Ange doesn’t half get asked some daft questions, and last night after the game somebody asked him about Maeda and whether or not he’s one of those players who “flies under the radar.” Honest to God, you wonder sometimes which Celtic team they are watching.
I’ve been singing the praises of Daizen Maeda for many months, as regular readers are fully aware. It is obvious, if you watch him, what he produces for this team, what he brings to this side and why the manager not only signed him but keeps on playing him.
Ange knows all about him. About his work effort. About how his pace terrorises opposing teams. About how their players exhaust themselves chasing him all up and down the wing. I think as an impact sub he can be especially devastating; he brings that energy and speed at a time in a game when opposing sides are already weary and he uses that against them.
Last night was a classic example of that. The long ball was perfectly weighted, and out of all the players in our team he is the guy I would have aimed that pass at. Because when he started to run there was no chance whatsoever that the full back was going to keep up with him. Once he was away it was always going to be him versus the keeper.
One of the areas where Daizen gets criticism sometimes is for his lack of finishing, but there was no doubt that he was going to going to put that away last night. This guy was the top scorer in Japan in his final season there; he knows where the goal is and how to put the ball in the net. His scoring record with the club so far is actually pretty good.
He has 12 goals for us now, and nine assists. That’s in a calendar year, a quite remarkable return from a player who “flies under the radar.” Ange’s response was perfect.
“It depends on what you’re looking at. Not internally. He works so hard for the team. He’s surrounded by other attackers who are different to him. He doesn’t get the headlines. But the contribution he makes is immense. I left him out for the last couple of games to freshen him up. He was outstanding again.”
Maeda gives us so much. The manager knows it, and he’s known it from the start. Which is why he signed his former player in the first place. I think as he gets more familiar with this country, his team-mates and the league we’ll see him get better and better.