Evaluating the Celtic squad; January is approaching, wholesale change needed?
With January approaching, Celtic have decisions to make.
Not just in terms of contracts and loan deals, but in personnel more generally. For many, Neil Lennon wasn’t expected to get this far into the season.
For the Bhoys, there’s a decent squad there. A combination of factors have halted Celtic’s momentum this season. There’ve been Covid-19 diagnoses (Herald), lockdown scandals (Guardian), fixture build-up and a number of other things.
Moreover, Rangers have actually been very good so far this season. Gerrard’s men have had false dawns (last season included), but they look the business this time out.
It’s natural, then, that Celtic might be tempted to panic buy in January. In recent years though, that hasn’t been Celtic’s style. At the start of 2020, Ismaila Soro and Patryk Klimala arrived (Transfermarkt) and both have made fleeting appearances so far. Soro has made a name for himself, but it took nearly a full calendar year for him to do so.
Let’s take a look at the Celtic squad and see which areas need trimming or enhancement.
Goalkeepers: an area of concern for Celtic
Conor Hazard has, of course, recently established himself as number 1. This wasn’t the projected timeline for Hazard; only last season, he was playing for Dundee.
Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain absolutely haven’t done enough to create any confidence in their abilities. This is an area of real concern for Celtic.
Dundee United’s Benjamin Siegrist has been heavily linked with Celtic, but it doesn’t seem entirely likely. Lennon has developed a rapport with Hazard and will see it as a boost to his managerial CV if he can nurture the young goalie.
Still, from our perspective, Celtic should probably look at selling Bain and providing solid competition for the first-team no.1 jersey.
Celtic’s defence: where leads have gone to die
Ah, the Celtic defence. All of last year’s solidity has gone, and been replaced by utter fear. Yes, Celtic have kept clean sheets in recent weeks but there are still so many defensive frailties to Celtic’s game.
Look at the Scottish Cup Final if you need any more evidence of this. At set-pieces, we’re still useless. We have defenders with height who can’t clear the ball. Defending counter-attacks is a nightmare. We haven’t had a settled back 3/4/5/11 the whole season.
Going forward, you’d imagine that Lennon’s preferred defence consists of Laxalt, Jullien, Ajer and Frimpong. However, Frimpong has been played further ahead at times, with Ajer playing on the right.
Hatem Elhamed hasn’t been able to build on his promising first season at Celtic, needing a move home.
The Shane Duffy experiment has been an interesting case in human behaviour. He’s on loan, as is Diego Laxalt. On the other end of the loan scale, Jack Hendry and Boli Bolingoli probably won’t play again for Celtic.
It looked like the Bhoys had Mark McKenzie of Philadelphia Union sewn up. Now, not so much.
The Celtic defence needs reinforcements desperately. If not for the first-team, then for depth and coverage. We were already lacking in numbers, and another injury crisis would prove immensely harmful to our 10IAR chances.
I can’t illustrate this point without naming names, so here goes.
In midfield, Celtic have: Nir Bitton, Luca Connell, Ewan Henderson, Ismaila Soro, Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor, Scott Brown, Ryan Christie, David Turnbull and Olivier Ntcham.
Did I miss anyone out? Anyway – that’s more than enough coverage.
On the surface, that’s a good thing; the 20-21 season is a mess, with fixture build-ups, postponements and early deadlines. We need as much squad depth as possible, right?
Yes. But there are young midfielders coming through who need minutes, and players on big wages who are barely making the bench. Olivier Ntcham and Tom Rogic for example.
On their day, both are sensational players, but those days haven’t been as frequent as Neil Lennon or the supporters would like. If significant bids are made for either, Celtic should seriously consider accepting them.
In attack: Celtic’s misfiring strikers
Odsonne Edouard has had a patchy season, that’s not news to anyone. Meanwhile, Griffiths, Ajeti and Klimala either haven’t seen the pitch, have been injured or haven’t found form.
Another striker, like Kasper Junker, Jordan Larsson or Kevin Nisbet would fit the bill. It’s clear we need goals from the bench and currently, we don’t have the manpower to provide that.
Klimala could do with a spell away on loan, if it’s possible and the right club would take him. Ajeti has proven he can score goals and just needs the time to get them.
On the wings, we’ve sorely missed James Forrest, and any talk of Patrick Roberts coming back should be welcomed whole-heartedly. In fact, wing depth is an issue, with Elyounoussi only on loan again, and Mikey Johnston finding fitness.
Bodø/Glimt should be sick of the sight of us by February, because Philip Zinckernagel is an excellent shout, too.
In summary: Celtic need light touches rather than an overhaul
I’m firmly of the belief that Celtic can still win the 10. I also believe that Celtic could win the 10 with the squad we have.
To really take us over the hump, though, Neil Lennon should be looking for clever reinforcements, particularly in defence and attack. Passengers like Elhamed and Ntcham should go, and be replaced with youthful squad prospects with resale value in the future.
So it’s not a trolley dash, but business should be done if Celtic are to make real gains in the title race. Neil Lennon, Nick Hammond; if you’re reading then fire us an email.