Celtic did some great transfer business recently by signing Japanese youngster Yuki Kobayashi from Vissel Kobe on a permanent deal. Signing a five-year contract, the 22-year-old’s transfer to the Bhoys is one of the noteworthy deals to happen in the Scottish Premiership in the 2023 winter transfer window. Regarded as a young defender with great potential, he has featured regularly in Vissel Kobe’s first team. Last season, he made 32 league appearances in the J1 League, starting in 28 matches and giving some strong performances in defence.
Since signing him to a five-year deal, Yuki Kobayashi has featured once for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership already. The Japanese youngster will provide the Scottish Champions with some much-needed depth in the defensive positions as they look to make it two consecutive titles. Below, we look at some stats to understand why Celtic have added the young Japanese centre-back to their ranks.
Yuki Kobayashi played as a left centre-back for his side. The above viz shows the percentile rank of the player’s stats compared to other centre-backs from the J1 League 2022 season. It can be observed that the 22-year-old fares admirably in the defending and possession departments. Notably, the player has a high rank in terms of winning aerial and defensive duels and has overall decent stats in this department. Additionally, the Japanese professional has a good rank in possession parameters like pass attempts, accurate passes, and received passes. Apart from that, the player doesn’t contribute much to the attack.
Yuki Kobayashi shows his proficiency in the central defensive area in the defensive and middle thirds for his team. The above viz shows the player’s defensive territory from the previous J1 League campaign. Kobayashi commits lots of defensive actions inside his own half by making important interceptions and tactical fouls. He also makes a lot of interceptions inside the penalty box and has only committed one foul there. He makes 4.79 interceptions per 90, along with 5.71 defensive duels and 4.29 aerial duels. He has a 71.1% win rate for defensive duels and wins 66.7% of aerial duels. Kobayashi gives up only 0.83 fouls per 90, which shows his composure while defending, and also averages 2.6 clearances per match.
The two visuals above represent the Japanese defender’s important role in restricting the opponent in both halves. He has shown the ability to win back possession in the opposition half, as evidenced by the 16 high regains he made last season. The centre-back makes 11.81 recoveries per match, with 17.2% of them occurring in the opposition’s half. He is also capable of making dangerous and counter-pressing recoveries, including two in the opposition penalty box, one of which led to a shot. Meanwhile, in his own half, Yuki has thwarted the opposition from threatening his goal on multiple occasions. He blocked a total of 12 shots last season with a combined xG of 0.84. The majority of them were crucial blocks inside the box.
Kobayashi performs the important role of circulating possession and building up play from the centre-back position. Yuki has the great passing ability for various types of passes. Currently, he averages around 56 passes per match with a high accuracy of 89.5%. His pass map above shows a network of sideward passes in his own half. But as he moves forward, these passes become more progressive towards the midfield and wide positions on either flank, particularly on the left side. Kobayashi averages 20.16 forward passes per match with 77.8% accuracy. Among these, 7.08 of the passes are to the final third, with an accuracy rate of 67.3%.
Role at Celtic
The addition of Yuki Kobayashi has added more depth and talent to the Celtic’s defensive structure. They usually play with two centre-backs, and the 22-year-old Japanese can be a great backup option while giving competition for a starting role to the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, and Stephen Welsh.
The above viz is a comparison between Yuki Kobayashi and 23-year-old Stephen Welsh. Both players outperform each other in some of the stats. While Welsh has a better rank in more of the metrics, Kobayashi holds the advantage in areas like contesting and winning defensive duels, positioning, and winning aerial duels.
Overall, Yuki Kobayashi is a promising young player who has amassed a decent level of experience playing regularly for the first team. He is a defensively strong player who can improve the overall performance of Celtic’s backline. The move to Celtic is certainly the next step in his career, where he will get to develop further into his potential and hopefully achieve success. The 22-year-old will have an important role to play in Celtic’s defensive department for the rest of the season, with the Bhoys trying to win back-to-back Scottish Premiership titles.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine