What a difference a couple of months can make. When Celtic recruited – and recruited well – in the summer, things looked relatively peachy for Neil Lennon and his charges.
Key players were brought in to cover vital positions, and the irony of Celtic’s bad run of form is that we’ve gone from left-back being a problem position to our left-back being the only player supporters can currently agree on.
Diego Laxalt, Shane Duffy and Mohammed Elyounoussi were brought in on loan, while David Turnbull, Vasilis Barkas and Albian Ajeti signed permanent deals in the transfer window just past. While it’s still early days for all but Elyounoussi, who has built on an impressive loan spell last term, there are concerns about our squad more generally.
Here are 5 realistic targets for the January transfer window who could make an instant impact at Celtic Park. Fair warning: there are stats.
Night follows day. Birds will migrate. Leaves will fall in Autumn. Celtic writers will continue to link Ireland internationals to the club.
This one makes a great deal of sense, though. For all the club have been linked to Dean Henderson of Manchester United or a return for Fraser Forster, there are no strong indications from either shot-stopper that they’d be up for being Celtic’s number 1.
Step forward Darren Randolph. Affordable at a £1.98m evaluation (via Transfermarkt), the West Ham back-up has considerable experience from a nomadic club career which has seen him play for Charlton, Birmingham and Motherwell, where he impressed between 2010 and 2013.
A known quantity with a knowledge of the Scottish game, Randolph’s shot-stopping acrobatics are a photographer’s dream, and his commanding presence would help to settle a defence which is shot of confidence.
In his most recent prolonged spell of game time, in the 18-19 season with Middlesbrough, Randolph kept 19 clean sheets in 41 games, which is no mean feat. With first-team opportunities at a premium at the London Stadium, the Irishman could well be tempted.
Dejan Stanković’s Crvena Zvezda (or Red Star Belgrade, if you prefer) have been solid in their performances in the Europa League this season. At the time of writing, they sit second in a group containing table toppers Hoffenheim and Belgian side Gent, while domestically, they’ve opened up a 9 point lead at the top of Liga Sbrije, after 15 matches.
Part of the reason behind Crvena Zvezda’s success up to this point is a stubborn defence; they’ve only conceded 7 goals and scored 44 in the league so far.
Born in Croatia but an Australian international, Milos Degenek is a right-footer can play either as a centre-back or in defensive midfield, and at 26, he already has 27 caps for the Socceroos. Standing at 6’1″ and comfortable on the ball, Degenek could bolster a defence which has look unsure of itself so far this season.
Strictly speaking, we don’t need Ali McCann, with Ross Turnbull, Ismaila Soro, Ewan Henderson, Luca Connell and others battling for a place in the Celtic side. However, as our own David Walton reported, Celtic scout Tosh McKinlay has been watching McCann at St. Johnstone this season.
While this is probably more one for the future, McCann has been impressive so far this season. His passing completion success and ball retention in midfield are considerable attributes, and he’s the kind of midfielder with a bit of bite; against Hibs, he made three successful tackles and interceptions.
With the likes of John McGinn and James McArthur having slipped the clutches of Celtic in the past, the recruitment team at Parkhead need to decide whether to pull the trigger on another emerging Scottish midfield talent, lest he take his talents elsewhere.
Another midfielder? Look, with our midfield struggling to create clear-cut chances from open play, there’s clearly a need for a deep-lying playmaker who’s able to advance the ball, pop up with assists and generally cause havoc in a role that used to be Stuart Armstrong’s.
Fredrik Midtsjø might be the man for the job. On the more expensive end of the scale with a transfer value of £7.20m (via Transfermarkt), the Norwegian might have begun to reach his peak, having turned 27 this year.
Posting not inconsiderable ratings of 7.42 and 7.29 in the Eridivisie and Europa League respectfully this season (via WhoScored?), Midtsjø has laid on two assists in three games for AZ Alkmaar, likes to dribble, is a threat taking set-pieces and is a regular international.
It might be a risk, with Alkmaar either unwilling to sell or looking for the thick end of £10m, but a Stuart Armstrong is performing well at Southampton and Midtsjø looks to have similar attributes.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that we’ve had some joy out of the French market in recent years, and if we’re looking at problem areas in the Celtic squad, depth on the right-wing is one that needs fixed pronto.
Lens’ Cameroonian forward Ignatius Ganago is primarily a striker but at 21, his attributes indicate he could flourish on the right side of an attacking Celtic line-up.
With 4 goals in 332 minutes of football so far (via WhoScored?), Ganago completes 2.3 dribbles per game in Ligue 1, good enough for 9th place just behind Angel di Maria.
His movement is troublesome for opposition defences, having been fouled 2.4 times a match this season, with 0.3 offsides per game and an average pass completion rate of 76%.
I told you there’d be stats.
Currently valued at £6.3m (via Transfermarkt), his play so far this season means that it might be the opportune time to sign him before he becomes too rich for our blood. With our record of France-based recruitment, Ganogo could be another name to add to the list.