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Scouting Report: Could Gotoku Sakai Be Arsenal's Japanese Star

Published by Bleacher Report on Tue, 03 Jun 2014

Could Stuttgart full-backGotoku Sakai be the latestJapanese footballer to be given a chance byArsenal manager Arsene Wenger'To cover that hypothetical, here is a scouting report onSakai, a 23-year-old Japanese international.PositivesSakai is a 5'9", 163-pound full-back who can interchange between right-back and left-back.Sakai is industrious, can make explosive plays and possesses considerable athleticism, such as when he jumped high in the air to make a headedclearance againstHoffenheim.Going forward,Sakai is dashing, consistently uses his two-footedness to his advantage and is always keen to make the decisive play of the game.In a one-on-one againstSchalke centre-backKaan Ayhan,Sakai feigned to cut inside, which opened a gap on the outside whenAyhan attempted a tackle.Sakai ran aroundAyhan, draggedSchalke goalkeeperRalf Fahrmann out and set upStuttgart left attacking midfielderMartin Harnik for an easy finish.AgainstAugsburg,Sakai stole the ball fromAugsburg left-backMatthias Ostrzolek, cut inside and forced 'keeperMarwin Hitz into a diving save.Sakai accelerated past two Werder Bremen players and shot, whichdeflected offWerder centre-backAssani Lukimya's hand.The determination Sakai displayedwon Stuttgart apenalty.In another play,Sakai leftWerder left-backLuca Caldirola flat-footed and causedLukimya to trip over himself.Sakai is great as an overlapping full-back.This iswhy his dribbling success percentage (73), perSquawka.com, is 30 percent higher thanArsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs (43), perSquawka.com.While not the most secure defensive full-back in theBundesliga,Sakai only conceded 0.9 free-kicks per game.He flashed defensive stoutness with six interceptions againstHannover, perSquawka.com, and five interceptions againstBayern Munich, perSquawka.com.NegativesSakai has not lived up to expectations."We'll give him [Sakai]the time he needs to settle in the Bundesliga,"Stuttgartsporting directorFredi Bobic said, perStuttgart's official website. "I'm sure he can become a very valuable player for VfB [Stuttgart]."Two years and five months later,Sakai still defends as if he is a rookie.Thestatute of limitations in using the excuse "give him the time he needs to settle" is well past its expiry date.With 19-year-old defensive midfielder Carlos Gruezo's seamless transition fromEcuadorian to German football, you wonder whySakai is still struggling.Sakaikeeps on making the same naive mistakes at the back.He was out of position whenWerder Bremen central midfielderZlatko Junuzovic burst forward.Sakai was ball-watching which gaveHamburg right attacking midfielderMaximilian Beistera head start.WhenSakai attempted a clearance, heinadvertentlydiverted the ball into the direction ofWolfsburg left attacking midfielderIvan Perisic.Sakai was slow to close downBayer Leverkusen utility playerGonzalo Castro when he shaped up to shoot.Instead of covering thenBorussia Dortmund (nowBayern) centre-forwardRobert Lewandowski,Sakai hesitated and inexplicably failed to clear the ball, which fell conveniently toLewandowski.In another play againstDortmund,Sakai forgot to markLewandowski.When you factor in Sakai'srelatively simple passing style, heneeds to increase his pass completion percentage from 79.2 into the high 80s.He should not be turning the ball over with careless passes, as evident against Mainz. Bottom LineCoaching in Japan gave Wenger a different perspective on football."Perhaps it was a bit crazy of me at the time to decide to go [to coach Nagoya Grampus], but I'm thankful for that moment of craziness,"Wenger said, perChris Harris atArsenal's official website. "It was absolutely a deep, profound and very, very positive experience."Having managed in Japan, Wenger gaveJunichi Inamoto andRyo Miyaichi a chance at Arsenal.Neither had European experience prior to signing withArsenal, whereasSakai has played 69Bundesliga games over three seasons.Yes, his defensive flaws are a big concern.However, Sakaiis two-footed, can play on either flank and is only 23 years old, so he is worth a punt.@allanjianga+allanjiangStatistics viaWhoScored.comRead more World Football news on BleacherReport.com
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