Scouting Around the World – Japan (Ryotaro Araki)
In this new series for Celts Are Here, I’ll be looking at different leagues around the globe for hidden gems I think could be put to good use in Ange’s system at Celtic.
The first league I’ve searched is one that we are all now much more familiar with thanks to the manager – the J League.
The player that has my eye currently in the J League is Ryotaro Araki, a forward that has just turned 20 that is out of contract in January 2023. He is a rare case in Japan going straight from high school football to the 1st division. Usually, most players go through the university system and start their career far later, like Hatate who began at the age of 22.
Araki is clearly very gifted being able to go right into the top flight, and in his breakthrough season for Kashima Antlers scored twice and assisted another 6 across just over 1000 minutes.
The 5ft7, right-footed forward can play across any of the front 4 attacking positions where he puts his line-breaking passing and ball carrying abilities to good use.
The main difference between Araki’s 1st and 2nd seasons is that instead of playing wide he now plays centrally more like an AM or CF. This has helped him substantially improve his output in terms of goals while his xG remained steady. This is likely due to him having more shots in central areas as he is now in these positions more frequently.
Creatively Araki has declined as expected as he is pushed centrally and up top. His team moved from relying on him creatively to needing him for goals. That certainly was the case as he got 12 goals and 8 assists in his 2nd season. As we can see though he is still providing a good amount of creativity at 0.2xA which is slightly more than Kyogo’s 0.16xA from the same season in Japan.
Looking at his heat map from his two seasons it’s clear Araki has occupied all attacking roles. We can see his right foot preference when comparing RW to LW as on the right he can hit the by-line more often and, on the left, occupies the half space more. Even as a CF at times he doesn’t occupy the box as a focal point due to his limited physical profile. Instead, he plays more as a secondary striker collecting the ball in front of the defence to play others in on goal and link play.
[Radars are created using Wyscout data. Max and min data comes from the Scottish Premiership. Players must have started at least 10 matches and I have tried to filter out outliers.]
As Araki is a forward, I have created two radars; Offensive and Defensive/Creative
The most promising part of the radar is that Araki is already providing strong output at such a young age. A good comparison is Abada who in Israel also provided 0.2xG p90, the exact same as Araki is currently providing. This is because he is a strong finisher like Abada with 42% of his shots on target and a 19% goal conversion rate. What he does a lot better than Abada from his time in Israel is get on the ball more, receiving it 27.6 times p90. This allows him more opportunities to hurt the opposition in games. He is also still a very raw talent as shown by only having 2.76 successful attacking action p90. Looks like he tries a lot with limited success at the moment.
Defensively for his age and physique, Araki shows up extremely well. He has 4.05 successful defensive actions p90 and 2.81 PAdj interceptions p90 which compared to Kyogo’s 4.89 & 2.38 indicates Araki may have the potential to be an elite defensive forward. Output again is key to Araki’s game, unlike Abada in Israel who only provided 0.09xA, Araki is far superior creatively with 0.2xA p90. This is because of his ability to break defensive lines via passing as shown by 0.5 key passes, 1.13 smart passes and 1.51 shot assists p90.
Araki is clearly one of the top prospects in Japanese football at the moment and I’d be surprised if Ange isn’t already aware of his talent. He is another youthful versatile forward that would be capable of slotting into the system and contributing for Celtic. His contract length is short and could be picked up for less than he should.
If it isn’t Celtic, I can’t imagine Araki being outside European football for much longer, hopefully, though he’s one Celtic have identified as he has a high ceiling and could go far in the game.
We caught up with Sam Robson of the J-Talk Podcast.
Araki first broke through impressing in pre-season 2020 and showed flashes in the first team that year, but last year was exceptional.
Broke the record for most goals in a season for a teenager, playing mainly just off the striker, making clever late runs and ghosting in, but also technically sharp with an eye for a pass. Can play out wide as well. I was quite surprised he wasn’t picked up in January.
I’d be surprised if he didn’t go in the summer. He’ll have had 2 1/2 seasons by then and will be ready. Ange Postecoglou would have come up against him a couple of times and I’m sure he was across all players in the league while he was there. Akari actually scored and was instrumental in a 5-3 Kashima win over Ange’s Marinos side last May.
Araki probably doesn’t quite fit Celtic’s system at the moment, though he could be moulded either into a proper wide player or as one of the 8’s. I think the success of the players so far at Celtic might alert more teams to the J.League.