The Panenka

A blog dedicated to European Football, World Soccer and the Road to Russia 2018

Takuma Asano: The Jaguar from Japan

Takuma Asano says he still does not know whether he will play for Arsenal this season or go out on loan.

The 21-year-old is playing for Japan at the Rio 2016 Olympics and scored a late consolation in their 5-4 loss to Nigeria in their opening game.

The forward, who joined the Gunners from Sanfrecce Hiroshima last month, said his future is still unclear after the tournament.

“I’m still not sure if I’ll actually play for Arsenal right away in the coming season, but definitely I’ll try my best,” Asano told FIFA.com ahead of the Olympics.

“My motto is to give 100 percent for what’s ahead of myself, so I just want to give my best to everything, whether it be for the Olympics or the new season.”

Asano is regarded by many experts and supporters in Japan as one of the country’s brightest young prospects and while Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was keen to snap him up, the Japan international revealed he was initially apprehensive about moving to England.

“I’ve always wanted to play abroad and I had a few offers before but I was never sure if I should go or not,” continued Asano.

“Once I was called up for the top national team where there are a lot of players playing abroad. Playing with them made me think that I also want to play and challenge in a foreign league.

“And then I had the offer from Arsenal. Of course, I was still not sure whether to go or not. I talked with my family and friends and felt good about the decision after talking with them.

“Now I’m ecstatic about everything!”

Arsenal announced on July 3 that they had made Asano their second signing of the summer, although Arsene Wenger made it clear he views the striker as a prospect for the future who still needs time to develop.

“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,” the Frenchman told Arsenal’s official website.

Asano joined Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the age of 18 in January 2013 and won the J-League in his inaugural season although only made one league appearance during the campaign. The club concluded the season by also lifting the Japanese Super Cup for the first time.

Sanfreece went on to win the cup once again in 2014 and 2015 as the forward started to break into the squad. During the 2015 triumph Asano chipped in with nine goals in 34 appearances. The same season he established himself as a first team regular and was subsequently named as the J-League’s ‘Rookie of the Year.’

Asano’s trademark celebration sees the youngster adopt the pose of a leaping jauguar, known in Japan as the ‘Jaga Pose.’

High school football is a big deal in Japan, with the latter stages of the national championship regularly attracting crowds of 50,000 and live national television coverage. Asano’s school, Yokkaichi Chuo, is a powerhouse of producing talent.

He became a regular starter in his penultimate year of school, scoring in each of his team’s matches that year and attracting interest from a host of top flight Japanese clubs, including Yokohama F. Marinos and Hiroshima, eventually settling on the latter.

One of Asano’s defining characteristics is his pace that compensate for his diminutive 5ft 6in frame. He possesses a strong technique in terms of his first touch and dribbling and also displays good movement as he buzzes around the box.

Accusations that the signing of a player from the Far East are only made for corporate reasons and shirt sales are dismissed by Scot McIntyre of Four Four Two:

“Arsenal need a top-line striker now and Asano is clearly not that player. Nevertheless, the assumption that Asian players are only signed for ‘shirt sales’ is something that should be addressed.

“Walk the streets of Tokyo or any other major Japanese city and you’re as likely to see a replica baseball or rugby shirts as you are a football one. Those you do see, moreover, reflect a mix of local and foreign leagues.

“Sure, there may be a few more Milan or Borussia Dortmund strips after the success of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa at those clubs, but the number is miniscule, no different to what you would see anywhere else in the footballing world.

“The signing of Asano isn’t going to make Arsenal or their kit supplier rich any time soon, particularly when most of the merchandise available in Asia is fake. The ‘shirt sales’ line is not only a lazy jibe but also an outdated and inaccurate one, and it’s simply not the case that a club as big as Arsenal would conduct their transfer business with that in mind.

“What the Gunners are hoping for is an impact on the pitch, and Wenger clearly believes there’s enough potential in Asano for him to be molded into a player who can shine in the Premier League in the coming years.”

 

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