Arsenal have a number of their first-team squad members in action at the Qatar World Cup this winter, with Bukayo Saka undoubtedly being the Gunners’ standout performer in the competition so far, with the winger scoring a sensational brace in England’s 6-2 demolition of Iran on Monday afternoon.
However, it was arguably one of Arsenal’s former players who stole the show in Wednesday’s batch of World Cup fixtures, with Takuma Asano turning in a match-winning display in Japan’s shock 2-1 victory over Germany – a result that sees one of the tournament favourites facing the very real possibility of a group stage exit.
Indeed, despite starting the fixture on the bench, the VfL Bochum winger made a huge impact upon his introduction in the 57th minute of the match, as, despite enjoying just 14 touches of the ball and completing a mere five passes, the £3.5m-rated talent proved a constant threat down Germany’s right flank.
In spite of the fact he had so little time on the ball, the 28-year-old still managed to take five shots at Manuel Neuer’s goal, with one being on target, two being off target and two being blocked, however, it was the one that did trouble the Bayern Munich shot-stopper that proved decisive in the meeting at the Khalifa International Stadium.
With just seven minutes of regulation time remaining, Asano magnificently plucked Ko Itakura’s hopeful long ball out of the sky, with his “Bergkampesque” first touch brilliantly taking him away from the onrushing Nico Schlotterbeck and towards the German goal, before the winger unleashed a fierce drive beyond Neuer at his near post.
And, while it would be difficult to argue that Arsenal’s £1m sale of Asano back in 2019 was a mistake, Arsene Wenger will have been watching on with glee on Wednesday, as the former Gunners manager was always convinced of the 38-cap star’s potential.
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Speaking about the winger upon his £3.5m arrival in north London back in 2016, the legendary Frenchman said: “Takuma is a talented young striker and very much one for the future. We look forward to him developing over the next couple of years. He is a player I believe in a lot. I will take care of him and make sure he gets to the right place.”
As such, while Wenger may not have managed to deliver on this promise at The Emirates, it is undeniable that Arsenal supporters now know what Asano is capable of, as the 28-year-old well and truly proved his ability to the world against the Germans.