Ryo Miyaichi: Signs Point to Arsenal Having the World's Next Lionel Messi

H Andel@Gol Iath @gol_iathAnalyst IIIApril 5, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - JULY 13: Ryo Miyaichi of Arsenal is chased by M. Jasuli of Malaysia during the pre-season Asian Tour friendly match between Malaysia and Arsenal at Bukit Jalil National Stadium on July 13, 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Arsenal posted this message to the club's official website on December 18, 2012: "Arsenal Football Club is delighted to confirm that Japanese forward Ryo Miyaichi will be joining the Club in January 2011."

Miyaichi had trialled at Arsenal in the summer of 2010, where he impressed club manager Arsene Wenger, who had this to say in the same notice:

I am delighted Ryo will be joining us in the New Year.

He trialled with us in the summer and has raw ability which has attracted many clubs around the world.

I look forward to helping him fulfill his potential here at Arsenal.

Shortly after his signing, it was announced that the 18-year-old would join Dutch club Feyenoord on loan for the rest of the 2010-11 season due to work permit issues with the English FA. There, he played 12 matches, scored three goals and made five assists.

He earned the nickname Ryodinho from the Dutch media due to what they perceived as similarity in his game to Ronaldinho's, the Brazilian legend and superstar. He has also been called the Japanese Messi.

Ryodinho Returns

On August 9, 2011, Arsenal's club web site reported that Miyaichi had been granted a work permit after an FA panel convened to consider his request for one. Arsene Wenger, who was at the hearing, enthused:

We are absolutely delighted that Ryo has been granted a work permit. This is almost like a new signing for us, as we weren’t completely sure we would be given the authorisation. Ryo has worked extremely hard in pre-season and performed very well during the matches in Asia, Germany and Portugal. 

Commenting on the player's ability, Wenger said:

Ryo has natural technical ability. He has good balance and phenomenal pace, and his passing and crossing is consistently of a high quality. He is a very exciting player. He had a successful time with Feyenoord in the Netherlands last season, who gave him the opportunity to play regularly, and we’re looking forward to his contribution this coming season with Arsenal. 

Later that month, the club web site placed the following notice:

Ryo Miyaichi will display ‘Ryo’ on the back of his Arsenal shirt this season.

The Japanese winger, who has been granted the work permit he requires to play in England, has been allocated the No 31 shirt.

To allow for him to gain valuable first-team experience, Wenger sent Miyaichi on loan to Bolton Wanderers in January of 2012, where he is turning in impressive performances.

The Daily Mail reported last month that Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, is keen on extending the loan for the whole of next season should Bolton avoid relegation. Whether or not Arsenal would let Miyaichi go for another season might depend on what kind of transfer signings the club makes in the summer, if any.

The Dutch press compared Miyaichi to Brazil star Ronaldinho.
The Dutch press compared Miyaichi to Brazil star Ronaldinho.Clive Rose/Getty Images

However, the fact that Gervinho already plays on Miyaichi's preferred left flank means that the youngster might find first-team opportunity very limited if Arsenal don't pursue a loan option.

Moreover, the fact that Theo Walcott is the first choice on the right flank, coupled with the fact that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already appears to be the first-choice deputy for both flanks highlights further the fact that Miyaichi might not have a great many opportunities for Arsenal next season.

An extension of his loan spell would appear to be very reasonable and useful for him should Bolton pursue this option, considering, of course, that the club isn't relegated this season.

Miyaichi Has the Character to Succeed at Arsenal

Miyaichi is an example of what Arsenal's future looks like. Although he may not feature much in the team's first XI next season (though one never knows), there's no doubt that, barring unforeseen events, Miyaichi has the appearance of a future great. 

This is true of other Arsenal youngsters such as Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Jack Wilshere (already a staple in the first team), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, Ignasi Miquel, Nicholas Yennaris and Joel Campbell.

