Ryotaro Meshino had a bright start to life at Hearts after a loan switch from Manchester City. But as of late, the skillful Japanese youth international has found maroon opportunities hard to come by.
His only appearance of 2020 came from the start against St Johnstone in a 3-3 draw. He was hooked after an hour and was subsequently left out of the 18-man squad that drew 2-2 with Hamilton.
There’s no denying his talent, it was on full beam early on and in scattered flashes throughout this campaign. Consistency hasn’t always been quite there but Meshino seems to be another Jambo who Daniel Stendel isn’t fully sold on quite yet.
But with talent and skill in abundance, why is such a creative player finding Gorgie opportunities limited?
Against Motherwell in September, Meshino almost single handedly scraped a draw for then-boss Craig Levein. He hassled the Well in his cameo sub appearance and notched an excellent curled strike as Hearts eventually went down 3-2.
Away to Hibs the week after he was excellent and another good finish hit the net against Rangers. It all looked so promising, but under Stendel, Meshino has made 4 appearances in the German’s 13-game reign so far.
A trip to represent his national team at the turn of the year must be factored into that but it appears as if Stendel is opting for other options. Even youngsters like Euan Henderson and Lewis Moore have shuffled ahead of him in the pecking order.
Whilst some of his performances haven’t hit the heights of his earlier displays, it’s still surprising to see Meshino seemingly edging further and further out of the maroon plans with every passing matchday.
Gegenpressing doesn’t suit him
Meshino is a player who likes to get on the ball and drive at the defence with speed and dribbling. One area which isn’t a strong point of his is pressing the backline for 90 minutes, a key requirement of Stendel’s gegenpressing.
It’s very much defend from the front now at Hearts and Meshino perhaps hasn’t quite got the engine for it. Of his 17 Premierships appearances for the Jambos, only nine have been starts, completing 90 minutes just three times.
It may be taking time for Meshino to get to grips with Stendel’s demands but time is running out. Hearts can’t afford to have players finding their feet in his system just now, they need results, and fast.
Currently bottom of the league, those who can contribute in the here and now will take precedence over the likes of Meshino who are learning about the gegenpressing system.
His last goal, against Aberdeen in December, was another reminder there is a special player in Manchester City’s summer acquisition from Japan. It’s just a case of finding that player.
Should he adapt to Stendel’s system though, the Citizens loanee will no doubt become a creative luxury at Tynecastle. That has to come to the forefront pretty soon though.