Preseason: How successful has it been for Brendan Rodgers?
With injury concerns as well as a packed schedule ahead it’s worth asking the question – has Celtic’s preseason been as successful as Brendan Rodgers wanted?
Champions League qualifiers as always have plagued the start of the campaign, with so much focus being on whether Rodgers’ squad can reach Europe’s premier competition for the third time in a row.
Looking at results and performances, there’s not a lot Rodgers can be blamed for so far.
A smooth 6-0 aggregate victory over Armenian champions Alashkert was impressive and as smooth as it comes. The performances of Odsonne Edouard and Moussa Dembele excited an already optimistic support.
Edouard has continued to go from strength to strength since and notched a top-class brace against Norwegian champions Rosenborg in the first-leg of the second qualifying round of the Champions League.
A switch to a 3-5-2 has seen Rodgers tinker with a new formation that he’s looking to use ahead of the coming season. Seeing how much Edouard and Dembele dominated opposition defences last season on the rare occasions they partnered each other, it’s clear Rodgers wants to see more of that. The early signs are certainly promising.
A lot has also been made of the new turf that’s been laid down at Parkhead this season, and Rodgers will be delighted with how his side have performed on it thus far. A huge increase in speed to Celtic’s forward play has led to Alashkert and Rosenborg struggle to keep up with their slick passing at times.
On the playing side, there’s certainly no real concerns for Rodgers in what’s been an impressive preseason that’s also seen the Hoops hammer Standard Liege and Shamrock Rovers.
Defensive concerns have plagued the negative side of preseason for Rodgers. It’s disappointing for Celtic supporters that the club couldn’t foresee the crisis that’s transpired. With Dedryck Boyata being unavailable due to World Cup recovery and Jozo Simunovic suspended after a red card against Alashkert, Celtic only have Jack Hendry and Kristoffer Ajer available as recognised centre-backs.
Another World Cup absentee in Mikael Lustig has only just returned, with the little-used Cristian Gamboa slotting in as a replacement. Whilst the Costa Rican is a natural right-back, he has barely played since signing for the club nearly two years ago.
This means that Rodgers has had to play a defence with three of his recognised back-line missing. It hasn’t been ideal, but it looks as though the Hoops have been able to fight their way through it. Securing qualification against Rosenborg on Wednesday night will allow for all three to return.
One big issue raised by supporters is the lack of transfer activity, however.
Despite a lack of action other than the signing of Edouard permanently from PSG for a record £9m, supporters feel that the club are stockpiling cash and not spending enough on improving the squad.
It’s difficult to see where Rodgers stands on transfers give his tight-lipped nature to the media regarding new signings. However, there’s no doubt the squad could to with one or two new bodies to boost competition at the back.
It remains difficult as of yet to say Celtic’s preseason has been anything other than a resounding success, but you get the feeling Rodgers wants some more activity on the transfer front.
A defeat to Rosenborg on Wednesday night could change everything, but for now, Celtic are looking fitter and sharper than ever ahead of the new campaign.