Celtic supporters are extremely excited about the latest news that Japanese sensation and J-League top goal scorer Daizen Maeda’s January transfer to Celtic is virtually a done deal. The news from Japan is that Maeda will join Celtic on loan in January and make the move permanent in the summer for a very modest sum of around £1.5m for the 24 year old.
Yes, there is the old adage that any player with the right compilation of clips can look like a superstar player on a Youtube video, but unless you are a regular watcher of Japanese football, which the vast majority of Celtic supporters I assume will not be, that’s all we can really go on when assessing potential signings, and as we’ve all seen, Maeda looks like an incredible talent.
For a start, you don’t score 23 goals in a league season and get into the team of the year if you aren’t a good player. And our manager Ange Postecoglou has worked with Maeda when he was manager of Yokohama F Marinos, and he clearly feels he has the ability and the mentality, which is just as important, to make the step up to Celtic.
But the question is, where will Maeda fit into this current Celtic team? It seems like Maeda can play anywhere across the front 3, and we have seen him score from either side and from the centre in the many clips of him on Youtube, scoring goals with either foot as well as his head.
It seems that looking at the recent line ups from Yokohama matches, Maeda predominantly plays of the left of a front 3. Of course at Celtic, we currently have Jota playing in that exact position, and the young Portuguese star has arguably been our best player so far this season and scoring and assisting often from that side of the pitch. Is Maeda really coming in to battle Jota for that spot on the left? I have my doubts.
Now let’s look at him playing in the centre of a front three. Of course Kyogo is the main man for Celtic in this position. And you would think Ange would prefer to play both Kyogo and Maeda together, rather than one or the other. Giorgos Giakoumakis came to Celtic this summer having finished the top goal scorer in the Dutch Eredivise, and on paper you would expect a player like that to come in and be the No.1 striker at Celtic, but as we’ve seen he is currently on the bench when he is fit as a back up to Kyogo. This shows Ange isn’t afraid to bench players with big reputations and you have to be performing week in week out at a high level and better than the next man in your position, to be a regular starter in his team.
So looking at that scenario, it is entirely possible it will be a battle between Jota and Maeda for that spot on the left.
On the right, Liel Abada was recently brought in and he has started most games up until recently, with James Forrest now back in the starting line up in that position after a return from injury. So we already have two first team ready players battling it out for that position on the right, so it would seem strange if Maeda was brought in to be the third contender for that position.
Of course, these scenarios are all based on Postecoglou stick with his favoured 4-3-3 formation. That formation has been a constant in every game we have played this season, and as far as I’m aware was always the formation he used in his time in Japan too. But, with the addition of Maeda, would he possibly consider making an adjustment to this?
One formation which did intrigue me, was looking at where Maeda played three games ago for Yokohama against Urawa Reds. He was the head striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. If Ange played this formation it would allow us to play both Jota and Forrest/Abada on the wings, and Kyogo sitting just behind Maeda in the centre, or vice versa.
This would be an extremely exciting prospect to have 4 skilful attackers likes this all on the pitch at once. The problem of course is it would leave us weaker in the middle of the park, with one central midfield player dropping out. But maybe this formation would be idea for certain league or cup games, especially at home, where we control the ball and dominate games and perhaps don’t really need an extra man in the middle to sit in front of the defence.
It is a very intriguing scenario in my opinion, and it will be interesting to see just how we line up come January and going forward once Maeda has arrived.