Three Japanese players have been involved in Celtic’s season to date, when the World Cup squad was announced by Hajime Moriyasu there were a couple of elements of surprise for Hoops supporters.
Daizen Maeda is a very decent player, a valued member of Ange Postecoglou’s squad but in no way as influential as his team-mates Kyogo Furuhashi or Reo Hatate.
Kyogo was the trailblazer last summer, scoring a hat-trick on his home debut against Dundee then shaking off a hamstring injury to turn around the League Cup Final with a 2-1 win against Hibs.
Alongside Hatate he’ll be watching Maeda from afar over the coming weeks.
Kyogo’s contribution whetted the appetite for more signings from the J-League, on December 31 Ange Postecoglou duly delivered with Hatate, Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi announced to send supporters into the new year in a happy place as they scanned J-League sites for details on the new arrivals.
Ideguchi was never a contender for the international squad but playing in Europe seemed to be the route to Qatar for the others as they attempted to cement their place in Moriyasu’s squad.
Maeda has very much been hit or miss. His industry is incredible, he covers an incredible amount of ground but playing as a winger or striker his finishing is a something of a let down. There are goals, recently away to Hearts and Motherwell but there could and should be an awful lot more from the former Yokohama F Marinos striker.
In contrast, playing exclusively as a striker for Celtic, Kyogo has delivered in front of goal. Starting 11 of Celtic’s 15 SPFL matches and making two appearances off the bench he has scored 10 goals. Importantly, seven of those goals have opened the scoring. With Celtic routinely playing against packed defences breaking the deadlock is critical, Kyogo delivers.
Hatate has been a real find. When you score twice in the opening 45 minutes of your first appearance in the Glasgow derby your status is assured but in the closing stages of last season he was turning in laboured performances as the toll of switching almost instantly from the full J-League season into the nitty gritty of an SPFL battle took its toll.
In the Champions League this season Hatate has starred. Despite Celtic’s results the midfielder, in tandem with Matt O’Riley, has looked very comfortable playing against the elite of the European game.
Celtic fans don’t know the depth of the squad and options open to Moriyasu but they do know their football. Japan must have some exceptional midfielders to keep Hatate out, in attack Maeda has his merits but for movement, vision, anticipation and conversion rates Kyogo outscores the undoubted industry of Maeda every time.
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