20th August was the last time I posted an article on the site. Due to work commitments I’ve not been to watch Celtic enough, nor have the time to comment. So, what did I miss??
I appreciate that when writing, timing is everything and considering tonight’s result, it’s not a great time to comment on the positives of the season so far. However, being honest………have there been many?
The night I last wrote, we had just lost 2-0 away to Shaktar Karagandy. As low a point as Celtic has seen since Bratislava. Playing against a very poor side, we were unable to break them down, couldn’t take our chances and defensively were slack. How things have cha……oh wait!!
I also stated back then that I would not be critical of signings, or lack of, until the players brought in had had a chance to bed in. I wouldn’t comment until we knew if we had made the group stages. Well, I think I’ve waited long enough.
Firstly, we DID of course qualify for the Champions League proper. So much was made about our early start and the fact we had to play 3 rounds to get there. For me though, when you consider the opposition in those rounds, they really should have been no more than warm-ups for the real thing. We made life harder for ourselves. However, credit where it is due, we overcame that self-made mountain and reached the land of milk and honey.
(See for future, can UEFA just make one of the balls in the group stage draw have a piece of paper which reads Barcelona & Celtic? It would save a lot of hassle.)
Our performances in Europe as a whole are very similar to our performances throughout the season. We have a group of players who should still be able to perform better than they have. Our goalkeeper is the same as last year. Our defence is ¾ the same, with the fourth clearly better than the man he replaced. We lost 1 midfielder and 1 striker, that’s where we are struggling.
For me, Forster has one eye elsewhere. He, like many, appears to be bored now with the procession of Scottish football. The 1st goal in Karagandy, he didn’t get off his line. The second goal in Milan he pushed the shot back into the centre of the goal. Tonight he should have come for the 1st two goals and on the third he seemed stuck to his line instead of closing the angle for Balotelli. He has of course still made several good saves, but I don’t see him as the “Great Wall” of last season. For me he has not become a bad keeper. I just don’t think he’s as focused and with the lack of any further European football, his desire as well as the lost revenue, may see him sold in January. To be honest I would think that’d be fair enough business. Zaluska is good enough for what is left of the season.
Our defence as a unit still has the look of last year. Izzy actually looks better this year than last. Lustig has been reliable as ever and Ambrose has also not really let us down in the big games. Kelvin Wilson was made out to be a huge loss, however as I predicted back at the season’s start, Van Dijk is an improvement. Indeed, if the big man can improve the timing of his jumps in attack, he could go on to be a top player in the game. Unfortunately, I doubt that will be at Celtic long term.
As we look at the midfield, a few other players seem to have switched off. Whether it’s the complacency of the easy domestic campaign, or the novelty of the Champions League, Kris Commons, Forrest and Mulgrew all appear to have gone backwards. I mean, when was the last time Mulgrew or Commons scored a free kick for example??
James Forrest continues to frustrate. Perhaps if he got his finger out rather than his John Thomas, we’d have a half decent player. For me he still can’t be trusted in the big games. Tonight, Milan doubled up on him and he was ineffective, very much like McGeady back in the day.
The frontline without Hooper is not a frontline. What we now have are 3 second strikers. Samaras, as we know, likes to play from wide or up front with a partner. When we play with Stokes and Pukki I think we are down to 10 men. They are the one and same player. Both want to drop deep, make nice runs and play in others; however we are left with an empty penalty area when Lustig or Izzy lift their heads for a cross.
In terms of transfer business, Boerrighter and Pukki have flattered to deceive. Lennon can’t properly rely on either to be a match winner and given the money spent on both, that’s not good enough. Balde is what he always was, a prospect. For the record one that I think will prosper. The way he has taken his 2 goals have shown that he may be rough around the edges, but I do think there’s a player in there.
So, having given it time I now feel that the club need 2 players, however I doubt either will be signed in January considering the season is pretty much over. We need a number 10. And please, let’s not start thinking Rogic is that player. I hear and read people saying that all he needs is a run of games. We need someone to stand up in the Champions League. If a player needs a dozen games in Scotland to show their worth, he’s not that player. Moravcik showed from day one. Nakamura, the same. I admit these players are hard to replace, but that’s the type we are needing and no matter how good Rogic may become, he’s not the player we need right now. In fact I’d settle for a midfielder who can simply dictate play. I think back to a former favourite of mine, Massimo Donati. A guy who couldn’t handle the pace and power of Scottish football, which was a shame because in Europe, with time and space he could pass a ball around the best of them. We lack that composure in the heart of the pitch.
Then comes the striker issue. We need a penalty box frontman. A number 9! Someone in the Scott McDonald, Javier Hernadez, Pippo Inzaghi or dare I say it, Kris Boyd mould. Indeed much like the Gary Hooper of his first season. (He ended up turning into this kind of frontman that wants to drop deep.) Perhaps Tony Watt is that player, I get the impression he certainly thinks so!!!
We also need to look at those who are out of contract coming up. Samaras and Ledley.
Joe Ledley is a player who this year has been curtailed by our system. He seems to be held back in a sitting role whereas in recent 4-4-2 systems he was able to get forward. We’ve seen recently when he had Biton sitting there he got forward and scored twice. He deserves a deal.
Sammy will always be a favourite for me. This year in Europe he has been just about our only weapon. Everything goes through him, however our opponents have read it and treated him like the danger man and had 2, 3 or 4 players around him. He isn’t that good!! What we have in him is a talented player, probably the most talented in the country, who loves being a Celt. He respects what is required. When you consider that Stokes was signed up, Sammy deserves it and I hope he gets it.
Stokes has become the new McDonald, but not in goal scoring terms. Instead he is greedy and greeting faced. Too often he tries to shoot from ridiculously tight angle and then moans if a teammate dares question him.
I’m sure like others I could go on and on, indeed there are many paragraphs which could be written about the fact we have blown another Treble chance but perhaps these are for another day.
It is my intention to try and write a piece each week. Not a reporting piece but one to get fans debating, give us all something to get our teeth into, with a topic for discussion unlike this moan. However it’s been a while and after tonight, I needed an outlet. It’s good to be back Bhoys and Ghirls.
The Newton Sammy (@TheNewtonSammy)