James McCarthy is now being faced with the biggest challenge of his Celtic career

By David Walton

January 12, 2022

The arrival of Yosuke Ideguchi will hopefully add some grit to the defensive midfield role given it’s an area of the squad we’ve been lacking in this season.

Callum McGregor has often featured in a more reserved position this season, giving David Turnbull and Tom Rogic the license to do damage in the final third. However, Ange Postecoglou has consistently snubbed the likes of James McCarthy and Ismaila Soro.

There is a difference between the pair and their respective situations of course. Soro, for example, hasn’t played in any of our last 13 league games [Transfermarkt]. Not to mention he’s been linked with a move away in January too [Sky Sports].

Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

McCarthy, meanwhile, was given a 90-minute outing at St Johnstone on Boxing Day. He also played the full 90 against Aberdeen in a recent Premiership encounter too. Given he was signed under Ange and with 6 starts to his name this term, he doesn’t look like going anywhere this month.

Nobody can say it’s gone to plan so far. Fans are still struggling to wonder what McCarthy’s main strengths actually are. So much so that we’re just happy when he manages to do the basics on his rare outings.

However, the signing of Ideguchi provides him with a monumental challenge. The biggest of his Celtic career so far – trying to make an impression ahead of his current competition.

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James McCarthy has a lot of proving to do to keep Yosuke Ideguchi out

The optimist will say that this provides Ange with options. The realists, however, would claim that Ideguchi needs to be a step-up because James simply isn’t bringing enough to the party.

Ange will go all out to prove he was right to secure the latter. He screams “Ange Postecoglou signing”, and the Celtic boss will know that too. He’ll be doing all he can to prove he was worth money. And that, in turn, makes it extremely difficult for McCarthy to see extended game-time in 2022.

After all, McGregor is totally undroppable as the club captain. There’s only really the one spot that McCarthy can compete for. And Ideguchi now looks like his main stumbling block to regular first-team exposure.

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

Even without Ideguchi in the mix, McCarthy was still often rooted to the bench in favour of Turnbull. With David still injured ahead of the coming weeks, it could give James the chance to make an impression. Ideguchi won’t feature in every game, and Nir Bitton is seldom brought back into his old CDM role.

However, you wonder his many spells James needs before he actually makes an impression here. We all though December’s gruelling run of fixtures was going to provide him with his opportunity. Instead, he spent the majority of time sat on the bench.

The arrival of Ideguchi won’t help him, but he needs to see it as a challenge. It’s the biggest of his Hoops career so far, and it’s vital he uses all of that experience he has to take his chance when it comes. McCarthy is in desperate need of something. Will Ideguchi’s signing spark it? We can only hope.

In other news, Leigh Griffiths urged to make immediate improvements as Celtic and Dundee talks roll on