I was encouraged when I read Tomoki Iwata would play in central defence against St Mirren. Since losing Kristoffer Ajer we have missed a central defender who is happy to carry the ball forward and break defensive lines. When Kris did this against well organised defences, the overload often caused them to lose shape and concede a chance.
Tomoki didn’t play this way but his forward pass to Reo Hatate at Celtic’s first goal was a perfect example of what a skilled ball player in the back line can give you. Defending is only part of the story for a central defender, they have a responsibility to open up gaps in opposition defence, either by driving forward, as Kris would, or linking back to front, as Tomoki did on Saturday.
Unfortunately, while he may be sufficient for a dead rubber at the end of the season, Tomoki’s 5’ 10” stature is insufficient as a central defender. We are a team with a height deficit throughout the field, even our first-choice central defenders are a bit shy of the average for that position.
The downfall of persistent winners often comes because of a failure to break the team up, something which happens more naturally with persistent losers. To make gains next season, Celtic will have to break a winning mould, with all the risks that entails.
Credit to St Mirren, who despite their lack of resources, again took the game to Celtic in a way that was refreshing to see and again were rewarded. Curtis Main bossed the match and deserved the hat trick the thickness of a post denied him.