FORMER Celtic goal hero Chris Sutton believes he has pinpointed the reason for the worrying pause in Kyogo Furuhashi’s striking rate at the champions this season.
The one-time England international insists the Japanese frontman is “too good for this Celtic team”.
Kyogo’s figure have dropped off alarmingly in comparison with his tally this time last term and he had to be content with a substitute appearance in the dramatic, nerve-shredding 2-1 triumph over Hibs at Easter Road in midweek.
It was the fleet-footed hitman who was sent sprawling as the encounter was coming a conclusion with the Hoops on the brink of shedding two crucial points for the second consecutive game after the dismal 1-1 stalemate against Aberdeen at Pittodrie last weekend.
FALLEN IDOL…Kyogo Furuhashi is left grounded following the challenge that won Celtic their late penalty-kick winner at Easter Road.
And as Kyogo lay on the turf after the desperate challenge from Joe Newell just inside the box, VAR ordered referee Nick Walsh to review the incident after missing the foul first time-around.
Inevitably, the spot-kick was awarded and new Bhoy Adam Idah, chosen ahead of the fans’ favourite to start the match in Edinburgh, swept in in his second spot-kick of the evening to seal a vital triumph.
Sutton is concerned at the lack of a goal threat from the forward who hit the ground running in his Hoops career when he joined in a £4.6million switch from Vissel Kobe in late July 2021.
The ex-Celtic marksman said: “Kyogo Furuhashi is having his influence absolutely killed.
“There’s a real chance it may lead to the slow death of Celtic’s title bid. Brendan Rodgers has been outspoken about needing quality, yet he can’t find a way to get the best out of the highest-quality striker in the country.
“Now he’s been left out of the side. If that continues, could it lead to him inevitably looking to leave? Kyogo has gone from being the most-feared forward in Scotland to barely getting a chance in a game.
“It’s actually quite remarkable and, for me, it’s not got that much to do with the boy himself.
MERCHANT OF MENACE…Kyogo Furuhashi takes on Hibs midfielder Joe Newell.
“Now, listen, before I go any further, this is no slight on Adam Idah. The Irish striker was given an opportunity against Hibs and he grabbed it with his two goals. Idah might do well for Celtic, but don’t tell me he’s a better striker than Kyogo.
“It’s almost painful to see what has happened to the Japanese over the past few months. The guy scored 27 league goals in 31 starts last season. Eight in 21 this season.
“He is a difference maker. He’s shown it for two seasons as a big-game player.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Kyogo’s record against Rangers is phenomenal. He’s a proven matchwinner who is sharper in movement and brain than anyone else in the Premiership.
“His awareness with the give and go and shot that won the second penalty at Easter Road decided the game. It’s the drop in levels around him which is the problem. Not Kyogo.
“That’s on the slip in standards of his supply line. Ange Postecoglou found a way to supply him Rodgers has not.
“We keep hearing the need for speed, yet Celtic have a guy with the sharpest feet and the sharpest mind who hasn’t operated fully due to team who, for most of the season, have gone through the motions.
“It’s Brendan’s failure if he doesn’t find a way to get the best out of Kyogo.
GLASGOW BELONGS TO ME…Kyogo Furuhashi beats Connor Goldson to fire Celtic’s derby winner behind keeper Jack Butland.
“Celtic have a proven gem who’s on a different wavelength to most around him and it’s a failure of the environment. In truth, he’s currently too good for this Celtic team.
“I’m not saying you build a team around one guy, but you definitely find your best stars and get something that works for him. No-one can watch Celtic just now and say that is happening. It defies logic.”
Top media pundit Sutton added: “Think back to the amount of goals Kyogo scored under Postecoglou when one of Celtic’s wide men raced away on the flank, squared a ball across the box and the livewire was there to knock it into the net.
“It’s so rare now. The wide players are nowhere near the standard needed at the moment.
“Luis Palma has done alright for me, but he’s no Jota and the way he constantly chopped back inside onto his right foot from the left flank at Aberdeen was remarkable. How is Kyogo going to get his chances when that is happening?
“Liel Abada didn’t do much down his side, but it still left me quite shocked when all three were just dumped onto the bench for Hibs. It was almost like they were being made scapegoats for Pittodrie and there wasn’t much change in affairs at Easter Road.
HEAVENS ABOVE…Kyogo Furuhashi looks skywards as he continues his pursuit of Celtic goals.
“Nicolas Kuhn displayed that Palma trait of coming inside. He didn’t look as if he wanted to take his full-back on to the byeline. Neat and tidy, but more is needed and the welcome afforded to Daizen Maeda said plenty.
“Now I like the Japanese for his energy and his workrate, but you would have thought this was Lionel Messi coming back.
“Maeda actually looked the biggest threat in Leith running in behind, but there was still a lack of quality delivery and it’s just not happening for any of them.
“Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate are big losses and Celtic have to find a way to cope with their absences better, But the biggest issue of the lot is Kyogo. He is a pale shadow of the striker who lit up Scotland for two seasons.
“With three goals in his last 15 outings, he’s not even a certain starter anymore. That’s a staggering state of play and he’s been the victim of lacklustre work around him.”