Kaoru Mitoma and how Brighton benefited from his undergraduate thesis on dribbling

Attaching cameras to your teammates’ heads can feel like an unusual way to master the art of dribbling.

However, this desire to think outside the box has played its part in making the Japanese winger at Brighton & Hove Albion. Kaoru Mituma This is a unique and exciting addition to Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool – And theirs England right back Trent Alexander Arnold – Be the last of opponents to try and find a way to check out the striker’s woven blend of pace, poise and elusive sprinting at AMEX Stadium today.

This particular style was born out of the intense pace he possessed as a child, and developed as a football-obsessed student in his late teens in his home country.

Mitoma had been in the academy for eight years at Kawasaki Frontale, the four-time J. League champions, when, nearing the age of nineteen, he turned down a professional contract to study physical education at the University of Tsukuba.

This is a well-familiar path for Japanese players, since the level of college football is much higher than in Europe.

“I just had the feeling that I wasn’t physically ready and that I wasn’t going to be in the first team right away,” says Mitoma. “I thought the best move was to get more playing time and get better.”

As part of his studies, he wrote a dissertation on equivocation. “It was the easiest subject for me to choose because I love football and dribbling is what I love to do,” he explains. “There were no rules on how much to write, but I got around it by analyzing my teammates who were good dribblers and who were not so good and trying to figure out why that was.

“I put cameras on my teammates’ heads to study where and what they were looking at and how their opponents were looking at them.

“I learned that good players weren’t looking at the ball. They were looking forward, cornering the ball without looking at their feet. That was the difference.

“I was one of the best dribblers at the time, but I wasn’t exceptional.”

Mitoma under pressure from Arsenal’s Thomas Partey (Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Even now, humble by nature, Mitoma still considers himself anything but a genius of dribbling. In fact, he is reluctant to place much importance on his university education when explaining the positive impact he has had in the Premier League. Brighton.

Something stuck, though.

A glimpse of his goal in the 4-1 win over neighbors Liverpool everton Earlier this month, a strike that showcased his talent for dribbling and directness revealed that he kept his head held high the entire time. The 25-year-old seized his chance after running back from Everton Nathan Patterson Failed to block a cross pass from Musa Caicedo.

Mituma deliberately pushes the ball in front of him with his left foot and into the space behind the stranded Patterson inside the penalty area, rather than opting for precise control.

Body deflection that sends the defender Connor Cody In a wrong way, he opens up more space as he moves the ball to his right foot.

He calmly finished the game, putting the ball back Jordan PickfordAttempt to suffocate through the legs of the cover James Tarkovsky.

The entire movement is done with electric speed, balance and poise. Just four seconds elapse between the Brighton striker receiving possession and the ball into Everton’s goal.

“I could see the space, so I wanted to kick the ball more to create the back space with my first touch,” says Mituma, who was speaking through an interpreter as he learned to work with the nuances of the English language. “Then, (in) the second touch, I would go straight.” by attacking with a blow.

“It was an instinct, not a thought process.”

Mitoma’s performances owe much to preparation and self-analysis.

On top of all the detailed information the club provides to players, its representatives provide pre- and post-match feedback in the form of touch maps and videos. Armed with this data file, Mituma can see his movements and assess the strengths and weaknesses of oncoming opponents.

He reaps the reward.

Mituma scored a very different kind of goal when Brighton won 3-1 in the… Arsenal In the Carabao Cup in November. The attacker started in the same area of ​​the pitch (see below), advancing towards the left edge of the penalty area, as well Jeremy Sarmiento He ran the ball through the middle, which caught the attention of the Arsenal defenders.

This time, when he got the ball from Sarmiento inside the penalty area, Mitoma went in for close control, by moving the ball from the inside of his left foot to his right in one fluid motion.

That created just enough space for the shot to press between them Cedric Soares And William Saliba He swung the equalizer in Brighton’s favour, giving them a 2-1 lead early in the second half.

Mitoma has been blessed with a fast pace since he was a child. He made sure to exploit this trait, adapting his training to strengthen his legs and make his moves more explosive.

He was used as an impact substitute this season by Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi until he broke into the Italian side with his full Premier League debut in a 4-1 defeat of Potter. Chelsea at amex stadium end of october.

“Chelsea was big for me,” Mituma says. “I didn’t want to let my place go.”

Mituma has increased his chances at club level since then. He scored three goals and provided two assists in six matches for Brighton on either side of an eventful event world Cup With Japan.

He was involved in one of the most controversial moments of the tournament in Qatar. The ball appeared to be out of play when his defense was converted before Oh Tanaka in a 2-1 win Spain – Result that worked on methods Germany out in the group stage. The goal stopped after a lengthy examination by the video assistant referee.

Tech worked against Mitoma when his second goal was ruled out due to a hard offside decision in a 4-2 home defeat by Arsenal on New Year’s Eve. Had his effort been off, Brighton would have cut the arrears to 4-3 and ensured a tense finish for the Premier League leaders.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the scientific merit of his undergraduate studies, he has no problem relying on technology when it comes to making critical decisions on the field.

“It’s fair, it’s technology, it’s hard to argue with,” he says. “Obviously there are feelings when decisions go for or against you, but I don’t agree with it.”

Some Japanese observers felt that Mitoma was underused by coach Hajime Moriyasu at the World Cup. All four of his matches were from the bench, including the group victory over Germany and the round of 16 exit to Germany Croatia penalty shootout.

He saved the penalty kick in the penalty shootout Dominic Levakovic He was not among Brighton’s seven penalty takers when they lost The first league side Charlton Last month the shootout spilled over into sudden death.

“There are some feelings from the World Cup experience, the level of confidence there is not 100 percent,” Mitoma admits. “But also, it’s the manager’s call as well. He felt there were other guys who were more confident at the time. I’m going to keep training and working on penalties until I feel more comfortable.”

Mitoma playing for Japan against Croatia in the World Cup round of 16 (Photo: Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)

Mitoma aims to be “one of Japan’s leaders” in the upcoming World Cups in the USA, Canada and Mexico in 2026.

His influence at Brighton is reflected in the growing interest in his exploits back home. Two Japanese journalists now cover Brighton matches regularly, both at home and abroad.

says Hideo Tamaro, of Japan’s major news agency Kyodo News the athlete: “The popularity of soccer in Japan in general has been declining lately compared to the peak years (around 2010-2016) when there were quite a few Japanese players in top European clubs, so Mitoma’s success seems like a breath of fresh air.

“Needless to say, the recent success in the World Cup has also been a boost. Another thing that Japanese fans love to see is how players in Europe are profiled in their countries’ media. That in itself creates another headline.”

There have been plenty of key Premier League performances for Brighton so far from Mitoma, whose wife has now joined him in England after being granted a work permit.

There is no limit to what he can achieve with Zerby’s guidance.

“Continuing to get results is what it takes to stay in the starting line-up,” Mituma adds. “The manager has the plans and the strategy and I’m doing everything I can to stick to that.

“I like playing under him. There’s a lot of movement to get the ball on the wing (and) a lot of movement, which is fun. I want to keep learning and playing like that.

“The two main things are to help Brighton reach the top of the rankings and get more goals and assists.”

(Top photo: Robin Jones/Getty Images)

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