When Celtic failed to sign a new centre-back towards the end of the transfer window, it was an eyebrow-raising decision at the time.
The club were struggling with injuries to Jozo Simunovic, Nir Bitton, and Hatem Elhamed respectively. Only Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer were available for selection, and cover looked like a must.
In addition to that, there were no guarantees that the Hoops could’ve relied on Jozo, Nir, and Hatem to remain injury-free when they did return to action.
At that point, the club were also staring at an 11-game schedule over the course of 35 days. If anything was going to test this defence’s limits both mentally and physically, it was that run of games.
Yet fast forward into nearly mid-March after those matches and Celtic have only lost one game to Copenhagen whilst remaining unbeaten in 2020 domestically.
Defensive woes haven’t plagued us so far
Five of the games from that 11-match run had seen us come out with a clean sheet. Another four matches have only seen us concede one goal. You can’t point fingers at the defence and say that we’ve rued not signing another centre-back so far.
Granted, the massive elephant in the room was the Copenhagen game at Celtic Park. Simunovic’s woeful back-pass and Ajer’s lack of positioning led to the Danes netting two simple goals that effectively knocked us out of the Europa League.
However, bringing in a new centre-back wasn’t down to the fact that the options we had were poor. It was due to the fact that too many were on the treatment table. Remember, this was the same defence that dominated the group stages.
For the most part against Copenhagen, our defence wasn’t breached. The back-line dealt with Dame N’Doye well, and it was two moments of madness that you can’t legislate for. But heading into the tie, nobody was complaining about our lack of options at centre-back. We still had the players to knock Copenhagen out.
Elhamed’s return from injury against St Mirren was another bonus on Saturday. With Simunovic closing in on a return from his slight knock, Celtic will once again have five fit and available centre-backs available. That’s also coming after our busiest part of the second half of the season.
At the end of January, it seemed bizarre that we didn’t tool up further at the back. Now, we’re looking at a 13-point gap at the top of the Premiership and a Scottish Cup semi-final to look forward to.
If we could’ve foreseen that happening, I for one certainly wouldn’t have complained at the time.