How will Brendan Rodgers deal with the curious case of Yuki Kobayashi?

Brendan Rodgers’ arrival at Celtic brought with it more questions than answers. He inherited a squad that had been refined to Ange Postecoglou’s liking and questions started to arise at to how Brendan would assess some of the players who thrived under Ange’s system. More specifically, our players brought over from the J-League.

Without Ange, it is highly unlikely that Japan would have even been a shopping market for Celtic. There have been more successes than failures when it comes to the players brought over from Japan, but one that sits in a state of limbo when it comes to his place in the squad is Yuki Kobayashi.

But, how did it get to this point and where does his future lie?


Solid partnership

Celtic’s centre-back pairing was established in January of 2023 with Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers forming a formidable and unbreakable partnership.

With Moritz Jenz’s loan at the club being terminated and the German heading back to Lorient, Celtic needed more cover at centre-back, and they needed quality as well. Given the success of Celtic’s endeavours into the Japanese market, it seemed like Kobayashi would be the latest quality player to move to the club and challenge for a place at centre-back.

In the beginning, he seemed like exactly what he was brought in to be. A solid left-sided centre-back who could do a job when called upon, with a particularly impressive display in his debut against St Mirren having the fans clamouring for more.

He wouldn’t see more regular game time until Carter-Vickers fell out of the team through injury.

Shaky introduction

With the title wrapped up and a favourable Scottish Cup final ahead, Ange decided it was best to rotate the team after the split. Throwing Kobayashi into a rotated and disjointed Celtic side would prove to be a critical error from Ange and a colossal hit to the confidence of the Japanese.

A nervy performance at a hostile Tynecastle had alarm bells ringing, but a weak and tame performance at Ibrox had him written off completely by some. There is room for a poor performance at Celtic occasionally, given that the gap in overall quality between Celtic and most other domestic teams will still result in us getting the result. However, playing poorly in a 3-0 derby loss is unacceptable to fans.

Poor displays saw him dropped for the Scottish Cup final with Ange opting for midfielder Tomoki Iwata at centre-back. It would have taken a massive hit to Kobayashi’s confidence, and a hit that the player hasn’t recovered from since. During pre-season in Japan, and with nothing at stake, Kobayashi still turned in some error-strewn performances.

At a team like Celtic where every game comes with the expectation of victory, you have to be able to deal with the pressure.

Brendan Rodgers doesn’t seem to favour him, and perhaps a move away from the pressure cooker that is Celtic could allow Yuki to play hiss football, restore his confidence, and allow him to become the player that Celtic thought we had signed in the first place.


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