Daizen Maeda has shown everything Ange needs from a Celtic forward
Only a couple of weeks ago, criticism seemed to making its way towards Celtic forward Daizen Maeda.
Though he’d scored goals – he opened his account mere minutes into his debut – Celtic went through a frustrating wee spell in late February. Despite the creativity of Liel Abada and Jota either side of him, Maeda didn’t make many inroads away at Hibernian.
Against Bodo/Glimt, yes he scored, but he had a couple more chances that would’ve been huge in getting Celtic back into the tie. Ultimately, that didn’t happen. But against Livingston and Dundee United, he’s again shown just how important he can be.
Whether on the wing or up front, the guy is a threat. Ange Postecoglou has already identified his physical attributes as being “elite level”, and it’s hard to argue. Last night, he wasn’t on the scoresheet, but his impact was immense.
Ignoring for a second that he had a perfectly good goal chalked off, Maeda was a constant threat down the left. Kieran Freeman put in a competent performance against him, but facing that kind of electrifying pace is always going to be a hard shift.
And so it proved. Specifically for the second goal Celtic scored last night. Just look at the way he receives the pass here, via Celtic’s Unique Angle, at 29 seconds [Celtic FC]. Then, he drifts inside, forcing two Dundee United players to track his movement, before heading on the outside again.
He gets his head up at 34 seconds, and sees Giakoumakis’ run outside the six-yard box. The cross is excellent – and though it gets a helping hand from Benjamin Siegrist, the ball attacks the area where Giakoumakis should be anyway, and has been before. It’s an easy finish for the Greek striker, after Siegrist’s error.
That sequence, though, shows so much. Coming from deep, his ability to read situations quickly, force defenders out of position, and cause utter panic is vital. In fairness to Siegrist, the pace on the ball is hard to read, and it’s at a relatively tricky height for him.
Against Livingston, his impact was different, scoring from centimetres out. What he brings from a defensive point of view also needs considered, though. Greg Taylor has already praised his efforts on that front, calling him “second to none”.
Daizen Maeda has frightening potential with Celtic
As if it needs reminding; Daizen Maeda played a full season of football before coming to Celtic, without a break. Then he was called up to the national team, having only just joined us. He’s got considerable miles on the clock over 2021 and 2022.
Even then, Ange Postecoglou is trying him in different areas, and it’s broadly working. Yes, there was a spell when he wasn’t quite as prolific as we’d have liked. Yet, it’s hard to argue with his work rate, his ability on the ball, and the potential of what’s to come.
Long-term, any number of combinations involving Maeda is exciting. He and Kyogo Furuhashi are still to play together. The two of them playing off Giakoumakis could work, as could sticking Abada on the right, Kyogo on the left and Maeda in the middle. Each player have the versatility to do that.
The point being, Ange Postecoglou has either signed players with the adaptability across attacking positions, or is working to ensure those at the club can do just that. James Forrest, in his recent appearances, has looked far sharper, and is enjoying the license to come infield.
The attacking combinations are frightening. The more Maeda grows into his role at Celtic, the more effective he’ll be, and at 24, he’s not even near his peak yet.
With such a range of attributes, he was the perfect January signing. Goodness knows we’ve needed depth, but Maeda has star power beyond durability.
He’ll become even more vital for Ange the longer he’s here.
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