Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has cleared up why it has taken Tomoki Iwata so long to get a start in his midfield. The Scottish Champions were 4-1 winners against Hibernian on Wednesday evening with Iwata starting in the midfield.
The former J-League Player of the Year anchored the midfielder with Matt O’Riley and Callum McGregor further forward and was excellent at breaking up play and keeping the ball moving.
Fans were rightfully impressed by the performance as they had been with cameo performances, with a goal against Hearts and an assist against St Johnstone sticking out. At various junctures throughout the season so far, fans have questioned where Iwata was and what he had to do to get a start with omissions from the first team Matchday squads.
Speaking after the game, Rodgers clarified to Sky Sports why he had taken so long to bring Iwata into the starting XI.
“Tomo is a player that I have wanted to play before but he’s had some injuries. I thought he came in and was good in the centre of midfield.”
It would appear that Iwata has had some injury that has been limiting his game time; although now, it seems that he is fit and ready to stake a claim for that third midfield jersey.
Rodgers has stated that he has been keen to bring Iwata into the starting XI before this week, suggesting he has been performing well in training. Given the fact that David Turnbull, Odin Thiago Holm and Paolo Bernardo have struggled to nail down the third midfield slot in the absence of Reo Hatate, the manager may be inclined to give Iwata a run of games to see whether he can show consistency to his game.
The former Yokohama F Marinos midfielder joined in January on a loan-to-buy deal having been signed by Ange Postecoglou. Towards the end of last season, Iwata found himself playing centre back including in the Cup Final against ICT. By the time his deal went through in June, Ange was off to London to manage Spurs and Rodgers replaced him.
Hopefully, he can prove that he is a competent addition to the team moving forward and can offer an alternative to Callum McGregor in that No.6 role.