Leading the line for Celtic is a tough and demanding job, one that is expectation-heavy for anyone looking to do so with any real success.

The club have had a well-storied past when it comes to strikers, especially in the modern age of football in the 21st century. From Celtic’s best-ever foreign player Henrik Larsson to recent hitmen such as Gary Hooper, Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, there has been a plethora of exciting attacking talent situated at the top of the pitch for the side.

Over the past two years, this job has largely been entrusted to Japan striker Kyogo Furuhashi, who has been the main outlet of goals and offensive manoeuvres in general for the club. A talismanic figure since his move from J1 League side Vissel Kobe in his homeland, the forward has already scored 56 goals across three seasons, with two goals already this campaign under new manager Brendan Rodgers.

However, despite breaking his duck for the season in the opening game - and then scoring another against Aberdeen at Pittodrie - Kyogo has cut a frustrated figure up front in the last two matches. It has shown in results, too, as Celtic have drawn consecutive blanks against both Kilmarnock and St Johnstone in the League Cup and Premiership respectively. His slight change in role has meant that he has been coming deeper in order to get involved with the play in the middle, meaning that he sometimes is not on the end of crosses or passes that he would have been previously under Ange Postecoglou.

With this in mind - using Wyscout heatmaps - we take a look at where Kyogo has operated in the past - as well as his output this season – to gauge where the striker can maximise his goal involvement output this season in the weeks and months ahead.

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2021/22 season - Kyogo's emergence 

Kyogo was signed as one of the players identified by Postecoglou during his stint as Yokohama F Marinos manager in Japan, who could make the transition from Asia to Europe seamlessly. 20 goals in just 33 games was a great return rate for a debut season in a new league, especially when you consider the amount of time the striker missed due to a lengthy hamstring injury. One for the big occasion, Kyogo single-handedly turned the tie against Hibernian in the League Cup final at Hampden, showcasing his talent in the most pressure-filled environments.

Judging by the above heatmap, Kyogo’s main area of effectiveness was in the middle of the 18-yard box, a familiar position for a predatory finisher like himself. Postecoglou’s ruthless pressing did allow for Kyogo to roam and put pressure on opposition defenders, though this job was a unified effort throughout the whole team. Kyogo would lead from the front, often being the only player initialising a press in its infancy before others joined in. There is also heat picked up on the left wing, a position Kyogo has started in on rare occasions, and where he drifted out to during games in this season.

The fluidity of the attack was notable under Postecoglou, with Kyogo, Liel Abada, Daizen Maeda and Jota all moving around the pitch in order to cause the opposition problems. Despite some areas of heat being picked up further back, Kyogo predominantly played in the final third of the pitch, which makes his stellar strike rate all the more unsurprising. Things would get even better in the second season, however…

2022/23 season - Breakout year

If the 21/22 season was one that was full of promise regarding Kyogo, then the season that followed was the breakout year for the striker. The numbers do not lie in this regard, with the forward managing to score an impressive 34 goals in 50 games in all competitions. A treble winner on and off the park, Kyogo managed a clean sweep of all the awards available to him, winning the SFWA and PFA Player of the Year, alongside Celtic’s own Player of the Year. Top scorer in the league and in all competitions for Celtic, Kyogo benefitted from only missing a handful of games over the course of the season, allowing him to be consistently available to play.

The heatmap paints the story further, and it is clear why Kyogo had such an effective game in front of the goal. Gone are the warmer sections of the left channel and just beyond the halfway line, which are replaced by an oval of heat in and around the box. This is perhaps due to Kyogo being allowed to carry out his own role in the team without needing to delve into other positions, which were taken up by players such as Maeda on the left and O’Riley/Reo Hatate in the midfield area.

By giving them the space and freedom to do their jobs, Kyogo had the licence to remain in and around the danger zone in order to be the main provider of goals and dangerous play. With Kyogo being such a clinical finisher – especially following the restart of the season due to the World Cup – it is no surprise that he was left to his own devices in this small area of the pick to work his magic.

2023/24 - Trouble in Kyogo's Paradise?

Although only a small portion size exists for the current season, it is interesting to see what Kyogo’s heatmap looks like so far this season. Taking into account both pre-season friendlies and the four domestic games so far, Kyogo’s lack of warmth on the heatmap is normal, given the lack of minutes played thus far this campaign.

Still, you can start to see warm areas begin to form, particularly on the line of the 18-yard box and both inside and out of it. What is notable is the warmth is just as vivid on the outside of the box as it is inside, which will only go warmer as the season goes on if Kyogo is continuously deployed the same way throughout it. The warmth of the 22/23 season – particularly the oval shape slightly creeping into the 12-yard inner box – is nowhere to be seen as of yet in Kyogo’s heatmap this season, highlighting his deeper role in the team as a deep-lying playmaker that continues to lead the line.

In order for Celtic to remedy this problem, they must revert him back to the position that he knows best, for the good of both his numbers individually and that of the team going forward. The club must play to their strengths, and it is evident that the closer Kyogo is to the box and - in turn - the goal, the more effective he is in proceedings.

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Thankfully, Kyogo has gotten off the mark this season, though the goals have dried up for the player in recent games. If Celtic want to get the optimum goal return from their main man, then perhaps their best course of action would be to restrict the player from roaming outwith his box when looking for the ball. Of course, different scenarios call for different tactics, and European football may call for a more midfield-minded Kyogo, but Celtic should leave his playmaking role to fleeting appearances on Europe's biggest stage. Besides, ‘Kyogoal’ sounds a lot better than ‘Kyogassist’, in any case.