Is this the squad to bring success to Paradise?
In the middle of the international break we can now finally take a breath, grab a seat and wave goodbye to one of the most important transfer windows in Celtics recent history. Coming off the back of the horror show that was last season, recruitment to improve the decimated squad was essential. With the loss of several loan players, a new manager and treble winning stalwarts like Ajer, Edouard, Christie and Captain Scott Brown all leaving, the transfer business needed to be quick and full of quality.
Sadly it seems Celtic failed on at least one of those quotas. The amount of time taken to get deals over the line was as frustrating as it was costly. Reinforcements were needed as the club entered the Champions League qualifiers, however, they came in far too late and the team crashed out with a whimper. Of course there must be some consideration given to the lack of time the manager had to identify players and the fact there is still no recruitment structure in place, but still, the fans had every right to be disappointed.
The second requirement, to bring in quality, requires a deeper look. Time will ultimately tell, but now that the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ are over until January we can assess the current first team squad, minus the youth players brought in, and gauge whether this current squad of players can bring success back to Paradise.
There is simply no question that Joe Hart is a decidedly more experienced, confident and adept keeper than the others between the sticks. He has brought a calmness and a presence to the back-line that was sorely lacking last season. The question remains though, if Hart gets injured, what remains? Barkas has been a failure by any metric used to gauge success, Bain is only slightly more reliable and Hazard doesn’t seem to be in the managers plans. Lack of depth here is a worry moving forward.
Stephen Welsh has been consistent over the past few weeks, he looks confident and assured, but there is a mistake in his game at times. At only 21 he will improve even more and looks the strongest centre back at the club, at least until Chris Jullien makes his long awaited comeback. Starfelt hasn’t hit the ground running as many were hoping, with concerns over his composure on the ball particularly concerning. His tackling and pace has, however, indicated that there is a talent there who perhaps needs a bit of time to settle. Carter-Vickers has a lot of experience for someone his age, having spent most of his career loaned to different clubs. He is good with the ball at his feet, strong, athletic and aggressive and Celtic fans may find him displacing Starfelt sooner rather than later. Dane Murray is an excellent prospect but needs game time. Urhoghide looks very raw at this stage and could possibly have done with a loan move, not an ideal situation given the lack of depth in this position.
Liam Scales looks to have been brought in to fill a few positions but, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume he is a left back. He is a fairly unknown quantity and while highly rated, it seems unlikely he will replace the oft maligned Greg Taylor. The current first choice left back has struggled for consistency, although his attitude and desire is never been in question. Bolingoli is now such a divisive character that it was a surprise he remained at the club and with only teenage defender Montgomery as cover, the full back position looks vulnerable.
On the other side of the park Tony Ralson has proven many a doubter wrong with a string of impressive performances. Another player who is young enough to improve greatly, it looks like he is thriving under Postecoglou. Croatian international Juranovic may be in a fight to get the jersey initially, but his quality cannot be underestimated and he looks like an excellent addition to the team and potentially the first right back since Lustig to hold down the position long term.
New captain McGregor has been excellent so far this season, with flair and consistency adding to his new found leadership skills. Turnbull has found some form in a slightly deeper ‘quarterback’ role and is a player of immense talent. Another example of the great coaching of Postecoglou, Tom Rogic has been a player reborn, striking together some mouth watering displays. The midfield is the teams strongest area. With the experience of McCarthy still waiting to display the qualities that have kept fans pining for his debut, the strength of the others fighting for places are less clear. Soro has great potential but can be rash, Bitton has, in the eyes of many fans, ran his course at Celtic and young Shaw, who showed up well in pre-season, yet to feature this is a concern over the dynamic in the midfield three should injuries strike.
Moving forward, Abada has been a brilliant signing. At only 19 years old he has shown composure, ability and has enormous potential. Jota has been brought in with decent pedigree and, with the loan to buy option in place, is an exciting and risk free proposition. James Forrest is consistent and always offers reliability and skill. As has become a pattern of this piece, the lack of depth is a worry. Johnson has shown in flashes he has ability, but injuries and lack of consistency have cost him. Young Dembele is much the same, great ability but a lack of game time and concerns over his physicality have not given the fans such confidence in his contributions thus far.
Kyogo has, without doubt, been an inspired signing. Incredible movement, striking pace and an eye for goal, alongside a tireless work ethic, has endeared him to the Celtic faithful instantly. Ajeti has been something of a mystery since he arrived. Costing £5 Million form the EPL, with a decent pedigree and reputation at international level, fans had every right to expect goals. However, for many reasons, it simply has not worked. The question of whether he even ‘fits’ into Ange’s system still remains. More positive is the arrival of Greek international Giorgos Giakoumakis. The top scorer in the Dutch league offers a different dynamic up front to Kyogo, but given Postecoglou’s desire to get him in, including a personal phone call, there is reason to be confident he will hit the ground running.
All things considered the transfer window was a success, Celtic got players of quality and filled the gaps in their squad. The major concern is the amount of players that were needed to fully flesh out a squad capable of rotating throughout the season ahead. There is no doubt there is a best eleven equipped to succeed, however, if injuries and form cause much disruption to the team, we may be looking toward Januarys transfer merry go round with open arms.