It’s been a fun-filled week for Celtic fans. After destroying our semi-final opponents last Sunday, we could be forgiven for thinking things can’t get much better, but with the league being (most likely) wrapped up this coming weekend and the second of a potential three trophies up for grabs we could not be more wrong.
At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves let’s look at what needs to happen after the Scottish Cup Final on May 19th. Brendan Rodgers men are facing an uphill struggle to reach the 2018/19 Champions League group stage after Uefa voted to boot teams from outside the elite leagues square in the nether regions with their ridiculous qualifying changes.
Reaching Europe’s premier competition is a must for fans and the Celtic board who are keen to use the prize money to continue building the club; whether it be in the form of transfers, scouting or structural improvements. For that to happen, significant recruitment must take place in the summer. Let’s have a look at 5 key issues that need addressed.
The No.1 Position:
Hands up those who think Craig Gordon is the answer? Ask twenty Celtic fans this question and you’re likely to get a 50/50 split in opinion. Craig has been a fantastic servant and the fact we paid no transfer fee makes him one of the club’s best bargain buys. Having said that, a club needs two if not three top-class goalkeepers to create competition and keep performance levels high.
We already know Dundee’s on loan keeper, Scott Bain would jump at the chance to sign a permanent deal. The cool customer impressed when thrown in against Rangers at Ibrox last month and has made it clear he is desperate to remain at the club. It seems an easy decision for Celtic as Bain’s Dundee deal expires after this season. The decision will ultimately lie with Brendan Rodgers who must be tempted to tie Bain up. This leaves the youth goalkeepers fighting to be third choice and that looks likely to be Ross Doohan who was on the bench when Craig Gordon was injured.
The Centre-Back Issue:
A worrying area of concern is central defence. Last season, Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic were instrumental in Celtic’s invincibles team. Both men were rocks as Celtic swept all before them to claim the unbeaten treble; an achievement never done before and unlikely to be matched again. This season however, things are different.
Jozo Simunovic has lost concentration at vital times during matches costing goals left, right and centre. Many reasons have been put forward for why the big Croatian has struggled to match last season’s heights and none are more intriguing than an apparent wish to play somewhere else. Whatever the truth of the matter, Jozo partnered young Kristoffer Ajer before being replaced by Boyata when he returned from injury.
Dedryck Boyata appears to be even more of an enigma; turning in some woeful performances that led to some Celtic fans labelling him the new “Efe Ambrose.” Even the newly acquired Marvin Compper can’t get into the team making the move to sign him even more baffling. If Celtic want to be in the hat for the 2018/19 Champions League group stage draw, a partner for Ajer is top priority.
Mikael Lustig – Stick or Twist:
Most Celtic fans love Mikael Lustig. We appreciate his hard work, talent and the fact he 100% gets what Celtic is all about. However, it’s no secret the Swedish international has slowed down of late, culminating in a section of the support not being as patient with him as they once were. Mikael has suffered a variety of injuries in his career and at 31 years of age even the super Swede can’t go on forever. Brendan Rodgers has a big decision to make when the season ends. Does he stick with Mikael or go an alternative route?
The manager plays a system that requires both full-backs to bomb down the wings and aid attacks. That’s fine down the left with Kieran Tierney but Mikael has struggled on the opposite side and Cristian Gamboa, despite not being a success, seems to be the type of full-back Brendan goes for. It will be interesting to see what happens come season’s end.
Give Kieran Tierney a Hand:
What a player Kieran Tierney is. This young lad has everything: pace, passing, crossing, tackling, positional sense and a level head on his shoulders that ensures he won’t be running to the over-hyped EPL anytime soon. KT is only human though, and this season has shown the lad needs backup if even to give him a rest now and again.
Ever since Emilio Izaguirre left the club, Celtic have been without decent backup for their young protégé. It’s all very well Callum McGregor deputising in there but he isn’t a natural left back. Any injury to KT would leave Celtic trying to qualify for the Champions League with a central midfielder in the left back position. It’s a nightmare scenario and there is no excuse for not having proper backup in that area. Get it sorted, Celtic.
As strikers go, Odsonne Edouard is a player you expect to see plying his trade down south. He has the physique to dominate defenders and is calm and composed on the ball. Some fans are unconvinced we should shell out a transfer fee but this author maintains the young Frenchman would be an invaluable asset in our Champions League efforts.
Brendan Rodgers himself rates the target-man highly, labelling him as “one of the best I’ve worked with.” High praise indeed from a man who tutored top talent at Liverpool. The Scottish media claim Celtic will need to pay £7m to secure Edouard’s services but Brendan claims the figure is wide of the mark. (Who do we believe, eh?)
Moussa Dembele’s own future is apparently up in the air with the SMSM desperate to see the back of him before he bullies anymore of their favourite team’s defenders. If there are any truth to the stories that Moussa is on his way, signing Odsonne is an absolute must.
So, there we have it. Let’s hope whatever happens, Brendan and the Celtic board continue the hard work they have already started.