Opinion: The truth about Reo Hatate and his recent Celtic struggles

By David Walton

March 3, 2022

If you watched last night’s 2-0 win over St Mirren, you couldn’t have failed to hear the groans that rippled through Celtic Park almost every time Reo Hatate attempted to do something.

The Japanese international is currently in a state of declining form. His last direct goal contribution came in the form of an assist away to Motherwell last month. And it’s fair to say he’s struggled to reach any real heights in any of his last 3 starts against Dundee, Hibernian, and St Mirren respectively.

Hatate lasted 63 minutes against the Buddies last night. And despite being one of our most creative players in the final third, he ended the match with the lowest passing accuracy of 82.2% [WhoScored]. Many will have noticed how many times his passes went either out of play or were too easily dispossessed.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

But it’s important to remember before he gets criticised for his form that there are a number of key factors that are likely influencing fan frustration.

The first one being that we seem to be expecting all of our Japanese stars to adapt as quickly as Kyogo Furuhashi did. This is something I’ve regularly spoken about before. It can’t be underestimated just how much of a difference Scottish football is compared to the J-League.

It’s also important to appreciate the cultural differences between the countries. It could take certain players and personalities longer to adapt than others. We can’t just assume that the move is going to be seamless. Just because he scored a brace against Rangers and netted at Tynecastle, it doesn’t mean things were going to click straight away.

Celtic 2-0 St. Mirren | LIVE Reaction

Celtic 2-0 St. Mirren | LIVE Reaction
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

We also have to understand that Hatate has been operating through a gruelling schedule that stretches back to 2020. Hatate played 45 games for club and country during the 2020/21 J-League campaign, which only finished back in December.

From there, he quickly made his move to Celtic in January and has been thrown into one of the most heated title races in all of European football. All of this without a substantial break. Sure, at 24 years old he’ll have plenty of stamina in him, but we can’t just forget how much this can all take out of a player.

It’s been constant non-stop football for Hatate. Daizen Maeda probably falls into the same bracket, granted he impressed against the Buddies last night.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It also must be said that the blistering expectations levels that were set early doors hasn’t helped either. He earned the man-of-the-match award on his debut vs Hibernian. He then followed that up with those goals against Hearts and Rangers. Since then, he’s been expected to produce magic every time he’s been on the pitch.

The pressure on his shoulders has been substantial ever since he joined. There are so many reasons as to why the downturn in performance levels is frustrating supporters. But it’s clear this is a player we need to be patient about.

There’s clearly a huge talent in there. And if truth be told, he could struggle for a while yet. It’s important we all continue to stand behind him and show the patience and understanding required.

In other news, St Mirren boss sounds absolutely devastated with deserved Celtic Park defeat