Posts Tagged ‘Ryo Miyaichi

13
Jun
12

Miyaichi-ban

Ryo Miyaichi has earned a lot of admirers in the past year-and-a-half, as much for his off-field performances as those on it…

I knew absolutely nothing about Ryo Miyaichi before he was plucked from the obscurity of Japanese High School football by Arsene Wenger back in 2010, and only kept half an eye on him when he was first loaned out to Feyenoord.

More and more Japanese players are making the journey west so I saw no reason to pay special attention to the former Chukyo Dai Chukyo winger.

To me the deal represented a fairly low-risk move by Arsenal: if he struggled to adapt he could easily be shipped out without anybody noticing, while Wenger would again be lauded for having an eye for natural – and cheap (or, more precisely, free) – talent if he turned out to be something special.

His impressive spells on loan at Feyenoord and then Bolton suggest that it may very well be the latter though, and his stock has risen even higher since he was called up to the national team by Alberto Zaccheroni for the final match in the third round of World Cup qualifying against Uzbekistan in Toyota.

I spoke to him in the mixed zone after that game, and gained my first real insight into what had enabled him to progress so rapidly through the ranks.

As well as being an obviously very gifted footballer, his mentality and personality hugely impressed me and he appears to have all the tools to fulfil his vast potential.

I asked if he was ok to try a conversation in English, fully expecting him to say no, but he smiled and said he’d give it a go.

He then expressed himself clearly and openly in his second language for several minutes, after just over a year outside of Japan, and it was clear he was having a lot of fun in England.

“I enjoy it every day, I can play at a higher level,” he said.

“I’m happy to play in the Premier League and also I’m living alone so I am really enjoying every day.”

After the match with Oman I spoke with his next-door neighbour in Bolton, the Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.

He, too, remarked upon Miyaichi’s personality.

“He’s really keen and he’s confident in himself and he can go forward,” he said.

“He’s still really, really young. At that age if you are at Arsenal that means you are a good player.”

I don’t socialise with them so can’t possibly claim to know for sure how other Japanese players in Europe spend their free time, but the impression is that many of them seem to relax together, in effect segregating themselves from their non-Japanese teammates.

As an Englishman living overseas I know full well how nice it is to spend time with people who share a common language and culture.

However, at the same time I know that I must put in the effort to truly benefit from and enjoy my time in Japan.

Miyaichi seems to have no problem with that side of living overseas.

Mixed zones – especially during national team camps, when papers and websites are in need of daily comments – tend to be fairly serious and stressful.

At a training session ahead of the Oman game though, I joined a group huddled around Miyaichi and was surprised to hear them discussing the Omani food that his neighbour had made for him.

Sensing a rare opportunity for some light-hearted conversation I asked what he thought of English cuisine.

I don’t really like English food,” he replied, almost apologetically.

This is a fairly common response (and completely incorrect one) but I persevered and – tongue-in-cheek – asked what his thoughts were on the traditional fish and chips.

Politely he said with a grin, “Fish and Chips is bad for you.”

Of course, such questioning is not exactly hard-hitting journalism.

Miyaichi’s relaxed and friendly manner is a breath of fresh air though, and the way he deals with the pressures of his newfound stardom off the pitch as well as on it mark him out as one who could really go on to achieve great things.

I did, however, discover something he’s not good at when I asked Al Habsi about the preparation of their dinners.

“I do all of it,” he laughed.

“He’s too young. He has to learn how to cook.”

03
Jun
12

Japan expects nothing less than win over Oman

The last round of Asian qualifying for the Brazil 2014 World Cup gets underway tonight, and Japan’s first match is at home to Oman.

Ahead of the game I gathered the opinions of Mike Havenaar, Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Kagawa, Ryo Miyaichi and Keisuke Honda  for a preview for The Daily Yomiuri.

02
Mar
12

Zac: Japan doomed by lack of will

Japan lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan on Wednesday night, condemning Alberto Zaccheroni to his first home defeat in charge of the Samurai Blue.

