How will Brendan Rodgers deal with the curious case of Tomoki Iwata?

Tomoki Iwata has had a very strange time at Celtic so far.

Evidently a quality player, Iwata came in with perhaps the most pedigree of any of Celtic’s recent acquisitions from the J-League. However, despite the limited opportunities afforded to him in his first six months at Parkhead, Iwata still impressed supporters, his displays from the bench against Rangers in particular.

Fans had tipped Iwata to have a breakthrough season this year under Brendan Rodgers, however, game time has been hard to come by with the 26-year-old having failed to notch up a single minute of competitive football so far.

With the Celtic squad looking very thin with the recent spate of injuries, Iwata hasn’t been afforded any chances and why could this be?

Fans were impressed

As previously mentioned, Iwata came in with a good pedigree. Arriving at the club having previously worked with Ange Postecoglou at Yokohama F Marinos, fans were expecting big things from the only one of Celtic’s Japanese players to win the J-League player of the season.

However, despite Ange clearly trusting Iwata having chosen to bring him over to Scotland with him, chances proved to be at a premium and starts were limited to filling holes in the squad affected by injuries.

He started seven games last season with the lions’ share of those minutes coming after the split where he took up Cameron Carter-Vickers’ usual centre-back spot whilst the American was out receiving surgery. Fans were impressed with the steel Iwata brought to the Celtic team, something the midfield has been shown to desperately lack so far this season.

Lack of minutes this season

Iwata was a mainstay in the Celtic squad throughout pre-season, starting every single game for Celtic, but at the right-back position with Alistair Johnston out injured and Anthony Ralston still getting up to speed.

This gave fans the belief that Brendan Rodgers saw a lot of the same qualities in the 26-year-old as they did and Iwata may have been in line for a whole host of opportunities. A versatile player, Iwata can fill a number of different roles and can excel as a centre-back or as a midfielder, but Rodgers has opted for other options instead of the Japanese international.

With Gustaf Lagerbielke and Liam Scales being the only fit centre-backs at the club, most fans (this writer included) would have been forgiven for believing that Iwata would have been thrust into the squad ahead of Sunday’s visit to Ibrox, but Liam Scales started instead.

The Celtic midfield has often found itself being bypassed with ease this season with the workload being placed on Callum McGregor’s shoulders also seeming to limit the captain’s abilities. So, with Iwata having a previous track-record for shoring up and calming down the Celtic midfield as well as providing a bit more defensive acumen, many thought it would be his time to step up in that area of the pitch, but again Rodgers has persisted without him.

Iwata is unlucky to be playing in the same position as the Celtic captain. In previous years this has affected many players’ development with the captain’s place in the team being assured and almost being seen as undroppable.

This means opportunities will be limited and unless the captain is injured or Rodgers reverts to another system or dynamic in the midfield, then Iwata will have to make do with his place on the bench.

Iwata can definitely have a valuable role to play in the Celtic team, whether he is offered the chance to do so is another question.


Leave a Reply