Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda both experienced little did in their form after arriving at Celtic last January after Ange Postecoglou got the immediate benefit of throwing both players straight into his Celtic side which was at that stage chasing theRangers in the race for the Scottish Premiership title.
Both players arrived at Celtic coming off a full season in the J-League and that dip is something that the shrew Celtic manager noted and has tried to avoid with the two Japanese signings in the most recent January transfer window, you Yuki Kobayashi and Tomoki Iwata, who have instead been introduced gradually to the Celtic first team.
The two new Bhoys were stand-outs in yesterday’s 4-1 win at Rugby Park against Kilmarnock and perhaps had decent shouts for Man of the Match. That though went to Matt O’Riley who has been so important to this Celtic team since arriving himself in the same window a Hatate and Maeda.
After an impressive start to his Celtic career in the second half of last season, O’Riley stepped back to cover Callum McGregor’s holding midfield role when the skipper picked up an injury in the Champions League match in Leipzig. That kept him out until after the World Cup and O’Riley was outstanding in that role. However, following the World Cup his form seemed to dip and he was more often than not on the bench rather than being one of the first name’s on Ange Postecoglou’s team sheet.
Gradually though O’Riley has re-discovered his sparkle and he’s even started adding goals again, with those two finishes yesterday being very classy indeed.
Afterwards Matt O’Riley spoke to Celtic TV and opened up on his mid-season woes that are thankfully behind him now.
Celtic TV: A double for you today and a man-of-the-match performance, it looked as if Celtic could have scored with every attack in the first half did it feel like that?
Matt O’Riley: “Yes, I think so. We were really fluid and we had a slight change to our shape in the midfield area but I think it worked really well. We had a lot of fluid rotations and I think they really struggled with that having two in midfield and us having Greg and Ali coming inside as well to overload it and I think it worked really well.”
Celtic TV: That’s four goals for the season and 12 assists as well has it been somewhat frustrating for you this season with the goal tally despite weighing in so much in terms of supplying the goals?
Matt O’Riley: “Yeah, probably. I think it was the wait for the first goal which was probably the hardest bit mentally. I don’t want that to come across as selfish because I am not that kind of player but when you are in my position it would have been nice to have scored one at least by that time of the season.
“When that first one came there was a sense of relief. I think now you are starting to see that it’s a bit more effortless in terms of my performances and it’s kind of happening now which is nice but as long as I am helping the team that is the main thing.”
Celtic TV: Tomoki Iwata came in and you spoke about that shape. He had a really impressive display. What do you make of him and what is it like to play alongside him?
Matt O’Riley: “Yeah, first and foremost he is a tank. He’s always in the gym doing upper body work and you should see the size of his arms which are probably bigger than most of our legs and that’s impressive as it is. Even though he is such a tank as I said he is really composed on the ball. He is a really nice person and so is Yuki and both of them have settled in really nicely.”
Celtic TV: It is the final game before the split next week against Motherwell. Is the split something you have managed to get your head around as of yet?
Matt O’Riley: “No, not really to be honest. It’s one game at a time and it’s the same old boring answers but that’s the reality and if we continue with the same approach until the end of the season we should be in a good place.”