This year’s Scottish Premiership season is already shaping up to be a vastly different affair from what transpired last year. The gap between Celtic and Rangers has lessened massively, and the title race is set to be very competitive.
Managerial changes have emerged as the focal point in this season’s title race. Ange Postecoglou, yet to manage a club of Celtic’s stature, seems a competent replacement for fan favourite Neil Lennon.
However, it was Gerrard’s surprise exit from Rangers in favour of joining Aston Villa that sent shock waves through Scottish football. After masterminding an unbeaten winning campaign last year, Stevie G’s departure is a very welcome sight for Celtic fans.
Celtic have been dominant at the top in recent years, having been crowned champions nine times in a row before last year. However, after Rangers’ accomplishments last season, some Celtic fans may fear Gerrard has catalysed their rival’s resurgence.
The Scottish Premier League title odds at a range of bookmakers both new and established have Rangers as considerable favourites for the title at 4/11. Currently trailing to last year’s champions, a winning campaign from Celtic offers a much better return at 19/10.
Third place Heart of Midlothian are deemed to have an extremely slim chance of winning the title, with odds of 175/1. History reaffirms just how unlikely this is, with 1985 being the last time one of the Old Firm clubs failed to win the title.
The 2021/2022 Season so Far
Despite sitting comfortably at the head of the pack, both Rangers and Celtic haven’t been without their respective shock defeats.
Rangers hopes of repeating last year’s unbeaten season were abruptly ended early on by defeat at Dundee. Their first in 41 Premiership matches, it showed The Gers to be a less free scoring side than last year.
Rangers have also already drawn half as many games as they did in the whole of last season.
Celtic lost their opening game of the season 2-1 against always competitive Hearts. However, it was September’s away defeat to bottom placed Livingston that was especially disheartening and frustrating for Celt’s fans.
Late August saw the first Glasgow Derby of the season. The pulsating contest at Ibrox finished with Rangers emerging as 1-0 winners and gaining a huge three points on their fierce rivals.
Despite having lost two more games, Celtic are slightly edging Rangers in terms of goals difference, which could prove to be decisive. With just over half the season having been played, 18 games to make up six points is more than possible.
Celtic ended the year by winning the Scottish League Cup, which will only boost their confidence heading back after the break.
There has been plenty of big transfer news at Celtic Park with both important acquisitions and departures.
Deadline day saw consistent goal scorer Odsonne Edouard exit the club, moving to Crystal Palace for a reported £15 million. Having netted an impressive 66 goals in 116 SPL games for The Hoops, replacing his goals seemed no easy feat.
However, summer singing Kyogo Furuhashi seems to be on his way to filling the big shoes left behind by his predecessor. The 26-year-old Japanese forward is Celtic’s leading goal scorer in the league, with 8 goals in 14 games.
Averaging 0.76 goals per 90 minutes, Celtic have acquired the most clinical striker in the league so far. Furuhashi was also instrumental in Celtic’s Scottish League Cup victory in December, netting a brace in a 2-1 win over Hibernian.
January saw the arrival of three of his compatriots in Japanese trio Yosuke Ideguchi, Reo Hatate and Daizan Maeda.
The Remainder of the Season
When looking at upcoming fixtures, Celtic undoubtedly have the tougher encounters. They kick off the first match of the new year with a home game against 5th place Hibernian.
They will then hope to make it two wins a row against the Hearts team that beat them early in the season. January is closed out with a home game against struggling Dundee United, who sit just one place off bottom.
Rangers’s most challenging game this month is a visit to 6th place Aberdeen. After a cup match, The Gers play Livingston, and Ross County, sitting 8th and 10th respectively.
Before, in early February, the second Old Firm derby of the season is played.
In the Scottish Premier League, each team plays each other a minimum of three times before the league splits in half. After this, teams play those around them once more.
With this structure meaning there will be three more derbies to come, Celtic have plenty of opportunity to bridge the points gap.
The Season to Recapture the Title
A decisive factor in determining who emerges as champions this year will undoubtedly be the managerial changes. Although Rangers don’t seem to have slowed down too much since Gerrard’s departure, his exit will undoubtedly have Celtic fans optimistic.
It really seems as though Celtic will feel that Rangers are there for the taking. Hoops fans are desperate to return to the summit of Scottish football and that extra desire will surely lift the players.
However, it’s important for Celtic to focus on themselves more than worrying about the managerial situation at other teams. New manager Postecoglou has put together some impressive results and found cup success, showing enough vigour to match Rangers.
Can Celtic reclaim their historical position firmly at the top of the Scottish Premier League? Or has Gerrard initiated a new era of dominance for Rangers?