‘The Bhoys’ overturned a six-point gap at the start of the year to make it a double success in Postecoglou’s first season after picking up the League Cup last December too.
It was a fine first season in Scotland for the former Australia national boss with his recruitment in both the summer and January windows proving key to his success.
One of his first signings, and arguably most important, was Japanese international Kyogo Furuhashi who became the talismanic figure for Postecoglou’s Celtic.
The 27-year-old forward, who arrived from J1-League side Vissel Kobe for a fee of around £4.5m, was a smash hit in his first season with only a hamstring injury, that kept him out for four months in the second half of the term, dampening his debut season in Glasgow.
His 20 goals and two assists were crucial to Celtic’s successful season while his signing would also pave the way for three more signings from the J1-League in the January window. Returning to a league he previously won as manager of Yokohama F Marinos, Postecoglou added Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi to his Celtic squad in January.
Celtic and Kyogo now have their sights set on making an impact in Europe with last season’s title win coming with automatic qualification for the Champions League — this will be ‘The Hoops’ first appearance in the group stages of the competition since 2017/18.
In this player analysis, we will take a closer look at Kyogo’s playing style and the attributes that he will look to showcase on European football’s biggest stage.
With Ange Postecoglou exclusively favouring a 4-3-3 system so far at Celtic, Kyogo has been deployed as the central striker role but did play some minutes on the left wing. This can be seen in his heatmap for last season.
An accomplished goalscorer, Kyogo possesses exceptional movement in the box and can produce a variety of finishes. He has great pace and is comfortable progressing the ball at speed. He also works hard off the ball and is an aggressive presser.
To start to build a more detailed picture of the type of player Kyogo is, we can look at his data from his debut season in Scotland.
The below pizza chart, divided into three sections, attacking, possession and defending, shows Kyogo’s percentile rank compared to other forwards in the Scottish Premiership who played a minimum of 1,000 league minutes.
The first thing that should be said is that we would expect to see a Celtic forward — or, equally, a Rangers attacker — put up strong numbers in most of these metrics due to how dominant both sides are in the Scottish Premiership.
Kyogo’s chart is still impressive though and highlights what a dynamic forward he is. As mentioned, he managed 20 goals in all competitions — 12 coming in the Premiership and eight in other competitions. This gives him very high ranks for his goal contributions and expected goal contributions — he had a total xG of 9.39 in the league and an xA of 1.47.
But Kyogo is much more than just a goal scorer. Looking at his possession section, we can see how involved he is in Celtic building attacks with a high rank for received passes, he received 17.98 per 90.
He was very productive when he received the ball too, with an above-average rank for his progressive passes (1.98 per 90) while he boasts the top rank for dangerous passes of all forwards in last season’s Scottish Premiership. A combination of key passes and through passes, Kyogo produced 0.64 of the former per 90 and 0.71 of the latter per 90.
He was also above average for his carries, a combination of dribbles (Kyogo averaged 2.05 per 90 last season) and progressive runs (he averaged 0.92 per 90).
Already a big attacking threat and a contributor in possession, Kyogo offers Celtic a lot off the ball too. Involved in an average number of defensive duels for a forward in the league (3.75), Kyogo ranks just below the 75th percentile for his defensive duel success rate, winning 52.83% of them.
He was involved in a low number of aerial duels, 1.63 per 90, but despite not being the tallest striker (170cm/5’7”), his aerial duel success percentage of 26.09% was above average. Kyogo’s 1.81 possession adjusted (PAdj) interceptions per 90 was around average for a Premiership forward.
Movement and finishing
As mentioned, Kyogo is an excellent finisher who gets a lot of chances thanks to his first-rate movement. His composure means he tends not to lash at chances, often finding the corners of the net.
Looking at his shots for the last calendar year in the below graphic from Wyscout, we can see most of Kyogo’s efforts at goal come from high-quality areas with the biggest concentration of shots between the posts, around the line of the six-yard box.
We can also see variety in his efforts at goal. Although he took 39 shots with his stronger right, he also took 26 with the left and had 11 headed efforts.
