Celtic defender Carl Starfelt and the van Dijk factor which shows we need patience

By Euan Davidson

August 20, 2021

Carl Starfelt would do well to consider the start Virgil van Dijk had for Celtic.

Before he was the world’s most expensive defender [i], for a time at least, van Dijk was someone who got off to a tricky start to life at Celtic. The glamour moves, Premier League football and Champions League wins came a while after.

In his first proper start, van Dijk and Steven Mouyokolo played together in a gruesome loss to Shakhter Karagandy. That result was overturned, of course [BBC], with the Bhoys winning 3-0 at home. But the Ballon D’Or runner-up [LFC] looked shaky against lesser European opposition.

The point is, it took a while for fans to become convinced.

Now, nobody is comparing Carl Starfelt to Virgil van Dijk. Of course not. However, it’s worth noting. Even some of our biggest defensive names have failed to convince Celtic supporters right away.

Although Starfelt has helped Celtic keep 3 clean sheets in a short space of time [WhoScored?], he hasn’t looked entirely convincing yet. But it’d probably be a bit much to expect him to, at this early stage.

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The football Rubin Kazan played, compared to this Celtic side, is vastly different. Starfelt’s responsibilities were primarily defensive – that makes sense, he’s a centre-back. But under Ange Postecoglou, his passing and forward momentum are arguably as important as his tackles, blocks and interceptions.

Not only that, there’s the high line that Celtic play, living in an entirely new country and, thus far, having two or three different goalkeepers to work with. The continued presence of Joe Hart will help to no end, surely.

Van Dijk comparisons aside, we need to be patient with Celtic defender Carl Starfelt

There are others. Johan Mjällby took a while to get going in the Hoops. Charlie Mulgrew, Bobo Baldé, Jason Denayer, Dedryck Boyata – they all needed time to settle, but came good.

It’s maybe the case that the blistering early form of Kyogo and Joe Hart have distorted our expectations of what a start to a Celtic career should look like.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Either way, it’s still way too early to make a judgement call on a player like Starfelt. Especially when he’s Postecoglou’s choice, a player he likes, and one with the experience to surely grow into his role at Celtic.

Plus, the defence has looked better than it has in a considerable time. For one thing, we’re not defending sloppy goals from set pieces; AZ had 8 well delivered corners at Celtic Park, and our net wasn’t breached once [FotMob].

The Swede has been a part of that. He has the running, the tackling and the aerial presence to be effective. Starfelt just needs time to settle, and although the temptation is there, we ought not be so quick to judge players after a handful of games.

Just as others needed adjustment to life at Celtic, Starfelt needs time to settle.

Read more: Celtic star lauds supporters after 5 consecutive wins