The Alternate Celtic XI that puts Ange's transfer success in focus
We talk about injuries, international duty and all the rest, but the fact is that Ange Postecoglou and CEO Michael Nicholson have built a formidable Celtic squad.
Last night, we saw new Bhoys Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate run the show. Nir Bitton, not a first-choice midfielder, dictated the tempo. Giorgos Giakoumakis was excellent, starting the calendar year hot after a range of injury annoyances and a lack of match fitness.
Many times already this season, we’ve seen Ange Postecoglou had to fit round pegs into square holes, manage his squad under real pressure, and hope against hope that more injuries wouldn’t mount up. And the extent of that is we have a genuinely sound alternate XI that could’ve faced Hearts last night, were circumstances different.
Via my colleague Hamish Carton, we see that there are some absolute star names who missed out last night. Christopher Jullien is still to make his mark after coming back from injury. Welsh, Scales and particularly Ralston have seen plenty of game-time this season, and are sound cover our preferred back four.
In midfield, we lacked our first-choice trio of McGregor, Rogic and Turnbull. We’re unlikely to see that particular combination for weeks. Yet, last night, the game was won in midfield.
Up front, new man Maeda is away with Japan, Kyogo is injured, while Mikey Johnston is another option on the left-hand side.
The point is; this side could’ve beaten Hearts last night. It’d run any Scottish Premiership team close. It’s testament to Ange Postecoglou and Michael Nicholson that an entirely different XI started against Hearts last night, to very good effect.
The Alternate Celtic XI shows just how much work Ange Postecoglou and Michael Nicholson have done to build this squad
We needed rid of want-way players, deadwood and, in some cases, really valued talents. That was the situation Ange Postecoglou walked into, admittedly with a different CEO at the time [Celtic FC].
It was utter chaos. Yet with utter economy and efficiency, the depth of the squad at this point in January is inarguable. There’s quality at every position, and plenty of players who’ve missed on either the XI that started last night, or in the alternate you see above.
That’s phenomenal. What’s even more astounding is that not one player that’s come to the club has looked out of place, or like they don’t belong. You could argue that James McCarthy hasn’t necessarily worked out, but in his small handful of appearances, he’s been at least half-decent.
Everyone has a distinct role and part to play in Ange’s system. The player integration this season has been incomparably better than 20-21, with many examples we probably don’t want to relive.
In terms of transfer activity, we couldn’t really have asked for much more. Regardless of how the season ends, the club have shown ambition, Ange Postecoglou has worked his absolute hardest, and there’s a CEO buying into the manager’s vision for recruitment and personnel.
It’s a markedly better situation than the one we were in, and both Postecoglou and Nicholson deserve major credit.