After the match I gathered reaction from Zac and the players for The Daily Yomiuri.

29
Feb
12

Zaccheroni’s building project ready for next battle

Japan play their final match of the 3rd Round of Asian Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup against Uzbekistan tonight.

Both teams are already through so all eyes are on Alberto Zaccheroni’s team selection, and in particular Ryo Miyaichi.

31
Jan
12

Should I stay or should I go?

Scouts from overseas are incresingly looking to recruit Japanese players, for whom the lure of foreign football is hard to resist. Sometimes though, staying put could be the best thing to do…

Since the 2010 World Cup finals Japanese players have become – rather like Luis Vuitton handbags for the nation’s women – a must-have accessory for many European clubs.

Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Arsenal are three of the biggest sides to have picked up bargains, in Yuto Nagatomo, Takashi Usami and Ryo Miyaichi. Others, including Shinji Kagawa and Atsuto Uchida, have developed into regulars at their new teams, and enjoyed great success in their domestic divisions and the Champions League.

While several have been able to make the step-up with relative ease, however, many more have seen their progress grind to something of a halt overseas.

Among those whose stories have been far from idyllic are Eiji Kawashima, who is languishing near the bottom of the Belgian First Division for the second consecutive season with Lierse, Kisho Yano, who struggled for minutes at Freiburg and is desperately seeking a transfer, and Tomoaki Makino (Koln), Yuki Abe (Leicester City) and Masahiko Inoha (Hajduk Split), all three of whom have already moved on – the former pair back to Japan with Urawa.

The reality of living and working overseas is not the same as the idea of it – particularly for Japanese players.

Japan, like England, is an island country and thus fairly inward-looking. Foreign travel is far from the norm here – and when people do venture abroad it is usually as part of carefully planned, all-Japanese tour groups – and the level of English is among the worst in the world.

When players who are used to being wrapped in cotton wool back home are suddenly thrust into a completely alien environment, then, it can be difficult.

Further to this, with the level of the J.League constantly increasing, a move to a different country may not always be the best option.

I spoke to Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s winger Mihael Mikic shortly after Inoha had sealed his move to Hajduk Split last July, and the Croatian couldn’t believe the Japan international had made such a choice.

“I cannot understand that Inoha from Kashima Antlers is going to go to Hajduk Split in Croatia. This I cannot understand,” he said.

“You know the Croatian League has only one good team; that is Dinamo Zagreb. Dinamo Zagreb for the last six years is the champion. All the other teams are not a high level, you know? But maybe he’s thinking something. Somebody from Europe will see him,” he continued.

“But I think now, in this moment, he has a better chance if he stays and then goes to a team in Germany or Italy or Holland.”

The apparent desperation of players to head overseas in an anywhere-will-do style can come off and provide a great life-experience, but playing-wise it can backfire, and such a plunge should not be taken lightly.

“[They] must make the choice of a good league; Bundesliga, Serie A, Spanish league, England or Italy,” Mikic went on to explain.

“These five leagues, or France or Holland – that is also ok. In Russia the fight for the six top teams is also good, but now another country in Europe? That is not a good choice. That is my opinion.” 

His words came to ring true in the case of Inoha, and as well as placing his national team spot in jeopardy the 26-year-old must also now think very carefully about his next step.

He most likely does not want to swallow his pride and come back to Japan at this point, but will another European team be willing to give him a chance?

If he had heeded Mikic’s advice and continued to establish himself at Antlers then a side in a bigger league may well have been convinced by his undoubted ability and come in with an offer, either now or perhaps in the summer.

That is something that the likes of Hiroki Sakai, Genki Haraguchi and Hiroshi Kiyotake must certainly bear in mind, with the next 12 months almost certain to bring speculation and offers for their services from overseas.

All three of those players have the potential to become the next Kagawa or Uchida, but they need the right club to facilitate that progression – and for the time being that may well be their current employer.

07
Apr
11

Cop out?