In this first example, we can see a typical piece of movement in the box from Kyogo which leads to a goal. Here, Kyogo positions himself between the two Hearts centre-backs as Celtic progress the ball down the right. With Anthony Ralston now in a crossing position, Kyogo times a run to the first post on the blind side of the Hearts left centre-back.
Thanks to his excellent timing and Ralston’s accurate low cross, Kyogo creates a high-quality opportunity in the six-yard box which he then takes, tucking the ball in at the near post with a first-time finish off his right foot.
In this next example, Kyogo’s movement is even more impressive. In his first home game at Celtic Park, in which he would end up scoring a hattrick, he is again positioned between the two centre-backs initially.
As Ryan Christie lines up the low cross into the box from the left, Kyogo makes a dart towards the front post as if to go across the face of the defender.
However, he then demonstrates his excellent footwork, quickly shifting his weight to go in behind the defender on the blind side. This allows Kyogo to exploit the space between the posts and tap in to score.
Here, we see another example of Kyogo’s impressive movement and excellent finishing from Celtic’s final home game of the season against Motherwell. With the Motherwell defence relatively well set, Kyogo’s movement and timing are key once more. Again, on the blindside, he attacks the space in behind latching on to a fantastic ball from Ralston over the top.
Kyogo then shows excellent technical ability to connect with the ball as it comes over his right shoulder, volleying into the far corner.
As seen in his percentile rank pizza chart, Kyogo was above average for progressive passes per 90 for a Scottish Premiership forward last season while he also boasted the top rank for dangerous passes, which combines key passes per 90 and through passes per 90.
In possession, Celtic look to play a high-tempo passing game with full-backs inverting and wingers holding their width to make the pitch as big as possible. Kyogo’s ability to link play and execute passes at speed means he is perfectly suited to Celtic’s high-energy style.
Here we see an example of Kyogo linking with Jota during a high-tempo attack inside the Aberdeen box from a home game against ‘The Dons’. Making a darting run across the six-yard box to combine with the Portuguese winger, Kyogo — at full speed — cushions a first-time pass back into the path of Jota who can then step past his marker to get an effort on goal.
Kyogo is also a danger in possession when he drops deep between the lines to find space. In these situations, such as in the above from a Europa League tie against Ferencvaros, he can spot and execute through balls.
In the example from Celtic’s win away in Hungary, he quickly turns away from his man after receiving from Celtic captain Callum McGregor. Before he has even steadied himself, and with the recovering Ferencvaros defender right on his back, he plays a perfectly weighted ball between the centre-back and left-back, setting up Liel Abada to score.
Out of possession, Postecoglou’s Celtic press aggressively with Kyogo playing a pivotal role as they look to turn the ball over high up the pitch.
Kyogo is key in setting the tone for Celtic’s press with his infectious energy off the ball. He is a smart presser, shaping his runs to cut off passing lanes and quickly reducing the opponent’s options on the ball.
This first example perfectly captures his immense off-the-ball efforts. Following the breakdown of a Celtic attack and with Hearts countering in the closing seconds of a tight match, Kyogo races back from a starting position as Celtic’s most advanced player during the attack all the way back to the centre circle to win the ball.
After a few loose ball duels between other players, he ultimately helps win his team possession back in a crucial period of the game.
It is not only his boundless energy that makes Kyogo so important out of possession for Celtic but his intelligence in his pressing too. Here we see an example of this in the game against Motherwell.
Pressing the left-centre back of Motherwell aggressively, he angles his run and shapes his body to completely block off any chance of the defender being able to turn back to either another outfield teammate or back to his goalkeeper.
With the rest of Celtic’s players taking up good positions too, blocking off other passing lanes, they win the ball up high and get back on the attack quickly.
It is clear that a fit and firing Kyogo will be vital if Celtic are to have any success in the Champions League this season.
Likely to be in pot four, Celtic will come up against at least two, if not three of Europe’s elite clubs. Therefore, they will certainly have far less possession than in domestic games meaning Kyogo’s ability to press from the front will be even more crucial.
His ability to link play when Celtic do have the ball and his movement in the box to make the most of attacks will also be important.
If he does get the chance to showcase some of these attributes, Celtic will have half a chance of creating some special Champions League nights at Parkhead this season.