The Celtic stalwart who has most to gain from aggressive Hoops recruitment

By Euan Davidson

January 5, 2022

You’d be hard pressed to find a Celtic fan unhappy with Callum McGregor this season. Even in a campaign that’s been dominated by new faces.

Playing as more of a deep-lying 6, McGregor has been the vital cog in Ange’s attacking engine. He’s averaging 1.9 key passes per 90, and almost 2 shots a game [WhoScored?]. From a defensive point of view, he’s making 1.4 tackles. His passing, as ever: outstanding.

Showing the defensive leadership to anchor the backline, as well as his typical enterprise going forward, the captain has been sensational. I wrote as much around Christmas, naming him as one of 3 players who’s massively improved in 21-22.

He could, though, get even better. Celtic have already been aggressive in the transfer market, bringing in Reo Hatate, Yosuke Ideguchi and Daizen Maeda. And each of those players, in their own way, can provide a real boost for Callum McGregor in the middle of the park.

Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Firstly, Hatate. A versatile midfielder, he’s perfect foil as the bridge between McGregor and a more natural number 10. Here, we mean either Tom Rogic or David Turnbull. While both the Socceroo and the ex-Motherwell man have grown while playing deeper in the midfield, their tendencies are to maraud forward and create. Hatate is a bit different.

In possession, Hatate has the wherewithal to drop deeper and allow Callum McGregor to advance with the ball while Celtic are commanding games. That’s a comfortable role for him. And while Turnbull has got better at providing cover, Hatate is the more naturally central-minded player. Alternatively, McGregor can pass to Hatate and allow him to build attacks, while edging the defenders further forward, and combining with two inverted full-backs.

As for Maeda and Ideguchi? Let’s get into it.

“When Ideguchi is on, he can be unplayable” | Japanese football expert Sam Robson

“When Ideguchi is on, he can be unplayable” | Japanese football expert Sam Robson
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

New Bhoys are perfect foil for Celtic captain Callum McGregor

Maeda might seem like a less obvious one. But McGregor likes to drift left. We saw this at its peak against Ross County, in a move finished by Liel Abada. Liam Scales rotated with McGregor, allowing the captain to hug the left touchline, before swapping with the left-back, who underlapped and provided a great cross for Abada.

Now, in terms Daizen Maeda, there are real opportunities there. McGregor has linked well with Jota on the left flank, and the same could be true for the former Yokohama F Marinos forward. Having that kind of pace ahead of him, someone who’s able to do hard yards and position himself wherever he’s needed? It’s an absolute gift for a player like McGregor.

As for Ideguchi, it’s more straight-forward. If Ange Postecoglou wants Callum McGregor further forward, the former Leeds and Greuther Fürth midfielder can operate deeper. That takes defensive onus off McGregor a bit, and puts him in the role we’ve seen him play most in his Celtic career. Not quite an attacking midfielder, but a box-to-box link with metronomic passing ability.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It’s exciting. These are transfers that are an absolute prize for arguably our best player. McGregor has had a sensational season thus far for Celtic.

But it’s something of a late Christmas present. Celtic have got three new colleagues who play to McGregor’s strengths, and give him either respite or excellent potential combinations.

It’s hard to imagine the Celtic captain is anything less than delighted with the Hoops’ transfer work thus far.

Read more: Japanese FA explain why Celtic pair Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate have been dropped from international squad