Remember when, arguably, the best Celtic player was a left-back?
Kieran Tierney was that guy. A fierce tackler, Tierney was both defensively solid and a nightmare in attacking situations. The archetypal modern full-back, he was energetic, could play a killer ball and had seemingly endless stamina.
We still miss him. He’s been one the few shining lights for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal this season, even scoring beauties for the Gunners.
He was replaced by Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo, who is now in Turkey, playing for İstanbul Başakşehir (Goal). Personally, I was really impressed by Boli at first. His energy and willingness to bomb forward were genuinely exciting, and he seemed perfectly suited to a 3-5-2.
He made 21 appearances in 19-20, and although he could frustrate, I thought there was a player there. He was also an indication of clever scouting, with Celtic viewing markets like the Austrian leagues to source first-team players.
Then? Well, you know what happened next.
Taylor or Laxalt? Celtic need to make decisions
Greg Taylor divides the support, but I reckon he was an astute signing from Kilmarnock.
Still considerably young, there’s plenty of time for the ex-Killie man to make a bigger impression at Celtic. In large spells of this season, loanee Diego Laxalt has been preferred at left-back.
Laxalt has impressed supporters with his generally solid defensive work, and his penchant for saving us in difficult games (BBC). At 27, Celtic could make a real statement by signing him outright from the Rossoneri.
However, I suspect that he’ll most likely to want to prove himself at an improved A.C. Milan rather than sign for Celtic. That, or he’ll want to compete at the highest levels of European competition.
An established Uruguayan international, he’ll have plenty of suitors if Milan decide to cash in on him, and there’ll be a few with better resources than the Bhoys.
Today, reports suggested that it would take €8m to take Laxalt from the Rossoneri (Il Milanista).
So, what’s the answer long-term? If Lennon is to stay, will he want to play a 4-2-3-1, a diamond 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2? Full-backs who are tactically flexible are a finite resource, and fans won’t be happy if the club relies on loans for the foreseeable.
Celtic fans want full-backs who can overlap in attacking situations but are still solidly defensive. Ideally, they want Lustig and Tierney circa 16-17.
A first-team return for Bolingoli seems incredibly unlikely. The club know they’d be able to recoup some of the £3m they spent on the Belgian left-back (Herald). Meanwhile, the situation Taylor finds himself in is quite strange. He’s clearly not Lennon’s favourite, but Laxalt won’t be around forever.
It’s another area where Celtic will need to invest. It’s obvious that the goalkeeping situation needs looked at, but centre-backs, strikers and wingers are also high on the club’s priority list.