Premier League side Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger, who has built a reputation for signing unknown talents and developing them into strong players, is looking to Japan to discover new soccer talent for his club.
It used to be that the Frenchman had the uncanny knack of buying players from French local clubs, with the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires and Emmanuel Petit who became legends in Arsenal. Wenger has been at Arsenal’s helm for 17 seasons, but the last time they won a trophy was the 2005 FA Cup. The well of French talent has seemed to dry up and now he mentions Japan as an interesting and competitive market, along with Germany and Spain. The Blue Samurai defeated France in an historic friendly last October and they are also set to become the first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. 8 of their 24-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers are playing for German clubs. CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda, Inter Milan fullback Yuto Nagatomo and Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa are also making a name for themselves in their respective clubs.
Kagawa’s moderate success in Manchester United has led other clubs, like Arsenal and Manchester City to look for a Kagawa of their own. A young Japanese midfielder Hideki Ishige has been training with City, the current Premiere League champions, and is being eyed by a couple of scouts. But the 2011 Young Asian Player of the Year is happy to stay put in his J.League club, Shimizu S-Pulse. Playmaker Honda is expected to leave Russia and Arsenal, City and Liverpool are said to be vying for his services.
Wenger is no stranger to Japanese football, having coached J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996 before moving to Arsenal. He has since then signed a few Japanese players, but has had mixed success. Junichi Inamoto only made a few appearances for the club before moving to Fulham while winger Ryo Miyaichi is currently on loan to Wigan. With Arsenal struggling in the league, Wenger is pressured to bring new talent to the club. Their last game was a disappointing 1-1 draw with lowly Southampton. The Saints backline was led by Blue Samurai defender Maya Yoshida.
[ via Yahoo Sport ]