Several weeks ago before the start of the season and the early Champions League qualifiers I posted a couple of tweets suggesting Celtic’s strongest starting 11 and an alternative second string. The response to both eleven’s was, on the whole, positive. I received a number of tweets back agreeing with my opinion on the current strongest starting eleven as well as a few tweets raising points on where the team could be improved. Most noticeably, it was the regular offenders of the need for a new left back and centre forward that seemed to crop up again and again in terms of areas needing improvement. Looking at that team, I think that’s a fair call.
Izaguirre has been a good player for us at left back for the past three or four seasons but has rarely been challenged for his place in the starting; perhaps this explains his increasingly complacent performances. While he is undoubtedly a very good attacking full back, his final ball does let him down on occasion. Furthermore, defensively he has been found wanting more often than not and is now seen as the weak link in the Celtic backline. Opposition teams are now beginning to capitalise on this and the ball over the top or into space behind Izzy is becoming an all too often occurrence. Domestically, we can cope with this as, not wanting to stir up any John Collins style controversy, we are not up against a particularly high calibre level of opposition; at least, not an opposition that regularly plays high level football. Put simply, at domestic level our defenders are generally better than the attackers they are up against and will therefore come out on top more often than not. That has been Izzy’s saving grace. If, however, we want to progress on a European level then a new, more defensively aware left back is a must. Just please not Charlie Mulgrew.
Up front we have been missing a predatory striker since Gary Hooper left for Norwich in 2013; that’s two years we’ve been without a top class, first-choice forward. If you add in the year to 6 months prior to that when we all knew he would be leaving, then we have had between two to three years to sort out this area of the team; and we have failed miserably to do it. A succession of cheap options and project signings have come and mostly all gone, along with a sizeable amount of money in transfer fees and wages; money that could have signed the top class striker we are sorely lacking. Incidentally, I’m not advocating throwing money at the problem, merely pointing out that money has been wasted and could have been better spent. Big money signing’s don’t guarantee goals, just look at how Alfed Finnbogason has bombed at Real Sociedad since his big money move there. Instead, I would like to us target a striker with a proven goal scoring record in a comparable league to the Scottish Premiership, but who has the potential to step up to Champions League level. I’m not a scout so I won’t suggest names here but I am convinced that such players exist, and are available within our (limited) budget. In the meantime, I’d go with Griffiths over Ciftci nine times out of ten. For me he is the better finisher and more dangerous opponent to play against with his pace and ability to play on the shoulder of the last defender. Ciftci is a stronger and more technically gifted player, however crucially for a striker, I don’t see that killer edge to his game. He is a slightly upgraded version of Anthony Stokes , and Deila doesn’t seem to rate him too highly.
Moving on to the proposed second eleven, and the biggest criticism here was that I was trying to pigeon hole players into the team and force square pegs into round holes. Well, that’s exactly what I was doing. For me, consistency is important throughout the team and therefore both the first and second eleven’s would play in the same formation. For this to happen with the current squad, then it is inevitable that some players will be played slightly out of position. The benefit of showing the teams like this is to highlight that we do have a strong squad, that there are a lot of good players at the club, but also to start debate on where, in the squad as a whole, we need strengthening.
A couple of notes on the second eleven:
- Tierney should not have an arrow running him off the pitch!!! He should be running up the flank and slightly inside.
- The deeper lying midfield positions need strengthening. Henderson and Rogic are both very good players in my opinion, but not the same type of players as Brown or Bitton. I believe they can both step up to the first team fairly seamlessly, however I would prefer to have a more ‘dedicated’ holding midfielder in reserve. Just not Charlie Mulgrew.
- (Hard hat going on) I am a fan of Stefan Scepovic and think that given a run of games he will score goals. He has good movement, decent link up, and scores penalty box striker’s goals. I’m probably one of the few to think this, but I’d be more confident of him scoring than Ciftci if we need a striker to come off the bench and get us a goal.
- There’s no youth players, other than Tierney, in the second string purely as I do not know enough about them. Having said that, I’d love to see Deila blood a few of more highly thought of young players this season and give them minutes in the first team to aid their development.
So, looking at those two teams, where would you strengthen?