The Celtic Squad
Desimond gives the Squad a once-over and considers what could come in January…please give your thoughts in Comments below:
Its been quite a year for Craig Gordon. Back in The Scotland squad and now fully re-instated as Celtic ONLY keeper after the ‘Dorus the Explorer’ experiment from Brendan went arse over elbow. Most would suggest that De Vries has no future at Celtic. The Celtic fans can forgive and forget most of the time but the guy instils nothing but fear within the support and no doubt generates hope in the Opposition.
Its a shame but when youre in that key area of the pitch, theres no room for half measures or sentiment.
As for Gordon, he has improved following that wake-up call and you can see him actually working hard to make his ball distribution better. He will never be a Manuel Nauer but thats fine for now as long as he can produce a great save now and again. Some more work on shots at his near post wouldn’t go amiss if I’m being highly critical.
If Gordon doesnt get new competition in the January window, watch for De Vries getting a few games as we near seasons end as a last ditch attempt to save his career and not be marked as the first Brendan failure at Parkhead. If he doesnt succeed, then expect a quiet side door exit and a new keeper to arrive come the summer to challenge Gordon once again. Im not even sure Keeper #3 Logan Bailly actually exists.
Its getting interesting out wide at the back.
Hopefully The Golden Child aka Kieran Tierney will return in the New Year and soon regain his past form and place in the side. Izzy has been steady and very professionalin backing up for the teenager and hopefully he signs a new deal. Left backs are hard to find and while no world beater, Izzy knows the club, the system and is always ready to do whats needed. Will be interesting to see if anyone actually tries to lure Izzy away in January with his contract running down.
On the right, the classy Mikel Lustig is dependable ( least on the pitch if not in body) but he is now 30 and the knocks and a heavy schedule will take their toll over the winter months. He has also had to help out in the centre back positions as well as the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 experiments so he could do with a rest when possible. Right back is another position that could do with some healthy competition. Cristian Gamboa has yet to impress and is likely he will get a few chances when the league is done and dusted but the jury is very much still out for the latest recruit.
As for the rest, Saidy Janko isnt being recalled from Barnsley anytime soon ( if ever at all) and Efe Ambrose is more likely to be found in B&Q at Parkhead Forge than in the Celtic dug out and will probably be heading away in the January Sales with a smile and everyones best wishes. Dont cry Ralph, we can find someone else to do Celebratory back-flips.
And no, Stuart Armstrong is NOT a right back, despite shining there once earlier in the season ( see same for Callum McGregor on the left)
Chance of a few departures but doubt anyone else will be signed for this position although another left footed centre back who could cover may be of interest with the side playing 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 now and again. Jozo has been playing on the left recently so again may be seen as “emergency” cover if need be so this area probably not a priority come January 2017.
The centre pairing of Erik the Viking and Jozo is doing well, especially given the number of chops and changes the Manager ( no complaint – the results speak for themselves etc) has made at the centre of the defence. They’re no Clark and McNeill or course but both work hard on their game and know there is plenty of room for improvement. Hopefully the pair can play more and more to work on generating that understanding all defensive centre pairings need as well as becoming more of a cohesive unit with the keeper and full backs.
The defenders have been playing in a 4 across the back as well as a 3 at times, and a 3.5 when Scott Brown does that stepping back thing. Throughout the season, Erik has battled well whilst Jozo has strode forward as the ball player on many occasions. Hopefully they continue to progress and as they improve, the Celtic defence becomes a solid dependable force and play develops more and more from the back.
That is if Torino ( or an EPL side searching for the next VVD) dont come in to pick up Jozo in January. Anyone else remember that August transfer deadline day collapse. Šimunović seems happy enough in the Hoops but he was denying any move to Torino right up to announcing he was actually in Italy getting a medical in August so i will sigh in relief is we get through January and he is still in Paradise. If he isn’t then we need to ensure we buy quality replacement who we can get up to speed for the CL qualifiers.
As back up we have Lustig who has helped fill in when needed and also Kolo Toure. Toure did well at the start of the season but now he is gradually fading in both our minds and in his speed on the pitch. He has half a season left to enjoy being in the Squad and is now more of a quality backup than first team starter. Hopefully he is doing great work passing on his knowledge on the training ground and will depart with our thanks come the summer.
Who else?…well Dedryk Boyata is apparently very good on the training pitch but sadly seems utterly useless on match day and could depart on loan come January. Young Eoghan O’Connell is likely to do the loan rounds yet again and while he didnt disgrace himself at all in the Hoops it is unlikely Brendan sees him in his immediate first team squad plans.
January could see a purchase of a centre back as we need the quality there as suspensions and injuries will take their toll on the limited personnel and this could be even more stretched if clubs come calling for Jozo. Cue finger nails bitten to the quick!
Out on the Wings
On paper it appears we have the perfect set up on the wide areas.
We have Scott Sinclair, James Forrest, Patrick Roberts and now we have Gary Mackay Steven coming back. At least 2 players for each position and recently we even saw Callum MacGregor start out wide in a 3-5-2 so plenty of cover when we also include work in progress Ryan Christie.
If they can all stay fit, or at least on overlapping periods, then we should be fine. Given the nature of the position and the demands on a wingers body, all the wide men have encountered injuries so far this season and need careful handling.
