Hatate and Ideguchi signings make plan for Celtic summer arrival unclear

By Euan Davidson

January 3, 2022

A lot of Celtic players will have raised an eyebrow or two after Celtic shored up deals for Yosuke Ideguchi and Reo Hatate.

If there’s an area of depth, it’s Celtic’s midfield. Particularly beyond the first team, with the likes of Barry Coffey, Kerr McInroy, Ben Wylie and more hoping for opportunities before too long. In the first team, Ismaila Soro will be hoping to repair a disappointing season thus far, while Nir Bitton has looked impressive.

What of James McCarthy, though?

Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Ireland international was brought in the summer, on a four-year deal [Celtic FC]. 30 when he signed, 31 now, it seemed a curious bit of business, albeit one that would provide some competition in the middle of the park. However, with Ange Postecoglou’s system requiring incredible stamina and lightning-quick decision making from his central players, McCarthy has struggled for involvement.

As it is, he’s played just 32% of the available minutes, making 17% of the overall starting line-ups for Celtic [Transfermarkt]. Injury problems have niggled away at him, and his performances have either been solid if unspectacular, or somewhat anonymous.

It’s hard to know what the plan is. Certainly, it’s not clear where he’s best used for Celtic. As a deep-lying playmaker, a la Callum McGregor? Further forward, albeit reducing the pace of the midfield? It’s honestly unclear.

And now having signed two very mobile J League midfielders in Hatate and Ideguchi, that four-year contract is looking somewhat questionable.

“Maeda will set the tone for Ange at Celtic” | Japanese football expert Sam Robson

“Maeda will set the tone for Ange at Celtic” | Japanese football expert Sam Robson
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

James McCarthy still obviously has Celtic chance, but recent signings make picture unclear

It’d be fascinating to know what kind of role was offered to McCarthy. Let’s be clear, the guy can play. In limited appearances, McCarthy has shown a good range of passing, ability to dictate tempo, and even an assist in the League Cup.

That Premier League and international experience he has could be more than useful from a team chemistry point of view.

But is there much of a plan to actually play him on a regular basis? It seems unlikely that he’d have been offered both a four-year deal and a bit-part role to play. That doesn’t really make sense.

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

The game against St Mirren spoke volumes. Even with midfield options scarce, McCarthy sat planted on the bench. Of course, Celtic still dominated and really ought to have won that game, but for a bit of midfield grit, surely McCarthy would’ve been a decent shout. But Ange didn’t call on him.

Now with both a 6 and an 8 arriving in the forms of Ideguchi and Hatate respectively, where does that leave 42-cap McCarthy? Honestly, it’s hard to know.

There’s talent there. Obviously, he’s a player who still can be important for Celtic, and this is by no means writing him off. But Ange signing two new midfield talents is hardly the vote of confidence the ex-Everton man would’ve wanted.

Read more: Tricky forward, 19 y/o star defender; 3 AFCON talents Celtic could scout to bolster squad