Why Daizen Maeda has Ange Postecoglou's full confidence - despite Celtic striker's drought

There are growing concerns among the Celtic support that it doesn’t seem to be quite happening for Daizen Maeda. Such a downbeat conclusion, though, is one with which his manager Ange Postecoglou has absolutely no truck.

Celtic signed Daizen Maeda on January 01, 2022. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Celtic signed Daizen Maeda on January 01, 2022. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

There is no questioning the inexhaustible appetite and application of the 24-year-old. Facets all the more commendable since the Japanese attacker switched to Scottish football in January straight off a full season with Yokahama F Marinos, where his 23-goal haul made him the J-League’s joint top scorer.

Yet given the opportunity to play through the middle upfront owing to illness flooring Giorgos Giakoumakis, which the Greek has shaken off ahead of Sunday’s trip to Livingston, Maeda has not appeared to spark following the perfect start to his Celtic career that brought him a debut goal in a 2-0 home success over Hibs in late January.

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Service was certainly patchy for Maeda in Celtic’s scoreless draw away to Hibs last weekend and their 2-0 home victory over St Mirren on Wednesday. However, the player made little of whatever came his way, never convincing he could conjure up a goal.

Celtic Manager Ange Postecoglou has faith in Daizen Maeda and James Forrest (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
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That made for a sharp contrast with Giakoumakis perming a hat-trick from only 16 touches in the 3-2 success at home to Dundee a fortnight ago. Yet, for Postecoglou, any pooh-poohing of Maeda’s latest contribution, who does have four goals in 11 Celtic appearances, fails to recognise the importance of what he did produce in a tireless display.

“I thought he was outstanding the other night - his defensive work was terrific,” the Australian said of the Japanese forward. “People look for different things, but I know what I get from Daizen and why I brought him to this club. A lot of people don’t see the work he does. The reason St Mirren got nowhere near our penalty box was because Daizen was constantly pressuring their goalkeeper who is great with his feet. Every player has a role. Sometimes you don’t get all the headlines, but within the four walls at Celtic Park, he gets his due recognition.”

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Similar rash judgements have been made about where James Forrest currently finds himself. The 30-year-old Celtic winger, who has a 19 honour haul across his 12 senior seasons with his boyhood club, hasn’t exhibited the drive and rhythm of old in a stop-start campaign. Injury, and the form of Liel Abada and Jota have reduced him to a supporting role. Postecoglou has no doubt that Forrest will come to the fore again in a crucial run-in.

“James just needs a good run at it and unfortunately he’s not had that due to some interruptions,” the Celtic manager said. “But I thought James, Tommy Rogic and Nir Bitton were outstanding when they came on against St Mirren in midweek. Especially James, because that’s as bright as he’s been for us in quite a while. He was a real threat, he took people on. I know he’s still got it - it’s just a matter of him getting a run. He’s going to be a valuable contributor before the end of the season. People forget that it was his goal in the League Cup semi-final that got us to the final. James is still a man for the big moments and I’m sure we have some big ones ahead.”

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