Celtic’s great footballing corridors has introduced an influx of Japanese players over the last year with Hoops boss, Ange Postecoglou, using his niche knowledge of the transfer market in order to bring lesser-known talent to Parkhead.
With the Old Firm side winning the league last term and embarking on a 38-game unbeaten streak in the Premiership, it’s more than paid off.
The chief operator when it comes to the club’s Japanese quartet is none other than Kyogo Furuashi, a diminutive and wily goal-scoring sensation.
The forward has found the net on 27 occasions in the famous green and white hoops while registering six assists in the process.
One of those assists came in the Champions League on Wednesday night as he turned provider for Jota to score the equalising goal. A 3-1 defeat eventuality left Postecoglou and his players crestfallen but they were hardly helped by Kyogo’s compatriots against Leipzig.
Indeed, speaking of Reo Hatate’s performance yesterday night, journalist Josh Bunting said the opening 45 minutes was the “worst” he has seen from the Japanese midfielder.
Their fellow Japan international in Daizen Maeda hardly covered himself in glory either.
The 24-year-old has scored just once in 12 outings across all competitions this term, supporting Mark Hendry’s claim that the attacker leaves “a lot to be desired.”
Such a harsh suggestion was made before the club’s clash with RB Leipzig when the journalist said Sead Haksabanovic would have been a more suitable alternative.
Jota and Kyogo were always going to start in such an important clash but Maeda was preferred to both James Forrest and the aforementioned Swedish winger.
Unfortunately, Hendry’s words were no mere coincidence with Postecoglou perhaps ruing his decision to stick with the forward.
Celtic were never going to have too much of the ball in Germany and that was evidenced in the anonymous display that Maeda turned in with the £15.5k-per-week earner unable to truly have his say on proceedings.
It has been a disappointing campaign for the £3.1m-rated man so far and it didn’t get much better against Leipzig either.
Hauled off with 15 minutes left to play, the January addition’s lack of threat was clear to see. He had made just eight passes by that point and had managed only 31 touches, 27 fewer than goalkeeper Joe Hart.
From that, Maeda gave the ball away 13 times, once in every 2.3 touches, failed to have a shot and didn’t complete his one and only dribble attempt either.
He was also a lightweight physically, seemingly being bullied by the German side’s defence with the Celtic star losing 70% of his duels.
It might not have been a nightmare display in Germany but it’s one that should have sent alarm bells ringing in the manager’s ear with one of his most trusted assets failing him.
As the aforementioned Hendry alluded to, perhaps the Australian was better selecting Haksabanovic in the absence of Liel Abada – who was respecting the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The Champions League is undoubtedly a tough gig, but Postecoglou is learning plenty about his players and indeed himself. For the rest of the competition, his team selection will need to improve, and so will the performances of those he ultimately picks.