Takahiro Sekine 21 Midfielder Urawa Red Diamonds Japan
Right winger Takahiro Sekine is an Urawa Red Diamonds youth product who made the switch to senior football and has become a regular in the J.League in the intervening years.
2016 has been…
Not quite what was expected. Sekine can play on either flank but is primarily a right-sided winger, and he’s been a frequent starter all year. He’s missed just a couple of J.League games and has started nearly all of those he’s played as Urawa finished third in the First Stage and shot to their current position of relative comfort at the top of the table in the Second Stage.
He also played every game as they won the J.League Cup this autumn, so there’s no doubt that Sekine is a fixture at his club despite his modest years. It’s no shock; this was largely the case in 2015, and the real question is whether he’s pushed on this year to the extent we’d have hoped.
Often the smallest player on the field, Sekine is a tenacious little sod who rarely gives up on a cause. He plays very high up the wing when his team have the ball, and almost as a wing back when it doesn’t. The defensive side of his game is one of smart choices. He looks to make himself difficult to beat rather than pretending to be a tackler.
Going forward he’s a ball of energy and a taker of risks both bold and silly. His first thought is usually to either instantly play the ball back from whence it came, or to try to beat his full-back. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but who doesn’t love a player who tries repeatedly to find out?
When things are calmer he can play neat football in tight spaces, enabled by a good awareness of what’s around him. He hugs the touchline and has lovely footwork once he gets motoring, and a scorching cross in his locker when he’s able to deliver free of pressure. Sekine is used as an outlet, which sometimes leaves him isolated, and he doesn’t see enough of the ball.
Sekine tends to look like a player who can make things happen. He does it, too, but not often enough. There’s not a lot of polish to his game but that’s just a style issue. When he keeps things simple he’s effective. He has very good matches and less good ones, and he creates goals. He should be looking to add more of his own.
But the real fly in the ointment? Despite some flaws, we’d hoped for bigger steps forward this year. Garnering some serious attention outside Japan, or more importantly an international call-up, would have soothed our doubts. Instead, they’re growing.
C- Still a long way to go
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