Big calls to be made: The Ange Postecoglou Celtic selection debates vs Aberdeen
Following a successful and often surprisingly competitive pre-season, Celtic begin the defence of their Scottish Premiership title this coming Sunday at home to Aberdeen.
The club have signed six players so far this transfer window – seven if including the obligatory signing of Daizen Maeda from Yokohama F. Marinos, leaving the manager with a deeper squad, and more difficult selection decisions to make for his first league match of the new season.
Starting with Forwards, the trio of Daizen Maeda, Kyogo Furuhashi, and Jota, appear to be the settled and obvious first-choice picks. Liel Abada and Giorgos Giakoumakis can perhaps count themselves unlucky to be left out but it’s tough to argue with the three who ended last season as first choice.
Midfield is a little muddier following David Turnbull’s strong pre-season, Yosuke Ideguchi’s return from injury and the signing of Aaron Mooy. However, the first choice combination in the middle of the park looks to be captain Callum McGregor in the “6”, with Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley in the more advanced “8” positions.
For Goalkeeper, despite the signing of Benjamin Siegrist, Joe Hart remains a stick-on for the forseeable. It’s hard to see the Swiss keeper dislodging the former England number one.
This leaves the Defence, which is slightly complicated by a number of factors. Carl Starfelt’s injury on international duty leaves first choice centre half Cameron Carter-Vickers without an obvious parter, despite the signing of Mortiz Jenz in the week. The club have invested heavily in Alexandro Bernabei and Anthony Ralston certainly contributed heavily last season, but both are vying for places with two of last season’s most consistent performers in Greg Taylor and Josip Juranovic.
At left back, expect it to remain as is for the time being. It’s difficult to make a case for a player benefitting more from the manager’s philosophy than Greg Taylor, and whilst Alexandro Bernabei has demonstrated his aptitude for explosive vertical runs in this pre-season, he’ll likely be granted fleeting appearances whilst acclimatising to Glasgow on and off the pitch.
On the right, Josip Juranovic remains one of the great steal transfers of recent times, as Celtic pried the Croatian international from Legia Warsaw for a bargain fee. He’s safe as houses defensively and adapted perfectly to the manager’s system. Ralston certainly has his upsides, and has earned something of a cult hero status, but he’ll be firmly second choice for the moment.
This leaves the stand-in for Starfelt, who will presumably regain the jersey upon finding full fitness, unless his replacement excels. It’s probably a little too early to throw Moritz Jenz straight in, who only made his debut for the club yesterday as a second-half substitute in the win over Norwich. Christopher Jullien’s move to Schalke collapsed, and his spare usage last season even after recovering from injury makes him an unlikely choice, too.
This leaves Stephen Welsh. The Scotland U-21 captain is a raw, full-blooded defender who can often be rash in the tackle, but has shown a willingness to adapt his style to the manager’s philosophy and play out, even if it’s not something that comes naturally. From the options available, he’s the obvious choice and the one who will most likely line up alongside Carter-Vickers for the Premiership curtain-raiser next Sunday.