Ange's Kobayashi thinking as Celtic boss delivers verdict on Saturday Tomoki Iwata display

By John McGinley

May 21, 2023

Ange Postecoglou indicated his decision to bench Yuki Kobayashi for yesterday’s match at home to St Mirren was down to rotation and squad planning ahead of the Scottish Cup final.

Tomoki Iwata was a surprise choice in the heart of the defence alongside Carl Starfelt and didn’t have the best 90 minutes, with Celtic drawing 2-2. Iwata showed nice vision in the build-up to Kyogo Furuhashi’s goal but, alongside the rest of the defensive line, struggled to contain the Buddies.

Curtis Main in particularly found great joy up against the Bhoys, winnings battles on the ground and in the air to score a double. He could have had a hat trick, too, with some big chances squandered in the second half.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Celtic boss discusses Japanese duo

Postecoglou said of Iwata’s performance post-match [Scottish Mail on Sunday, 21/05 print edition]: “He was okay. When you look at it, it’s not about individuals. It is about the collective.”

That’s nothing the Celtic boss doesn’t often stress but he’s perhaps also making sure to protect Iwata from too much criticism on just his fourth start for the Bhoys.

Before the match he was asked about the selection itself, suggesting that Kobayashi will be coming back into the team against either Hibernian or Aberdeen ahead of the Hampden final.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “These three games this week is an opportunity for us to get ready for a big game in terms of the cup final and it’s about getting as many guys game time between now and then.

“And also making sure the team is well-tuned leading into that big game. It’ll be Tomoki Iwata at centre-back, he’s played there before with his old club and I used him there. It’s important to give him that game time. Yuki played last week, we’ve got a game midweek so it’s about trying to get as many guys game time.”

Asked specifically if Kobayashi was being dropped in response to his difficult day at Ibrox last week, Postecoglou reiterated it was down to the above reasons given.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the defence since Cameron Carter-Vickers’ season ended and concerns are legitimate. But the manager has also been keen to stress work rate off the ball has been lower than usual across the board, insisting to reporters yesterday that Carter-Vickers’ absence is not the reason behind what we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Whoever is selected in the Bhoys’ defence, supporters will be looking for improvement in the final three games of the season – especially in that potential treble-winning Scottish Cup final.

In other news, Watch Celtic support give incredible post-match ovation to Fran Alonso and squad despite title agony.