Sagan Tosu made their Meiji Yasuda J1 League debut in 2012 and have been in the top flight ever since. As they get ready for an even dozen years in the first division, what can we expect from Sagan in 2023?
Kim Myung-hwi’s defense-first approach came to define Sagan, but the team kept things going in 2023 even after Kenta Kawai took over as manager. The defense regressed a bit, but they were still a good team that was challenging for a place in the AFC Champions League before a late season swoon dropped them to an 11th place finish.
Goal for 2023
Sagan are not a big spending club and often lose their best players from one season to the next, so their success is built upon being able to find the next great player and integrate them into a cohesive system.
That will be the case again this season with Taisei Miyashiro and Kei Koizumi having departed, but they’ve kept much of the rest of the team and have stability with Kawai back in charge. That is crucial for a side that has proven they can compete in the top half of the table and will be aiming to do so again in 2023.
What to watch for
Sagan have been able to weather the loss of so many good players over the years in part due to their excellent academy. Shinya Nakano made his debut at just 16 years old and now, three years later, has a chance to establish himself as one of the better left-sided defenders in the league.
Fuchi Honda is another Sagan academy product and, after making a leap to five goals and two assists in 2022, the 21-year-old might also be primed for a breakout season.
If Sagan get a couple more academy products to become massive impact players that complement new additions like So Kawahara and Cayman Togashi, they have a chance to once again replenish after a selling summer and compete in the top half of the table.