Former Socceroos and Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold admits he's found it hard to return to Japanese football, but he's relishing his new adventure with Vegalta Sendai.
Arnold left the Mariners as reigning champions in the middle of the season to move to the J-League after Ange Postecoglou pipped him for the Socceroos job.
When a move for Tom Rogic fell through at the last minute, Arnold has since borrowed Mariners playmaker Michael McGlinchey on loan as he reshapes the Sendai squad.
But ahead of their season opener against Albirex Niigata this Saturday, he insisted he's not going to turn the team into an A-League clone.
"I’m not trying to make them Australians — I’ve got to become Japanese,” Arnold told The Japan Times. “It’s been challenging. I’ve had to try to get to know 40 people. People said to me that to understand the Japanese mentality with two or three people is quite difficult, let alone 40 at once.
“I felt that I had done pretty much all I could do back in Australia. I needed a new challenge, and I think I’ve taken on a massive challenge with one of the smaller clubs. But I’ve always been a fighter and I’ve always liked working in adversity, in a different culture and testing myself.
“It’s been a challenge but I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I think the good thing is that I’m adaptable. It’s not my way or the highway."
But like the Mariners, Arnie's first priority is to make the club's Yurtec Stadium a firmly locked vault when visitors try to take away a point or three.
“If we get our structures right and be consistent then I think we can do well,” he said. “I don’t want to put a place on that, but I’d like to see the players turn up every week mentally strong and play consistent football. If we do that, the results will take care of themselves."
For all the challenges, Arnold has no regrets about his move back to Japan as a coach 16 years after leaving Sanfrecce Hiroshima as a striker.
He added: “It happened very quickly but I’m very happy to be here."