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Celtic’s midfield mystery starts to unravel

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The issue of balance in the Celtic midfield has been ongoing for some time with many fans feeling that bolstering that area of the park would significantly improve performances in the Champions League.

Callum McGregor has largely been deployed as the deepest lying midfielder against the best sides in the continent, a role that is rarely required in domestic matches where Celtic routinely have between 70-80% possession. Going solo in that role five or six times a season hasn’t done McGregor any favours, or frankly worked out.

Under Ange Postecoglou things started to come together in the January 2022 transfer window when Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley were signed up while David Turnbull, pivotal in the first four months of the season, was out with a serious hamstring injury.

The new bhoys were dropped in the deep end but successive midweek wins at Tynecastle and in the Glasgow Derby turned the tide in the SPFL title race with Celtic out in front ever since.

James McCarthy and Yosuke Ideguchi were the only signings in Season One not to make a positive impact under Angeball but that was more than balanced out by the multiple successes.

Last summer Aaron Mooy and Oliver Abildgaard were signed up, the Australian hit a purple patch after returning from the World Cup but the Dane had his loan deal cut short.

Tomoki Iwata was brought in on the back of a Player of the Year Award from the J-League but openings were limited.

Mooy’s form ousted O’Riley from the starting XI but injuries caught up with the one time St Mirren man, when he retired in the summer Celtic were back to square one.

Mark Lawwell is never short of a project. During the summer Brendan Rodgers was presented with Odin Thiago Holm and Kwon Hyeok-kyu then in the final week of the transfer window Paulo Bernardo arrived on loan.

With three new central midfielders on board Iwata played at right-back in pre-season with Holm and Turnbull starting matches as Rodgers pushed for the elusive blend in the centre of the park. Kwon has disappeared without trace, making less appearances than Ben Siegrist or Yuki Kobayashi.

Before his appearance at St Johnstone on Sunday Iwata had played 40 minutes across three substitute dating back to his goal away to Hearts in October, he hasn’t been mentioned in any injury updates.

Sunday’s game away to St Johnstone seems to have triggered a reaction on Rodgers, a more aggressive approach has been witnessed in the game and a half since his address in the visitors dressing room.

It is only one appearance but against Hibs last night Iwata had more of an impact than Turnbull, Holm and Bernardo although Turnbull’s goals have been vital.

There is a testing fixture list through until January 2 at St Mirren but last night Rodgers might have discovered the best midfield balance since Hatate was injured- one that eases the strain with Hatate not expected to be playing again until the end of January.

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  • Scud Missile says:

    Aw magic the klan are spitting blood over on FF due to them not getting tickets for Celtic Park for the game in December.
    Apparently it’s all Celtic’s fault that the BIGOTED fans from ibrox can’t attend the game,they are screaming blue murder(no joke intended)and they want their klubs directors and chairman to call in the SFA and demand they get the tickets that’s theirs.
    These DOPEY Jeremy Hunts are forgetting they started this shite way back when the CHISLER was running the show and couldn’t handle sore arse after sore arse at ibrox,getting pumped rotten and sponsored by Savlon cream for their sore arses.

  • Jorge says:

    I think Timoki Iwata played the position very well last night and hope to see him and judge him against better opposition: he should be starting all games between now and the break unless his form dips badly. Then with MOR maintaining his magnificent form, and when Hatate gets fit we will have the midfield balance we need, and with decent back-up options available.

  • Terence Nova says:

    You’re either a good player or you’re not…Iwata is a very good player…Hope BR doesn’t tinker again.

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