Stephen Welsh has given Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou something to think about
It feels almost strange to praise a defensive performance after conceding twice, but praise is due for Celtic defender Stephen Welsh after being picked by Ange Postecoglou last night.
In the absence of Carl Starfelt, an underrated performer in Celtic’s more recent successes, Welsh was thrown in somewhat cold. Prior to last night, Welsh hadn’t been on the pitch for any of the Bhoys’ last six games.
A break-out star in 20-21, largely due to necessity, Welsh was perhaps unfairly associated with the frailty of Celtic’s defence in the early parts of this season.
Welsh’s commitment has never been in question. A defender of the old-school variety, the 21-year-old throws himself around like a man with no regard for his own body. If there’s even a 1% chance he can clear the ball, he’ll try to do it.
That was in evidence again last night. Welsh made 4 clearances, and blocked a shot with his face [Fotmob]. It sounds comical, but it was an important intervention at a time when Ferencvaros were building up a head of steam.
In possession, his passing was very tidy indeed. He finished with a 93% success rate, although only 7 of those were in the opposition half. But in terms of building from the back and keeping it short around our box, Welsh did perfectly well.
Stephen Welsh and returning Christopher Jullien provide great options for Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou
With the January transfer window coming up, it’s natural that talk may revolve around who could improve the defence. Even though Celtic have performed with more solidity at the back in recent weeks, there’s always room to improve.
However, with Christopher Jullien looking to make his return soon, and Stephen Welsh providing decent cover, is there a need to buy in any more centre-backs?
That’s up to Postecoglou. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think so.
The charismatic Frenchman will be in first-team contention once he’s fit and ready. Cameron Carter-Vickers has been excellent, even if he’s flown a little under the radar.
Don’t forget Welsh, though. When it counted, the Coatbridge-born Scotland U21 international looked tactically tuned-in and, as ever, ruthlessly committed to keeping goals out.
It seems unlikely that Welsh will break into the first-team when Starfelt and Carter-Vickers are fit. But the Celtic Academy graduate is young, passionate and more than happy on the biggest stages.
That’s got to be of enormous comfort to the manager, and it’ll certainly come into his thinking when the January transfer window opens.