Despite losing former manager Graham Potter to Chelsea early on in the season, Brighton and Hove Albion has not missed a step under new manager Roberto de Zerbi. Ironically, Brighton are above Chelsea in the Premier League table even after losing Potter, as Brighton is seventh with 35 points and Chelsea is 10th with 31 points. The Seagulls’ impressive season has been helped by someone who has taken well to the Premier League: Kaoru Mitoma.
A signing that went under the radar
Brighton brought in Mitoma during the 2021 summer transfer window for a reported fee of €3 million and then loaned him out to Belgian side Union St. Gilloise for the full 2021/2022 season. While in Belgium, Mitoma made 29 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals and tallying four assists. Twelve goal contributions in a new league is something that should not be overlooked. It was a sign of things to come for the Japanese international in the Premier League.
Mitoma did not have the typical career path as a professional footballer; he turned down a professional contract at sixteen years old to attend college. Yet, he still had goals of being a professional footballer after graduating. Mitoma ended up studying dribbling to complete his graduation thesis. After graduating from Tsukuba University, Mitoma signed with Kawasaki Frontale.
An impressive debut season for Brighton
Mitoma has had an influential debut season for the Seagulls. Brighton and Hove Albion has not seen a drop in performances even after losing Leandro Trossard to Arsenal, which plays the same position as Mitoma on the left wing. Mitoma can also play left-midfield in a more defensive role, but usually occupies the left wing.
The 25-year-old has five goals and one assist in 17 Premier League appearances this season. He has made 22 appearances in all competitions so far, scoring seven goals and adding on two assists. He scored a fantastic volley in the 92nd minute in an F.A. Cup replay that sent Liverpool home.
As mentioned previously, Mitoma has a knack for taking defenders on and flying past them. When that is combined with the pace he has, he is a nightmare for defenders. It’s no surprise that Mitoma can score goals as he did against Liverpool as he studied dribbling while at college.
His education seems to have aided his dribbling ability as he has about four dribbles per game this season, with 46 dribbles in total. Additionally, he has about 2.3 successful dribbles per game, with 26 dribbles in total. Mitoma is no stranger to big matches either. As Mitoma scored against Liverpool in the F.A. Cup, he also scored against Arsenal home and away.
Mitoma will be key in the Seagulls’ push for European football. He has proven himself thus far in the Premier League and has not shown many signs of slowing down. However, if he continues on this impressive season he is having, there will be many top clubs interested in the winger during the summer transfer window. Brighton will have a tough call to make at the end of the season with several of their key players, including Mitoma.