With just one more senior game played than years spent on this planet, it seems fairly obvious Osaze Urhoghide was recruited to Celtic with an eye on the future rather than the present.
The 20-year-old has a number of attributes which the club’s coaching staff and development team will look to work on in the coming years. It’s possible, of course, they may envision him to come into the line-up right away. He did, after all, play regularly in the latter half of the 2021/22 Championship season for a Sheffield Wednesday side fighting against relegation. But if Celtic have serious aspirations of overtaking Rangers and making a return to the Champions League – and, in Old Firm DNA, there is rarely another alternative except shooting for the top – they’ll be looking for someone more refined, especially if Kristoffer Ajer exits this summer as expected.
The first thing that sticks out is his blend of size and pace. He could do with bulking up a little bit more, as his frame is a little lanky, but at 6ft 2in there’s still enough physicality there, while he’ll immediately be one of the quickest centre-backs in this country. Even if he’s thrown into the deep end, this should stand him in good stead as Celtic will be able to play the high line without any Shane Duffy-esque concerns.
He’s also enthusiastic about taking the ball for a run. His 1.74 one-v-one dribbles per 90 minutes is a large number for a central defender and was more than Kristoffer Ajer last year (per Wyscout). Even if you remove the games in which he played at right-back, his average would still rank comfortable in the top 10 of Scottish Premiership centre-backs in 2020/21.
For someone so young and inexperienced, one aspect of his defensive game which is mightily impressive is the restraint he shows when pressuring attackers. He very rarely dives in, instead choosing to get his body into opponents who have their back to goal, or creating an obstacle for those charging at him. His long legs enable him to knock the ball away from advancing attackers without having to slide.
He displays little fear on the defensive end, racking up an eye-catching 12.5 defensive duels per 90 minutes. This could partly be attributed to him largely playing on either side of a back three, where there’s more encouragement and security to close down the man in possession, but it portrays a proactive streak nonetheless.
There are a couple of areas Celtic would like to improve imminently. Firstly, he’s quite weak in the air for someone with his size, posting a 54.7 success rate for his career (Duffy won over 80 per cent last term, for comparison). He doesn’t have a bad leap, but instead bad habits. He doesn’t have a great sense of how to use his body to gain leverage on an attacker, while his judging of high balls certainly needs work. And while he is to be commended for only going to ground when necessary, he still manages to give away a number of fouls.
All in all, Celtic have got themselves an interesting project and one who certainly appears like he could be worth the time and effort.