‘Wonderkid Watch’ would never neglect the famed Barclays Premier League. In this debut edition, an exciting young Japanese player is closely looked at…
Name & Age: Ryo Miyaichi, 19
Club & Position: Bolton Wanderers (On loan from Arsenal), Winger
This is a player who has been described as ‘the Japanese Messi’ and nicknamed “Ryodinho” in light of similarities in his playing style to that of Ronaldinho’s (when in his prime). Such comparisons probably tell a person who has never heard of Ryo Miyaichi everything they need to know.
This is the player’s first season on English soil, but the massive impact he has made on the league and on Bolton conveys the idea of a player who has years of Barclays Premier League experience under his belt.
Unable to gain a work permit when he first signed for Arsenal in January, 2011, Miyaichi moved to the Dutch Eredivisie on loan at Feyenoord. He impressed immensely there, scoring 3 goals and making 5 assists. He was even named ‘Man of the Match’ on his debut.
After such an impressive showing in Holland, Miyaichi was granted a work permit in the summer of 2011 on the grounds of being an “exceptional talent”. After making 2 substitute appearances in the League Cup for Arsenal, Miyaichi moved on loan to Bolton on the final day of the January 2012 transfer window where he has continued to dazzle. What makes this Japanese boy wonder such an exciting prospect?
— Crossing — One would expect a good winger to be a good crosser of the ball and Ryo Miyaichi is no exception. He averages 3 crosses per game, leading to a quite exceptional cross completion percentage of 36.6.*
— Key Passes — So often we bemoan the poor quality of final passes attempted by varying teams. Here we have a young player who, more often than not, will find his man in the final third. Miyaichi averages a stellar 3.2 key passes per game — that’s precisely what you get (and expect) from a top quality winger.
— Dribbling — This is another necessary facet of a winger’s game and the fact that Miyaichi is quite capable in this regard — averages 2 per game — only serves to emphasize just how good he is.
— Taking Set-Pieces — Miyaichi has also shown himself very capable when it comes to indirect free-kicks. When the center backs have gone through the trouble of running all the way up to the opposition’s penalty area, Miyaichi has made sure, more often than not, that they have a decent delivery to attack. (This ties in with his strength in making key passes.)
— Passing — His pass completion percentage stands at a meager 73.4. He loves playing short passes; he has attempted just 2 long balls in the 5 league games he has played in, none of which have found their intended target. (More on this later in the article…)
— Defensive Contribution — Despite offering valuable contributions going forward, it seems Miyaichi isn’t too interested in offering any tracking back. He currently averages a mere .8 tackles, .8 interceptions, and .2 clearances — all per game. It would be very considerate of Miyaichi if he gave some much needed help to the probably very over-worked full back behind him. And, of course, the fans (and manager) adore players who do a lot of work off the ball.
Miyaichi established himself early on as a left winger, cutting in on his stronger right foot. It was because of this, he was compared to both Messi and the Ronaldinho of old — both these players feature largely in inverted positions.
However, on the right is where Miyaichi has made his telling contributions for Bolton. He featured three times in the league on his preferred left wing, but made no crucial impact.
The two times he has featured on the right, however, have seen him contribute 2 assists. In addition, Miyaichi’s pass completion increased by 9.3% to a modest 78% after moving across to the right, as opposed to the 68.7% he mustered on the left.
This tactical move is actually quite pragmatic when one considers Miyaichi’s qualities and faults together with Bolton’s style of play. His limited passing range coupled with the fact that Bolton play the joint fourth highest amount of long balls in the league (69 per game) as well as the third lowest amount of short passes (305 per game) make him inconsistent on the left, even ineffective. Why?
Bolton’s long ball style of play sees players take up advanced, wide positions on the pitch. Considering that Miyaichi prefers the short pass as well as that he isn’t on the flank that favors his stronger foot, when he turns inside looking for a one-two, for example, his team-mates are not in close proximity to receive the short pass he wants to play.
As a result, a large proportion of the passes he attempts on that flank are intercepted, thus explaining his poor pass completion percentage and the fact that he turns the ball over an average of 1.8 times per game. He is also forced to go on his own, dribbling his way down the left flank to find a way through. As tricky as he is, he won’t be (and hasn’t been) successful every single time. Thus, there are times when he has found himself either dispossessed or forced out of play. Quite simply, Miyaichi would’ve done better on the left had he stayed at Arsenal, who play the lowest proportion of long balls in the league (50 per game) but the second highest proportion of short passes (495 per game).
Miyaichi, probably due to inexperience, failed to adapt his passing style to that of Bolton’s, but Owen Coyle did the right thing by moving him to the right flank. The natural width adheres to his preference of a direct style of passing; the narrowness caused by Miyaichi’s cutting inside from the left worked against it, and by extension, against the player. Instead, Miyaichi’s playing style was forced to conform to that of an out-and-out winger who just has to dribble past his man and get his cross into the box. As highlighted earlier, he is quite capable in both regards. Indeed, the impact he has made on the right only serves to confirm what was just discussed.
Natural: LW, RW, LAM, RAM
Estimated Transfer Value
Understandably, Arsenal will be looking to hold on to what is a truly gifted player. Currently, he may well be worth close to £5 million. However, as he continues to impress, expect his price to continue to go up as time goes on. He won’t be leaving Arsenal permanently anytime soon, though.
This is truly a gifted player. Not only is he getting rave reviews in Holland and England, but in his home country too. Although he hasn’t made his debut for Japan, he was called up to the squad in February, 2012 — testimony to his ability at such a young age.
At Arsenal, under the guidance of one Arsene Wenger, expect this player to mature into a world beater. Owen Coyle will play his part too, having done so in the case of a certain Jack Wilshere. Ronaldinho (in his prime) and the Lionel Messi we know today are outstanding players. Here we have a player who has been compared to both. If he turns out to be even half as good, then Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are in for a real treat, as is the Barclays Premier League for years to come.
*- Stats courtesy of whoscored