What we've learned from Celtic pre-season camp

By Euan Davidson

July 15, 2021

So, Celtic have come to the end of their pre-season camp in Wales.

This time, nobody can say it was a “jolly”. This was sheer hard work, some very decent results and even new arrivals coming through the door.

Results came against Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday, and we’re getting a clearer indication of how Ange Postecoglou is going to set Celtic up in 21-22 season.

So, what have we learned from the Bhoys Celtic (with a hard C) jaunt this summer?

Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

Ange Postecoglou has been quick to assert his style

We were worried that Ange Postecoglou just wouldn’t have enough time to implement his tactical philosophy. That, with his radially different way of approaching football, the Celtic squad would either be ill-equipped, or slow to pick up on what Postecoglou was putting down.

Actually, it’s been relatively seamless. Barring an early goal against Sheffield Wednesday, Celtic have looked confident, aggressive and hungry. There’s a consistency in the pressing, players are happy to move more to receive the ball and create passing opportunities. It’s already more fluid.

Make no mistake, it’s a long, long way from being the finished article. The real test will be, of course, in competitive action. However, it would’ve been reasonable to assume we might’ve looked far more messy in our pre-season matches than we have done.

That’s testament to the will of most of the Celtic squad. They would’ve known that if they weren’t keen on adapting, they’d be out. Instead, performances by Albian Ajeti, Ismaila Soro and Stephen Welsh in particular have shown there’s plenty of enthusiasm for what Postecoglou is bringing to Celtic.

There still could be bumps along the way, and nothing is definitive here, but it’s already taking shape.

Postecoglou’s trusted core is beginning to take shape from Celtic pre-season efforts

Obviously, this was going to be a blank slate for everyone. But it’s clear there are a core of players Postecoglou is happy to base his team around.

So far, there seemingly been a vote of confidence for Vasilis Barkas. A late injury excepted, he’s been the starting goalkeeper for Celtic thus far. Yes, fine, it’s only been three friendlies, but Barkas’ control of the ball, distribution and willingness to assert himself is a promising sign.

Ismaila Soro and Callum McGregor appear to be the first-choice midfield duo, with McGregor leading the way [Celtic FC]. That’s no shock; between them, the Scotsman and the Ivorian offer movement, excellent conditioning and a strong passing range from the middle of the park.

Greg Taylor has also impressed since coming back from Euro 2020 duty, and it looks as if youngsters are going to get the opportunity to make an impact either from the bench, or from the start. There’s a core of players relishing this challenge so far.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Hard work valued above all else

Football’s one the rare examples of a meritocracy in action. Celtic are included in that.

The training sessions that have been broadcast by Celtic’s in-house media are utterly intense. The fitness work, the tactical work, the constant focus on pressing – it’s all been excellent to see, and the players, in kind, seem to be having fun too.

That’s what the Postecoglou reign seems to be about so far. Young players and veterans alike are getting opportunities based on willingness to do hard yards, constantly pressure the opponent and give options to ball-carriers in possession.

Rather than the passive defensive motions of years past, this Celtic team already look up for constant, aggressive harrying of defences, across the park. Players who don’t fit into that way of thinking are going to get jettisoned now, or move on in January – it’s that simple.

Yes, it’s early. But given the drama of training camps past, it’s great to see actual progress being made. The first real test comes next Tuesday, when the fruits of the Wales camp will truly reveal themselves.

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