The Celtic selection headache Ange Postecoglou can inflict on the SPFL with Maeda, Hatate and Ideguchi

The triple transfer market manoeuvring at the new year, swelling Celtic’s Japanese contingent to four, has given way to intrigue over how the three latest arrivals might fit into Ange Postecoglou’s team set-up.

Yosuke Ideguchi, formerly of Gamba Osaka, has moved to Celtic this month. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)
Yosuke Ideguchi, formerly of Gamba Osaka, has moved to Celtic this month. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

Until the season resumes with Celtic’s cinch Premiership hosting of Hibs on January 17, the Australian’s plans for attacker Daizen Maeda, utility performer Reo Hatate and midfield screener Yosuke Ideguchi can only be speculated. Yet, there is one burning question that dwarfs others: will Postecoglou unleash the constantly-on-the-move Maeda in tandem with equally zippy countryman Kyogo Furuhashi?

It hardly seems possible, but the energy and industry of J-League top scorer Maeda is supposed to put even the lacerating run-making of Furuhashi in the shade. A number of Japanese football experts believe, for that reason, the Celtic manager must consider combining the two to put opposition defences in a head spin. And there isn’t merely one strategy that would allow that to happen.

In a piece in The Times, long-time Postecoglou assistant and confidante of the 56-year-old Peter Cklamovski maintained his friend’s Japanese triple signing would give him more suitable personnel to double-down on his 4-3-3 shape, which he claimed Maeda would be “brilliant” in.

New Celtic signing Daizen Maeda. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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“Kyogo and Maeda are interchangeable,” he said. “They can play centre forward or that wider, winger-type position, both of them no problem at all. That will be Ange’s decision to make based on what the availability is, what the schedule is like, how he’s going to rotate his squad. That’s the power of it – he can play them in a few positions and know they’ll be OK, that they’ll adapt. In terms of formation, 4-3-3 will be the way he wants to maintain the evolution of the team. I’d be surprised if he moves away from it. These recruits support him maintaining it with a bit more variety and depth within a squad selection. He obviously needs depth and he’s certainly got it with these boys.”

Maeda in the wide right role, with Jota to the left of centrally-situated Furuhashi is the forward line to allow Celtic to intensify their front-foot press, then. With David Turnbull out until March, in that configuration Hatate - right-footed, but capable of playing anywhere on the left or across the attacking midfield line – could be the playmaking twin for Tom Rogic. Meanwhile, Ideguchi, who had a patchy last season in his homeland, is likely to be back-up for the anchor role that Callum McGregor tends to occupy, and has been filled by Nir Bitton and James McCarthy in recent months.

However, there is another possible moulding of Maeda into his new team’s structure. It may have been forced on the Celtic manager by injury and covid issues, but the Boxing Day switch to a 3-4-1-2 for the 3-1 victory away St Johnstone seemed to offer good balance while reducing the reliance of Furuhashi as the lone central striker. Although the Japanese striker was lost to injury within 15 minutes, it seemed to give another dimension to Celtic’s forward play to have Liel Abada – who claimed a double – alongside him. The boundless Maeda would surely offer likewise. And, if he can deliver on his renown for ripping forward with ceaseless stamina, the twin-striker deployment could be the means to give opposition backlines almighty headaches.

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Reo Hatate has swapped Kawasaki Frontale for Celtic and the SPFL cinch Premiership. (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)
Ideguchi, who wants to be known as ‘Guchi’, will wear number 21 for Celtic. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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