With little to no chance of Ange Postecoglou deviating from his favoured 4-3-3 system, the debate over who Celtic’s first-choice central striker will be this season looks set to continue.

Kyogo Furuhashi and Giorgos Giakoumakis both made sizeable contributions to Celtic’s league and cup double success last season, playing key roles at different points throughout the 2021-22 campaign.

Japan forward Kyogo was a talismanic figure in the first half of last season, producing several electrifying performances following his arrival from Vissel Kobe, which culminated in his sensational double at Hampden against Hibs last December to win the League Cup.

However, injury on Boxing Day at St Johnstone curtailed most of the rest of Kyogo’s season. It was at that point that Giakoumakis, who struggled with injuries during the first half of the season himself, took up the primary goal scorer mantle.

The Greek striker would go on to finish joint top league goal scorer in just six months, helping Celtic across the winning line in the league.

With both fully fit as the new season gets underway there is much debate over who should take the striker jersey when it comes to the big games over the next few weeks and months, including those huge Champions League ties and of course those often-defining Glasgow Derbies.

Some fans may already have made their mind up as to who they would prefer to see lead the line for Celtic going forward but what can the data from last season tell us about who should be Postecoglou’s number one centre forward?

The first place to start is to assess them both in the context of the primary function of a striker: to score goals.


Looking at the location of their shots in the StatsBomb shot maps below, we can see Giakoumakis’s shots concentrated more between the posts around the edge of the six-yard box while Kyogo’s are distributed more widely, throughout the box mostly.

This ties in with the eye test - that Giakoumakis is largely a penalty-box striker while Kyogo is more dynamic.

However, both still take most of their shots from inside the box, in generally high-quality areas and they have similar output in terms of goals scored.

Celtic Way:

Kyogo scored his 12 goals from an expected goals (xG) total of 11.06 while Giakoumakis was arguably more efficient, scoring his 12 goals from a lower xG of 8.44 – his extra goal coming from one of the two penalties he took last season.

Digging into their xG further, Kyogo slightly edges it in terms of the higher quality of chance that gets to. His xG/shot from open play, a measure of shot quality that looks at the average non-penalty expected goal value per shot a player takes, was 0.276 last season compared to Giakoumakis’ 0.222.

Both missed a good chance in Sunday’s opening day league victory over Aberdeen which saw Kyogo given the start and Giakoumakis then replacing him for the final 25 minutes. Ultimately, though, on the evidence of last season (and given similar minutes) they both would likely score at a roughly similar rate again.

So if they both have a similar level of output, what do they offer in other ways that may then point to who is the more effective? What else do they each bring to the team beyond goals?


Looking at the below radar comparison from StatsBomb, we can see some differences between the two from last term’s data.

Again, we see those similarities in their xG and xG/Shot numbers. They also attempted a similar number of shots per 90 minutes (Kyogo 3.11, Giakoumakis 3.35) and had a similar number of touches in the box per 90 too with Kyogo registering 8.07 and Giakoumakis 7.99. They also produced a similar number of dribbles each.

Their xG Assisted, calculated from the expected goal value of an assisted shot, is where we start to see the differences.

Celtic Way:

Here, Kyogo produced a higher number - 0.17 per 90 - compared to Giakoumakis (0.07). In other words, Kyogo contributed more when it came to creating higher-quality chances for others.

Kyogo’s greater involvement in build-up play is also underlined by another metric, this time from WyScout: received passes. According to this data, Kyogo received on average around 10 more passes per 90 than Giakoumakis (Kyogo received 18.68;Giakoumakis received 8.7).

So here we start to see some of the evidence that Kyogo is also more of a creative threat in addition to his goals.

Off the ball

Moving back to StatsBomb, we can see another few differences when it comes to off-the-ball actions.

There wasn't too much between them in terms of the number of pressures each applied per 90 last season; Kyogo clocked an average of 14.15, Giakoumakis was slightly more with 15.73.

However, when it comes to pressure regains - times a player’s team won the ball back within five seconds of them pressuring an opponent - there is a bit of a difference. Giakoumakis's pressure regains were 3.27, over one more per 90 than Kyogo (1.91).

For possession-adjusted (PAdj) interceptions, it is Kyogo that has a slightly higher number per 90 at 2.13 per 90 compared to Giakoumakis's 1.42.

Celtic Way:

What to read into this? They are both contributing to helping Celtic win the ball back at a roughly similar rate, both with a similar number of pressures but Kyogo perhaps in a more direct way with the higher tackles/interceptions himself. Giakoumakis does it in a more indirect manner with his pressing leading to Celtic winning the ball back within five seconds on more occasions.

Predictably, given their physical profiles, Giakoumakis has the edge when it comes to aerial wins (winning 1.92 per 90 compared to Kyogo’s 0.50).

With Postecoglou unlikely to alter to a more direct approach in Europe or against Rangers, this may not have as much bearing on a decision of which player gets the nod in those bigger games.

One thing that will be vital however - and particularly in the Champions League - will be the ability to hold onto the ball. Celtic averaged a lot less possession in last season’s Europa League - 55 per cent - compared to the 67.3 per cent they averaged in the Scottish Premiership.

With the step up in quality of opposition from the Europa League to the Champions League stark, Celtic’s share of the ball will likely fall further still. Being secure in possession when they do have it will therefore be critical.

Here Kyogo looks the stronger candidate. He registers fewer turnovers (how often a player loses the ball via a miscontrol or a failed dribble) at 1.92 per 90 compared to Giakoumakis's 2.96.


Having considered the data, it is worth noting that Postecoglou recently stated he doesn't have a first XI, but rather 24 or 25 players who he can trust to put in for any game and perform to a certain level.

Considering the number of games Celtic play in a full season, both players will probably end up sharing plenty of minutes in the central striker position this season.  

There will always be other factors at play when it comes to team selection too but, with the data here highlighting Kyogo’s ability to be both more creative and more secure in possession, there is a good case to be made that he will remain the preferred choice when it comes to those crunch games this season.