SAITAMA — To look for a perceptible change in the Urawa Reds this coming season, one will have to turn to their attempts to win the Asian Champions League because new coach Holger Osieck insists he won’t be changing a winning formula on the domestic front.
Osieck is staying true to the formidable framework predecessor Guido Buchwald put in place — with which the Reds won their first-ever J. League title and retained the Emperor’s Cup for a brilliant double in 2006 — as the 58-year-old German looks to repeat his compatriot’s success.
Osieck’s brief, though, is not just to maintain Urawa’s dominance in Japan. Reds president Mitsunori Fujiguchi has made no secret of his desire for the club to win the Asian Champions League this year and be proclaimed the No. 1 team in Asia.
Fujiguchi knows that winning the ACL also earns the club automatic entry into the Club World Cup in December, where Urawa would be able to test itself against the creme de la creme of the world game.
It is in the ACL that Osieck feels he will need to veer away from Buchwald’s rigid selection policy and rotate and tinker if he is to deliver the silverware the president craves.
“I believe in the quality of the team that won two titles last season, and I have strong confidence in them for the coming season,” Osieck said Thursday at Saitama Stadium. “I don’t think I will change anything here.
“We now have a squad of 30 players, and every player has the same opportunity to play. If something happens, I will begin to think about bringing in some reinforcements, but for now my trust is in the existing players.
“To win the ACL, we need a strong squad. But in Asia I will consider changing the tactics around, such as changing from three central defenders. Different formations may be called for. We also need to take care of the tiredness of the players, so in Asia we need to rotate players to keep them fresh.”
It is unsurprising there will be little change in Urawa’s approach on the domestic front. The Reds’ close season spending reflects a club happy with what it’s got. Urawa has limited the comings-and-goings to the acquisition of 25-year-old former JEF United Chiba midfielder Yuki Abe, who signed for a reported 360 million yen, a record fee for a Japanese player in a domestic deal.
Abe, scorer of 36 goals in 214 league games and currently a regular for the national team, joins an all ready star-studded midfield that includes Makoto Hasebe, Shinji Ono, Keita Suzuki and captain Nobuhisa Yamada.
“Abe is a high quality player and very versatile, so to add him to the existing squad is good news for the club. We can be stronger than ever this season. I am convinced of that,” said Osieck.
It is Osieck’s second time in the Reds’ hot seat, although circumstances could not be more different. When Osieck first took over in 1995, he inherited a struggling side that needed extensive renovations. Even so, the German guided the Reds to a fourth place finish in his first season and sixth place the following year.
Since then, Osieck’s most noticeable coaching success was when he led the Canadian national team to a surprise victory at the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Most recently, he headed the FIFA technical study group at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.
Osieck also was an assistant coach to Franz Beckenbauer when Germany won the World Cup in 1990, and he worked with Beckenbauer at French club Marseille before coaching stints in Germany and Turkey.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.