It is a commonly known fact that when Reo Hatate is in good form, then Celtic usually win games at a canter.

Admittedly, the midfielder has had a stop-start beginning to the season, starting with comments made off the pitch in pre-season. The proverbial alarm bells started ringing when the Japan international spoke about seeking out a “new challenge” during Celtic’s tour of his homeland. These bells got louder on the opening day of the season when new manager Brendan Rodgers selected David Turnbull over him in the starting line-up alongside Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley.

A player far too good to be on the bench for Celtic, he would take his opportunity in the next match against Aberdeen as he ran the show at Pittodrie, before being taken off due to injury. Missing some big games for the club, he returned against Dundee, before struggling against Feyenoord in the Champions League. That Saturday, he would kick off a massive week in his Celtic career by scoring a penalty against Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena, before signing a new five-year deal just five days later.

READ MORE: Celtic's Rodgers has fans singing from the same hymn sheet

However, it has been the last couple of games that have caught the eye of those who follow the club. A standout performance against Kilmarnock at home before the international break and Hearts at Tynecastle last Sunday saw the return of a reinvigorated Hatate to proceedings regarding Celtic.

Using StatsBomb statistics and metrics, we look at the return to form of Hatate, and why this bodes well for Celtic’s midfield in future outings…

Despite Hatate scoring a penalty and generally playing well against Livingston and Motherwell, the Kilmarnock game feels like a good place to start when discussing the talented midfielder. Usually operating on the left-hand side of midfield just in front of Captain McGregor, Hatate has also operated further forward on occasion, though he and O’Riley interchange during games. This fluidity causes a whole host of problems for opposition defences to deal with, as their constant movement can be difficult to track and mark.

Using StatsBomb’s new ‘2.0’ radars, we can look into Hatate’s numbers, both as a midfielder and as an attacking midfielder. As mentioned previously, Hatate likes to shift from a number eight to a 10 throughout the game, as his counterpart O’Riley does the same but in reverse order. Using statistics purely from the past two games in the Scottish Premiership, it is clear to see that Hatate is thriving just now in Rodgers’ side.

Anyone familiar with The Celtic Way’s StatsBomb reports will know that OBV is constantly spoken about when using these data metrics. It is all about how effective a player is on the ball and the quality of distribution when in possession. Judging by the radars – the first being for a central midfielder – his OBV is at a very high standard with regard to the last two games. Averaging 0.59 in the two games, it is clear he has upped his usefulness with the ball at his feet, placing him in the 99th percentile. He is in the same percentile for his pass OBV too, as well as dribble and carry OBV, averaging 0.39 and 0.24 respectively in those regards, whilst he is in the 95th percentile for fouls won at 2.75.

Elsewhere, Hatate has been performing well in completing deep progressions over the past few games, managing on average a total of 5.51 per 90 minutes in the 70th percentile. His open play assisted xG is probably his most outstanding statistic, however, as he is in the top percentile at 0.60 per game, an extremely impressive return.

Still, the radar suggests there is still room for improvement in Hatate’s game, especially when taking care of the ball in possession. Ranking in the first percentile for turnovers, the midfielder has averaged 4.41 in the two games he has stood out in. This could be down to several factors, such as still adapting to a new style, or his keenness to take risks in the midfield. More often than not, these risks lead to a goal or an assist, but they can also lead to a counterattack by the opponent, putting the defence under pressure thanks to an unforced error. Despite his outstanding performances lately, Hatate must protect the ball better when in control of it. Furthermore, his defensive action OBV could be improved upon, given his placing in the 43rd percentile at 0.03.

The synergy between Hatate and O’Riley especially is a joy to behold in games, given their mutual understanding when playing together. When one goes forward, the other either joins in or provides cover in the midfield. Because of this, Hatate finds himself in positions not unlike an attacking midfielder, though he is positioned as a number eight. With that in mind, here are his attacking numbers whilst roaming forward over the past two games...

Again, a lot of the same metrics are used, with small adjustments occurring due to the position being altered. However, some new data collections make for pleasant viewing and reading. The first that stands out is his xG for an attacking midfielder, which is ranked at the 98th percentile at 0.40. This statistic is likely high due to his shot selection, as well as the fact he scored one goal in the last two games – the wonder goal against Kilmarnock - as well as missing a high xG chance in the form of Sunday’s penalty. Still, with his teammate O’Riley scoring at ease presently, it is good to see that Celtic have another midfielder who is adept at finishing.

In order to get these good chances, however, you have to make your way into the box and operate well once in it. Judging by the last two games, Hatate has been doing just that, as another high-ranking percentile can be found in the touches-in-box metric. An average of 9.92 touches in the opponent's box is an outrageous statistic for a midfielder, and it shows both his comfortableness at taking the ball in tight areas and operating in areas that are packed with players, both on his team and the opposition. Because of this, the club have an operator playing at the highest level in their midfield, someone who could rival O’Riley as their top midfielder in the coming months if he keeps this form up.

READ MORE: The Celtic numbers: Brendan Rodgers' side win big in Gorgie

Hatate’s passing percentage is not shown in either graph but has been measured at 87 per cent over the past two games. This ranks him in the 84th percentile for both midfielders and attacking midfielders and highlights a clear improvement in his accuracy on the ball when passing to his teammates. Room for further improvement, certainly, but a good base to work with.

It is no coincidence that Celtic have played their best football in the past two games, as the upturn in form and performances has been down to a reinvigorated Hatate who now knows his true worth to the club. Like with O'Riley, his new contract will be a message to both his representatives and himself that the club value him extremely highly, both on and off the pitch. 

If he can replicate these performances consistently on the European stage, then who knows where the 25-year-old's ceiling truly lies. It is up to the player to showcase these levels in every competition possible now. As far as form goes, however, Hatate is close to being back to his very best.