Yet again Celtic are taking a frustrating transfer approach
Celtic need to make a transfer or two. That much is obvious, especially after the shock departure of Jeremie Frimpong yesterday.
Now, first off, I’m going to do something I won’t normally do. I’m going to give Neil Lennon and the recruitment team a little leeway here. Because this is a January window like no other.
The UK is, somehow, in a worse Covid situation than we were in August/September [BBC]. In fact, the situation is so bad that talking about multi-million-pound deals for footballers seems pretty insignificant just now. But, football has remained (nearly) a constant throughout this pandemic.
So have transfers. The differences now, though, are stark. For example, negotiations will be had over the phone or on Zoom. Agents have to co-ordinate their players without the luxury of actually being able to meet with them. Private transport is required to get deals done. If a player heads to take a medical, they have to be sure of signing; otherwise, they’ll come back to their team and isolate for 2 weeks.
Certainty has never been such a factor. Everyone involved with transfers in this window can’t mess about, exploring options like they might’ve before. That’s why there are substantially fewer rumours than in years past. In terms of big, big moves? You won’t see much before Tuesday morning.
So, of course, Celtic are automatically in a position where everything is more complicated. As for everyone else, the rules are different this time.
There’s also the added wrinkle of Brexit, which is going to have a massive effect on our recruitment strategy in the long-term.
Celtic fans might’ve hoped for more, however
All that said, other clubs have been able to pull the trigger on some excellent signings. St. Mirren signing Eamonn Brophy is an excellent bit of business [BBC]. As was Hibs securing ex-Celtic youngster Jackson Irvine for free.
And, with the case of Frimpong, we’ve shown that big international deals can still be struck. So, what are Celtic doing, or not doing?
First, we should address the needs. The goalkeeping situation could definitely be improved. Neil Lennon went from unequivocally backing Barkas to insisting the Greek goalie lacks physicality. Conor Hazard, you could argue, started some of our most important games this season. Yet, Scott Bain played last night.
At right-back, we have limited options. Centre-back has also been a problem area, yet it looks like our best central defender will now play on the right. That’s an issue.
The rest of the side largely picks itself. In midfield and attack, Celtic have – on paper – plenty of great players to choose from. But Celtic have leaked goals at an alarming rate all season, and that’s been our undoing. So you’d expect Lennon to be pressuring the board to take action.
Yet, for all we know, that isn’t the case. In the truncated summer window, the Bhoys left it very late to sign Shane Duffy and Diego Laxalt, both on loan. The two have combined for 1,994 minutes on the pitch [WhoScored?], which is substantial playing time. Side note: that’s still fewer than Callum McGregor by himself in 20-21.
However they’ve performed, in your view, that’s still two international players. You wouldn’t bet any amount of money that the Hoops will do the same before Tuesday morning comes.
Celtic transfer business frustrating supporters
Imagine you’re a footballer. I know, of course you do – everyone reading this website probably thinks about it every day.
Still, put yourself in that picture. Would you want to uproot your life at this moment in time? If you’re coming from abroad, do you want to take your family to an island where the Covid rate is incredibly high? Where freedom of movement is limited due to Brexit? It’s a tougher sell than it used to be.
That’s just non-playing factors. From a football perspective, it’s hard to join a club in January and hit the ground running. You have to adapt to a new playing staff, new coaches, a different footballing culture and philosophy. Language might be an issue. There are no supporters in stadia. Despite this, if you sign for Celtic, the pressure will be on you from day dot. Especially if you’re a defensive reinforcement; a sorely-needed quantity.
From that point of view, it’s understandable why Celtic haven’t announced any incoming transfer business so far this window. Fact is, though, it needs done. We are still defensively frail. There’s a nagging sense that there was no contingency plan for Frimpong leaving, even though it was apparently on the cards for two months.
Despite all the challenges, all the bureaucracy involved, all the extraneous factors; the Bhoys need to convince players to join the club. And they’ve got to do that over the next few days.
This squad haven’t performed to their capabilities. Yes, we can blame Covid and other factors, but it hasn’t stopped other clubs from excelling.
If the club doesn’t strengthen the squad as needed, fans are going to continue to lose faith in the board. Despite everything, we have every right to do so.