The integral role Reo Hatate needs to play for Celtic in just his second start

By Euan Davidson

January 26, 2022

It’ll be his second appearance for Celtic since joining from Kawasaki Frontale, the Champions of the J League, but Reo Hatate will be crucial tonight.

If that sounds dramatic, consider this; without Tom Rogic, David Turnbull or Callum McGregor, our midfield will look markedly different. We’re likely to see Matt O’Riley make his debut in the middle, while one of Nir Bitton or James McCarthy are sure to nail down the number 6 role. Things will be very different indeed.

This’ll almost sound daft, but it’s where we are; putting pressure on Matt O’Riley for his debut is reductive. Yet, here we are, assessing the importance of Hatate, who’s only ahead of him by a week.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Now, we can’t expect virtuoso displays from Reo Hatate every single time he plays. Admittedly, if he’s as good in every game as he was in his debut, I’ll start building his statue myself.

But it’s the kind of game this might be. With Celtic essentially launching a new midfield tonight, it’d be extremely impressive if we had as big a command of possession as we usually do. With the likely pairing of O’Riley and Hatate playing together, it’d be a miracle if they formed a coherent partnership instantly.

Therefore, it’ll likely be more about passing quickly and exploiting the pace in the front three. We know Hatate has an eye for a rapid pass ahead of him. Against Hibernian, Hatate played 3 accurate long balls, with 3 key passes [Fotmob].

Hatate’s natural instinct for constructing attacks with fast thinking and passing ability could be crucial tonight.

Ange delivers transfer update as Celtic target Tynecastle revenge | Hearts vs Celtic Preview

Ange delivers transfer update as Celtic target Tynecastle revenge | Hearts vs Celtic Preview
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Ingenuity of Reo Hatate could be crucial for Celtic against Hearts tonight

Now, again; putting pressure on the shoulders of a guy who’s literally just through the door at Celtic in a game at Tynecastle against Hearts seems beyond reason.

Yet, we have to do it. Suddenly, one of our newest signings seems likely to have our game-plan revolve around him. In the last game against Hearts, finding space against the Jambos’ back-3 from wide positions and through the middle was where chances came from.

Hatate is central to both. Quick switches of play out wide or finding space where it doesn’t exist in central areas is the best chance Celtic have of scoring tonight. Without Tom Rogic or Callum McGregor, that job seems a bit harder, but it’s far from impossible.

Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

He’ll at least have the benefit of Matt O’Riley’s energy next to him. O’Riley can show play wide, having averaged around 3.6 crosses per 90 at MK Dons this season [FBRef]. The former Fulham man’s energy in the press is also useful, averaging over a tackle and an assist per 90 over the same period.

So, Hatate should have good foil with him in the middle, anchored by – most likely, anyway – Nir Bitton. The quality is there.

Nobody would necessarily want to rely on a new signing to get us through a game like tonight’s. But Hatate, even if the players around him hadn’t been injured, would’ve been an important player tonight. Such was the quality of his debut, and the attributes he brings.

If he can make it a duo of top performances against the Edinburgh sides, we’ll be in really good stead tonight.

Read more: Hearts players are astonishingly still moaning about Kyogo goal at Celtic Park