Maeda's underrated start to life at Celtic and why he's a perfect bench option for Bodo tie

By Euan Davidson

February 23, 2022

Daizen Maeda arrived at Celtic to a great deal of intrigue.

That tends to happen if you’ve just been joint-top of the J League scoring charts. Maeda, part of a rare Celtic triple signing before the January window even opened, was known primarily for two things; breakneck speed, and scoring goals.

So far, he’s provided both. But amidst the excellent form of Reo Hatate and the goal-scoring antics of fellow striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, it feels as if Maeda’s qualities have been forgotten just a little bit.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

They shouldn’t be. So far, in 8 Celtic appearances, Maeda has scored 4 times, including a goal last week against Bodo/Glimt. He’s averaging a goal every 134 minutes in the Green and White [Transfermarkt], and as he adjusts more to the league and the climate, he looks great value to significantly bump that tally.

Why bring this up now? Because Celtic have got a weapon in Maeda off the bench tomorrow night. Though he was picked to start the last Bodo/Glimt clash, the Japanese striker saw Giakoumakis score a hat-trick against Dundee, with Jota likely to occupy the left-hand side of the attack trio.

That suits Maeda. Tomorrow night is likely to require real impetus from the bench, and against a team that haven’t properly started their season yet? That could be utterly key. Celtic need to score twice to at least guarantee extra-time, with away goals no longer a factor.

Maeda has already announced himself to Celtic supporters. But using him strategically tomorrow night could be really key.

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Daizen Maeda has made effective start to life at Celtic; tomorrow night sets him up nicely

Fine, Bodo/Glimt didn’t exactly look like they were rusty in Glasgow last Thursday. The Norwegian champions were quick, methodical and well-drilled. Statistically, Celtic had more chances and possession, but few watching would’ve described the 3-1 result as unjust.

Celtic are the ones negotiating a heavy schedule. Ange Postecoglou is still, in many respects, figuring his squad out, having added to it so beautifully in January. The bench we have now compared to late December is night and day.

But tomorrow night is about game management. Celtic need to go at Bodo/Glimt, and you could argue that Maeda’s raw pace and directness is a big part of that kind of tactic. Ah, but; having the luxury of bringing someone as explosive and prolific as Maeda later on could be a master-stroke from the Celtic manager.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Often, Celtic were simply outmuscled up front against Bodo/Glimt. Having the physical tools of Giakoumakis at centre-forward makes sense for a game like this, albeit Maeda did score in the home leg. Not to say that we’ll suddenly start playing route one with Giak as a target man, but there’s an advantage there. Especially with crosses and set pieces.

Postecoglou, though, has a luxury. The stage is perfectly set up for a player I’d argue has gone a little underrated since joining Celtic. Even taking the game to extra-time would be an opportunity for Maeda to take this tie by the scruff of the neck, and even make a bit of Hoops history.

Of course, we won’t know until Ange Postecoglou names his side. But in inclement conditions, in a game that could go beyond 90 minutes, having a speed merchant with goals to spare on his bench is surely something Ange Postecoglou is delighted about.

Read more: Bodo/Glimt defender labels Celtic hero Giorgos Giakoumakis “a fox in the box”