Kyogo, Giakoumakis and the Ange Postecoglou stance that's best for Celtic

By Dave Flanigan

August 13, 2022

There’s an unmistakable sense of dread when a striker misses a decisive early chance at a new club.

Supporters who haven’t erased the Tony Mowbray season from their collective consciousness will remember Marc Antoine Fortune’s early glaring miss against Dinamo Moscow in the 1-0 defeat to the Russian side in a Champions League qualifier.

Although the Bhoys would go on to win the tie, and Fortune would finish the season with 10 goals in all competitions, the miss set the trend for his Celtic career, and he would re-join West Bromwich Albion 12 months after arriving in Glasgow.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Giorgos Giakoumakis bucked this trend after his late penalty miss in the 0-0 draw against Livingston in October 2021, following his arrival from VVV-Venlo in the summer.

The Greek recovered from this early setback, as well as several injury layoffs, to enjoy a fruitful second half of the campaign in the extended absence of Kyogo Furuhashi, helping himself to 17 goals and finishing the Scottish Premiership’s joint top goal-scorer.

Giakoumakis is almost a throwback penalty box striker, coming alive when the ball breaks close to the opposition goal, but with largely little input outside the area. Despite calls to pair the two strikers in the side when both are fit, Postecoglou has good reason to have faith in his lone striker system.

Why Postecoglou favours a lone striker

From the limited timeframe in which both were available, Postecoglou appears to favour Kyogo, who more naturally fits his manager’s natural style.

Celtic adapted to fit Giakoumakis’ inclusion in the title run-in, isolating the striker in the box, in stark contrast to Furuhashi or Maeda’s darting runs and, both often dropping off to pull spaces between opposition defenders.

This was largely a departure from how Celtic had used their strikers under Postecoglou up to that point, even the fairly unsuited Albian Ajeti had attempted to move deep to receive the ball in his short run in the side in the autumn.

Key to Postecoglou’s system is both numerical and qualitive superiority, forcing opposition teams to condense space to accommodate Celtic’s extra bodies in the middle – numerical superiority, thus presenting Celtic with potential 1 vs 1 opportunities out wide for their best technical players in those situations – qualitive superiority.

This ties into Celtic’s counter-pressing without the ball, with more players centrally giving shorter distances to cover to recover the ball when possession is turned over by opposition teams, and with more scope to progress the ball when they get it back.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Celtic’s formation is so unwavering because it’s the foundation upon which Postecoglou’s football operates. Inverted full backs tucking in with a single deep midfielder, and two “8”s pushing up to join the attack are so critical to how his teams play that attempting a formation allowing for two strikers would throw a wrench in the works of “Angeball”.

Whilst there’s an understandable hunger for Postecoglou to attempt a fabled “big guy-small guy” partnership with Kyogo and Giakoumakis, this is an issue on which the manager is likely to stick to his guns. It would be such a radical departure from the tactical nuances that Postecoglou has built his success at the club on that it would be foolhardy to try against a team of any serious quality from the start.

Kyogo was Postecoglou’s first signing from Japan for a reason, he is the perfect “Angeball” forward, because he is the perfectly sculpted cog for the machine. His Greek compatriot can and will be accommodated, and will almost certainly score plenty of his famed one-touch goals this season.

Undoubtedly, Giakoumakis has his place, but for the moment, with Kyogo available and fatigue from mid-week matches not a factor, this isn’t in the starting line-up.

In other news: Saturday learning experience for Celtic loanee vs rivals.