Brendan Rodgers post-match press conference in Yokohama was interesting on two fronts. Almost a year after sustaining a shoulder injury, the manager revealed Kyogo did not start the game as the same issue left him short of the fitness levels even his team-mates were at. If the medics have not resolved the issue by now, it is likely Kyogo will have a persistent weakness in the joint.
A more positive note was struck when discussing Daizen Maeda, Rogers said, “I thought Daizen was outstanding. I like him more through the middle. I think he does a good job on the side, but there is a reason he plays for Japan through the middle.”
This could be taken for a platitude to a player who scored a hat-trick, but Brendan added detail, “I like players at the top end who can really press the game and Daizen can definitely do that.
“It’s just about adding to players’ development. Daizen is still a young player who can improve. Of course, his strength is running in behind, but sometimes there won’t always be that space. So, can we develop his game and get him into areas he can work the defenders?”
That last point is critical. In 90% of Celtic’s domestic games there is no space for Daizen to exploit, at first pass, his greatest asset is unsuited to our game. “Can we develop his game and get him into areas he can work the defenders?”
I have no idea what that will look like. The best example of Daizen at Celtic was at Ibrox in January, when he ran through the opposition defence to open the scoring, but that game was ultimately rescued by the innate ability of Kyogo to find space inside the box. When fit, Kyogo will remain out top striker this season.
It has been four years since Brendan watched a bank of five defenders on the edge of their box with another four a few yards in front, so close, they could almost hold hands, his memory of what’s in store may be more generous to our standard opponents than they deserve. Working them is entirely desirable, I just don’t see where Daizen will do this, if not on the wing.