Brendan Rodgers said Reo Hatate had "come alive" for the first time under his management in Celtic’s 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at the weekend. 

The 25-year-old  put in a sparkling display at rain-soaked Celtic Park to help Rodgers’ side record their seventh win from their opening eight league matches and maintain their early lead at the top of the SPFL Premiership table.

Rodgers revealed post-match that a heart-to-heart about the midfielder's performance against Lazio helped bring out the best Hatate, who recently signed a new, long-term deal at the club. 

Not 100 per cent trusted by Rodgers in the early matches of the season, the Japan international then picked up an injury which kept him out of a few crucial matches. However, Hatate was scintillating at the weekend as Celtic put in their best performance of the season to exact revenge on the side that knocked them out of the League Cup in August. 

Here, we dig into some of the specific aspects of Hatate’s game where he has shown a willingness to adapt to the demands of his new manager, not just on Saturday but in the last few weeks too… 


Let’s start with the one key area of Hatate’s game that Rodgers seems to have focused on improving most, his work off the ball.

On Saturday, Hatate’s first full 90 minutes under Rodgers, he certainly seemed motivated by his one-to-one with his manager, showing good intensity in his work without the ball. 

Given their domination against Kilmarnock (78 per cent of the ball Killie’s 22), Celtic didn’t have to press as much though with the Hoops only registering 91 pressures to the visitor’s 157. Hatate played his part though, contributing six pressures and three counterpressures to the Celts' work out of possession. 

A look at Hatate’s pressing numbers so far this season, compared to last, can give a bit more insight into how the former Kawasaki Frontale man has started taking on what his manager is asking of him too. 

Celtic Way:

Although still a small sample size of less than four full games this season, we can see, in the above radar from StatsBomb, that his volume of general pressures is up by around two per 90 while his success rate in these, his pressure regains, is also slightly up. 

His level of counterpressures, a pressure that occurs five seconds or less after a player’s team loses possession, is up by around two as well with his regain rate for these types of pressures also improving on last season too. The improvements here see him rank in the top five for all Premiership players (minimum 300 minutes played) for his volume of counterpressures and inside the top ten for his counterpressure regains.

Perhaps a bit too early to draw definitive conclusions, these initial numbers suggest Hatate is starting to take on the message from his manager to be more intense in his work without the ball. 

Ball security  

Another part of Hatate’s game that Rodgers has likely identified as an area for improvement is his security on the ball. 

Hatate has always been a risk-taker with his passing, and when things come off it is of course very effective. This is not something you would want to curtail absolutely but there is no doubt he has been guilty of being untidy on the ball at times, particularly in dangerous areas in his own half. 

READ MORE: Reo Hatate Celtic's growth under Brendan Rodgers analysed

Saturday showed a clear improvement in this area too though as Hatate, according to Wyscout’s data, recorded his highest pass completion percentage of the season so far (89 cent cent). Well above his season average so far of 79.7 per cent, it wasn’t so much his actual completion rate that was impressive. 

As mentioned, he is a creative player and you want him to be attempting the kind of passes that unlock defences, it was more the area of the park where these occurred. 

Celtic Way:

As shown above, in his pass maps from recent league games, Motherwell (left) and Livingston (right), we can see several unsuccessful passes in his own half. 

Celtic Way:


However, on Saturday against Kilmarnock, Hatate was much more secure with the ball in this part of the park with the majority of his unsuccessful passes in and around the box and none in his own half.


Not so much an area for improvement in the same vein as the other two areas of his game already highlighted, Hatate’s effectiveness when carrying the ball is another area that is standing out this season though, in terms of showing signs of going up a level in the opening weeks of his time under Rodgers. 

This is something that was certainly on show on Saturday too. After an amazing piece of skill to beat his man in the middle of the park, Hatate drove to the edge of the box before sliding the ball into the corner to open the scoring. 

Although Kilmarnock will feel they could have done more to halt Hatate, his ability to drive with the ball, and his change of pace exploited the space afforded to him. 

StatsBomb’s On-Ball Value metrics, which are designed to measure the value of each event objectively and quantitatively on the pitch, highlight an increased effectiveness in Hatate’s dribbling and carrying this season.

Celtic Way:

Again, with small sample size caveats, we can see that Hatate’s overall OBV is up on the last season. StatsBomb breaks down their model into different parts of the game too though with his Dribble & Carry OBV jumping the most. 

This particularly encouraging as the Dribble & Carry OBV not only assigns credit to the volume and success of attempted dribbles, but also whether the dribbles are moving the ball to high-value areas of the pitch. For example, a dribble that carries the ball from the touchline to the edge of the six-yard box will be credited more highly than one that is less penetrative. 

READ MORE: The Celtic numbers: Reo Hatate runs the show as hosts win

What is even more encouraging is that no other player (minimum 300 minutes played), is scoring a higher Dribble & Carry OBV than Hatate in the Premiership so far this season. 

Already one of his biggest strengths, this seems to be another area of Hatate’s game that the Celtic manager is elevating too. 


Hatate’s improvements, in terms of ball retention in defensive areas and being even more effective in his dribbling and ball carrying, are encouraging.

However, it is that increase in his work off-the-ball that, of the three areas of his game touched on here, is the most crucial in unlocking the rest of Hatate’s undoubted talent.  

As Rodgers said himself of their one-to-one ahead of the Kilmarnock game: “If you press the game well you will pass it well. But he took it on board, was very open and produced a fantastic performance today. That’s the level, you can’t switch the engine on and off.” 

If Hatate can keep the engine on then, after a tricky start to his career under Rodgers, then there is every chance that he can reach another level, something which would bode very well for Celtic for the remainder of the campaign.