Japan and Korea stars look to make bigger impact in Premier League

Shinji Kagawa needs to get more starts for United to increase his profile in England.
Shinji Kagawa needs to get more starts for United to increase his profile in England. Photo: PA

The new season marks an important time for the Asian playing contingent in the Premier League with five players looking to forge ahead and make a bigger impact than last time out. With the Asian market becoming increasingly important for the bottom line, the five teams where they ply their trade are hoping they can too. We take a look at the Big Five and see how they can make their mark:

1) Shinji Kagawa. Last season the Japanese international showed flashes of the majestic midfield trickery that persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to part with a rumoured £17m, however injuries and bench warming only saw him make 29 appearances. When he was on song, he was grace personified as anyone who witnessed his sublime hat-trick against Norwich City at Old Trafford could attest. He exuded a Pirloesque aura that opened up yards of space around him at every turn. United fans are praying he can replicate that type of attacking thrust with David Moyes' midfield looking shorn of central class outside of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, Anderson somehow hanging around to underperform again. Dortmund were rumoured to be looking to bring the 24-year-old back to the Bundesliga in the close season, therefore Kagawa needs to excel and fast in this transitionary side.

2) Maya Yoshida. The six foot two inch centre-back has all the ingredients to thrive in the top flight. Whether he can put it all together for a season at Southampton in a sometimes suspect defence, alongside either Dejan Lovren or Jose Fonte, is another matter. He made 34 appearances for the Saints last season, his far from memorable substitute debut in the 6-1 Arsenal humbling ensuring he was under no illusions as to the size of his task upon arriving from Dutch side VVV-Venlo where he had scored "Goal of the Year 2011–2012" with a quite sensational bicycle kick against PSV Eindhoven. It will fall on boss Mauricio Pochettino as to how much playing time he gets, however his international experience for Japan alongside Kagawa should come in handy especially with youngsters Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne either side at full-back needing a "veteran" head when both fit.

3) Ji Dong-Won. Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has kept the 22-year-old in the squad for the start of the new campaign, despite the South Korean's successful loan spell at FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga towards the back end of last season. An elusive attacking threat up front when clicking, the former Chunnam Dragons player could offer something different off the bench or even from the start if the likes of Jozy Altidore, Stephane Sessegnon, Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham fail to muster much goal threat. He has weighed in with nearly 10 goals in over 20 appearances for South Korea, therefore will probably seek another loan move if Di Canio decides to go with the more established strikers when everyone is fully fit to get in shape for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Ki Sung-Yueng will be looking to impress more for Swansea City this season.
Ki Sung-Yueng will be looking to impress more for Swansea City this season. Credit: PA

4) Ki Sung-Yueng. The 24-year-old midfielder was sent to Australia by his father to play football and learn English in his early teens, but opted for a return to his homeland when he kicked off his professional career at FC Seoul in 2006. His poise on the ball and eye for a cute pass saw him pick up valuable experience in the first team when given a chance to shine and an international debut in 2008 put him firmly on the worldwide stage. His Asian Champions League heroics earned him a cut-price move to Celtic where Tony Mowbray soon began to rely on him to pull the strings in the former Celtic player's only season as manager. Neil Lennon helped Ki's progress when he took over in the dugout, however several teams across Europe were circling and Swansea landed him last summer in a £6m deal. What did the Swans get from him last season? He racked up 27 starts, however failed to find the net and could only manage three assists. He has come off the bench late in the first two games of this season, therefore he will need to make his minutes count if he is to have a chance of winning over Michael Laudrup with even more summer midfield arrivals competing for places.

5) Kim Bo-Kyung. The attacking South Korean has already made his mark on the international scene with nearly 20 appearances and, much like his pals Ji and Ki, wants as much playing time as possible this season to cement his place for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Out of the five Asian players in the top flight, Kim looks like having the best chance of a regular spot after starting the season opener for Cardiff City against West Ham. He was subbed with 15 minutes left, after spurning a great chance with Craig Bellamy best placed to score, therefore he will need to learn quick that you must take your chances when moving up to the cutthroat Premier League from the Championship. He only managed two goals and three assists last season in the second tier, therefore questions remain whether he has the predatory instinct needed to boost his profile in England and further in Asia.