Celtic successfully navigated a potentially awkward tie against St Mirren on Sunday to progress to the quarter-final stage of the Scottish Cup.

An early Kyogo Furuhashi opener and a close-range Daizen Maeda finish early in the second half were enough to see off a spirited home side that twice came close to levelling in the first half through Alex Gogic.

On the bench for the 2-1 win over Hibs last midweek, Kyogo found himself restored to the starting 11 for the trip to Paisley by manager Brendan Rodgers. With on-loan Norwich striker Adam Idah, fresh from his penalty double at Easter Road, retaining his place, Kyogo was deployed in a less familiar attacking midfielder role.

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A position the Japanese forward has played on occasion in-game for Celtic, this was the first time Rodgers had started a match with Kyogo in this deeper role. Opening the scoring after just fifteen minutes, his first goal since the last round of the cup against Buckie Thistle, Kyogo had a bigger impact on the game in Paisley overall than he has generally had this season.

Here we break down how Kyogo’s performance in his new role helped give Celtic an edge in the last-16 tie…  


Wyscout had Celtic’s shape at the SMiSA Stadium at the weekend as a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 shape with Kyogo in behind Idah. However, in possession, the set-up was largely similar to what we’ve seen this season.

Callum McGregor remained the deepest midfielder with Matt O’Riley slightly further forward towards the right side. Kyogo was still the most advanced midfielder but on the ball towards the left side.

This midfield shape isn’t too far removed from the usual one, evident in the below passing network from the recent league game at Easter Road. Here we can see Portuguese midfielder Paulo Bernardo occupying a largely similar position to the one that Kyogo operated from on Sunday.

Early creative intentions

However, the advantage of having Kyogo in there is of course getting another more natural attacking presence on the pitch. At times this season that third, more advanced central midfielder, has not taken on enough creative responsibility and has been too safe in their passing.

On Sunday though, aided by the presence of Idah at centre-forward who did a decent job of occupying the St Mirren back three, Kyogo looked to utilise the space he was afforded as much as he could.  

His intent to make things happen in this new deeper role was on show in the opening minutes when he almost played in Idah after picking up a loose ball. With Maeda also offering an option, his pass was well cut out by Gogic though.

Hitting the net from deep

Looking to be the provider from his deeper role in the opening exchanges, it was, of course, Kyogo himself who then broke the deadline a quarter of an hour in.

With McGregor’s excellent pass releasing Luis Palma down the left, following the breakdown of a St Mirren attack, Celtic quickly broke up the park. Arriving similarly to the shot last Wednesday night that resulted in that late, decisive penalty, Kyogo showed typical intelligence in his movement

Scanning around as he moved towards the box, he initially slowed up his run to retain the space on the edge of the box, which had been created by some good movement from Idah to run beyond, forcing the St Mirren backline deeper. As the ball came across from Palma, Kyogo then quickly went back up the gears for the last few steps to get a good connection on the ball and fire past Zach Hemming in the home goal.

We know Kyogo is a threat in behind and an excellent finisher but he has so often been starved of service in his usual centre-forward position. His goal on Sunday, and his shot at Easter Road, showed that thanks to his clever movement and the timing of his runs, he can still offer a goal threat from this deeper position. 

Linking play

As much as Kyogo offered more attacking thrust to the Celtic engine room, he was still picking up similar central midfield positions to others who have played that role this season, as highlighted in the passing networks earlier.

He showed he wasn’t averse to dropping right into the base of midfield to help Celtic progress the ball through the thirds, such as the below example from later in the half when he dropped in to pop a ball from McGregor back to Liam Scales.

There were times when he dropped deeper that he was outmuscled or, on a few occasions, a bit loose with the ball in the middle of the park too though. This would be one aspect that would be a bit of a concern going forward if he continues in this role.

What the data says

That said, match data from Wyscout further highlights Kyogo’s influence from his midfield position in the Scottish Cup last-16 win in Renfrewshire.

Although most of Celtic’s attacks came down the left, they generated almost two-thirds (1.89) of their total xG (3.01) through the middle with the influence of Kyogo likely a key contributing factor here.

Wyscout also recorded 23 attempted passes by Kyogo, 15 of which were successful in his 75-minute performance. This is the most passes he has attempted and the most passes he has completed this season since the opening league win over Ross County last August.

Of course, playing in the midfield he was always likely to see more of the ball than he does when playing centre-forward. However, there is something to be said for simply getting your best players more involved in the game. As mentioned, he has so often been isolated himself at the top of the pitch this season. There is no doubt that by being more involved in the game again the former Vissel Kobe man looked to be enjoying himself again.


One game is perhaps too early to draw any definitive conclusions about Kyogo in his new role. However, there were certainly encouraging signs, particularly in the first half.

It is worth noting that with a starting midfield three of Kyogo, O’Riley and McGregor, Celtic did give up 18 shots though, which although not punished on the day, some of these efforts did represent decent chances for the home side. It is also worth noting that those 18 shots faced on Sunday were double the average number of shots Celtic have given up this season. Even in the context that this was a cup tie away to a side enjoying a decent season, this would also be a concern.

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Individually though, this was one of Kyogo’s better displays this season and, despite some of those issues just mentioned, arguably still one of Celtic’s better performances since the winter break too. Whether Kyogo playing deeper is part of the answer from now until the end of the season will remain to be seen though.