Having just recently scored a backheel goal in the Rio 2016 Olympics, this 21-year-old player is set to be one of Japan’s brightest rising star in soccer.
Barely anyone outside of Japan has heard of the name Takuma Asano. He was a normal regular player in the J1 League up until July 2016 when he got signed by Arsenal F.C. – an elite English soccer team that most youngsters can only dream playing for. His transfer to Arsenal had shaken the transfer market news with many turning their heads to the new 2-million-pound-signing. He is the third Japanese player to have signed for Arsenal after Junichi Inamoto in 2001 and Ryo Miyaichi in 2011. While some fans are delighted to have him in the club, some are quite worried after his two predecessors have failed to impress in every single match. But there are 4 things about him that might turn the whole scene around. Fans could be seeing a real Japanese talent on field after some years.
So who is he really? Here are 4 things you should know about this newly scouted special youngster.
Standing at 5 feet 7 inch, Takuma’s low center of gravity enables him to pull off quick runs that can break through defenders easily – thus earning him the nickname “jaguar.” His swift speed could create chaos in the opposition defense that not even tall and strong players could stop him from running. He is known as one of the fastest players in the J1 League, once running 50 meters in 5.9 seconds – just around 0.4 seconds behind Usain Bolt.
Using his speed, Takuma likes to be that type of striker who always seek to play deep in the opposition defense, waiting for the ball to reach his feet. For the most part of his J1 League career with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, he has operated in a deeper or wider role in the formation 3-4-2-1. Although his goal return has been modest, he’s set up plenty for the other forwards at the club with his blinding pace, good passing game, and a remarkable strength in the air. With a little more experience, he might be lining up alongside other world’s future best like Neymar and Paul Pogba.
“Takuma is a talented young striker and very much one for the future; he has had an impressive start to his career in Japan and we look forward to him developing over the next couple of years,” said Arsenal’s manager.
The manager of Arsenal, Arsène Wenger, has close ties with Japan’s soccer development and he might have been scouting for his talent since the time when Takuma was still playing for his high school team, where he was regarded as one of the best young prospects they had seen for several years. Wenger must have been confident with him after seeing him speeding through defenders in his early years of soccer, especially when he was playing for his hometown’s high school.
High school soccer championships are a huge deal in Japan where it usually attracts a crowd of more than 50,000 and is covered by live national television. Takuma was a regular player for his high school, Yokkaichi Chuo Kogyo, and had scored in each match during his time. That had earned him a place in top flight Japanese soccer club, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, before moving to his current home, Arsenal.
While other youngsters are still dreaming of lifting their first trophy, Takuma had already done it thrice when he won the J1 League with his former club Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 2013, 2014, and 2015. He was also crowned the J.League Rookie of the Year in 2015.
Despite his achievements, Takuma started from the bottom to get to where he is now. His first two seasons playing as a professional soccer player for Sanfrecce Hiroshima weren’t really impressive. He failed to net any goals during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and was mainly a benchwarmer. However, 2015 became a different year after he established himself as a key member of his team by scoring nine goals in 34 league appearances which had him awarded the Young Player of the Year. He also scored in a 3-0 victory over TP Mazembe in December 2015, which booked Hiroshima a place in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup before they were unfortunate to lose 1-0 against Argentina’s Club Atlético River Plate.
Takuma proved his capability once again when he scored two goals in the Rio 2016 Olympics – one of which was a backheel goal. Although Japan didn’t get through to the Olympics final playoffs, Takuma was definitely one of the key players who deserve a praise. It was not his first time to score in an international stage with Japan as he had already scored one against Bulgaria in June 2016, a match that saw Japan win 7-2, and also in a victory against South Korea in the Asian Championships with two goals.
Like many soccer players, Takuma has his own goal celebration too, even though fans are not sure what to call it. He has adopted a gesture to match the jaguar – stretching out both hands, raised slightly shaping all 10 fingers into claws. Perhaps the gesture is not so intimidating, but Arsenal fans and the Japanese would love to see it when he becomes a bigger player than he is now.
So there you go, the 4 things that you should know about this talented youngster that deserve more praise and attention. His popularity in Japan is rising thanks to his recent signing with Arsenal, but we have to admit that he hasn’t gotten that much coverage yet. Adding that he is playing in the most competitive league in the world where only stars are needed and the fate of the rest are uncertain, he would need our support to play his all out. We all would surely like to see some good actions from a Japanese player that can challenge that of a world class player. Critics believe that if Takuma lives up to his promise, it may not be long before the England’s Premier League is introduced to the next Messi.