Nobody thrilled J.League crowds in 2023 quite like Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. They were open, aggressive, attacking, and anyone who tuned in knew that Consadole were going to take them on a wild ride.
But will we see the same Sapporo side in 2024? Let's dig in.
No team in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League conceded more goals than 12th-place Consadole in 2023, but they also scored the third-most goals of any team in the competition.
Sapporo managed results against each of the league’s top three teams, but also dropped points to some of the clubs near the bottom of the table.
In short, this was a team that scored a lot, conceded a ton, and ended up right around mid-table as a result.
As much as they were a team of extremes, they were also quite balanced in attack. Yuya Asano led the way with 12 goals, but ten different Consa players had multiple tallies last season. It was a team effort all around, whether they were taking points off the champions or slumping against those at the foot of the table.
Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa - The front man led the team with six assists and he also scored six goals, making him a do-it-all centerpiece of a very good attack. Losing him to FC Tokyo makes things tougher on Consadole, but they brought in a nice transfer fee, leaving the door open to strengthen the squad in different ways.
Ryu Takao - Manager Mihailo Petrović is always going to play aggressively, which means a big part of being able to defend ably is having capable two-way fullbacks. The addition of Takao from Gamba Osaka offers Hokkaido someone who they believe can keep the attack humming while also stabilizing a defense that could use the help.
While Takao's former side also struggled mightily in defense in 2023, he has been part of more solid Gamba rearguards in seasons past and will be looking to add a bit of steel to a backline that desperately needs it in Sapporo when he gets the nod.
Goal for 2024
The goal for 2024 has to be an improved defensive record. We know Consadole are going to score, but what remains unclear is if they can maintain their playing style and still limit chances on the defensive end. That is likely to be the difference between a trip into the top half of the table and stagnation — or worse.
On the attacking side, though, there are still questions. Can Thai star Supachok Sarachat take another leap and become an outright star in Sapporo? Can Asano continue to be a reliable goal threat? Will loan signing Musashi Suzuki have success in his return to the Sapporo Dome?
Perhaps most importantly, can attacking players like Suzuki use their lively energy up top to help defend better from the front? Ultimately, that answer will be vital for Consadole, who need their defense — from front to back — to deliver in 2024, particularly against the league's relegation candidates.
Being able to secure clean sheets in those matches and grind out results needs to be a priority and must be the focus for Petrović in 2024 if he wants his team to progress into the upper half of J1.