Arsenal Depot

A depository for musings on Arsenal FC

Return Of The Loanees – Ryo Miyaichi

For the neutrals, last night’s Champions League fare was markedly superior to the one dished out at the Nou Camp on Tuesday evening. Mainly because both teams came to play football – and they must be commended for providing good entertainment, especially in the first half. Bayern held their nerve to go through to the final in their own stadium – deservedly so, it has to be said.

With the last game of the season just over a couple of weeks away, thoughts must turn to the forgotten men of Arsenal’s 2011-2012 campaign. No, not Ju Young Park and Sebastian Squillaci. I am talking about the Arsenal loanees who are currently plying their wares in the far-flung corners of the world.

Today’s article looks at the precocious Ryo Miyaichi, currently on loan at relegation candidates Bolton Wanderers.

Since joining Arsenal in a fairy tale move last January, Ryo has earned praise from his manager, teammates and anyone else he’s come in contact with. The Japanese teenager immediately justified Arsene Wenger’s faith in his raw talent by impressing at Dutch club Feyenoord scoring 3 goals in 12 matches. You may like to watch this compilation of his short time in the Eredivisie.

Ryodinho was back with Arsenal last summer, and after being granted a permit as an exceptional talent, he has figured in the Reserves and two League Cup games this season.

The expectation was that Ryo would feature more often this season. That did not happen, partly due to Arsenal’s early cup exits but mostly due to our tenuous league position. On hindsight, a loan move to Bolton at the start of the season would have served both player and club better. Nevertheless, Owen Coyle has been suitably impressed with the youngster’s contribution to the Trotters cause since the beginning of February, having contributed a goal in the FA Cup game against Milwall and providing a couple of assists in the league.

I have seen a few of Ryo’s performances with the Wanderers. He is fast, direct and very tricky with the ball. As Theo Walcott suggested in an interview back in July, he is a difficult player to defend against. He has been Bolton’s best player on more than one occasion since joining up with them.

However, I believe next year may be too early for him at Arsenal. Mind you, I would love to see him running at defenses and terrorising them, but I do feel he needs another loan spell to develop three areas of his game – match fitness at the highest level, defending without the ball and showing for a pass more often.

We have to remember this is the first three months of regular high-intensity football he’s had in England. Unlike Alex Oxlade who’s been brought up in this environment, Ryo has come directly from the Japanese school set up and needs time to adjust to the demands of playing football week-in week-out in arguably the world’s most competitive league.

The other area where he needs improvement is on his defensive game. Ryo still has to develop the positional awareness of what spaces to occupy without the ball. To be fair, he does track back and get behind the ball, but still lacks the ability to make tackles and interceptions and win possession back. A quick comparison with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain highlights this point. Yes, they are different types of players but Ryo is not going to earn a starting place unless he can bring something to the team in defense.

Lastly, I believe he needs to show more when his team have the ball. At Bolton he’s been assigned the role of staying wide and launching fast attacks from the wing. As the Trotters’ most dangerous player though, he does not see as much of the ball as you might expect. Besides Bolton’s long ball approach, I think it’s also a combination of his still-building self-confidence, adjusting to life in the premier league and language and culture barriers.

Can he get enough games at Arsenal next season to improve in the above areas? Well, let’s first examine what options we might have in the wide areas next season.

On the left, it will continue to be a toss-up between Gervinho and Alex Oxlade until one of them cements that spot with some consistent performances. I suspect Andre Santos will be thrown into this mix if Gibbs can stay injury free at left back. And if we buy Yossi Benayoun, then we have to factor in the Israeli as well.

Assuming Theo Walcott signs a contract extension, he will be favorite to start on the right wing. Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby can all play there as well, depending on who is preferred in the centre of midfield with Alex Song and Mikel Arteta.

Injuries should be covered for, of course. But if that is the aim, I think Arsenal will be better placed to recruit a player of proven experience such as Benayoun who can provide depth on the bench rather than the still-maturing talent of the 19-year old youngster.

Effectively, Ryo will have 6-7 players ahead of him in the pecking order for that wide berth. He will definitely get opportunities in cup ties but will that be enough to help his growth at this stage? In my humble opinion, playing every week would better serve his development. If Bolton stay up, one more season on loan at the Trotters would not be a bad idea.

Arsene Wenger will have to make a decision on Ryo but he has the luxury to do this very late in August. I suspect pre-season form and fitness will give the manager a better idea. Even though I feel a loan spell would be best for him, I certainly won’t be complaining if he’s in the squad next season.

Until tomorrow, when we’ll analyse what the future may hold for another Arsenal loanee.

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