Celtic’s first Champions League qualifier this week provided plenty of evidence to Ange Postecoglou that he desperately needs to improve their defence.
The Hoops were considerably off the pace in that department last term and they’ve started 2021/22 in no better shape.
What’s the word?
Celtic have now lost Kristoffer Ajer to the might of English football but they have already secured his replacement. The Bhoys added Carl Starfelt to their ranks almost immediately after confirming Ajer’s departure from Paradise.
Another defensive name to have been linked is Hajduk Split’s Mario Vuskovic.
Celtic have also been targeting Japanese centre-back Ko Itakura and his name came up again this week.
Should Celtic sign Itakura?
The Daily Record reported that Postecoglou is still interested in bringing him to Scotland. This comes after the arrival of fellow Japan international Kyogo Furuhashi.
Imagine him & Starfelt
Although the Swedish central defender isn’t cut from a similar cloth to Ajer, he still fits the new manager’s style of play perfectly.
Instead of rampaging forward with the ball at his feet, Starfelt prioritises distribution, passing the ball out from the back in neat fashion. For instance, no player in the Russian top flight completed a higher degree of passes than his 91.4% last term.
Itakura is similar in this regard, remaining calm and composed with the ball at his feet. On loan from Manchester City at Dutch side Groningen last season, he was successful with 88% of his passes, the 14th greatest tally in the entire division.
He was incredibly eye-catching in the Eredivisie, earning fine praise from former Dutch footballer Haans Kray. He said: “One of the very best central defenders in the Eredivisie. He can play football well, he can head well and he is incredibly fast. He’s such a good player but Manchester City don’t see anything in him.”
With that in mind, the duo would offer a comfortable and reliable base ahead of the goalkeeper.
This is vitally important considering some of the mishaps to occur over the last 12 months. The Bhoys shipped 16 more goals than Rangers last season and have started this campaign in disastrous fashion.
Nir Bitton was sent off against FC Midtjylland last Tuesday and Vasilis Barkas made another howler, allowing the visitors to score.
Thus, the addition of Itakura may significantly strengthen their armoury. He ranks in the 88th percentile for tackles won (76%) while his 6 foot 1 frame ensures he prevails in 71% of his aerial battles.
The Japanese defender possesses a wide range of skills that could really take Postecoglou’s defence to a new level.
The manager must ensure that the 24-year-old becomes a Celtic player in the not too distant future.
AND in other news, Postecoglou can finally axe Bitton at Celtic by signing “exceptional” 6 ft 2 colossus…