Why Callum McGregor as a number 6 is so vital to Celtic under Ange Postecoglou

By Euan Davidson

November 2, 2021

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has a considerably unique problem at the club, and Callum McGregor is it.

There’s such a thing as a good problem, after all. McGregor has been one of Celtic’s outstanding performers for a number of seasons. Since breaking through under Ronny Deila, the versatile midfielder has had countless excellent performances in Green and White. That he was made captain in the summer was an inevitability.

However, this is his first real season in a role that seems perfect for him. As a number 6, McGregor has often been made the focal point for Celtic boss Postecoglou. He’s able to lie deep between the centre-backs off the ball, or maraud forward when we’re on it, being a key part of the attack.

Joe Hart will often find him from goal kicks, allowing McGregor’s pace and impetus to dictate a high-tempo game. His recycling of the ball is excellent, finding attacking midfielders or wingers with his distribution. In that exactly role, he’s been outstanding for Celtic a number of times this season.

Why’s that a problem? Well, it becomes tricky in a team with three defensive midfielders, and a lack of numbers further up. We saw that against Livingston at the weekend.

Good as Nir Bitton was, he slowed the game down to a significant degree, compared with McGregor. Perhaps the Bhoys were better at keeping the ball, but what we did with it was uninspiring, to say the least.

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Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou needs to build midfield around Callum McGregor

Obviously, we know who Postecoglou wants to frame his midfield around. In many respects, he was right to shuttle McGregor further up on Saturday, and use one of his first-team quality defensive midfielders. But the way Celtic want to play, it doesn’t necessarily work against stubborn Scottish opposition.

However, we saw when McGregor was out that he’s crucial to this team in both ends of the park. The traditional holding midfielder just doesn’t really cut it for Postecoglou’s system. Someone who can absorb pressure and win the ball back is always useful, but it has to be about more than that.

That makes the signing of James McCarthy quite confusing. If Soro was able to recapture some of last season’s form, his engine might make him ideal foil for a more advanced McGregor. But, harsh as it sounds, it’s possible that none of the three DMs Celtic have geared towards what it is that manager wants.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

McGregor, then, either has to be backed with an extremely similar back-up (how do you find that easily?), or he’ll need to be entrusted to – yet again [Transfermarkt] – play a ridiculous number of minutes this season for Celtic.

Either way, keeping McGregor as the number 6 is absolutely vital to Celtic’s movement on and off the ball. It’s something the manager has to stick with, and that’ll mean utilising a different option as a number 10 to replace Tom Rogic for the meantime.

Whether that’s Jota, Kyogo or someone else, the consequences are obvious. It could be absolutely crucial in Hungary on Thursday.

The January transfer window is going to be very interesting.

Read more: Former Celtic striker Mark McGhee backs Giakoumakis after Saturday penalty miss