What Sviatchenko links say about Celtic defence is a major worry

By Euan Davidson

June 17, 2021

Now, don’t get us wrong, we love a bit of former Celtic man Erik Sviatchenko.

The renaissance man of Celtic’s Invincibles, Sviatchenko spoke openly about fashion and art when he signed for Celtic [Scotsman]. That kind of cosmopolitan flair is probably a refreshing change of pace at Parkhead, unless Greg Taylor is talking to his teammates about Rotko paintings. Or, Leigh Griffiths is talking about fashion with Scott Bain. Truly, we don’t know whether that’s the case or not.

But on a footballing level, is Sviatchenko the right fit? There are pros and cons here. For one thing, he did manage to thrive in Brendan Rodgers’ Bhoys side, initially. He made 43 total appearances in 16-17 [Transfermarkt], in a side that played it out the back, were frighteningly quick and didn’t concede with particular regularity.

That’s good, no doubt, and maybe, he can do it again.

But his lack of pace was found out before he subsequently returned to Midtjylland. Now, at 29, it’s unlikely that a fundamental problem in his game has improved. What he’s good at; aerial duels and tackling, were also attributes of Shane Duffy’s. Where he struggles, namely his distribution and interception numbers, are also where Duffy struggled.

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And that’s before we get to the next point; he’s still probably an upgrade.

Erik Sviatchenko; likeable and experienced, but a bit of a worry

It sounds basic, but there’s a reason Sviatchenko left Celtic in the first place. As hard as that is to say, because he is a very likeable guy, it’s the truth. By the end of Rodgers’ spell, the defence of Ajer and Boyata were far better-equipped to deal with the rigours of domestic and European competition.

Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer worked as a pairing because both were able to move the ball forward, win the ball consistently, and had the stamina to get up and down the pitch at speed. Again, unless Sviatchenko has found a spare motor at Midtjylland, that’ll still be a problem for him.

Sviatchenko on Champions League duty / (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

The most concerning part though, is that he’s definitely better than Nir Bitton, and probably Stephen Welsh. Behind Jullien, he’d be our second-best centre-back were he to join, provided Ajer leaves, which seems inevitable.

That’s… well that’s not good, is it?

There are reasons to bring Sviatchenko in. He’s a good dressing room presence, he’s more than capable back-up, and it would be funny to sign a Midtjylland player before we face them in the Champions League. And this isn’t to say we object entirely to the idea. It’s just that list of cons is more compelling that the reasons we have to bring him in.

This team needs a hell of a lot of work. If Sviatchenko is the answer, the question needs further scrutiny.

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