Could Tomoki Iwata start on Sunday?

Celtic have been out of sorts since returning from the winter break, with the players admitting to the media that they have been “struggling” and Brendan Rodgers doubling down on the players comments by declaring that Celtic’s recent faltering form is “unsurprising”.

Draws against Aberdeen and Kilmarnock have seen Celtic lose the gap that they had made for themselves at the summit of the cinch Premiership in December with a victory over Rangers at Parkhead, with their arch rivals now sitting 2 points clear of the reigning champions.

There have been plenty of issues with the team’s performances identified by the manager and supporters, with the wingers not performing to their maximum and providing top quality service to Kyogo Furuhashi.

However, one of the main problems with Celtic’s recent form is the midfield. Constantly overrun with too many players failing to influence the game offensively and chasing shadows defensively, Brendan Rodgers has to make some changes to the Celtic team if he wishes to see a turning point in Celtic’s current downward spiral.

One suggestion that has been brought to the fold by supporters on social media has been the potential reintroduction of Tomoki Iwata to the Celtic midfield.

A former J-League MVP, there is definitely a quality player there, and he doesn’t put much of a foot wrong whenever he steps into this Celtic team, but could Sunday’s trip to Fir Park to face Motherwell see the reintroduction of the Japanese midfielder.

What does he bring to the team?
Tomoki Iwata is an incredibly physical player. You just have to take one look at him to see the evidence of that, and he has been consistently called upon by Brendan Rodgers when the team is losing their grip on a match and needs more defensive stability to see out the victory.

He was brought into the fold towards the end of 2023 and things started positively. Deputising Iwata as a 6 allowed Callum McGregor to venture further forward, a role in which the captain shone in under Rodgers the first time around.

Having the Japanese midfielder in the team also allowed a lot of the defensive responsibilities to be removed from the shoulders of Matt O’Riley, with the Dane flexing his attacking prowess against the opposition.

However, an injury coupled with a 2-1 defeat to Derek McInnes’ Kilmarnock side at Rugby Park saw the end of the Tomoki Iwata experiment.

In recent weeks, Celtic haven’t been able to contend with pressing teams, and the midfield was being consistently overrun by both Kilmarnock and Motherwell.

Bringing Iwata in provides a bit more stability, something that Celtic desperately needs as they can’t seem to hold onto games in the second-half.

How do Celtic make room for him?
Brendan Rodgers has been experimenting with a new shape that has seen Kyogo Furuhashi deputing behind Adam Idah.

The manager could make a slight tweak to that current system by playing a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond. The wingers haven’t been offering much in the last few weeks, so deploying a narrow formation with Iwata in front of the defence, McGregor and O’Riley further forward with Luis Palma as an attacking midfielder behind Kyogo and Adam Idah could be interesting set-up for Celtic.

James McKenzie // @JamesWHMcKenzie

Leave a Reply