From London to the London Road – Standing Trial, Striking Differences and Dry January
We’re 8 (Apologies for delay in posting – Ed) days into the January window, and minus a couple of trialists, we’ve little to be excited about.
The trialists, Kristoffer Ajer and Andrei Peteleu, have had plenty of exposure in Celtic media elsewhere, so I won’t dwell on whether they’ll turn out to be the next Olivier Kapo or not. Both players seem to ‘fit the mould’ – recruit young, develop whilst getting our use out of them, sell for a profit. Watching and getting to know these players first before deciding whether or not they can be developed at Lennoxtown sounds like a grand idea, especially considering our recruitment policy in recent times.
Of course, the recruitment policy has been widely criticised, and rightly so. With these trialists and the players we’ve been tentatively linked with in the last few days, is Ronny finally put his foot down in his marriage with Celtic, and is he finally beginning to identify his own targets? I hope so, because then there will be no doubt that he can be judged on incoming players.
Still with me? Good.
Recruitment policy aside, it’s the second stage of the process which concerns a lot of us. Being a ‘club in the middle’ of buying clubs and selling clubs, the focus has to be on player development. We recruit players from selling clubs who we believe we can improve, and we provide a platform on which to showcase their talents. We then seek to sell them on to the ‘buying clubs’ who regularly dine at the top tables in Europe (or at least the most expensive ones).
We have heard, cringed at and criticised Ronny’s techniques and his determination to make his players ‘24/7 athletes’. Some players don’t buy into it. Take Tony Stokes, who will be off on loan imminently, and will be gone permanently in the summer. Whether it’s his diet, his refusal to work his shift on the left wing, his lifestyle or his views, the manager of our football club, like it or not, has asked specific actions of Stokes, and has seen no movement on any of them.
On the other hand, we have seen the positive development of Griffiths and Tierney. Tierney’s development in particular has been impressive having suffered a broken leg last year, and by throwing himself fully behind Ronny’s methods, he has become our first choice left back. Griffiths’ turning point was travelling down to Sunderland for a midweek, non-compulsory reserves game.
The concern is that Ronny may be able to develop a player, but when it comes to Saturday afternoon, can he get the most out of them? Tierney and Griffiths are strong examples of player development under Deila, but in theory, both only play one position. Griffiths has made himself the number 1 striker by doing what number 1 strikers do, whilst Tierney has been, and always will be, best in the left back position.
Take Stuart Armstrong. What can we say about him, apart from being the 2015/2016 square peg? A central midfielder, who this time last year, was top of most of our shopping lists after a series of dominant CENTRAL midfield displays for Dundee United. Fast forward a year of playing almost exclusively on the left of an attacking trio, he looks devoid of any confidence or ability. It’s some of our opinion, including mine in recent times, that we can sign or develop the brightest and the best, but somehow we will turn them into an average player by playing them out of position, or not playing them at all.
We might be seeing why Ronny was approached as the perfect foil to Neil Lennon post-Mjallby. Able to develop young and talented footballers on the training pitch, but unable to have full responsibility for tactical or game management.
Dry January? I’ve already touched on our recruitment policy over the last few seasons and with each window that passes, my enthusiasm dries up a little more. Read any Celtic forum or blog and you’ll see that we apparently require a new player for every single position. However, we seem to be linked with more forwards than any other position, and it makes me question whether Ronny will finally crumble and play a 4-4-2. Probably not.
It’s clear that Ciftci and Cole aren’t up to it. I’m yet to be convinced about either of them, and I would hazard a guess, and hope, that both have 5 months left of their Celtic careers. I’d rather both had 5 minutes left.
So with Ronny on the hunt for a new, powerful 6ft. plus centre forward to fire us into the Champions League Group Stage next year, where will that leave our top scorer, and one of the few shining lights of Ronny’s player development strategy?
…Out of position, on the left wing of course.