The last time Arsenal looked East for new talent they landed Junichi Inamoto in the 2001/2 season. Unfortunately, the young Japanese talent didn’t seem cut out to compete at the very top of the Premier League. He never worked his way into the Gunner’s first team and played only four games before moving to Fulham. The cynic in me says that this move failed because the club was more concerned with increasing their fan-base in Asian countries than ensuring they brought over a player with the talent and the mindset to make it at the very top level.
Which brings me to Arsenal’s latest purchase: Japanese youth international Ryo Miyaichi. The winger celebrated his 18th birthday by signing a professional contract with the club. Ryo is currently studying at Chukyodai Chuyko High School and will compete in the All Japan High School Soccer Tournament before moving to England in the New Year. Arsene Wenger has expressed his delight at having such a hot young prospect on the books – “He trialled with us in the summer and has raw ability which has attracted many clubs around the world. I look forward to helping him fulfil his potential here at Arsenal.”
Wenger has some experience with young Japanese players. He previously managed Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight for 18 months in 1995-6 and led the side to victory in the Emperor’s Cup (the Japanese equivalent to the FA Cup). Can Wenger tutor Miyaichi into becoming the next Keisuke Honda – Japanese football’s biggest star?
Speaking about the signing, Wenger told the Press, “For us, it’s very important that Asia is represented at our club.” It’s clear that the move was completed with one eye trained upon increasing the finances available at the club by drumming up support for the club in Asia. Indeed, as a financial entity, Arsenal have a responsibility to its shareholders to ensure that they maximize profit. To avoid the lucrative Asian market entirely would be irresponsible.
The main priority of most Arsenal fans, however, goes beyond the profit levels of the club towards the success their side achieves on the pitch. So will Ryo help Arsenal compete for trophies in the long term or was his move completed solely for commercial purposes?
He has been compared to the likes of Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo for his pace down the wings, his tricky feet and his eye for goal. If the comparisons are anything to go by, he’s all set for a fantastic future. Like Ronaldo, he has a tendency to get his head down and run with the ball himself rather than look around for support. Whether or not he’ll make it in the Premier League remains to be seen. He certainly has quick feet and decent balance, but let’s not forget thus far he has only excelled by playing against high school kids from Japan and international teams at the Under-19 level.
It’s impossible to tell at this stage whether or not he’ll be a success. Arsenal already have two young wingers attempting to fulfil their potential in the form of Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela. Surely Wenger wouldn’t have signed another young player unless he was 100% confident that he had the ability to make it with the club.
Take a look at the video below to see if you think he has what it takes. I’m sure that Ryo Miyaichi is a name we’ll be hearing much more of in the oncoming years.
All that remains for Arsenal fans is to welcome to youngster to the club and keep their fingers crossed that he fulfils all his potential.
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