As has become the norm under Ange Postecoglou, Celtic have conducted most of their business early in this transfer window.
Indeed, the deal for Japanese defender Yuki Kobayashi was concluded before the window even opened, highlighting the club’s desire to get the player on board to hit the ground running in January.
The deal was actually confirmed in late November, so we’ve had to wait a little while to see our new Bhoy in action.
However fans came away from Celtic Park on Wednesday evening very much encouraged by what they had witnessed from Kobayashi.
Rotated Squad Take Care of saints
The game itself proved to be relatively routine for the champions as they swept St. Mirren aside with a comfortable 4-0 home victory.
Kyogo Furuhashi scored two, while Liel Abada and David Turnbull also got on the scoresheet.
Pre-match, there was more expectation than usual heading into the stadium with fans poised to keep an eagle-eye on our new defender.
Things started off every-so-slightly shaky for Kobayashi as he misplaced a couple of passes within the first couple of minutes, but from there he recovered to look extremely comfortable in possession, which Celtic defenders need to be.
Crucially, the player is left-footed, and although Postecoglou would need to tell us himself if that trait was a priority in any new defensive signing, the fact we have a lefty on the left-hand side of the central defence undoubtedly provides more balance.
Indeed, we didn’t see as many of Carl Starfelt’s signature 360-degree-turn-pass movements that we have become accustomed to with him in that position.
The Swede also managed to make the Sky Sports Team of the Week.
A Tough Introduction For Yuki Kobayashi
The first time Kobayashi was called into real action, it was actually after a mistake from Starfelt, who sent a rogue pass into the centre of the Celtic half.
His new defensive team-mate was on hand to patiently jockey the St. Mirren attacker before blocking a shot towards goal.
The game might have proved to be a baptism of fire for Kobayashi as, in his first game, he was coming up against one of the most physical teams in the league.
The problems for the player wouldn’t have come from being up against footballing quality, but long balls, strength, and of course the flailing arms of the likes of Curtis Main.
Main and fellow attacker Jonah Ayunga put themselves about, as you would expect, but Kobayashi dealt with the threat as if he was perfectly aware of the rigours that await him in Scottish football.
Our domestic game is undoubtedly faster, more intense and more physical than the J-League, where the focus is primarily on technique.
At 6ft+, he headed away plenty of direct balls and even came through the back of Main and Ayunga a couple of times just to make sure.
One thing that will be a slight cause for concern, for the moment, is that he really does not like being pulled out of position. With Josip Juranovic being caught up the pitch more than once on Wednesday, Kobayashi was asked to step out to the wing to deal with an oncoming attacker, and he himself was subsequently caught out.
Nothing to worry about yet, of course.
A New Centre Half Pairing?
There’s major cause for optimism at the prospect of having Cameron Carter-Vickers partnering Kobayashi at the back. Starfelt has been excellent recently, but if the choice arises for Ange, he may go with the Japanese player due to the fact he is left-footed.
Against St.Mirren, Kobayashi attempted 100 passes and completed 94 of them which was more than any other Celtic player.
They weren’t all side-to-side, either, as he attempted eight direct-long balls, usually diagonals, seven of which hit their mark.
A very good debut from the young Japanese star, and no doubt there’s plenty more to come from the 22 year old.