Arsenal are set to clinch the signing of young Japanese striker Takuma Asano from the J-League club Sanfreece Hiroshima, as reported by The Guardian.
Asano’s success with Sanfreece Hiroshima
In January 2013, Asano signed for Sanfreece Hiroshima as an 18-year-old and subsequently went on to enjoy a successful time with the club, making 56 appearances and scoring 11 goals.
During that time he won the J1 League in 2013 and 2015, along with the Japanese Super Cup in 2013, 2014 and 2016, whilst also being named the J League’s Rookie of the Year in 2015.
Asano received that award after scoring nine goals in 34 J1 League games as he helped Sanfreece Hiroshima to win their second league title.
Gaining international recognition
Given the excellence of Asano’s club form in 2015, that May he was called-up to the Japanese squad by manager Vahid Halilhodzic for a two day training camp, before making his international debut as a substitute against North Korea in the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup.
Subsequently, Asano has been capped a further four times and scored his first international goal from the penalty spot in Japan’s 7-2 Kirin Cup semi-final win over Bulgaria at the start of last month. The 21-year-old also played in the final of that competition, which Japan lost 2-1 to Bosnia.
By moving to Arsenal Asano becomes the third Japanese player, after Junichi Inamoto and Ryo Miyaichi, that manager Arsene Wenger – who himself moved to the Gunners in 1996 following a spell working in the J1 League in charge of Nagoya Grampus Eight – has signed for the club.
History of Japanese Players in English Football
After joining Arsenal from Gamba Osaka for £4 million in 2001, Inamoto was the first Japanese player to play in English football in November of that year, as he made his debut for the Gunners in their 2-0 League Cup fourth round win over Grimsby.
Despite not playing in the Premier League for Arsenal, Inamoto did so on 19 occasions whilst on loan at Fulham during the 2002-2003 season, to become the first player from his country to appear in the division.
Since then only another six of Inamoto’s fellow countrymen have done so, with a full list of Japanese players to play in the English Premier League provided below.
– Junichi Inamtoto – Fulham 2002-2004 – [41 appearances, 4 goals]; West Brom 2004-2006 [25 appearances]
– Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United – 2012-2014 – [38 appearances, 6 goals]
– Ryo Miyaichi – Bolton 2011-2012 – [12 appearances], Wigan 2012-2013 [4 appearances], Arsenal 2013 – 2014 [1 appearance]
– Hidetoshi Nakata – Bolton – 2005-2006 – [21 appearances, 1 goal]
– Shinji Okazaki – Leicester City – 2015-2016 – [36 appearances, 5 goals]
– Kazuyuki Toda – Tottenham – 2002-2003 – [4 appearances]
– Maya Yoshida – Southampton – 2012-2016 – [82 appearances, 3 goals]
Asano aims to become eight Japanese player to appear in English Premier League
Hoping to add his name to the above list is Asano, with who will have to work extremely hard in order to do so according to the Japanese football journalist Koki Arada, who told the Evening Standard,”Whilst Asano has the potential to adapt to play in the Premier League, to achieve that he has to improve every area of his game. Quality of play, technical skills, understanding of the game and decision making,” said Arada, who also highlighted that Asano has only started in eight of the 56 appearances he made for Sanfreece Hiroshima.
Despite that limited first time experience, Asano attracted the attention of Wenger, with the French manager envisaging a bright future for his new signing. “Takuma is a talented young striker and very much one for the future. He has had a very impressive start to his career in Japan and we look forward to him developing over the next couple of years,” revealed Wenger according to The Guardian.
Asano, whose transfer is subject to him passing a medical, is expected to train with Arsenal’s first team squad, to which the Swiss international Granit Xhaka has already been added this summer after being signed from Borussia Monchengladbach for £25 million.