Celtic Squad Review: Midfielders

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When I started writing this piece my impression was that we have loads of midfielders and the recurring joke is whenever we think we need a defender or a striker we end up signing a midfielder. However, Brown and Johansen are the only outstanding first team regulars, with Mulgrew being given the nod in the qualifier against KR – while he can operate in midfield he is mainly a defender which shows there is a lack of depth in the midfield area.

We have players who need to prove their worth and contribute more than they did last season in Biton and Kayal and then we have a host of promising youngsters who need to force their way into the manager’s plans. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kayal leave, more likely next summer, unless he shows some of the form he displayed at the start if his Celtic career. I think we could do with another strong midfield player to supplement the squad, but it may be that Kayal, Biton or Henderson can force themselves into first team regular contention.

6, Nir Biton (CM)
20 appearances, 0 goals, 22 years old, 6ft 5, Israel, 7 caps
Signed from FC Ashdod, August 2013, £600k

Biton didn’t feature much in the early part of last season apart from to come on as a sub against Ajax and be sent off minutes later. As he got more game time around the turn of the year he started to show his potential before picking up an injury ruling him out for most of the remainder of the season.

We have undoubtedly yet to see the best of him but he showed in a few games that he has the potential to do well in our side. Recent controversy over his social media activity surrounding the ongoing troubles in his homeland may turn some of the support against him. Political beliefs aside, I seriously believe that footballers should steer clear of twitter, etc – there is so much more trouble to be caused for them than they gain. I hope to see more of him in a hoops jersey this season and for him to take Scott Brown’s absence as a massive opportunity to establish himself in the first team.

8, Scott Brown (CM, RM, RB) [CAPTAIN]
280 appearances, 28 goals, 29 years old, 5ft 9, Scotland, 38 caps
Signed from Hibernian, August 2007, £4.4m

I can remember Broony playing for Hibs against us and him bickering with Alan Thompson constantly. It’s fair to say that he wasn’t all that popular with the Celtic fans at that point, one of those opposition players that you love to hate, but now he is our player it is everyone else that has the pleasure of disliking him. The moment when the “Broony” was invented remains iconic for all of us!

I would like to say he has matured and to a degree he has but the Neymar incident last season was the beginning of the end of our Champions League campaign and we could do without our captain putting us in that position.
It is greatly disappointing to lose him in pre-season for so long, he is a vital player for us and his experience and energy helps set the tone for those around him, the Champions League qualifiers are where we may have needed him most and so hopefully others step up to fill the void.

18, Tom Rogic (CM)
14 appearances, 0 goals, 21 years old, 6ft 2, Australia, 9 caps
Signed from Central Coast Mariners, January 2013, Undisclosed

It will be interesting to see if Rogic features much for us, we keep hearing about his huge potential but to be honest I have yet to see anything myself to convince me that there is a player in there. He will need to have his confidence built up as his time at the club hasn’t gone to plan and his loan spell in Australia was evidently also a failure and resulted in him not making the world cup squad. Has a lot to prove to save his career before it fritters out.

25, Stefan Johansen (CM)
18 appearances, 2 goals, 23 years old, 5ft 11 ½ , Norway, 9 caps
Signed from Stromsgodset, January 2014, £2million

It is easy to forget Johansen is only 23 years old such was the impression that he made after replacing Joe Ledley when he moved to Crystal Palace. He is a player that gives everything on the field, has amazing energy, covers every blade of grass and embodies the work ethic Deila is noted to champion.

He faded as the season drew to a close, potentially a result of his Norwegian season followed by half a Scottish season running consecutively. I expect a lot more from him this season and for him to show why he was Norwegian player of the year last season. Against KR he gave the ball away a lot which is not like him, hopefully early season rustiness as we need him to help fill Broony’s boots and drag us through to the Champions League group stage.

33, Beram Kayal (CM)
118 appearances, 3 goals, 26 years old, 5ft 10, Israel, 26 caps
Signed from Maccabi Haifa, July 2010, Undisclosed

Kayal made one of the best debuts I have ever seen, dictating the game against Utrecht (before we got pumped in the away leg) but injury has hampered his ability to sustain that level of performance. In his debut season he was out for three month with a hernia injury then another month or so with a broken wrist against Inverness. He was back to his best the following season up until the dreadful “accidental” tackle from McCulloch which damaged his ankle ligaments and he was out for another 4 months.

He has never really regained that level of performance on a sustained basis and has continued to pick up injury after injury. Again Brown’s absence may give him an opportunity which he really needs to take, otherwise I don’t see him remaining at Celtic next season. That would be a shame as at times he has looked a fantastic player so it would be a shame to waste that talent which seems to be hidden for now at least.

36, Jackson Irvine (CM, CB, RB)
1 appearance, 0 goals, 21 years old, 6ft 2, Australia, 1 cap

Irvine is a promising young player and I have seen far more to get excited about in his pre-season friendly appearances, especially against Liverpool in central midfield, than I have from his compatriot Rogic. He seems to suffer from the same problem as most of our young midfielders, in that they are shoe horned into the team anywhere and everywhere. He has played in defence for us and that was where he made most of his appearances on loan at Killie last season. Hope to see him make some appearances this season so we can see if he has got what it takes.

46, Dylan McGeouch (CM, RM, RB)
27 appearances, 2 goals, 21 years old, 5ft 10, Scotland, 0 caps

McGeouch is (according to Wikipedia) 1 inch taller than Scott Brown, which I find difficult to believe!! Again he has performed in many different positions in his few appearances for the club, mainly featuring out wide on the right. He scored probably the best first goal you will ever see for the club against St Mirren in 2011 but his progress was slowed by his broken jaw sustained in a friendly against Real Madrid when he was playing very well. Loaned to Coventry last season he only made 8 appearances. Again in the category where he needs to establish himself this season, he has the talent (see the goal he setup for Balde in the win over Linz with an imaginative scoop over the defender) but we need to find his best position and give him to opportunity to show what he can do.

53, Liam Henderson (CM)
8 appearances, 1 goal, 18 years old, 6ft, Scotland, 0 caps

Henderson had a great breakthrough season last year but only made 8 appearances, he impressed but is in a tough position to force himself into the team with the likes of Brown, Johansen, Mulgrew and Kayal to contend with. He needs to continue his development and earn his place but it will no doubt be tough for him this year. He has time on his side though and if he can continue his development we will have a talented midfielder on our hands.

56, Filip Twardzik (CM, LM, LB)
6 appearances, 0 goals, 21 years old, 6ft 1, Czech Republic, 0 caps

I am surprised by how few games Twardzik has played for Celtic, it seems much more than that to me! He has mainly featured as a stand in left back but on a few occasions has appeared in his favoured midfield position. Generally Twardzik has played well but hasn’t really made any position his own and again has been affected by injury during his time at the club.

His twin brother Patrik has now left the club, hopefully Filip will be another young midfielder to force his way into Ronny Deila’s plans this season.


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