There were very few Arsenal fans that had heard of Takehero Tomiyasu when he arrived last summer on deadline day for the bargain pice of around £16 million from Bologna.
His road to London was long and interesting, but you could probably say it started when he was an 11 year-old in Japan and he was recommended by his teacher to go to a Barcelona Soccer Camp. He was so impressive that the Spanish giants offered him a place at their famous academy but the logistics of relocating his family to Spain was just too difficult at the time and instead he joined up with youth team of the J-League club Avispa Fukuoka.
He became a regular first teamer at just 18 years of age, and after a couple of years he was surprisingly offered a place at St. Truiden in Belgium, where he had to quickly learn the local language and also studied English, as his dream was always to play in the Premier League. He said after moving to St Trudens: “I want to become a special player in Belgium,”
“I do dream of playing in the Premier League one day. I played against England Under-18s with Japan. That match opened my eyes. That’s when I realised I had to move if I wanted to get to the next level.
“Communicating is the hardest part. Everyone is nice to me, but I only understand a few words. It’s difficult to understand what is being said in training but, actually, the training sessions are more difficult for me than the matches, but I’m taking English lessons.”
He only spent 18 months in Belgium, where he made 40 appearances and won the Player of the Season in 2018/19 before being snapped up by Bologna for a reported 9million. He was named as Player of the Month after his first three games in Serie A and was brought to the attention of top European clubs during his two year stint in Italy.
The Arteta and Edu stepped in, and he finally realised his dream of moving to the English Premier League, and again he won the Arsenal Player of the Month after his first 3 games under Arteta. He has nothing but praise for the boss: “Mikel Arteta is the best manager I’ve ever had,” Tomi says. “He’s done a lot for me – on the pitch and off it too. Of course he helps me improve my game, along with the rest of the staff. He’s such an intelligent person. He knows absolutely everything about football and the game’s structure. He gives you a really clear picture of what you need to do – and I’m really learning a lot from him.
“He’s helped develop my game but I really appreciate how he has helped me away from the pitch, too. I was so disappointed when I got injured last season, but Mikel spoke to me a lot and helped me through that time.
“Sometimes you have tough times in football – and being injured is always really difficult. It was a tough period for me but having support from inside the club made a big difference. It wasn’t just Mikel – my team-mates were there for me and so were the coaching staff.
“When you get that level of support and love it really inspires you to give your absolute best for the club. Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in the world and I think everyone is determined to be a success. It’s a good environment here as a player.”
He only managed the first half of last season, but he seems to be back to full fitness now, and I can’t wait for him to return to the first team on a regular basis. At only 23, he still has many years ahead to become a legend for Arsenal. But it is a great sttory for him to realise the dream he had as a young kid in Japan and making it across the world to make it come true….
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