Celtic signed 2022 J. League Player of the Year Tomoki Iwata from Yokohama F. Marinos in January. The 26-year-old signed initially on loan, and the move was made permanent over the summer.

Under Brendan Rodgers, though, Iwata has found opportunities limited. He has made two appearances under the Irishman, but both have come in the last two games.

Going forward, he is aiming to impress his gaffer and gain more opportunities. Iwata said (Football Zone via Daily Record): “I will try to appeal in training in order to seize the opportunity. By gradually increasing my chances to play in this way and I can make the coach realise that I am a player who can bring something positive to the team.”

Very much versatile, Iwata is comfortable in midfield and defence. Away at Feyenoord, he came on as a centre-back but against Livingston at the weekend, he was deployed in the engine room.

The player himself believes his strength lies in one-on-one defending. He said: “In the match against Feyenoord Calvin Stengs, who was below the top of the opponent, was attacking us one-on-one in a fairly narrow space. I want to show that I can stop a player like that. That’s my strength, and it’s my selling point.”

Iwata and Maeda
Iwata and Maeda playing for Marinos

As well as utilising this attribute in defence, the treble-winner can do so in midfield, too: “If I can pitch in as a midfielder, I feel like I’ll be able to match up with the opponent’s key players more often and have more opportunities to show off. However, my strength is also that I can play a wide range of positions as a midfielder, wing back and centre-back.”

With current injuries and suspensions, Iwata is a useful player for Rodgers to have at his disposal. He has made a few cameos in the past few games and hasn’t looked out of place.

It would be encouraging to see him be given more opportunities in coming matches as he is deserving of them. In midfield and defence, Iwata provides quality and possesses more experience than the likes of Odin Thiago Holm and Gustaf Lagerbielke.

Against Lazio next week, it may well be the 26-year-old who gets the nod at the heart of defence alongside Liam Scales due to Lagerbielke’s suspension. That is unless Cameron Carter-Vickers, Maik Nawrocki, or Nat Phillips returns to fitness before then.



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