Celtic are about to become even more threatening

By Euan Davidson

March 3, 2022

It’s been about two and a half months since Celtic midfielder David Turnbull left the pitch at Hampden in tears, during the Premier Sports Cup Final.

Having been our Player of the Year last season, excelling during a dreadful time for the club, you could tell what that final meant to him. To be part of a Celtic success, after a gruelling and demoralising campaign would’ve been especially sweet.

That he came off with an injury, having been something of an iron man for us previously, was a big blow. Yet, beyond the occasional injury update, we don’t talk about David Turnbull all that much. With him gearing up for a return, though, Celtic are going to become even more threatening.

Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Ange Postecoglou said Turnbull was almost back in training [Daily Record]. While Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley have dominated headlines, and Tom Rogic putting in performances like he did against Motherwell, it’s been hard to put Turnbull into the picture.

When he’s there, though, Celtic have an extra dimension. Simply put, nobody in the side can pick out a pass quite like him. He still leads the Scottish Premiership for key passes, and it’s not even close. His 4.1 per game is monumental [WhoScored?].

The next best at Celtic is Jota, with 1.7 per game. Turnbull doesn’t always get the assist, but he’s instrumental in making things happen for Celtic going forward. A full Scotland international, the Wishaw-born attacking midfielder has racked up 9 goals and 7 assists this season, in a whopping 34 games, prior to his injury [Transfermarkt].

We’ve essentially missed out on a player with 16 goal contributions, who does more with the ball in a distributive sense than anyone else. When he’s back, it’s going to make a real difference.

67 Hail Hail chats to Postecoglou and McGregor after another huge Celtic win | With Scott McDonald

67 Hail Hail chats to Postecoglou and McGregor after another huge Celtic win | With Scott McDonald
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

David Turnbull is a key ingredient for Celtic; it’s surprising how well we’ve done without him

To have lost Kyogo and Turnbull to injury at the same time could’ve been catastrophic for Celtic.

The duo account for 37 goal contributions, combined [Transfermarkt]. Granted, some excellent January recruitment helped to amend that problem, but that makes the situation all the brighter when one or both return.

One of the few problems we’ve seen since the turn of the year has been unlocking Maeda. He’s a striker that prefers to roam in central or left-central positions, with the ball to feet in space. He’s not a Chris Sutton type, and the Hoops have – to my eyes at least – crossed the ball more often when Turnbull isn’t there for Celtic.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Having Turnbull back, with his distinct eye for a defence-splitting pass, often weighted perfectly, can be a real boost. Not only that, he’s our primary set-piece taker, though O’Riley and Jota have stepped up in 2022. If we can actually utilise corners more, like we did last night, Turnbull will have a major part to play.

The Hibs and Bodo/Glimt games distracted from a wider picture of Celtic that’s been obvious since the start of the year. We’re creating plenty, scoring goals and – in general – finding ways past opposition. To have done that without one of our primary creative outlets is admirable.

Imagine, though, what it could be like when Turnbull is back in the Celtic team.

It won’t be long.

Read more: Livi boss Martindale applauds Ange and the “fantastic” Celtic players ahead of Sunday