We are just over a month into Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic return.

There was an expectation that the second coming of one of the club’s most successful managers would bring excitement and maybe even some fireworks. There is no denying the former as Rodgers prepares for another Premiership title tilt and a return to the Champions League, but the transfer window has been a fairly low-key one.

Of course, a squad that cleaned up every piece of major domestic silverware last season was never in need of a major overhaul, but incomings so far have been supplemental rather than game-changing. But it’s important to remember that, although the age of Ange may feel like a lifetime ago, Rodgers has only been back in the door a matter of weeks. The 50-year-old has repeatedly stressed that time is needed for him to make a broad assessment of where his current squad at, a process which will have continued this week with a first outing against Yokohama F. Marinos in Celtic’s tour of Japan. So, what might Rodgers have learned in these crucial early stages?

Numbers to be trimmed

With first-team squad numbers creeping, officially, at least, past the 30 mark, it was no surprise to see Rodgers leave a few at home when embarking for Japan. Absent from the Asian tour are the likes of Osaze Urghoghide, Liam Shaw, Albian Ajeti, Ismaila Soro and James McCarthy, and it will be little surprise to see most if not all of those players depart the club by the end of the window.

With Yang Hyun-Jun and Kwon Hyeok-Kyu seemingly imminent arrivals, and several other players being linked, clearing the decks is a necessity. Rodgers used the early days of his return to cast an eye over those with a question mark above their name, and his selection for the pre-season camp suggests some decisions were made quickly and efficiently.

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Instead of taking players to Japan for the sake of it, he’s instead given some young players a chance to be in and around the first team setup. Ben Summers was already on the fringes last season and it was expected he would travel, but he’s also been joined by Ben McPherson and Daniel Kelly, both of whom were handed second-half outings against Marinos.

There are no guarantees there, of course, but it feels like a new homegrown hero is overdue at Celtic Park.

Defensive recruits needed?

It’s important to frame the shipping of six goals at the Nissan Stadium on Wednesday in the appropriate context. Celtic were up against a side at peak sharpness in the middle of a domestic league season, and defensive cohesion, as frequently happens in friendly matches, was not helped by a raft of second-half changes.

But that does not mean he will disregard it altogether. Even towards the end of last season, the absence of Cameron Carter-Vickers, as it would with most teams, made a noticeable difference to what had been an otherwise consistently steady backline. The former Tottenham Hotspur centre-back is vitally important, not just for his own consistently excellent contribution, but in how he seems to make Carl Starfelt a better player.

The Swede looked decidedly shaky, again with the pre-season caveats, alongside Yuki Kobayashi, still a player who looks a little short on confidence. There is no need for wholesale defensive changes, but it doesn’t feel out with the realms of possibility that Rodgers might consider adding another centre-back.

Volendam’s Xavier Mbuyamba continues to be linked, a 21-year-old defender who spent his youth career in the academies of both Barcelona and Chelsea. An exciting pedigree, no doubt, but getting Carter-Vickers fit and firing before long will be at the forefront of Celtic fans’ minds. All the indications from Rodgers have been that he is progressing well for an on-schedule return to action.

Hart succession planning – now or later?

Joe Hart himself will know he can’t go on forever and with neither Benjamin Siegrist nor Scott Bain likely to be his long-term successor, it’s something Rodgers will surely have an eye on. The manager won’t make any snap judgments based on Hart’s clanger in Yokohama, allowing a bouncing ball to slip out of his grasp to present Anderson Lopes with the simplest of finishes.

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Again he used that word ‘assess’ with regard to Hart’s future, but in the same breath offered the 36-year-old considerable backing by telling him ‘I don’t need you to be Ederson’. Celtic were linked with Croatian keeper Dominik Livakovic last week but given he was already on the brink of joining Fenerbahce, there was perhaps a hint of gamesmanship from someone with a vested interest in that deal in trying to hurry along an agreement. It will always have been in Rodgers’ mind that a replacement for Hart would be required at some point, but it will be interesting to note whether that timeline has been accelerated based on the evidence he’s collected since returning.

Hatate’s importance

If he wasn’t already aware, which he probably was, then the talents of Reo Hatate will have been made blindingly obvious to Rodgers these last few weeks. In a disjointed performance and defeat to Yokohama F. Marinos earlier this week, the Japanese midfielder was still the most eye-catching player, even on a day where Daizen Maeda scored a hat-trick.

Two of those goals would not have been possible without Hatate, whose tenacity, deftness of touch, and range of passing were all brilliantly evident in the build-up.

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Rodgers was asked about simmering interest from the Premier League in the 25-year-old, an impressive performer in last term’s Champions League, and reading between the lines of his response it seems he very much expects Hatate to be around for at least next season.

“Reo will have gained invaluable experience from playing against the best players and best teams in the best stadiums,” the manager said. “Going up against world-class players only helps. I watched the Champions League games last season and Reo was excellent. Against Real Madrid at home, he was very good. These experiences just enrich you and enhance your personal development as a player. No doubt he will benefit from more of that this season.”