’s identity has had an effect on the Coquimbo Unido squad. By bringing in players with high teamwork, the club are now statistically the team with the highest teamwork in Chile’s top-tier. This has had a knock-on effect in that the squad will keep fighting to the very end of matches. In 15 league matches this season, opponents have only scored 4 goals against Coquimbo after the 80th minute. This is a small improvement on the final ten games of last season under Sasaki’s management, when teams scored 6 goals in the same time portion.
Under 21’s must play at least 50% of of the time played in 30 games in the top two Chilean leagues. This is a rule that encourages managers to select younger players, promoting youth development. It is also a rule that fits in perfectly with Sasaki’s identity. This season, young players have been part of the playing eleven for 70% of the 15 matches played so far. This is a percentage that Sasaki will only be looking to improve over the coming seasons.
Having an attacking mindset has been the facet of the identity that has been hardest to nail. Coquimbo Unido are not a strong team in relation to fellow Campeonato sides. They have been in the top-tier since 2019 – their previous appearance in the top-flight before this was in 2007 – and so playing attacking football against strong opposition has been tough. Sasaki has needed strong willpower to follow through on his philosophy in some of the tougher times this season.
- Clear-cut chances
One of the main areas of difficulty has been in conceding clear-cut opportunities in matches. Here are two examples of games where opponents have thrived on Coquimbo’s attacking styles.
In these three league games, of which Coquimbo won just one point, the opponents had a huge 24 clear-cut chances, on average 8 per game. By comparison, Coquimbo managed just 6. It has been a theme that has run throughout the season so far, with Coquimbo seeing 26 clear-cut chances go in their favour with DOUBLE that going against them. 52 clear cut chances against in just 15 games is something that cannot be overlooked and must be addressed.
Coquimbo Unido go into the mid-season break on a six-match unbeaten streak, ending with a brilliant 1-0 victory over Universidad de Chile. Even here, Coquimbo lost 3-0 in terms of clear-cut chances.
The board want a mid-table finish and on current form this should be achieved. Yet the number of clear-cut chances going against us is worrying and it is something that needs to be sorted out quickly. Sasaki needs to have a think over the break how he can minimalise the opponents scoring opportunities without going against his attacking philosophy.
A slump in form could easily see Sasaki return to the board room…
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