Ryo Miyaichi is taking the world by storm. His performances against our opposition in pre-season were very good and his attitude, technical ability and playing style are impressing players, staff and pundits in training and matches alike. Despite his meteoric rise to fame, something I experienced from very close as a Dutchman with an eye on football, and the kind words of the people who see him, like Mario Been, Martin van Geel, Thomas Vermaelen and naturally Arsene Wenger, I still have some worries for Ryo Miyaichi.
Firstly, Ryo has only been a professional footballer for six months. And whilst that may not be so bad for someone who just turned eighteen, it means he has a serious lack of experience in European football. Japan to me is one of the future greats of football, but at the moment the high school system is not anywhere near the level of Academy football in Europe. Compared to a Jack Wilshere, an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or even Reserve players like Gilles Sunu, Ryo lacks quite a bit of footballing education. You might say it is impressive that despite lacking such an education he is rated so highly and can already perform at such a level, but as any coach will tell you, the technical, strategic and mental abilities in football are very hard to teach someone after a certain point. I doubt whether it might be too late to have Ryo learn of football of the highest level.
Whilst at Feyenoord he was sensational, earning monikers like Ryodinho and playing with a free, devil-may-care attitude. The matches during which he was best, and this is slightly overlooked, were against rubbish opposition. The Dutch league is very focussed on offensive football and therefore the defences of most teams are woeful and easy to dissect with pace. Miyaichi did just that. Feyenoord as a club constantly have pacy wingers coming through, many of them are great at young ages and fail past their early twenties. Who says that won’t happen to Ryo? Who says that what he did was not just something that flattered his abilities whilst hiding what he might lack?
Him scoring a few goals, making a few assists, bamboozling some defenders that make Ryan Shawcross look like Paolo Maldini (and Albert Einstein) in this Dutch league just was not that impressive. I was caught up in the hype too, but I am getting slightly worried. I know he has the talent, we can all see that. He has the attitude too. The cone story is well known (for those that don’t know it, Arsenal have people who clear up the cones, poles, etc. that they use in training. Ryo did not know that and just started clearing them up after training) but the kid is humble too. He seems very focussed and was doing a high level of education at his Japanese high school, or so I have been told.
His physical ability is not up to the level that we want. He has great stamina, pace to burn and despite having his leg broken less than a year ago he is not injury prone. I am talking about strength. He is very slight. The focus at his high school was, once again, not the focus he would have in Europe. He did not build up muscle. His lack of strength will really hurt him in the defensive Premier League. Perhaps we should send him on loan to another PL side who wish to have some creativity. As it stands, he is not ready to make an impression for us, in my opinion.
Thomas Vermaelen named him in the two best young talents of the world he had ever seen, together with Neymar. To me, this really seemed weird. Not just because I really do not rate Neymar (different story for a different day) but because Vermaelen has played against or alongside of Eden Hazard, Romelo Lukaku, Alex Witsel, Christian Eriksen and some other top, top talents. To put Ryo so high on that pedestal creates too much hype, far too many expectations. He might indeed turn out to be on heck of a player. He might even show some glimpses this season. But he is far from ready. He is far from experienced, even for an eighteen year old. His stint in the Netherlands has created a hype, a cult, a following, which I doubt he can live up to so easily.
Ryo Miyaichi is a very exciting talent. He will be a good player for sure. He was worth the gamble and has the raw ability to go very far. But until then, I will sit on the fence, which is unusual for me when it comes to Arsenal and the big talents. I am just not completely convinced, neither of his spell at Feyenoord, nor his ability to adapt and learn in English football. But you know, I hope I am wrong.
(post written in pre season)
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