Celtic’s Scottish Cup final jersey that is still up for grabs

Saturday’s draw with St Mirren saw yet another change at centre-back, as Ange Postecoglou looked to solidify his back four.

Yuki Kobayashi had been brought in to the starting XI against both Hearts and Rangers due to the absence of Cameron Carter-Vickers.

The young central defender didn’t have the best time out against Rangers last weekend, with two errors in the lead up to the first two goals, and then failing to cover for the third.

With that in mind, Ange switched things up against The Buddies, bringing in Tomoki Iwata for just his fourth start since joining Celtic in January.

Talking to BBC Sportsound about his decision, Ange said: “These three games this week is an opportunity for us to get ready for a big game in terms of the cup final and it’s about getting as many guys game time between now and then.

“And also making sure the team is well-tuned leading into that big game. It’ll be Tomoki Iwata at centre-back, he’s played there before with his old club, and I used him there. 

“It’s important to give him that game time. Yuki played last week, we’ve got a game midweek so it’s about trying to get as many guys game time.”


Many fans have since claimed that Kobayashi being benched at the weekend will have knocked his confidence and was the wrong thing to do.

Firstly, I would disagree with this. The youngster was heavily criticised after the Rangers match and some of this was unfortunately warranted. He looked a little out of his depth at times and not up to speed. His reactions were slow and his decision-making was poor.

The criticism would more likely be the reason that his confidence could get bruised. There is no harm in taking him out of that situation, and I think that is exactly what Ange has done. He has noticed that his young central defender’s performances had come under scrutiny and felt that taking him out of the firing line was the best thing for him.

Kobayashi is only 22-years-old and has plenty of time ahead of him. There is absolutely no rush. He has been playing in a new country for five months, adapting to the climate and culture as well as the game itself. He needs nurtured and eased into the side. Ange’s ability to realise that he maybe isn’t quite ready was spot on and best for both club and player.


This also gave Ange a chance to play Iwata at centre-half, a position he had played with his former club in Japan. Iwata has impressed this season when given a chance in his preferred midfield spot, adding defensive solidity to the middle of the park and breaking up play.

Iwata has shown positive defensive capabilities and, with the midfield looking so strong and tough to break into, it seemed right to try the versatile 26-year-old in the back four.

With St Mirren having already caused Celtic problems earlier on in the season, Ange would have known that they were no mugs. It did not take long for the visitors to, once again, cause the Glasgow side problems. A mix-up at the back between Anthony Ralston and Iwata saw Curtis Main break through before beating Ralston again and slotting it under Joe Hart.

A long ball up from keeper Trevor Carson should really not have caused the problems it did. Both Celtic defenders were ball-watching and effectively ran into each other. So, not a great start to Iwata’s time at centre-back.

Iwata would make amends for his mistake ten minutes later, showing his incredible vision as he picked the ball up in his own half, drove forward and picked out a fantastic through-ball to Reo Hatate, who then easily slotted Kyogo Furuhashi in to put Celtic level.

With Celtic once again trailing in the match, another long ball up from Carson in goal caused problems and Iwata could not deal with it, letting Main through on goal with a chance to put the visitors back into the lead. Luckily for the Japanese defender, the forward’s effort struck the post.

Overall, Iwata struggled with the physicality of St Mirren’s journeyman striker, and it looked as though manager Stephen Robinson exposed that deficiency in Celtic’s defence.

On the ball, the central defender looked comfortable, his ability to take the ball forward and get the team up the park is a skill that Ange is very fond of in his centre-backs. However, as a defender in Scotland, you are going to come up against all kinds of physical attackers and you need to be able to deal with that.

Much like Kobayashi, Iwata’s performance was not horrendous, but when replacing star-man Cameron Carter Vickers with these players, there has been a noticeable drop-off in defensive quality.

The centre-back position is definitely one Ange will be looking to improve on in the summer, and it could well be one of the jerseys still up for grabs in the Scottish Cup final in little under two weeks’ time.


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