Hopefully Brendan and his management team can adequately rotate the squad ( Does Sinclair really need to play every minute of every game when he is fit etc?) and duly ensure our key wide men are available more often than not as well as providing quality competition within the Squad.
Doubtful anyone else will be brought in unless Brendan has someone special in mind in preparation for CL qualifiers. Forrests new contract should scare away any bids from other clubs and hopefully there are no homesick issues for Scotty Sinclair and his family. On a positive note, Patrick Roberts will hope to finish the season with a bang and then the 2 clubs can discuss any future for him in Paradise come Seasons end.
Middle of the Park
Just play Scott Broon…job done!
if only it was that simple, even if our Captain Fantastic makes it look that way. Broony has been immense this season and alongside him, Stuart Armstrong, the blond Cafu, has been a revelation and grabbed his chance since that sensational display during the Gers demolition.
Backing those guys up is the dependable Bitton who while good at ball retention doesnt seem to have the marriage of stamina, skill and strength demanded from a Rodgers centre mid. Callum McGregor continues to answer every call and is the sides dependable 6/10 style player. Always open to playing anywhere and never hides, despite a few fans getting on his back and will continue to be in Rodgers mind for a place but its likely a new face will appear soon enough.
We could see some battling EPL side come in with a bid for Stuart Armstrong ( yeah Im looking at you Crystal Palace!) and the most forward of all our midfielders Tom Rogic continues to attract attention. Hopefully though the only midfield exit, if any need leave, will be Kris Commons who is out of the picture and hopefully enjoys his move to Hibs.
As per youthful back up, we have Liam Henderson and somewhere in Paradise remains the great White Hope Kristoffer Ajer. Loan deals for at least one of those pair could be likely while Scott Allan will be sent away in a taxi under the cloak of darkness.
We have quality but we dont have it in quantity. Broony and Armstrong will probably get suspended or possible injured and the midfield could soon be hampered. We also require a step up in class, especially if we wish to challenge in the Champions League so its likely a mature quality Midfielder is on Brendans list for a January welcome.
No idea who at present but a ball player who knows the game will likely be in the plan. Rodgers will look for Broony and Armstrong to do the hard graft to win Mr New Arrival the ball to take forward and drive towards the goal. Of course Rodgers may see this player already in Tom Rogic and go for a more defensive minded midfielder to balance our attack minded side and also allow Broony some breathing space and opportunity for rest.
And of course, we could always buy both!
Forward wise, we seemingly have the numbers but its a little round holes meets square pegs at times. We have Tom Rogic and Scott SInclair supplementing our 2 main strikers in Griffiths and Dembele and while we have seen goals throughout the side so far this season, its from those two guys that the side expect results.
Up front is the real crux for any celtic manager and Brendan Rodgers will really have a lot of thinking to do over the festive period. The on going experiment to play both Griff and Moussa in the same side is fielding a mixed bag. Yes we are winning but their partnership isnt truly gelling and SuperLeigh can constantly be seen on the sidelines taking positional advice from his manager and Dembele is still getting caught in 2 minds when not the focal point of the side’s attack force.
Will Brendan persist or will that poser be taken out of his hands with a departure for Dembele?.
Dembele has had a great start to his Celtic career and seems a wonderful young professional dedicated to self improvement and loving his time in the Hoops working under Rodgers. Thats all great of course but he was already well known within England and his reputation is even more enhanced now afte rthe last few months. The guys is starring for Celtic, scoring in the CL and also enhancing his International career and reputation.
At the very least we are likely to see some offers come in for him in January, probably from sides throughout the EPL and some major players in Europe who are looking to the future. Hopefully come Feb 1st the young man is still a Celtic player (even if back on loan) but I doubt anyone would be truly shocked if he departed for a new Scottish transfer record. Its just how football is these days after all.
No need to fret of course as Griffiths is back in form and now scoring in the SPFL and should hit peak SuperLeigh come New Year and the dominant Rodgers would ensure he recieved the bulk of any transfer funds to enhance his squad. Its a win-win regardless of Demebele’s club registration come february 1st.
Back up wise..well we now have an injury to Rogic and Sinclair is not an outright front man. Through the middle, we only have Nadir Çiftçi, thats if he is even still around the ground, and he will nbever make it at Parkhead so we do struggle numbers wise for out and out strikers.
Even if Dembele doesnt leave, I still imagine we will sign a forward in January. A quality solid frontman could help ease the pressure on Dembele, or replace the void should he depart ( either in Jan or possibly after this Seasons end) and allow for any injury or suspension for Griff. Of course, top quality forwards are hard to find, especially in January, so Brendan might just tap the Loan market to keep some momentum up within the attacking side of the squad
The current squad have been revitalised under Brendan but the Manager already says the Winter Break cant come quick enough. The players need a rest, mentally and physically after such a demanding 2016 and hopefully a few fresh faces will help ease demand as well as re-invigorate others. This will help to ensure we are ready for the heavy demands over Winter and Spring of 2017, where we will face a lot of league games, cup games and of course referees and linesmen with selective blindness and questionable decision making tendencies whilst also trying to progress in preparation for Champions League qualifiers in early summer 2017.