Former Hearts midfielder and BBC Scotland pundit Michael Stewart has hit out at the performances of Ange Postecoglou’s central defenders this campaign.
Writing in his Sun Sport column, Stewart begins by stating his beliefs that the defensive side of things hasn’t been good enough, particularly in Europe.
He also continued, stating that neither Cameron Carter-Vickers or Carl Startfelt are good enough for the level which the Hoops have been playing at this campaign.
“CELTIC have come a long way in a short time under Ange Postecoglou.
“But after shipping another three European goals, there’s still no case for the Hoops defence.
“Postecoglou’s side have played five group games in the Europa League this season and conceded 13 goals. Add in the qualifiers, and it’s 20 in 11 matches.
“The 2-0 win over Ferencvaros at Celtic Park was pretty routine, but the four others weren’t.
“They lost 4-0 to Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow, 4-3 away at Real Betis, 3-2 in Germany on Thursday and, unfortunately for Postecoglou, the only high-scoring thriller they won was their 3-2 triumph in Budapest.
“It’s been entertaining — but it’s totally unsustainable.
“You can’t keep losing goals like that if you want to make progress in tournaments at that level.
“The Celtic boss is on record as stating the January transfer window will see more additions to his squad.
“Top of his list should be a top-class central defender. Maybe even two.
“I can’t really remember a window when I didn’t feel Celtic should strengthen that area. It’s been neglected for a long time.
“Even Brendan Rodgers’ side had a weakness in central defence.
“Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic were better than what they have now but still didn’t convince in Europe.
“I hear people saying the Spurs loan man has been a great addition. But if Celtic want to progress at the European level, they need better.
“Judging by his words, Postecoglou is fully aware he needs to strengthen his defence. The way Celtic have struggled to keep clean sheets in Europe probably won’t be a surprise to him.
“People will talk about his system and how expansive Celtic can be, but that’s not why they’ve conceded goals. It’s down to an inability to defend well enough when they go up a level in the Europa League.
“There’s a false debate that you can’t win if you play a really attacking style.
“You can, but you need to defend your box well and do the basics right.
“Look at the goals they lost late on Thursday night. Nobody can say Celtic left themselves too exposed. They had plenty of bodies in the box at both goals, but they didn’t react in time. They were slow and got punished.
“It was nothing to do with structure or tactics — it was about not being switched on to danger.
“Celtic are being coached really well right now and if they can find better quality in defence, they will definitely develop as a team.”
There is no denying that in Europe this season, we could have been a bit better with some of the goals conceded at points.
However, to me, this feels like a harsh point to be making, considering the fact we are arguably playing our fourth choice centre-back at this stage and have also seen many changes in the backline this season.
Additionally, Ange’s side is also currently the best defensive side in the Scottish Premiership.
The points about CCV and Starfelt are also very strange to me, given how impressive both have started to look within the backline at this point of the season.
Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But at the same time, the improvements are there, and at such an early stage in Ange Postecoglou’s era as manager, I believe there is still a lot more to come from this group of players.