“If it was my decision, I’d go with Giakoumakis,” Sutton verdict on Celtic’s striker dilemma

As Celtic head towards Sunday’s colossal meeting with title rivals theRangers at Parkhead, one of the big debates is who Ange Postecoglou will go with to lead the line up front. With Giorgos Giakoumakis missing through injury for the two clubs recent Scottish Cup tie and Kyogo only fit enough to start on the bench, the Celtic manager chose to start Daizen Maeda up top.

Unfortunately the decision failed to pay off and many expect the energetic Japanese star to return to his more common, and perhaps most effective, position out wide this Sunday.

This means the battle to lead the attack will be between Giakoumakis and Kyogo, with Celtic fans seemingly split in their opinion on the matter. In his opinion piece in Daily Record today, former Celtic star Chris Sutton states that he would personally rather see the Australian manager go with the returning Greek striker.

Sutton said: “If it was my decision, I’d go with Giakoumakis. I almost can’t believe I am saying that because Kyogo has been an absolute star since joining the club.

“The Japanese striker was in electric form in the first half of the season and marked his return to the starting line-up for the first time since Boxing Day with a smart goal against Ross County which took his team a big step towards the title.

“However, as I think back to the previous meetings of the sides since the turn of the year and the way they have gone for Celtic, it edges me towards a preference for Giakoumakis in the central attacking role.

“The Greek proved a real handful for the Rangers defence when he started the Premiership games at both Parkhead and Ibrox – and Celtic won both of them”.

Sutton makes a good point here. We have played theRangers four times already this season, the two times Giakoumakis started we won both. On the other two occasions, Ange went with Odsonne Edouard and Maeda up front and we lost both (one in extra time obviously). This is definitely a plus point for the hard working Greek striker.

Continuing the discussion, Sutton lays out his reasons why he thinks that Giakoumakis should get the nod ahead of Kyogo. The former Celtic striker said: “Giakoumakis didn’t score in either, although he would have done in the home game but for some superb goalkeeping from Allan McGregor.

“But his value to the team was clear. He was a presence, someone to hit and he occupied defenders.As he kept the likes of Connor Goldson concentrated in the middle and dropped off, Celtic’s wide men Daizen Maeda and Jota were able to get in behind at Ibrox. At Parkhead, he was a focal point for the rest to play off.

“Having lost his first two matches against Celtic, Giovanni van Bronckhorst set his team out to get after Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.

“Rangers pressed. They did everything to stop Joe Hart and his defenders from making their normal passes into midfield and there was no available option for them to mix it up and go long to Giakoumakis to get them up the pitch as Maeda was unable to get a hold of it.

“In turn, Jota and Liel Abada were starved of quality possession or the opportunity to take the ball in the right attacking areas. Tom Rogic wasn’t able to pick up little pockets of space to cause mayhem as he had done at Ibrox. Nothing much changed when Kyogo went on.

“Celtic didn’t create much from open play at Hampden and that was in direct contrast to making an absolute heap of them in the two previous meetings.

“Maybe it was a coincidence but I don’t believe so. I believe Giakoumakis had a big part to play in that process. Is he a better player than Kyogo? No, I wouldn’t say that he is. He’s certainly not as technically gifted. But sometimes it is about finding the pieces to fit a jigsaw”.

Sutton is correct in his opinion that Celtic missed having a presence up top in the last meeting against Sunday’s opposition. Giakoumakis is the only striker in the squad who has that ability to mix it up against robust defences, he’s strong and his ability to hold the ball up helping our other attacking players around him become more involved is definitely underrated.

The former Celtic striker then goes on to rule out another potential plan that would see Ange play both players, and I fully agree with his thoughts on that matter. He points out that Kyogo struggled in the sides first meeting this season back in September when he was played in this position to accommodate Edouard.

He also states that with Jota looking like he is returning to form after a top performance against Ross County last week, and Maeda the perfect player to run at a defence who may still be feeling it in their legs after chasing the Leipzig attackers around for 90 minutes on Thursday, the starting positions on the wings really should pick themselves.

He continued: “Of course, the option is there for Postecoglou to play Giakoumakis and have Kyogo on one of the sides, yet I can’t see that happening.

“Postecoglou admits he got it wrong playing Kyogo wide in the first meeting of the season at Ibrox, he likes Maeda and Jota was back towards his best against County last weekend after a quiet spell.

“Rangers had to put in some hard yards in Leipzig on Thursday, so having Giakoumakis and Maeda working the Rangers backline for an hour with an eager Kyogo to come on to run at tiring legs in the final stages of the game is an option”.

Sutton concludes with his opinion that the Celtic manager will actually go with Kyogo up front on Sunday. He said: “Hand on heart, I actually think Postecoglou will start with Kyogo.

“Given the impact he’s had at Celtic and with more minutes in his legs since Hampden, the Japanese could turn it on and torture Rangers. Let’s get this clear, I’m a massive fan of Kyogo and, against most opposition, I’d probably pick him ahead of the Greek.

“But I’m just taking the evidence of the last three Old Firm (sic) matches into my thinking”.

I actually think that Sutton might be correct in his prediction that Ange Postecoglou will start with Kyogo, and there are a few reasons why. Firstly the fact Giakoumakis is only returning from injury may play a part in his decision. Also, it looked like Kyogo had finally got up and running against Ross County after looking rusty since his return from a long term injury and will be champing at the bit to get a start and put in a good performance against theRangers.

Also, even though I mentioned Giakoumakis record of two wins out of two when starting against theRangers, we are actually yet to see Kyogo start up front against them. He has started out wide and came on as a substitute against them, but never started in his favoured position against them.

Like Sutton, I feel like Ange Postecoglou may like to see what the Japanese star can do to their defence over 90 minutes. Personally I would probably prefer to see Giakoumakis start but I have to say I’m intrigued to see what Kyogo could do if he gets the starting spot. Either way I’m feeling extremely confident heading into this one, no matter who Ange Postecoglou has in his starting line up.

Conall McGinty

About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!

Comments are closed.