After a quiet start to the summer window Celtic have stepped up a gear this week, announcing the trio of Yang Hyun-Jun, Kwon Hyeok-Kyu and Maik Nawrocki in a whirlwind 24 hours at the start of this week.
Like many of our signings during the Ange Postecoglou these players arrive mostly as unknown quantities and time will tell as to how successful their spell in the Hoops will be.
However as proven by the talents of Kyogo, Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers amongst others, our scouting and recruitment department seem to be producing the desired results at this moment in time, and credit must go to Mark Lawwell and his team for that.
Our latest recruits – in addition to Odin Thiago Holm and Marco Tilio – will provide much needed cover in at centre half, in central midfield, and on the wings.
For many however – this writer included – a glaring gap in the centre forward area remains a concern.
It’s a situation exacerbated by a recurring injury to top marksman Kyogo Furuhashi as well as the inconvenience of an Asian Cup in January which could see us lose ALL of our recognised frontmen.
KYOGO SHRUGS OFF SHOULDER ISSUES
Back on the 3rd of September Celtic blitzed Rangers in a thrilling 4-0 win perhaps best remembered for that icon Jota goal, as he latched on to a Matt O’Riley through ball before dinking the ball over the onrushing Jon McLaughlin
It was a result which would set down a marker for the season ahead, but it was one which had to be completed without a player who would go on to score 34 goals across all competitions.
Kyogo Furuhashi lasted just 3 minutes in the game before a recurring shoulder issue saw him replaced by now ex-teammate Giorgios Giakoumakis.
It speaks volumes for the Japanese striker that despite ongoing concerns over the injury he went on to play his part in 36 of Celtic’s 38 Scottish Premiership matches – scoring 27 goals in the process – as the Bhoys retained the title.
He would also start 5 of our 6 Champions League fixtures, though as yet has been unable to register a goal in European football’s top tournament.
A situation he’ll be determined to resolve in the season ahead.
Speaking of the injury following the tour of Japan Brendan Rodgers said,
“It probably won’t be totally right until he has an operation on it”
Though stressed that the option of surgery will be completely up to the player.
In his usual resilient style however Kyogo himself was keen to brush off the issue,
“There’s nothing to get better or worse. It’s fine. I’m on the pitch and when you see the game, you’ll see how it is.”
The seriousness of his shoulder issue remains to be seen but what can’t be in question is that Kyogo finds himself somewhere less than at 100% peak fitness.
Just how much less is what we don’t know but with the rigours of another Premiership season in store as well as another tilt at the Champions League it’s something which will be causing concern to Brendan Rodgers and his backroom team.
A further spanner in the works comes in the shape of January’s Asian Cup.
An event which includes Japan, South Korea and Australia, and one which could feasibly see Celtic lose five first team players. Three of who are our only recognised strikers – Kyogo, Maeda and Oh.
Originally scheduled to take place between June – July in China the tournament was switched to Qatar in light of ongoing Covid issues in China and will now take place between 12th January – 10th February 2024.
In terms of our Japanese contingent it would seem more than likely that Kyogo (if fit!), Maeda and Hatate will be selected.
Tomoki Iwata and Yuki Kobayashi will also have their own international ambitions but it would seem that their initial concern would be breaking into Celtic’s first XI.
In the South Korean camp manager Jurgen Klinsmann will be looking for 5-times capped Oh to play his part and is on record as describing the powerful frontman as a “special talent”.
However Oh’s new teammates Yang Hyun-Jun and Kwon Hyeok-Kyu are unlikely to be considered on this occasion. Having both been capped at U23 level they are yet to play for Klinsmann’s senior side.
Australian Marco Tilio is another who will almost certainly play his part in Qatar – if he returns to full fitness.
The young winger is yet to feature in the hoops so far, having arrived with a “known issue”, though reports are hopeful that he should resume full training in the coming weeks.
During the tournament Celtic will face crucial league ties against Ross County (27th January), Aberdeen (3rd February) and Hibs (7th February) as well as a Scottish Cup Fourth Round tie on 20th of January and Rodgers will be loathe to lose key players for such fixtures.
Our only feasible option at this stage would be to deploy Liel Abada at centre forward.
It’s a role he’s played before, but it’s far from his strongest position and – as it stands – we would take to the field notably weaker in those games.
STRIKING WHILE THE IRON’S HOT
With all this in mind then you’d fully expect that Mark Lawwell and his team have been identifying suitable striking options for Brendan Rodgers’ consideration.
With much of the club’s transfer activity these days remaining under tight wraps until any announcement is imminent then we can be hopeful that a new front man is unveiled in the not too distant future.
Though the summer window remains open until 1st of September the preference from all parties would be that we can introduce a new striker imminently and bed him into the squad ahead of the challenges we’ll face in the season ahead.
In times gone by I’d be less confident of Celtic taking a pro-active approach with such matters, but operations have been different under Michael Nicholson and the smart money would be on our latest striking talent arriving at Celtic Park sooner rather than later.
Listen to the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly here as we discuss we discuss Celtic’s striking scenario, what Nawrocki’s signing means for the defence, and making the most of Reo Hatate!
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