When you consider the basic premise of the most successful sides that utilise the 4-3-3 formation, the midfielders all follow a template; a holder, an attacker and a box to box, jack of all trades, energy ball. For example, Barcelona they employ Busquets as a defensive shield, Andreas Iniesta as the cerebral attacker and Ivan Rakitić knits both aspects together. Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and a whole host of others adhere to this premise.
Celtic, previously under Ronny Deila and now at the request of Brendan Rodgers, clearly favour this formation. Sadly, there is an obvious lack of personnel to fully exploit such a system. In the holding, screener role Nir Bitton looks a solid fit; he is technically accomplished, is spatially aware and physical enough to command a midfield.
In the more attack minded slot there are a myriad of options, I however, favour the case put forward by the stocky Australian Tom Rogic who appears to have all the attributes needed to thrive. His ability to drive with the ball, deliver incisive passes and unleash thunderous strikes, all protected by his fearsome physique, make him the standout candidate. My one gripe is that he all too often looks in need of a slap across the face and for someone to scream “SPEED IT UP!!!” in his direction. His tendency to dawdle in possession sometimes breaks up the fluency of counter attacks. Overall, the good far outweighs the bad.
That leaves only the link-man, the key pivot in which the entire side hinges around. That man has been Scott Brown and therein lies the biggest problem (aside from a certain Efe Ambrose). The skipper no longer has the drive, tenacity or endurance that made him such a key component in the club’s recent history. Now he appears as something of a liability, a blundering weight in the centre of the park seemingly only able to misplace passes, goad opposition and attempt to engage in futile acts of intimidation. Brown’s time as the central hub of the side has come to an end and the need to feel the winds of change bluster through Parkhead have seldom felt so pressing.
Who could replace the tattooed, engine room operator? There are a couple of lads already in the squad who could stake a serious claim. First, and by far the most unpopular, is the beleaguered Stefan Johansen. The Norwegian has endured a torrid twelve or so months looking more and more disheartened with each passing day to the point where a transfer appears imminent. I think though that redemption is attainable. If he acknowledges that he lacks the cutting edge mentality and technical grace to operate effectively as a playmaker and agrees to carry more water for the side, then I feel that it could be a move that will prove mutually beneficial.
Secondly, Rodgers could opt for the much maligned Scott Allan. It seems like every fans wishes to see the former Hibs star at least be given a fair crack of the whip. In the few cameos that we were treated to last season Allan looks as though he could fit this system quite nicely.
What looks the most likely, especially considering the dismal showing in Gibraltar, is that Rodgers will look to bring in his own man, spending a sizeable sum in the process. Joe Allan is a name often touted and after seeing his showings for his native Wales at the recent European Championships it would be a signing to captivate the masses. With only one year remaining on his contract it looks attainable, running on the assumption that the £12million price tag reported in the press is inflated.
The last player I would suggest who could fill the void is Republic of Ireland and Derby sensation Jeff Hendrick. The twenty-four-year-old looked tailor-made for this role in his Euro showings, blending the physicality and technical aspects assuredly. At several points during the summer he was unlucky to see speculative efforts fail to find the back of the net. Burnley have already seen a £3million offer rejected so a successful bid would have to surpass the best tallies splashed recently.
Whatever avenue Rodgers decides to travel down he must surely do it fairly rapidly – if only to allay the growing fears of some fans.
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