Now the dust has settled on Celtic’s transfer window dealings I thought I’d cast a beady eye over proceedings looking at the impact of the changes and what I believe this does for the team moving forward.
Putting aside the important early signing of Fraser Forster – a keeper who has improved significantly over the past year – the bulk of Celtic’s dealings were disappointingly done as normal in the final hours leading up to the transfer window “slamming shut”. Disappointing in my view as we should try and integrate some players as early as possible into the squad to allow the player to be involved in vitally important early season games.
First in the door was Nigerian international centre back who signed from Israeli club FC Ashdod for a fee believed to be in the region of £1.5m. Unless you’ve been wired to the moon or still trying to remove the tears from your eyes after a summer of laughter at the carry on with Sevco, you’ll have noticed that central defence is the weakest area of the team with the need for an imposing and pacey centre half at the top of our requirements list. At 6ft 3ins tall and blessed with great pace Efe looks to tick the boxes from a distance. Whether he can transfer that potential into the real deal is clearly the great unknown and the risk we face when dealing in the market place of players in the £1-2m bracket. Neil Lennon clearly thinks highly of him and was recently quoted as saying he believes Efe is a better player than Bobo Balde at the same age. At only 23 the best years of Efe’s career is hopefully ahead of him but with a bit of patience from the home faithful in terms of young player adapting to a very different clime then fingers crossed we may have a right guid yin on our hands to partner the cultured Charlie Mulgrew in the heart of our defence.
Take a look and see what you think
The second arrival is a player who really excites me in the shape of Nicolas ‘Miku’ Fedor who has signed from Getafe in a one year loan deal with an option to purchase. I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t know a great deal about the 27 year old Venezuelan striker until news of his arrival at Celtic broke. After a bit of digging we quite possibly have made one of our most exciting signings in years! Over 6 foot tall, quick and with first class technique Miku has all the attributes we’ve been crying out for in attack. While Stokes and Hooper have shown they can do a good job in the SPL they both lack in my view the ability to hold the ball up consistently well, something we desperately need to do in Europe, and an ability to bring other players into play. With a record of one goal every three games for unfashionable Getafe in Spain’s Primera Liga his ability to put the ball in the net like Jorge Cadete is without question but it’s his all round game that really excites me and brings to Celtic a player who – all going well – will get the fans off their seats.
Here’s Miku in action.
The third deadline player to arrive was Lubos Kamenar who joined on a one year loan deal from Nantes. With Dominic Cervi departing Celtic there was a need for another keeper at the club and Celtic did well in my view to snap up an experienced player on a one year deal to fill the gap. The Slovakian keeper started off with Artmedia Bratislava before signing for Nantes in 2009 before being involved in a number of loan deals following a struggle to cement a regular starting place with the French club. Lubos was a spectator when we beat Artmedia 4-0 at Celtic Park many years ago an experience that clearly remembers when he commented following his move;
“I remember that game was a full house. The fans were perfect and started singing the song You’ll Never Walk Alone. I ended up only listening to the fans and it was a fantastic atmosphere. I have played against Inter Milan, Juventus and Galatasaray but I think Celtic have the best fans I have ever seen in Europe. Every player would want to play for Celtic or play in a game involving Celtic because of them. It’s a dream for any player to play at Celtic Park.”
This lad certainly knows how to win over people!
Our last deal was completed after the window closed when we signed Tunisian free agent striker Lassad Nouioui.
The Marseille born forward had been at Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna for the past three years, most of which aside from last season were spent in Spain’s top division. At 6ft 2ins tall Lassad gives us that presence in attack we have missed when looking to change the game and it’s always good in my view to have as many attacking options as possible to avoid being predictable or when finding it difficult to break opponents down. From my limited views of youtube (I know I know) he displays a very good touch with quick feet. A record of one in four isn’t spectacular but when you consider most of this time was in probably the world’s best football league it perhaps displays his record in a better light.
So where does this leave Celtic?
In my view we’ve got our best balanced squad in some time. We’ve strengthened our weak central defensive position and added significantly in attack giving us a number of options to fluctuate between 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 or whatever new found system takes the manager and coaching staffs fancy. Miku can also play wide right or behind the number 9 adding to our options and this is probably one of the reasons why the manager was so keen to sign him.
One of Celtic’s problems for a long time in Europe has been retaining possession and I don’t think Gary Hooper does this anywhere near good enough. The ball bounces off him far too easily for my liking and losing the ball so easily at this level is criminal and something we cannot afford to do. I think he’ll definitely drop out certainly initially in the away European games as we go with Miku in the lone striker role supported by two wide players who’ll also fall deep when required as we fluctuate between 4-3-3 and 4-5-1. We now have genuine pace in all attacking areas and at the top level breaking quickly on the counter attack is a pre-requisite.
The midfield, if all fit, provides a good three with Victor protecting the centre of defence and able to sit in if Ambrose or Mulgrew choose to push into the midfield space. Brown and Ledley either side of him would be my pairing as they provide a nice balance.
In a few more weeks Izzy will be back to his best as it normally takes many games to fully recover from a serious injury unless your name is Henrik Larsson.
With Europe in mind I’d suggest the following team and formation is our preference assuming all players are fit.
Matthews – Ambrose – Mulgrew – Izaguirre
Brown – Wanyama – Ledley
Forrest Miku Samaras
This group is setup nicely to sit in away from home while striking on the break. Still many question marks over our defence but this is when we the support have to be realistic and remember we are not Barca or Madrid and dealing primarily with young projects with scope for improvement and not £30m finished articles.
We haven’t spent a great deal – in fact very little at all – but I’m reasonably happy with the position we find ourselves in. The club is in a sound financial position, has qualified for the Champions League and in my view have our best balanced squad for many years with major scope for improvement due to the teams relative young age.
Hi Hector. At the end of the day, I think we should be grateful that we signed players at all. It is an added bonus that those brought in are for areas where we have shown blatant weaknesses or at least lacked strength unlike our usual transfer sojurns that seemed to concentrate on turning the midfield into a London Tube station at rush hour. I must agree wholeheartedly with you about Garry Hooper. I actually feel that some of our supporters have allowed themselves to get a bit carried away with him. Yes he scored 20 odd goals last year but for us in last season’s SPL I did not think that was any great shakes. For me he is on the slow side, can turn quite lazy in games and, as you say, is really poor at trapping the ball and holding up play. As for Anthony Stokes, I am not sure if he was merely a 7 day wonder or whether he has simply lost the plot just now, but he has failed to produce the talent that we all expected. When at our strongest under M.O.N., we had a couple of the best ‘holder-uperers’ in the business in Big Chris and Big Bad John. That gave Larson and others time to get into the best positions for puposeful attacks. I do hope that the height and speed of the new guys will provide some badly needed shoring at the back and agility at the front. It is worth keeping in mind that our dear friends at Barca can have some very leaky moments too. I know that like the Brazil of old, they simply can score two for every opponents one but on the night…..? Hope is a tremendous virtue without which there is little purpose in going on.
re our signings again late and we needed a creative central midfielder even before we sold ki