Takuma Asano: The View From Japan

On Sunday morning, Arsenal revealed that 21-year-old forward Takuma Asano will be joining the club from Sanfrecce Hiroshima this summer. The transfer is of course subject to the completion of a medical and regulatory processes, with Arsene Wenger calling him a 'talented young striker and very much one for the future'. I'm down with that. 

But to be honest, I had and still don't have any idea who Takuma Asano is. So I decided to ask Sean Carroll, a freelance football writer for Japan News, for the lowdown on our new signing. You can follow him on twitter here: @seankyaroru

1) Who is Takuma Asano?

He's the latest in a long line of highly-rated Japanese forwards with bags of potential, although yet to play at the very top level. He has, however, delivered in some of the biggest games he has played in, including scoring the winner to seal the J1 title for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the second leg of the play-off final last year and a brace in the AFC U23 Championship final to take Japan from 2-1 down to 3-2 up over South Korea.

2) What kind of player is he, and why might Arsenal be interested in him?

He is incredibly fast and particularly good at one-on-ones. He is perhaps more of an instinctive finisher though, and is slightly less accurate when he has time to think.

3) What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Pretty much as above: his speed and eye for goal are strengths, but he is still far from the finished article and will need some time and patience.

4) What has the reaction been like in Japan following the transfer confirmation? 

The reaction in the media has been one of excitement, as the Premier League is seen as the highest level of club football here. They love to hype up their talented young players - especially ahead of the Olympics which are an incredibly big deal in Japan. Supporters are of course also pleased on the whole, but many are concerned that the move may be too early, or that he won't get chances to play (although of course he'll be loaned out).

More and more Japanese players are making quick returns home after not making the grade in Europe, and Asano going to such a big club means many within the game here are trying to keep their excitement in check for the time being.

5) Does he have any quirks? An interesting back story, nickname or celebration?

As I'm sure you've read he does a jaguar pose when he scores as he was nicknamed the jaguar by a beat writer who covers Sanfrecce (supposedly because a former teammate was known as the puma, so it was a comparison kind of thing in reference to his pace). He is also one of seven children, the third oldest, with five brothers and one sister.

6) Will he be able to make an impact on the Arsenal first team, or will he need to go out on loan?

He'll have to go out on loan first. Technically there's no reason he couldn't be included in the squad and spend a year or so settling in/playing in the league cup, but he won't qualify for a visa. Also, it will probably be the mental side of the move more so than the technical that will require time for adjustment. Sticking him in front of the notoriously impatient Arsenal fans straight off the bat is unlikely to be beneficial for anyone involved. 

7) Lastly, what are your own personal thoughts on Asano? Does he have the potential to impress in Europe? What do you think his future will hold?

He is a very good player technically and capable of scoring a variety of goals, with pace and power (for a young player he has good physical strength, and despite not being the tallest is also good on the air). I was tipped off about him by a teammate of his (Mihael Mikic) when he was still yet to play in the Sanfrecce first team, while Mikic told me after Asano scored the winner in the J1 play-off final last year that he thought he could go on to become one of the best Japanese players ever. 

He has now been given the opportunity to go on and do that. There are slight question marks over how he'll deal with the mental side of the move - he doesn't speak English, for instance, which will make it tougher - and he cried after missing a late sitter in the recent friendly defeat to Bosnia, suggesting he will need to toughen up if he is to make the grade at the top level. However, he has all the ingredients to be a success if, as I said above, he is given the time and patience to settle in and develop.

So there you have it. Takuma Asano in a nutshell. After the move was confirmed, I saw a lot of people on Twitter (I know) talking about how this is merely a marketing ploy from the club, that we're going to sign nobody and how everything is Wenger's fault again. 

Firstly, I think to dismiss him as a shirt seller is completely disrespectful to him as a professional footballer, and secondly, the guy is only 21! We watched him, we liked him, and we paid a bit of money for him in hope that he might progress into an excellent footballer. If it doesn't work out, then who cares? We'll wish him well and move on. Give the guy a chance! 

Although it's unlikely that we'll see him in Arsenal colours next season, he has been included in Japan's squad for the Olympics so we'll hopefully be able to get a closer look at him there. For all the YouTube scouters out there, this video below is pretty good. Knock yourselves out. 

Thanks again to Sean for his time, and you can follow him on Twitter here: @seankyaroru