Takuma Asano’s first season on loan at Stuttgart offered some encouragement, but his second campaign with the German club indicated that it seems unlikely that we will see the attacker representing Arsenal in a competitive game in the near future.
It is almost two years since Arsenal, rather surprisingly, brought in Asano from Sanfrecce Hiroshima, and he has yet to make an appearance for the Gunners at any level as he has been on loan looking to earn a work permit.
Very quick and possessing impressive technique, Asano certainly has raw qualities but he has lacked consistency during his time at Stuttgart and found the step up from the German second tier to the Bundesliga very difficult to deal with.
This season Asano mustered just one goal in 20 league appearances and for the majority of the second half of the campaign he found it difficult to even command a place on the bench, at times dropping down to represent the club’s reserve side.
The 23-year-old is versatile – he can operate on either flank, behind the striker or up front – but all of the evidence suggests that he isn’t ready to represent Arsenal at this moment in time.
Where now for Asano? He is likely to return to Arsenal for pre-season training, where he will hope to make a positive impression on the new manager and, depending on the availability of others, could have an outside chance of featuring in pre-season.
Asano is part of the Arsenal first-team squad yet he doesn’t have a squad number and he would need to really make an impact in training if he is to be part of the setup for next season.
Another loan seems likely, and it would perhaps be worth sending him to an English club, possibly even in the Championship, to see how he fares.
That, though, would surely represent a final opportunity for Asano to impress, as, given his age, he can no longer be considered as a young prospect and should instead be seeking to push on and establish himself as a regular at some level.
Capped 12 times by Japan at senior level, Asano has scored three goals for his country yet seems unlikely to make the final squad for this summer’s World Cup, even though it has been reported that he has been included in the provisional list of 35 players.
As far as his Arsenal future is concerned, there is much work for Asano to do if he is to fulfil his ambition of featuring for the club in the Premier League.