Celtic fans will believe Daizen Maeda could easily have scored in every Champions league outing so far this season, but Ange Postecoglou admits he will continue to persevere and demand improvement from the Japanese forward.
The versatile 24-year-old attacker arrived in January on the back of scoring 23 goals that earned him the J-League top-scorer award.
However, the former Yokohama F. Marinos star has struggled profoundly in front of goal this term - finding the net on just one occasion in 14 appearances - as he endured another frustrating performance in a wider role against RB Leipzig.
Postecoglou has always acknowledged Maeda’s phenomenal work-rate, but his quality on the ball in recent weeks has been consistently lacking, highlighted again by a series of poor touches and crosses into the box on Tuesday night.
Commenting on the player’s recent slump in form, Postecoglou said: “It is just perseverance. I know people look at the end product, and he has been a bit unlucky on a couple of occasions (against Leipzig).
“He does put in an enormous work-rate. We felt from last week their right-hand side can be a threat going forward, and I thought his defensive work was outstanding, and that helps us as a team.
“But he’s got to learn the other side of the game which is really important in terms of finishing and the end product. He keeps getting into those positions. In ever game he does - but goals are eluding him.
“Again we can’t just sort of scrap him because he is not the finish product. We have to persevere with all our players. Apart from Joe (Hart) you look at the rest of them age-wise and experience-wise, and this is a massive jump for them.
“I am being really ambitious with the way I want us to play our football. That is going to be testing for them, but I am not discouraged by the way we are going. If anything I am encouraged to keep going down this road.”
The Hoops have performed well in their last three Champions League matches but have failed to take their chances, culminating in just one point.
The Scottish champions are staring at an early European exit is they fail to beat Shakhtar Donetsk at Parkhead before facing holders Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Asked how important it is to secure at least one group stage victory from their remaining two games, Postecoglou admitted: “It’s important for the players and our supporters because they have been outstanding.
“You want something from it. I can’t fault our endeavour or the way we’ve gone about it. Our mindset has been great, but ultimately all of us want a reward along the way because it can accelerate the belief that already exists, so they are important games.
“But Shakhtar have shown already how good a team they are and they have aspirations of going through, so it won’t be easy for us.”