East Asia Japan

J.League 1 Set to Welcome New Head Coaches

With the 2021 J.League 1 season all done and dusted, the preparations for the 2022 season are now well underway. A number of clubs have recruited new head coaches to lead them in the upcoming season, and some promising names will be joining the more established ones as they seek to do well in the new league season with their new employers.

With Kenta Hasegawa having resigned from his post at FC Tokyo following an 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Yokohama F. Marinos, the Gasmen turned to Spain for their next head coach, specifically Albert Puig. Puig had won plaudits this season for the brand of exciting, attacking football that he had implemented at J.League 2 side Albirex Niigata, and it is hoped that the former Barcelona youth coach could work his magic in the capital for the 2022 season – especially considering the attacking talent that FC Tokyo has in their disposal.

Hasegawa himself didn’t spend a long time looking for a new club, as he was snapped up by Nagoya Grampus. Nagoya had just parted ways with Massimo Ficcadenti following disagreements on the Italian’s contract, and Hasegawa is expected to build upon the successes made by Ficcadenti in the past few years. Under Ficcadenti, Nagoya finished 3rd in the 2020 J1 season and qualified to the quarterfinals of the 2021 AFC Champions League, and with most of his key players still remaining at the Toyota Stadium, Hasegawa should have a blueprint to work on for the 2022 season.

Meanwhile, Tomohiro Katanosaka’s tenure at Oita Trinita may have ended in relegation disappointment and a late heartbreak in the 2021 Emperor’s Cup final, however, he will have another shot in tackling the J1 after signing for Gamba Osaka. Katanosaka had worked with Gamba before as an assistant to Hasegawa in the 2014 season, where the then-newly promoted club won all possible domestic trophies on offer that season. Underneath Katanosaka, Oita underwent a resurgent period where the Kyushu-based side went all the way from the J.League 3 to the J1 in just three years as well as establishing themselves there prior to their relegation last season – and being good with rebuilds, Katanosaka will be given the task of revitalizing a Gamba side that underwent a disappointing 2021 season.

Last but not least, there will be two new fresh faces who will grace the J1 dugout this season.

Former Al-Ahly head coach Rene Weiler ended a two-year sabbatical to take charge at Kashima Antlers, the club’s first European head coach. The Swiss man has a wealth of experience in European football with Anderlecht, Nurnberg, and Luzern to back him up as he took control of a Kashima side who finished 4th in the league last season.

Elsewhere, Sanfrecce Hiroshima has unveiled their new head coach, being German tactician Michael Skibbe. Sanfrecce will become Skibbe’s second Asian club after Saudi Arabian side Al-Ain, with most of his work experience having been in Europe. Skibbe had taken charge of among others Galatasaray, Eintracht Frankfurt, Eskisehirspor, Kardemir Karabukspor, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund’s U-19 team, the Greece national team, and Hertha BSC.