With bragging rights on the line, Arsenal dominated Tottenham over the weekend in the North London Derby. In addition to the exhilarating 3-1 victory, the Gunners also got the better of their rivals in another area that may have gone under the radar.
During the summer Spurs had been linked with a £17m move for defender Takehiro Tomiyasu. Tottenham instead signed Emerson Royal and that left the door open for the Gunners to swoop in. Arsenal eventually signed the Japanese international from the Italian side Bologna on deadline day.
He’s been in London for less than a month and already the 22-year-old defender has impressed. Of course, three matches are a small sample size, but Tomiyasu has quickly become a fan favorite. He’s also received widespread praise from pundits, and eve some Spurs fans.
Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams has already taken notice:
Arsenal got one over on Tottenham in the summer transfer window when they signed Takehiro Tomiyasu instead of their rivals, who moved for Emerson Royal instead
"“I loved Tomiyasu, I thought his positioning today was excellent,” he enthusiastically told Sky Sports. “They were exceptional all over the pitch. I liked the shape today and they won every single header.”"
That’s high praise from one of the Premier League’s top defenders of all time.
Tomiyasu was immense in the derby and helped to make Heung-min Son a peripheral part of the match. Arsenal supporters took notice. Despite the brilliant performances from Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe & Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Tomiyasu was voted Man of the Match.
In his short time with the Gunners, Tomiyasu’s statistics are impressive. Since his debut versus Norwich City, he has won more duels than any other defender in the league. He’s already among the top 28 for aerial duels having played half as many games.
Being so new to the club and the Premier League it’s interesting to look at Tomiyasu’s path to England.
At the age of eleven his coach in the city of Fukuoka, Japan, got him a trial at a summer camp run by Barcelona. He did well and was offered a spot in Barcelona’s youth academy. The move never materialized as it was challenging for the young Tomiyasu to relocate so far from home.
He instead joined the youth division of J League side Avispa Fukuoka. In 2015 he made his debut with the senior team. Three years later, at the age of 19, he finally moved abroad signing for Belgian side Sint-Truiden. In his first full season, he was named the club’s Player of the Season.
Tomiyasu made another moved in the summer of 2019 when he joined Serie A side Bologna. He continued to impress in his two full campaigns in Italy. He played in Bologna’s first match of this season with transfer speculation growing. In fact, it was reported as early as July that Tottenham would be signing the defender.
With the Japanese national team making it to the Bronze Medal match at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Spurs lost patience and headed in another direction.
That gave Arteta and Edu the chance to step in and sign Tomiyasu on deadline day. Whether it was planned or not, it appears that Arsenal got an important player under the noses of their North London rivals.
Tomiyasu is just 22 years old and can play at both right-back, center-back and even left-back. He also brings an excellent aerial aggression to a side that has been sorely lacking it.
In his three matches, he’s demonstrated composure and confidence. In the derby he was first to every rebound and second ball. He’s already had an impact on shoring up the Gunners’ recent defensive weaknesses. It’s early days, but Tomiyasu looks like one of the best Arsenal signings in recent years. Even better is the fact that he was snatched up under the nose of Tottenham.