24
May
18

Petrovic impressing in Sapporo

Consadole Sapporo have been one of the surprise packages in J1 so far this season, with Mihailo Petrovic showing once again that he knows exactly how to get a team working as a unit… (日本語版はこちら)

Football Channel, Wednesday 23rd May, 2018 11th May, 2018

Sanfrecce Hiroshima are clearly the surprise package of the J1 season as we head into the World Cup break, and the turnaround Hiroshi Jokuku has brought about in last season’s 15th-placed side to leave them nine points clear at the top of the table has been remarkable.

He is not the only experienced manager to have made an instant impression at his new club, with Kenta Hasegawa also slipping straight into his groove at FC Tokyo and ensuring they are the side closest to the Purple Archers after 15 games.

The work of Mihailo Petrovic at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo is equally impressive though, and the 60-year-old has not wasted any time instilling his possession-based football in a team that was sitting 15th on just 12 points after 15 games of the 2017 season.

Shuhei Yomoda ultimately steered the club comfortably to their joint-best finish of 11th last term, and he seemed a little harshly treated when Consadole decided to replace him with Petrovic ahead of the 2018 campaign.

With Yomoda kept on as head coach alongside Petrovic, however, the team have gone from strength to strength this year, and despite a 4-0 humbling away to Kobe last weekend – their first defeat in 12 games, and one suffered with nine men after the sendings-off to Kim Min-tae and Hiroki Miyazawa – they sit fifth in the standings, level on 26 points with Cerezo Osaka and just one behind reigning champions and third-placed Kawasaki Frontale.

The players know there’s still a long way to go though, and talismanic striker Jay Bothroyd made it clear after the 0-0 draw away to Tokyo on 13 May that the team have no intention of resting on their laurels.

“I think there’s still another level we can play at,” the Englishman said after making his return from a two-month injury lay-off.

“I don’t like to get too carried away, it’s only 13 or 14 games so there’s another 20 games left and this is not the business part of the season – the back end is, the middle is – and that’s when we need to be in this kind of form.”

The 36-year-old was quick to acknowledge the impact Petrovic has had in building on last year’s success, but was keen to stress that the team’s improvement actually started at the end of the previous season.

“Of course he’s brought in a different mentality – we’ve got a different strategy, a different style of play. But I know at the back end of (2017), the last 13 games we won 10, drew one, lost two [actually won seven, drew three, lost three].

Football Channel, 24th May 2018

“We know we’re a good team, but this year Misha’s got us playing out from the back, attacking football, and I think it’s improved players individually. Last year we were more direct whereas this year we’re building up well, making chances, doing link-up play.”

A key reason that modified approach is working so well is the continued improvement of Chanathip Songkrasin, with the 24-year-old going from strength to strength after arriving in Sapporo at the same time as Bothroyd last summer.

“Last year we played on the counter from defence, whereas this year we don’t only play defensively but also in an attacking style by building passes,” the Thailand star said after the Tokyo game. “You could possibly say there’s more of an attacking ‘switch’.

“In the first year maybe my teammates didn’t expect quite so much of me, but this year there’s increased trust and I get more of the ball, and I think I’ve been able to do reasonably well in terms of making chances.”

As well as that the diminutive playmaker has also found the net three times, although he insists that’s an area he wants to improve further upon.

“I think my weak point is still scoring goals,” Songkrasin, who suggested he would be keen to make his loan from Muangthong United permanent next year, added. “From now on I want to work hard in order to contribute more goals.”

As always in a Petrovic side, however, the results are ultimately a team effort, with every player fulfilling an important role and seeming to relish carrying it out for their manager.

The Serbian has always been a popular figure amongst those who play under him, and it is hard to find any who have a bad word to say about the man who lay the foundations for Sanfrecce’s success and then delivered Urawa Reds’ first piece of silverware for nine years.

Yoshiaki Komai, who also played under Petrovic in Saitama, has four assists to his name since joining him in Hokkaido, for instance, while Koji Miyoshi has three, as does Akito Fukumori – who seems to have been given the ‘Makino’ role as an attack-minded defender, as well as posing a real threat from dead ball situations.

Petrovic once commented while under pressure at Urawa that he would never quit, and that if he was fired he would not waver in his philosophy but merely continue playing the kind of football he believed in at another club – laying the foundations and convinced it would reap rewards over time. It is still early days at Sapporo, but the manager shows no signs that he has given up on that aim, and the players under his guidance appear as trusting of his methods as ever.


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