Posts Tagged ‘Željko Petrović

16
Nov
11

Difference between Dwight and wrong

Sometimes, if nothing else is working, bringing in a new coach and some fresh ideas can be just what the doctor ordered. All too often these days football clubs jump to this last resort a little too quickly though…

Sir Alex Ferguson, probably the most successful manager ever, has just celebrated his 25th anniversary in charge of Manchester United.

He has been on the bench for over 1,400 matches, and, despite a difficult start at the club, things clicked into place in his fourth season when United won the FA Cup in 1990.

Three years later, his seventh as manager, United finally won the league and, in his quarter of a century at the helm to-date, 37 trophies have been won – including 12 Premier League titles.

Now, of course, Sir Alex is a freak and it would be ridiculous to compare the fate of 99% of the world’s other managers with him.

However, his record and the patience with which he was treated in his early days at United do raise an interesting question: was he given time because those in charge sensed success, or did the achievements come about because he was given time?

Football has changed in many ways since Sir Alex took the reins at a struggling United in 1986. The increasing effect of money on the sport and the consequent – and ridiculous – expectations of sponsors and supporters mean that it would be very difficult to display such loyalty in the modern era.

However, constantly chopping and changing the guy in charge does not mean you will enjoy success, as two of the J.League’s biggest clubs have recently demonstrated.

Urawa Reds have struggled since they won the Asian Champions League in 2007. This has been by far their worst season in recent years, and they had little choice but to fire Zeljko Petrovic after their former player led them into the heart of the relegation battle (and particularly after he announced to the media his decision to quit at the end of the season before informing his bosses).

That does mean they have had four head coaches in as many years since they became kings of the continent though, and you can’t help but wonder how much better off they’d have been if they’d given one of their German coaches another season or two to build a team.

A more bizarre example is provided by JEF United who, the day after Petrovic was sacked, announced that their coach Dwight Lodeweges was also on his way.

At the time, despite having lost two games in a row, JEF were just three points away from a place in J1.

They may have been disappointed not to be more certain of a return to the top-flight, but even before the season had started Dwight had told me that promotion to J1 was not being taken for granted.

“I do want promotion, absolutely. I’ve got no idea how real that is, I mean, can we?” he said. “I’m more or less busy with putting a foundation underneath this team and building from there. I’m not really looking at J1, I’m looking at how do I get the team better. And if that is enough to get promotion, yeah, beautiful. If not, maybe it’ll take another year.”

He also touched upon the club’s fall from grace prior to his arrival, suggesting that perhaps those in the front office had not made the best decisions.

“You’ve got to wonder, you’ve got to analyse what has happened there. Not from me because I wasn’t here in the past, but I think if you’re the club.”

Those at the top may have been far from enthralled with the style of football, but to replace him with technical director Sugao Kanbe at such a crucial point of the season was bewildering. And it didn’t work.

The three games they played after giving Lodeweges the boot yielded just two points and one goal, effectively condemning JEF to the second division for a third straight season.

In an earlier column on promotion from J2 I quoted Dwight who had said, “It’s not just a name that brings you back or does well or keeps you in J1. We have to do the right things.” Never has that seemed a more fitting observation.

Both Reds and JEF, with their trigger-happy approaches to recruitment, should provide a lesson to other aspiring clubs.

While it is important to keep things fresh and avoid stagnation, consistency is often key. Sometimes change is not for the best.

22
Jul
11

Clock ticking on Petrovic…

Urawa Reds latest bout of underachievement could see them “starting again” again next season…

It wasn’t supposed to have gone like this.

When Zeljko Petrovic arrived at the start of the season he was adamant that his beloved Urawa should not be kicking their heels in the middle-reaches of the table, and insisted that he had arrived to drag them back to the top where they belonged.

“What you see in Saitama is in Manchester or in Munich or in Barcelona, Real Madrid – it’s the same level, Urawa is the same level in Asia,” he said.

“I haven’t come here to be 9th or 7th or 8th, I like to be the best or one of the best.”

And, in a way, he has lived up to that promise, with Reds not finding themselves in any of those league positions so far. Sadly though, they have not been anywhere near being one of the best either, and the side are yet to move out of the bottom half of the table.

Despite experiencing their customary slow-start things seemed to be looking up when they hammered Grampus 3-0 in Saitama in April, and Petrovic reiterated his goal after that game.

“What I want for Urawa Reds is if you play a bad season, a very bad season, you will be in the first four. And if you play a good season you have to be champion. Not ‘good season champion, bad season number 10, 8, 11’.”

They failed to build on this victory though, and after a barren patch without wins in May and June Petrovic’s future was starting to be called into question, with the side heading into a crucial run of four games that could have spelled the end.

Although they didn’t lose any of those matches they can’t be said to have come out of them as a better team, and despite beating Avispa, three draws against Grampus, Gamba and Yamagata leave them just outside the relegation zone and suggest that there are still several problems to be overcome.

Aside from Genki Haraguchi, who is finally showing more than just potential, very few players are playing at anywhere near the best of their ability, and the absence of a striker is without doubt the biggest of their concerns at this moment in time.

While the departure of Edmilson has hardly helped matters this was a problem while he was still with the team, and his lumbering presence in the final third was not doing a great deal to improve Reds’ attacking forays.

His countryman Mazola has proved equally inept in front of goal, and his hat-trick of misses against Gamba wonderfully summed up the side’s form in 2011 so far.

Reds fans are now pinning their hopes on new striker Ranko Despotovic, although nobody really knows what to expect of him or how long it will take him to settle with the side – if he does at all – and even Petrovic admitted to being a little in the dark about the Serbia international.

“This is Japan, you need maybe adaptation but I don’t have the time. Normally he’s a finisher; scorer, running, good professional. This is my information, I never saw him play. But I hope he’s also a little bit of a target man because how we play you need somebody there to get the ball and play to the side.”

One player who should be out to the side but hasn’t been very often this year is Naoki Yamada.

Naoki, who is undoubtedly one of the most naturally gifted members of the Urawa squad, has struggled to find a regular place in the team this season, and it seems to me that Petrovic is still unsure about him. After the Gamba game the coach singled Haraguchi and Shunki Takahashi out for praise, but suggested that Naoki was not quite there yet. 

“I’m so proud of Genki. I know that when I started he was totally different. When I started with Shunki he was totally different. Naoki is coming. All young players are much, much better. One makes maybe faster progression than other ones but this is normal.”

Normal it may be, but, as Petrovic himself said, time is one thing he doesn’t have much of, and while he will surely see out the rest of this season it might not be long before we are re-setting the timer for yet another new coach in Saitama.

04
Mar
11

J.League 2011 Season Preview

On Saturday the 2011 J.League season kicks off so this week I provided a preview for The Daily Yomiuri, which can be found by following the links below.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/T110228004857.htm

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/T110228004904.htm

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/T110228003025.htm

22
Dec
10

The Back Post – Reds hope to close out blue period

When I first visited Japan, Urawa Red Diamonds were one of the top teams in the J.League. Things haven’t been so smooth over the past few seasons though, and the side has just implemented it’s latest change of manager.

As Volke Finke makes way for former Reds’ player Željko Petrović, I considered the team’s recent plight and whether or not the Montenegrin will be able to return them to the top of the table for my column in the Daily Yomiuri, which you can read here.




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