Ange's grim McGregor assessment leaves gaping midfield hole for crucial Celtic run

By Euan Davidson

January 22, 2022

It couldn’t have been a straightforward Scottish Cup win for Callum McGregor and Celtic, could it?

Nah, no chance. Though Ange Postecoglou has stated that Liel Abada and Yosuke Ideguchi are likely to be fine after their scrapes against Alloa Athletic, McGregor’s facial knock looks a bad one. Still our most important play, and arguably our best, this was both an unnecessary and unwanted complication.

What’s more, it was from a nothing 50/50, in a game that Celtic ought to have wrapped up much more comfortably.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

McGregor, you suspect, will try everything in his power to get back into Postecoglou’s starting XI. But his injury has been described as “quite significant” by Postecoglou, who doesn’t tend to mince his words. So what do Celtic do?

Firstly, they thank a higher power that some transfer business has already been done. Yosuke Ideguchi, impressive on the night against Alloa (before being taken off himself) should be fine after tonight. That’s key; sitting deep, attacking the ball relentlessly and controlling the tempo, he was impressive in his first start. If anyone is likely to fill in for McGregor positionally for Celtic, it’s him.

Further ahead, though? That’s where the problems lie. Reo Hatate, not called up by Japan, will surely be a favourite to start the next few games, including the match against Rangers. But the other midfield slot is an uncertain one. The first-choice midfield trio of Turnbull, McGregor and Rogic will be unavailable.

That’s a conundrum.

Alloa Athletic 1-2 Celtic | LIVE Reaction

Alloa Athletic 1-2 Celtic | LIVE Reaction
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Callum McGregor absence leaves Celtic with options, yes, but caveats aplenty

The issue is not in the quality of players we have behind McGregor at Celtic, it’s just that their roles are distinct. Matt O’Riley should be allowed to feature relatively soon, but Wednesday might come a bit early for his international clearance. James McCarthy has looked unsteady for Celtic at times; we know there’s a player there, but it’s how best to use him.

Nir Bitton has shown real quality for Celtic this season in his preferred midfield role. But does a potential middle trio of Ideguchi, Hatate and Bitton have enough pace?

If McCarthy’s in there with Bitton behind, where does the pressing come from?

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

It’s a concern for Ange Postecoglou and Celtic, with Callum McGregor hoping this won’t be anything too serious. But again, we’re going to be left without an idiosyncratic player who provides a real mix of traits for Celtic. That, and leadership, at a time when a lot of new parts have entered the Celtic jigsaw.

This was so avoidable; that’s the frustrating thing. It would’ve been an utter shock not to see McGregor go for a 50/50 he didn’t think he could win, but he’s undoubtedly come off worse for it.

We’ve sadly already seen the impact missing Callum McGregor can have on Celtic. We’ve got to hope, then, that the Hoops have recruited well enough to make it work.

Read more: “Significant”; Big Callum McGregor worry for Celtic as Ange provides injury update on trio