Summer Transfer Window 2015

The aim of all football clubs during a transfer window is to come out of it stronger than they entered it.  Keeping top performing players is a priority, as is adding additional quality to the existing playing squad in order to see it improve and move on to the next level.  At the very least, the minimum expectation that clubs should be looking to achieve is to leave the transfer window madness behind knowing that, at worst, they are no better or no worse than when they entered it.

For a club like Celtic, the prospect of losing your top performing player year on year is a very real threat.  However, that is all part of the ‘strategy’ of the club.  Knowing that there will be one big pay day during the transfer window should, in theory, allow the club to plan and budget for the impending loss of a star player; in this instance, Virgil van Dijk and have a suitable replacement lined up in advance.  Leaving it to the last minute to sign said replacement shows the complete lack of forward planning I spoke about in my last post.

Leaving that rant behind for now, this summer saw the revolving door at Parkhead in action quite a bit.  8 new players have arrived at the club bringing much needed freshness to the squad, and a staggering 21 players have left either on loan or on a permanent basis.  But with so much transfer activity going on, have we emerged from the summer 2015 transfer window as a new and improved version of Celtic, or have we just replaced one model for another with the same average specifications that have always got us through in the past?

Let’s have a look and see.

Players In

Player Position Age From Fee
Dedryck Boyata Centre Half 24 Manchester City £1,400,000
Saidy Janko Right Back 19 Manchester United £200,000
Logan Bailly Goalkeeper 29 OH Leuven £245,000
Nadir Çiftçi Forward 23 Dundee United £1,500,000
Scott Allan Midfielder 23 Hibernian £270,000
Tyler Blackett Defender 21 Manchester United Loan
Ryan Christie Midfielder 20 Inverness CT £500,000
Jozo Šimunović Centre Half 21 Dinamo Zagreb Unidisclosed
      Total £4,115,000
Source: BBC Sport and Transfermarkt      

At a glance, that’s not a bad list.  We’ve strengthened defensively where, despite having the best defensive record in the league last season, we have looked a bit ropey at times.  I don’t have the stats to prove it but I’d say that Jason Denyer saved us quite a few goals last season by covering the mistakes of others at the back.  Therefore, a bit more defensive quality will not be a bad thing, especially in Europe.

In Janko, Allan, and Christie we’ve also signed some promising young players with potentially high resale values should we develop them properly.  The win-win here being that we can benefit from introducing some exciting young players into the team before selling for a profit and beginning the cycle over again.  After all, we must remember that we are now, due to a number of factors, a selling club and a pathway to the English Premier League.  Hence why Jozo Simunović has signed.

Simunović is a highly regarded young Croatian defender who will no doubt have designs on playing in the English Premier League and Celtic can help him achieve that.  His signing, the high-point of the transfer window, is the epitome of Celtic’s progression (or is that regression?) to becoming a stepping stone to the English Premier League.  While many fans will shudder at that thought, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the vast sums of money that the sales of Hooper, Forster, Wanyama, and now van Dijk have brought to the club.  Harping back to my previous post again, had that money been reinvested wisely in the playing staff then Celtic would be in a far stronger position than we currently are.  The transfer policy ain’t broke, but it’s not being utilised properly.

Other noticeable points here, we’ve spent somewhere in the region of £4 million to £10 million this summer depending on the actual value of Jozo Simunović’s transfer.  Who realistically thought we’d ever spend that kind of money again?  And we’ve also managed to make a profit.  Financially, that’s impressive.

A note of caution however, the players we’ve signed are generally unproven in that only Logan Bailly and Nadir Ciftci have clocked up over 100 league appearance in their careers to date.  We may have signed potential, but we’ve not signed proven ability.

Players Out

Player Position Age To Fee
Joe Chalmers Left Back 21 Motherwell Free
Łukasz Załuska Goalkeeper 33 SV Darmstadt 98 Free
Teemu Pukki Forward 25 Brøndby IF £500,000
John Herron Midfielder 21 Blackpool Free
Hólmbert Friðjónsson Forward 22 KR Free
Adam Matthews Right Back 23 Sunderland £2,000,000
Paul McMullan Forward 19 St. Mirren Loan
Michael Duffy Forward 20 Alloa Loan
Connor McManus Midfielder 19 Alloa Loan
Calum Waters Left Back 19 Dumbarton Loan
Stuart Findlay Centre Half 19 Kilmarnock Loan
Amido Balde Forward 24 FC Metz Free
Jamie Lindsay Defender 19 Dumbarton Loan
Jackson Irvine Midfielder 22 Ross County Undisclosed
Dylan McGeouch Midfielder 22 Hibernian Swap Deal
Liam Henderson Midfielder 21 Hibernian Loan
Darnell Fisher Right Back 19 St. Johnstone Loan
Stefan Šćepović Forward 25 Getafe Loan
Virgil van Dijk Centre Half 24 Southampton £11,500,000
Eoghan O’Connell Centre Half 20 Oldham Athletic Loan
Ryan Christie Midfielder 20 Inverness CT Loan
Total £14,000,000.00
Source: BBC Sport and Transfermarkt

There are three pretty glaring observations to be made when looking at this list. 1 – The sale of Virgil van Dijk has brought in a huge transfer fee, financing our entire summer recruitment drive and then some. 2 – The large amount of players who have departed on loan in order to gain valuable first team experience; a good thing in my opinion. 3 – The omission from the list of Jason Denayer, John Guidetti, and the other loan returnees.

