ISL Player of the Week - Round 9: Arata Izumi
Positioned at the left-wing, the minute he received the ball as a viewer one was almost certain he would try and take on the full-back. With an ever so slight feign to the right, Arata Izumi poked the ball to the left and ran past the full-back with east to whip in a floater across the Kerala Blasters goal.
Little did he know that the ball would somehow beat everyone and find the back of the net. But it did, much to the 60,000 strong home crowd’s dismay. The element of luck in that goal could not be disregarded.
But, Izumi couldn’t care less. That goal was his third in a season where the Indian international has shown what coach Antonio Habas was missing. Arata has only played 5 out of the 10 matches for Kolkata this season. At time’s he has been used as a super sub. The management relies on him to make an instant impact when Atletico aren’t in a favorable position.
Over the course of this season, Atletico de Kolkata have produced an efficient brand of football where they’re set up to defend deep when playing against better quality teams. At the same time, the team’s midfield provides fluidity when going forward which is central to a side that naturally adopts a more defensive approach.
Fighting for a place in this midfield set up is the 33-year-old Izumi who seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to finding the back of the net. The first foreign-born player to ever play for India has almost a goal per game to his name.
Much of that comes down to the way he positions himself in clever positions all across the midfield. Never confined to one single position, the former East Bengal man hovers across the middle of the park, at times on the left or on the right. Izumi often finds himself in central positions as well and has the ability to release players with his crisp passing which hasn’t been talked about much.
Brought on in the 66th minute by Habas, Izumi replaced Gavilan and immediately injected some much-needed energy into Atletico’s approach. The attacking midfielder started asking question of the Kerala defence, making them run around and dragging them out of position.
Arata has always been a smart player and knows a thing or two about timing. He gave the Kolkata side the lead in the match against the Blasters when his attempted cross from a counter-attack floated into the back of the net, eluding everyone, making the score 2-1.
Kerala seemed to have steadied themselves after that goal and went on to immediately equalise, scoring through German. Izumi though, definitely wasn’t ready to settle for a draw.
With almost the last kick of the match, he finished off what was a devastating break by the away team, slotting in the winner in the 90th minute. His late brace proved to be instrumental as he led his side to a thrilling 3-2 win.
That win means Habas’s men continue to be in the fray for that elusive top four spot. As a defender, one of the things you don’t like is a sudden burst by an opposition player into the box. It can make a defender look silly and expose his marking skills as well.
Arata has a habit of entering the box late and always seems to anticipate a cross whenever he sits in that attacking midfield position. With almost striker-like instincts, he is a very resourceful addition to Kolkata’s limited strikers, who at times have been crowded out by opposition defenders.
Every coach loves a goal scoring midfielder and in Arata Izumi, Atletico de Kolkata have a pretty effective one. Izumi’s goals against Kerala potentially could help Atletico stay in the top 4, considering how other results went and his return could also help relieve the burden on Iain Hume.
For his role in Atletico’s win over Kerala, despite being a substitute, he is our Player of the Week.