Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo Season Preview: Is a return to the top in the cards for new-look Consa?

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo Season Preview: Is a return to the top in the cards for new-look Consa?

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo have spent the majority of their MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE time in the second division, but a terrific run from the club has made them a top flight regular. The 2022 season will mark their sixth straight in first division, more years than they spent in J1 in the rest of their history combined.

Last season

Consa had a fast start to the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season but cooled off just as fast, quickly falling into the middle of the table where they spent the remainder of the season. They were a solid attacking side, solid defensive side and an all-around reliable team. They coped impressively with losing Anderson Lopes in the summer, with the Brazilian having spent the first half of the season in terrific form and among the league leaders in goals, but Consadole remained in the middle of the table.

Key additions

Gabriel Xavier’s arrival from Nagoya Grampus is the headline in this section and his creativity in the midfield should add some much needed chance creation. The Brazilian will be asked to help key an attack that Consa hope can be excellent in transition this season.

Key departures

Arguably the J.League move of the offseason was Chanthip Songkrasin signing for Kawasaki Frontale from Consadole. The Thai attacker was a crucial part of Consa for five years, winning the club’s Player of the Year award and being named to the league’s Best Eleven in 2018. His absence will be felt in the team, and is part of the reason a player like Gabriel Xavier was so necessary to obtain.

Goal for 2022

The Consadole defense took a big step forward in 2021, giving up eight fewer goals despite playing four more matches. In 2022, they’ll be hoping that their attack can follow with a nice improvement. If they can match an attack that ranks in the top third of the league to go with their improved defense, they’ll have a chance to work their way well into the top half of the table.

What to watch for

Manager Mihailo Petrović did a terrific job to keep the attack in Hokkaido humming after Anderson Lopes left in the summer. It’s no small feat to lose the point of your strikeforce in the middle of the season and continue finding the back of the net. Takuro Kaneko and Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa finished with seven goals apiece as they picked up the slack in the Brazilian’s absence.

Consadole probably cannot reach their goals without getting more top end goalscoring, though. The question is where they can get that expert finishing. Perhaps Petrović is able to coax more out of Kaneko and Ogashiwa - or perhaps new loan signing Shinzo Koroki gets back to his Urawa goalscoring ways in Sapporo.

Regardless of who gets on the end of chances, it will be interesting to see if Consadole can put together a more refined attack to match their defensive improvement last season.