Arsenal FC: Why Ryo Miyaichi Faces an Uncertain Future with the Gunners
Whilst Callum McManaman did his closest imitation of Steve McManaman in the FA Cup final win over Manchester City, the Wigan Athletic wide forward's former teammate, Arsenal's Ryo Miyaichi, watched afar ruminating what might have been.
In a fateful FA Cup quarter-final against Everton, with Wigan 3-0 up, Miyaichi replaced McManaman, who had sprained his ankle.
Kevin Mirallas, the Toffees' 25-year-old winger, spent the majority of the match gesticulating in frustration, and in the 69th minute the perfect opportunity arose for him to release the negative tension.
Mirallas sprinted towards Miyaichi, who was chasing a long-ball, with the same mindset McManaman had when he infamously clattered Massadio Haïdara.
Mirallas not only blindsided Miyaichi but knew he had hurt the Arsenal loanee, who was slumped over near the advertising boards, yet the Belgian heartlessly carried on as if nothing had happened.
Miyaichi's season wasn't just prematurely cut short because as his ex-teammates euphorically celebrated around Ben Watson—who headed in the decisive goal at Wembley—the crushing realisation of not being there would have started to sink in.
By signing for Arsenal out of high school, Miyaichi was burdened with unrealistic expectations.
Has he even come close to justifying the hype? No.
But, for Miyaichi against the same team, it helped promote his Ryodinho nickname.
The Japanese was among 21 players, including Twente centre-back Douglas, who scored two times or more vs. Willem during the 2010-11 Eredivisie season.
Miyaichi had some brilliant moments for Bolton Wanderers but he gave away the ball 29.7 percent of the time.
It's easy to only focus on the many positives from Miyaichi, who has poise, is supremely gifted, quick and at 6'0", possesses a physical advantage that his compatriots Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake lack.
Miyaichi is now 20 years old and you must confront the truth.
Here's the compliment then-Bolton manager Owen Coyle gave to Miyaichi.
"He’s wiry and takes kicks. He will be back and blue because of the kicks he takes as he’s so positive playing against good players," said Coyle (per Justarsenal.com).
The accumulation of fouls Ronaldo suffered in the 1990s ended any chance of him overtaking Pelé as the greatest of all-time.
The difference between Ronaldo and Miyaichi is that the Brazilian's finishing was on another level, so he transitioned into a world-class goal-poacher after his breakneck speed dissipated.
What happens to Miyaichi if injuries take away his acceleration? Does his career fade into obscurity like David Odonkor?
Mori Masatoshi at The Hochi Simbun told The Telegraph's Mark Ogden:
Miyaichi is the best youngster in Japan and is already second only to Keisuke Honda in terms of being the biggest star.
When Arsène Wenger talks about Ryo, or if he plays a game for Bolton, he is front and back page news.
This intense media pressure to constantly live up to expectations compelled Carles Puyol to defend a then-20-year-old Lionel Messi, who ignored medical advice to play against Celtic, and consequently limped off the field with tears streaming down his face (via BBC Sport):
The doctors spoke and said there was a risk of injury and you (the media) put pressure on him to play, saying that he always has to play.
Now we're all left to regret the decision.
Before Miyaichi even thinks about becoming a weekly starter for the Gunners, he needs to avoid getting injured which will give him a chance to compete with Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the opportunity to impress in a start, which could lead to an extended run in the first-team.
"He is the first in, the last out," said Arsène Wenger (via Arsenal.com) as he provided an update on Miyaichi's progress.
Soothing words for a player who has regressed every season.
The key sentence provided by Wenger was: "But Miyaichi still needs some patience."
In 1983, Yahiro Kazama plunged into German football, perhaps inspired by South Korean footballer Cha Bum-Kun's success in the Bundesliga.
A few years later, Masami Ihara, like Kazama, a University of Tsukuba alumni, opted to stay in the Japanese Soccer League, which then re-formed into the J.League.
Ihara, an Asian footballer of the year, and five-time J.League Team of the Year recipient, became one of Japan's greatest ever footballers, whilst Kazama's career was consigned to the archives.
How different would Miyaichi's career have been if he had several solid seasons of J.League football?
Kagawa, Kiyotake, Keisuke Honda, Shunsuke Nakamura, Shinji Ono and Naohiro Takahara all had a body of work in Japan, before moving to Europe.
Takayuki Morimoto was a player Alexandre Pato dubbed as Japan's version of Ronaldo.
With every passing season, Miyaichi's career is aligning with Morimoto, one based more on hype and hope than reality.
Nine years after becoming the J.League's youngest ever scorer at 15, what's Morimoto up to?
Will Ryo Miyaichi ever break into Arsenal's first XI?
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