WHAT ON earth has happened to Kyogo Furuhashi?

The Japanese striker was as sharp as a sausage at Hampden yesterday and it was only a matter of time before Brendan Rodgers produced the hook.

Kyogo was removed from the action just after the hour mark to make way for Adam Idah, an action which has become fairly routine since the Republic of Ireland international frontman arrived on loan from Norwich City in January.

Of course, it proved to be a fairly inspired substitution by the manager as the replacement rattled in the winner with the dreaded extra-time looming on the horizon.

Kyogo applauded from the touchline, but you must wonder what was going through his mind at the time. Did he believe he should have been out there in the thick of it with his team-mates?

CROWDED OUT…Kyogo Furuhashi is outnumbered by defensive duo Ben Davies and Leon Balogun as he tries to find a gap in the Ibrox rearguard.

The Kyogo of the first two seasons at the club would have been chomping at the bit to be involved at the sharp end of business.

Football, as we all know, is a results-driven business. If a manager doesn’t produce, he will surely be aware that a P45 will be coming his way.

Similarly, strikers are judged on their scoring rate. The popular Japanese hitman’s return in this campaign has been somewhat perplexing.

His first season was just about decimated with two separate injuries and he was forced to sit out four month. However, he still finished with 20 goals, including a double in the League Cup Final success against Hibs in December 2021 to give Ange Postecoglou his first taste of silverware in this country.

Last term, Kyogo was virtually injury-free as he walloped in 34 goals, which also included a double strike in another League Cup triumph – this time against Rangers – and he was on hand just before the interval he produced a trademark dart into the danger zone to clip a right-wing pass from Matt O’Riley into the Inverness Caley Thistle net in the 3-1 Scottish Cup Final victory.

Almost a year later, Kyogo went into the showpiece encounter against Philippe Clement’s side with 19 goals to his credit.

FANS’ FAVOURITE…Kyogo Furuhashi shares the joy after claiming the first of his double in Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hearts at Parkhead.

Admittedly, two were crucial matchwinners in tense derby encounters at Ibrox in September and Parkhead in December, but it was rather odd to note his last goal away from the east end of Glasgow had come against St Mirren in the 2-0 Scottish Cup win on February 11.

Back in August 2021, Kyogo introduced himself to the Celtic supporters with a convincing hat-trick in a 6-0 mauling of Dundee at Parkhead. It was love at first sight in Paradise.

The nearest he got to three strikes in one game this time around was his double in the 3-0 home victory over Hearts at the beginning of this month.

That’s a fairly alarming dip in standards although I do accept the player has had an injury issue with a left shoulder, but surely that problem has been resolved.

So, I return to the original query: What on earth has happened to Kyogo?

Brendan Rodgers insists he has not asked the attacker to change his style or adapt dramatically to a new formation. That admission simply adds to the mystery.

Kyogo could make an argument he was more likely to be presented with opportunities when Liel Abada and Filipe Jota were providing service from the flanks.

HAMPDEN HAPPY DAYS…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates one of his double in last season’s 2-1 League Cup Final triumph over Ibrox opposition. A delighted Greg Taylor joins in.

Daizen Maeda remains, of course, but this season has seen the introduction of Nicolas Kuhn, Luis Palma and Yang Hyun-jun.

It’s concerning news for any striker that all three prefer to come inside and have a go at goal themselves.

I’m a fan of the Wee Man and I take all that on board, but it doesn’t explain Kyogo’s sudden inability to bring a simple pass under control. Balls that used to be killed in an instant and controlled in a heartbeat are now bouncing off his shins or going under his feet.

That’s more than puzzling. It would appear his international manager, Hajime Moriyasu, is not in a quandary about the current form of the attacker and has overlooked his qualities for the nation’s two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Maybe the head coach is spoiled for choice in his striking department. I confess I am not up to speed with the goalscoring riches that are available to the Japanese team chief.

However, we all know that a top form Kyogo, a menacing presence in and around the opposition’s penalty area, would walk into any team.

We can only hope the 29-year-old marksman comes up with an answer.

Some time early in season 2024/25 would be perfect.


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