It is the final observation that probably has the most significance as Denayer was arguably Celtic’s best defender last season and without him the defence is minus a stabilising influence.  Add the departures of VvD and Adam Matthews into the mix, and the tightest defence in the league last season is no more.  That is not how you build on a position of strength.  Albeit, I think the majority of Celtic fans accepted that Denyaer and VvD would not hang around for too long given the interest their mid-season performance had attracted.

Apart from the defensive clear out at Celtic Park over the summer there were no other major first team departures.  Guidetti had played himself out of the team after the turn of the year and the likes of Fisher, Henderson, and Scepovic all only made sporadic appearances throughout the previous campaign.  All will benefit from increased exposure to first team football at their respective loan clubs and will hopefully come back to the club as serious contenders for the first team.

A final observation to that list, no Derk Boerrigter on it.  Let’s hope he can regain his fitness and get back to being the player that terrorised Ross County for all of 30 minutes on his debut.

So, Have We Strengthened

To asses this, I’m going to consider our transfer dealings on a position by position basis.  The analysis is purely opinion based, the worst kind of analysis, as I don’t have a good enough bank of stats for each player to come up with anything fancier.  Maybe that’s one for Seth Dobson at FitbaFancyStats?

Goalkeeper

In

Logan Bailly Goalkeeper 29 OH Leuven £245,000

 

Out

Łukasz Załuska Goalkeeper 33 SV Darmstadt 98 Free

 

One reserve keeper for another, Bailly comes with a decent reputation and good level of experience having played over 100 league games in Belgium and Germany and has also represented his country on eight occasions.  He replaces Zaluska, a keeper who had lost the confidence of the Celtic faithful and was regressing badly due to a complete lack of game time playing under study to the likes of Boruc, Forster, and Gordon during his time at Celtic.  A decent keeper but not one who ever looked capable of making the #1 jersey his own.

At worst, Logan Bailly is a direct replacement for Zaluska, however given his reputation and career history, I don’t think he’s the type to sit back and enjoy being #2.  A good signing and an improvement on what we had I’d say.

Defence

In

Dedryck Boyata Centre Half 24 Manchester City £1,400,000
Saidy Janko Right Back 19 Manchester United £200,000
Tyler Blackett Defender 21 Manchester United Loan
Jozo Šimunović Centre Half 21 Dinamo Zagreb Unidisclosed

 

 

 

Out

Joe Chalmers Left Back 21 Motherwell Free
Adam Matthews Right Back 23 Sunderland £2,000,000
Calum Waters Left Back 19 Dumbarton Loan
Stuart Findlay Centre Half 19 Kilmarnock Loan
Jamie Lindsay Defender 19 Dumbarton Loan
Darnell Fisher Right Back 19 St. Johnstone Loan
Virgil van Dijk Centre Half 24 Southampton £11,500,000
Eoghan O’Connell Centre Half 20 Oldham Athletic Loan

 

On the face of it, we are weaker defensively now than we were last season.  Van Dijk and Denyar have gone and been replaced by Boyata, who likes like he has a bombscare moment in him every time he’s on the ball, and the unknown quantities of Blackett and Simunovic.

I’ll concede that I might be a bit harsh on Boyata.  He is strong and quick and with some hard work on the training ground, there is potential to make a diamond out of his many rough edges.  Simunovic I’m excited about.  We just do not spend the type of money quoted for him on players anymore.  Therefore, I’m really looking forward to seeing just what we have signed.  Having never seen him play I will not prejudge his ability and hope he is worth the excitement.  Blackett on the other hand looked decent in the handful of games he played for Manchester United last season, however is not ‘good enough’ to be the player we need to maintain a tight defence.  I’m basing that purely on his lack of experience and his insistence that he has come to Celtic to develop his game.  He would benefit more from playing alongside a more experienced defensive partner, but other than Ambrose, we can’t offer that.  I’m hoping for another Denayer here, but fully aware that he’ll be gone for nothing next summer if he is.  Also, you can’t build a defence on hope alone.  Having said that, as Blackett can also play at left back, then he may well prove to be an astute loan acquisition who can provide competition and a much needed kick up the arse for Emilio Izaguirre.