The will-they-won’t-they concerning Japan’s participation in the Copa America is dragging on a bit so I decided to clear it up for Weekly Soccer Magazine.

The J.League and JFA certainly have some tricky decisions to make over the coming weeks, and just how the five rounds of postponed J.League matches can be made up in an already packed schedule is not an easy problem to solve. 

Luckily I have had a lot of time on my hands lately though, and so have been able to come up with the answer for Mr. Ogura and Mr. Ohigashi: and the good news is that the J.League and Copa America can both still go ahead.

Essentially there were three options available:

Option 1. The national team travel to Argentina with any players that Zac wants to take and the J.League keeps the mid-season break as scheduled. The five rounds of matches are then made up throughout the course of the season, with one extra round per month in May, June, September, October and November.

Option 2. The national team withdraw from the Copa America and during that scheduled five week break the J.League make up the matches.

Option 3. The national team still take part in the Copa America and the J.League play rounds 2-6 at the same time. Either Zac is asked to function without any J.League regulars, or clubs are asked for their co-operation in the matter.

 

None of these options are ideal and somewhere along the line somebody is going to have to compromise. However, the recent events in Tohoku mean that flexibility is required – and should be expected – to resolve the situation.

Initially I was leaning towards the first option. All of the J.League players are professional athletes who are paid to keep themsleves in top physical condition. As such, asking them to play five matches a month rather than four is not a particulalry big demand. As a fellow journalist pointed out to me the other day, if Crawley Town of the English Blue Square Premier League (5th Division) can play twice a week, then surely J.League players can.

The problem with this option though was the break in the middle of the season. The more I considered it, the more that five-week period bugged me. It would essentially be a week for each player who is actually likely to be missing from the J.League and featuring for Japan in Argentina (Nishikawa, Inoha, Tulio, Endo, Maeda). This seems like an awful lot of time to be wasting when there are games to be played, and so I began to consider option 2.

The national team pulling out of the Copa America would ease the strain on the players but it just seems a little drastic – again bearing in mind the number who will actually be missing from the J.League. There are a few other domestic players who are on the fringes of the national team (Iwamasa, Kashiwagi, Fujimoto, Honda) but their spots could easily be filled by young J.Leaguers yet to cement places at their clubs, or J2 or University players.

 

And so I settled for option 3; the best of both. But, are J.League teams asked to get by without their stars or does Zac have to choose his squad solely from overseas players and the lesser-lights?

The latter. The Copa America is, essentially, meaningless. Japan are travelling to Argentina to gain experience (and probably make a few yen, of course), and none of the J.League players who will be missing out are lacking in either. The European-based players will have finished their seasons by then and will bring more than enough quality to the squad, with the remaining places being taken up by satellite members of J1 teams, second division players and members of Sekizuka’s Under-22 team.

If I were in charge, for example, my squad would look something like this:

Eiji Kawashima, Shuichi Gonda, Shunsuke Ando; Atsuto Uchida, Takuya Okamoto, Michihiro Yasuda, Maya Yoshida, Tomoaki Makino, Yasuyuki Konno, Yuto Nagatomo; Yuki Abe, Makoto Hasebe, Hajime Hosogai, Keigo Higashi, Akihiro Ienaga, Ryo Miyaichi, Kazuya Yamamura, Daisuke Matsui; Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda, Takayuki Morimoto, Shoki Hirai.  

Still a strong line-up, with some potential Samurai Blue regulars of the future getting some crucial experience around the full national team, while the J.League can go about its business as usual until December.

So there you have it, problem solved.

19
Jan
11

The Back Post – Self-belief the key for Miyaichi

The last month or so has seen several more Japanese players head to Europe, including the 18-year-old High School player Ryo Miyaichi, who has just signed for Arsenal.

While the number of players moving abroad is increasing and can only be a good thing for the game here, the level of self-belief Japanese players have in their own abilities is still up for debate, as I discussed in today’s Daily Yomiuri. 




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