Commenting on the player's character, Mori Masatoshi, a Japanese football writer, notes in an interview with Mark Ogden of The Telegraph:

The one thing that makes Miyaichi stand out is his character. Most Japanese players are too modest to succeed in England, but Miyaichi is strong, confident and aggressive.

He is a pleasant and likeable boy, but he has the determination to succeed that others maybe didn’t have.

Bolton defender Gretar Steinsson talks about Miyaichi's work ethics in the article referenced above:

Training with him every day, I would put him in the same category as Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge. He will be one of the Premier League’s big players in the future.

In training we have big, strong physical players and he just gets on with it. He has real ability, he is so fast and he will definitely be one of the big players.

Owen Coyle offered what essentially is an amen:

He’s wiry and takes kicks and he will be black and blue because of the knocks he takes, but he’s so positive when playing against good players.

He went to Millwall in the last round and scored a wonder goal. He went to Chelsea and frightened the life out of their defenders and he did the same recently at Manchester City.

Watch It, He's Going to Burn Out!

His work ethic and his ability to provide range, trickery and efficiency in a match means that the Bolton manager has come to depend on the player notwithstanding the relatively short time he has been at Bolton.

Owen Coyle is helping Wenger and Arsenal develop Miyaichi.
Owen Coyle is helping Wenger and Arsenal develop Miyaichi.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

As a result, it appears that Miyaichi is now in the red zone as far as fatigue is concerned. Fatigue, of course, is the halfway place to injury and loss of form, which ineluctably attends burnout.

It is why Coyle wants to take steps to rest the player. "We will need to get him rested up as best as we can to make sure he’s ready to play a part this weekend," Coyle told The Bolton News.

Wenger fought the FA last season over Jack Wilshere, whom the manager said was being abused by overuse in international matches. He had warned that this might lead to injury. It proved prophetic.

Run, He's a Nightmare

As he continues his development at Bolton, Theo Walcott thinks Miyaichi could easily break into the first team next season (according to ESPN STAR Sports): "The way he is playing, there are full backs out there now who are thinking, ‘I don't want to play against him this week.'"

Although Walcott may be exaggerating a little, he isn't far from the truth when he talks about the dread Miyaichi may evoke in defenders. There's little doubt that, barring inexplicable regress, Miyaichi is on track to becoming a world-class player. 

There are many candidates for "the next Messi." Could Miyaichi be the one?
There are many candidates for "the next Messi." Could Miyaichi be the one?Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

To attain this status, he must develop the range of his game. Owen Coyle is helping him to do just that. Miyaichi spoke of the experience of playing in a position that isn't his forte, as found on Bolton's website (per PremierLeague.com):

"It was first time to play on the right in a Premier League game, and it was a huge experience," added Miyaichi.

"I wasn't able to go behind the defender but I discovered the elements of my game which I can improve on so I'm looking forward to the next match now.

"If I'm on the left hand side, I can run inside and take a shot as well. I find it more difficult to come inside from the right. I'm determined to try to work harder and widen the variety of my play."



One of Barcelona's policies has been to recruit players of promise at a young age, throw them in their famous La Masia academy as investment for the future and then reap the dividends later.

That was how Lionel Messi came about as did Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Andre Iniesta and others. These players are worth millions, so much so that even Barcelona—despite the club's riches—couldn't afford all of them at once if they hadn't developed these players themselves. 

Although Miyaichi isn't a product of Arsenal's academy, he was signed very young and affordably, as has been the case of a number of players. That's the nearest Arsenal can get to Barcelona's outstanding program, and this supplements Arsenal's own academy.

It is no coincidence that Barcelona's and Spain's dominance on the world stage has coincided with the fruition of the best of Barcelona's young crop.

A census will reveal that Arsenal possess currently half a team's worth of promising players.

Therefore, as far as the future is concerned (we are talking about three years from now), things are looking good. For those who don't see anything good in signing young players, such as Wenger does, I'd enjoin to think Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Isaac Cuenca, Cristian Tello, Thiago Alcantara, et al.

Doing so should cure their aversion.


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