At right back, Saidy Janko has impressed so far with his attacking attributes and ability to defend when necessary.  He looks a very bright prospect but is not at the same level as the man he’s replaced, Adam Matthews.  With Fisher out on loan and Lustig a constant injury worry, Janko should get a fair amount of game this season giving him the perfect opportunity to improve his game.  With time, I’m confident he will prove to be a good signing.

End position, I’d say we are worse off as we’ve lost our top three defenders from last season and the jury is very much out whether their replacements are up to the job.

Midfield

In

Scott Allan Midfielder 23 Hibernian £270,000
Ryan Christie Midfielder 20 Inverness CT £500,000

 

Out

John Herron Midfielder 21 Blackpool Free
Connor McManus Midfielder 19 Alloa Loan
Jackson Irvine Midfielder 22 Ross County Undisclosed
Dylan McGeouch Midfielder 22 Hibernian Swap Deal
Liam Henderson Midfielder 21 Hibernian Loan
Ryan Christie Midfielder 20 Inverness CT Loan

 

Much of a muchness in midfield.  Scott Allan is like for like with Liam Henderson, perhaps with a bit more experience; however Henderson should pick that up while at Hibs and come back a better player for it.

Ryan Christie has signed and been immediately loaned back to Inverness Caley Thistle where he’ll continue his development in a comfortable environment.  Good signing, good move to loan him back out.

As for the others, none of Herron, Irvine, or McGeouch showed enough signs of making it into Ronny Deila’s side and none will be missed.  McManus has a good opportunity to gain first team experience at Alloa and show that he is worthy of a future at Celtic.

On the whole, the midfield stays the same.  No extra quality added, none taken away.  No first team starters added, none lost.  Status quo.  And status quo in football is a bit like Status Quo the band, a bit pish, bland, and not at all exciting.

Attack

In

Nadir Çiftçi Forward 23 Dundee United £1,500,000

Out

Teemu Pukki Forward 25 Brøndby IF £500,000
Hólmbert Friðjónsson Forward 22 KR Free
Paul McMullan Forward 19 St. Mirren Loan
Michael Duffy Forward 20 Alloa Loan
Amido Balde Forward 24 FC Metz Free
Stefan Šćepović Forward 25 Getafe Loan

 

Up front the only addition so far has been the largely ineffectual Nadir Ciftci who, in style of play, is fairly reminiscent of Anthony Stokes; a player that Ronny Deila does not seem to fancy, although that may be an attitude issue more than anything.

Of the dearly departed only Stefan Scepovic made any sort of impression on the first team last term and even then this was limited mainly to cameo appearances off the bench.  The Scep has divided opinion between Celtic fans with some glad to see the back of him this summer and others, like myself, a bit disappointed that he’s not really been given a run of games in the side to show what he can do.  What Scepovic did offer was a genuine penalty box threat, something we’ve not had since Gary Hooper.  Pukki, Fridjonsson, and Balde offered very little except for bemusement that someone thought it was a good idea to splash over £3.5million out on a trio of goalless forwards.  They will not be missed.

Of course, John Guidetti is also no longer around for the coming season.  The Swede proved to be somewhat of an enigma in his time at the club.  A blistering start where the majority of Celtic fans, myself included, thought we had the new Larsson, was followed by a pretty abject second half to the season which petered out at an alarming rate.  From being the next big thing to becoming an afterthought, Guidetti will also not be missed.

While I don’t think we’ll miss any of the departed strikers individually, as a collective group we might just.  Our remaining striking options are Griffiths, Ciftci, and Stokes.  Deila doesn’t seem to rate Stokes and Ciftci has looked average since signing, leaving Leigh Griffiths  as the only out and out and in-form forward in the squad.  Celtic have been crying out for a better striking option for several years now, so it is extremely disappointing to see another transfer window pass without that particular problem area being rectified.  Numbers wise, three forwards is probably a decent amount considering Deila only plays with one up front, however, quality wise, Griffiths apart, we are sorely lacking and another opportunity to right that wrong has come and gone with no improvements made.  I’d go so far to say that with Scepovic leaving we are now in a weaker position than before; time for Ciftci, Stokes, or maybe even young Luke Donnelly to step up to the mark.

The aim of all clubs during a transfer window is to come out of it stronger than they entered it.  Have Celtic managed that task?  I’d say no.  Defensively we are weaker and the new recruits are unproven, the midfield remains the same, and upfront we have very few options, especially if anything happens to Leigh Griffiths.  Who’d have guessed two years ago that Griffiths would become such an important player in the team?  Is that testament to his hard work, or an indictment of how far we’ve fallen?

Incidentally, despite believing that we leave this window weaker than we entered, I still believe that the current squad is more than capable of winning a treble this season.  Capable, but not guaranteed to do so.  As for the Europa League, we’ll see about that.

Thoughts welcome.

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