When Ange Postecoglou took over as Celtic manager in June, the job ahead of him was huge. A massive rebuild both on the park, and off, awaited. The first transfer window of his reign saw fifteen players leave and twelve enter, a huge turnover in playing staff just as the season was beginning. Add to this turmoil the departure of newly appointed CEO Dom McKay and many fans would have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be another season of pain, especially given Postecoglou’s record of taking at least a season to get his teams playing exciting, competitive and winning football.
A few months on and Celtic find themselves second in the league but within touching distance of their city rivals, gearing up for European football after Christmas and displaying some scintillating attacking play. All things considered there can be little doubt the new manager has done a very good job thus far. That work must continue as another transfer window looms.
The manager himself has spoken of the need to improve on certain areas and add to his squad. As well as additions though, Celtic need to offload more than a few players, as much to balance the books as allow the team to gel and streamlining the numbers is always a good means to achieve this. If this window can be as productive as the last, which saw the likes of Abada, Jota and Kyogo join the ranks, Celtic fans will be in for a happy new year.
While Joe Hart has been an excellent ever present for Celtic this season, there is a feeling of dread if injuries ever take hold. With the likes of Barkas, Bain and Hazard as back ups, Celtic fans must fear that prospect of losing their new no1. With this in mind it is clear a new back up keeper is needed. While Ross Doohan has impressed on loan, his return may not provide a lot of confidence for Celtics backline. A ball playing Goalkeeper appears an essential.
The left back position was one of the only positions not strengthened last window. Taylor has just been given a new contract but is he really Celtic’s no1 option? It would appear like that is still a position up for grabs. The likes of young Montgomery have deputised well but given Liam Scales and Bolingoli have sat on the bench while Juranovic has been played out of position ahead of them, a new defender must be brought in. A first choice Left Back must be on the shopping list.
Central midfield has been an interesting department for Celtic. Bitton, McGregor, Soro and McCarthy have all played the sitting midfielder role, to varying effect, this season. In from of them have been Turnbull and Rogic. The issues appear if one of those is injured, or out of form, as there is little in the way of cover. Also, given the high pressing, off-the-ball work Postecoglou demands, it would appear at least two attacking midfielders are needed, possibly as first choice picks with the Aussie and the Scotsman as cover. That may seem harsh but that area of the pitch is essential for the type of football the manager plays to function. And he doesn’t seem to mind making the hard calls for the greater good.
Kyogo has been a revelation for Celtic, no doubt, but he can’t play every game. While there are other strikers available for selection, there are none who offer the pace, movement and work ethic of the Japanese international. A new Striker, in the mould of Furahashi, is a must have.
With up to four quality players, at least, needed there must be movement toward the exit doors to make room for new arrivals. Whether on loan or on a permanent deal, the following players look set to leave the club, if not now, then soon.
Liam Scales and Shaw have shown potential in flashes but the lack of game time for both would suggest they are further off the mark than first believed. Urhoghide is another young man who has raw qualities but limited chances have seemed to point to a bleak future for the former Sheffield Wednesday player. While it was clear that these were ‘development’ players, the best way to really see what they could potentially offer would be to send them out on loan to other SPFL sides. There is no point warming the bench at this stage of their careers.
Ewan Henderson, Ajeti, Soro, Barkas and Hazard are all players who appear to be square pegs in round hole for Celtic under Postecoglou. While Ajeti has contributed in spells, his lack of mobility does not fit in the ‘Angeball’ mode, a move away would suit his career best. Barkas moving to Celtic has been a disaster for both clubs so an exit route is the most desirable for both parties. Hazard has potential but lacks the ball playing composure needed to play the Postecoglou way, so sadly he will likely move on. Henderson and Soro are players that many expected to make an impact this season but, unlike the young players mentioned earlier, they are at the stage that even a loan deal looks unlikely to benefit them long term. It is time for those players and Celtic to shake hands and part ways.
With as many as five players leaving, with a few on loan too, the need to fill the squad numbers is obvious. Normally asking for four or five first team ready players to come in the January window would be a tall order, Postecoglou has shown that he can face into a challenge and come out stronger. If Celtic enter this window and come out stronger too, then this season could work out even better than expected.