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Professor Mitoma

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Kaoru Mitoma has burst onto the scene this season. With the ball sticking his feet like he has glue on his feet, he has left defenders befuddled and tumbling over their own legs as he whizzes past them effortlessly. How did a player who not many saw flourishing to this extent take the Premier League by storm? The answer lies in Kaoru Mitoma’s thesis.

Yes, the Japanese, who is now the apple of the eye of Brighton fans and should soon be in demand, improved his game after studying the art of dribbling deeply as a part of his university thesis. Kaoru Mitoma’s thesis made sure he literally is a student of the game!

Here’s a look at the now iconic Kaoru Mitoma’s thesis story, and how it is helping him fly past dizzy defenders.

Kaoru Mitoma thesis- The background story

How many footballers get offered a professional deal by a club but reject it because they deem themselves to be physically not ready?

Kaoru Mitoma did. When offered a deal by J1 side Kawasaki Frontale, a 19-year-old Mitoma rejected it. Instead, he enrolled at the University of Tsukuba. He quickly realised that what he lacked in brawn at that age had to be overcome by training the brain. And what a training it was.

A pure footballer at heart, he quickly dove into the subject of dribbling headfirst. He turned out for his university’s football team and used that education to analyse his dribbling style. He studied what made a good dribbler through new and creative techniques.

In an interview with The Athletic, Mitoma explained,

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

Not content with visual footage, he analysed all aspects of what made one a good dribbler. Close control is foremost, but running style also makes an efficient dribbler. He sought out the advice of Satoru Tanigawa, an associate professor at his university and a 110m Olympic hurdler on optimum running styles.

Findings of the Kaoru Mitoma Thesis

Such deep and analytical work was not going to go to waste. His main finding came through his technique of putting cameras on his teammates’ foreheads. In the same interview with the Athletic, he opened up on this finding-

“I learned that the good players weren’t looking at the ball. They would look ahead, trap the ball without looking down at their feet. That was the difference.I am conscious of shifting the opponent’s centre of gravity. If I can move the opponent’s body, I win.”

Mitoma concluded his thesis with a message that, with the benefit of hindsight, is ominous reading for defenders who were about to face him. He wrote-

“The power of my characteristic dribbling has doubled.”

Effects on his game

Needless to say, Mitoma has exploded at every level since his thesis. After finishing his course at the university, he felt he was ready to take on the challenge of the Japanese league.

Signed by the same club whose advances he rebuffed earlier, Kawasaki Frontale, Mitoma took the J1 League by storm.

He struck 13 goals and laid on 12 assists in the season in his debut season, breaking numerous records in the process. That one season was enough to convince Brighton that Mitoma was a diamond in the rough who could be carved into something special. However, Mitoma spent another season in J1 League after which he was finally signed by Brighton, who loaned him to Union Saint-Gilloise.

Mitoma mania was by now up and running. His slick dribbling skills and ability to know when to release the ball blew away opponents. He had nine goal contributions in just 1,187 minutes of football, a very good figure for a player playing his first season in Europe.

Deemed ready for the rigours of the Premier League after the loan, the rest is history. As the Japanese superstar continues making defenders look silly, Kaoru Mitoma’s thesis on dribbling has achieved cult status.

Vatsal Gupta
A die-hard Red Devil, who has straight up not had a good time since 2012. Lives on Korean dramas and books and can often be heard talking about armchair psychological stuff.

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