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.
Rodgers’ insistence against using Iwata for the first 4 months should be the biggest criticism against his 2nd stint so far imo
Hopefully the first and only player he’s wrong about – though I fear the same will happen with Nawrocki
— Martino (@martino67_) December 6, 2023
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.
More than Rodgers – played a part in 13 of 18 league games and started 6 whilst our first choice midfield three were fit
— Martino (@martino67_) December 7, 2023
Post match BR said “Tomoki would’ve played before but he picked up injuries a couple times when he would’ve been in the team.” I was thinking along the same lines as yersel but that clears it up. Iwata defo fits the profile BR wants so hopefully it’s the start of a run of games
— louie (@garngad141) December 7, 2023
Today’s midfield trio might have got us a few more points in Europe. We’ll never know.
— Bhoysean (@Bhoysean1) December 6, 2023
He said every time hes wanted to use him hes broke down with an injury.
— The Celtic Way (@TheCelticWay3) December 7, 2023
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