Name: Atsuto Uchida
International Caps: 68
If Arsenal fans want to catch an early glimpse of a potential replacement for Bacary Sagna, they will have to stay up until 2:00am to watch Japan’s World Cup opener against the Ivory Coast. Japan’s Atsuto Uchida has been recently earmarked as the man to fill the Frenchman’s boots at the Emirates. He has become a key figure in Schalke’s side since signing for them in 2010, and is another player in the line of Japanese internationals who have moulded their careers in the Bundesliga.
Upon arrival in Germany, Uchida used English to communicate with his colleagues, so the language barrier won’t be a tough one for him to overcome if he were to join the Gunners. Over time he has become an increasingly popular member of the side, with fans and players alike, and was inducted into the Bundesliga’s website Team of the Season.
Uchida’s inclusion in the Arsenal side would be an attacking one. He often takes up positions high up the right flank, which is similar to the way in which Wenger often sets his full-backs up to play. He doesn’t have great speed, and neither does Sagna, but his work-rate and supreme levels of fitness allow him to bomb on and provide support in attacking areas.
He isn’t as defensively astute as his French counterpart, and is neither as physically dominant. While Sagna was able to fill in at centre-half because of his strength, Uchida is more lightweight, and the Gunners wouldn’t be getting a player with the same level of versatility as Sagna. While Uchida is a hard-working and committed player, many of his efforts are weighted towards his attacking contribution, and has such been found wanting defensively, on occasions.
He may not be the ideal replacement for Sagna – he lacks the all-round ability – but Wenger loves his players to display attacking intent. Uchida has this in abundance. So Gonners, if you’re keen, stay up late to see for yourselves.