Brendan Rodgers is very calculated in press conferences with the words that he uses.

Because of that, you can learn a lot about how the man operates due to the information he gives when facing the media. Since returning to the club, the 50-year-old has been feeling his way back into the role he excelled in when he first arrived over seven years ago. In adopting this tact, he has cut a slightly different figure.

That all changed after recent comments at a press conference regarding Reo Hatate. The midfielder has been a mainstay in the team since his arrival from Kawasaki Frontale back in 2021 but found himself benched on Flag Day in favour of David Turnbull, who himself has been in and out of the side since the former’s arrival. The decision to drop Hatate paid off – at least for the team – as Celtic won 4-2 against Ross County.

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Rodgers addressed his thinking behind this change: "Reo’s got three years left on his contract so there’s no rush. It’s a new cycle, a new manager and he has to prove himself. If players aren’t playing, I’ve been open and honest with them about where we’re at, how I prepare a team, when I tell them the team, and when they’re not playing how they’ve got to respond.

"I’m not really worried about what’s said or not, I’ll play the team I see with the best energy, mentality and efficiency with how we want to work. He knows areas he needs to work on to play for me, and the structure of how I work. He’s responded really well in training and will absolutely be a player we need over the course of the season.

"Look, you never expect players to be happy if they are not playing, and that’s just the way Reo is, too. Even before a ball was kicked, I could see he has that style and way about him. But he’s a good guy, there is no question of that."

An interesting choice of words from the manager, but perhaps the most telling thing were his comments on what Hatate can do better. This is the same player that almost single-handedly drove Ange Postecoglou and Celtic’s title push in the 2021/22 season, with big goals against Hearts and Rangers as well as a Player of the Match debut against Hibernian.

Even last season, there were spells where Hatate looked unplayable. His first-half performance against Real Madrid was a highlight, as were domestic showings against Aberdeen and Rangers, respectively. With clear evidence of Hatate succeeding at Celtic, what does he need to improve on?

Rodgers’ comments indicate that there may be a conflict in styles, in which Turnbull may be better suited for this position, at least for now. However, Hatate started every game in pre-season, so was it the Japanese international’s performance against Athletic Club that was the clincher regarding Rodgers’ midfield judgement?

If that was the case, then Hatate can feel a little hard done by. Yes, it was his slack pass that directly led to the opposition's opener through Unai Gomez, but he redeemed himself with a well-taken equaliser later on in the half. A mixed bag on the night for him indeed, but nothing drastic or worrying long-term.

His case was not helped by the performance of Turnbull in the second 45 minutes, as the bit-part midfielder played a key role in securing the win for the side last Tuesday. It was his goal that separated the two sides, which may have prompted Rodgers to give him the nod ahead of Hatate for Flag Day, which he grasped with both hands.

It has been no secret that he aspires to play in a better and more high-quality league. He made these declarations clear after Celtic’s defeat of Gamba Osaka, telling Japanese media: "If I can challenge (in the English Premier League), I would like to do it. But I can’t do anything about it myself. That’s what is natural as a player. If you lose your ambition, it’s over as a player. That’s what I’m already looking for, so I want to do it if I can challenge it."

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These comments are hardly surprising, especially given Hatate’s age. He only made his J1 League debut in 2019, due to the university system. He could be forgiven for having the notion that time is of the essence concerning his career and that he needs to make the most of his best years in the game with a move away.

When Hatate is on top of his game, he is a force to be reckoned with. Not many would argue the case that Turnbull is a better player. Different playstyles, yes, but Hatate is miles clear of his midfield compatriot ability-wise when stacked against each other. However, while talent only gets you so far, hard work will consolidate your position in this current Celtic midfield under Rodgers. So far, it seems like Turnbull has the immediate edge over Hatate in this department, judging by the manager’s recent comments.