Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Rangers was a blow to Celtic and it is a sign that the board have taken their eye off the ball where it matters most – strengthening the team.
But let’s get realistic for a minute here Rangers have not progressed despite deservedly winning the game, in fact, they are no better than Mark Warburton or Pedro Caixinha’s sides. The reason for Celtic’s defeat was Celtic themselves – taking nothing away from the Rangers performance, Gerrard is certainly no master tactician as results elsewhere have shown. But three things he did do right at the weekend was copying RB Salzburg’s tactics of a high pressing game, firing up his players to fight for every ball and every blade of grass on the Ibrox pitch, and picking the best players at his disposal despite many carrying knocks. Given previous performances, you have to praise the former Liverpool midfielder for achieving such a dominant result – despite the scoreline flattering Celtic.
Celtic have regressed under Rodgers and the board must redress the slump or face the real prospect of not securing eight titles-in-a-row let alone ten! His record against Rangers has been impressive – standing at 10 wins, two draws and one defeat – but performances over the past two seasons have steadily been dropping and they have now lost as many games this season as they did for the whole of last season domestically. Yes Celtic are still top of the table, they have won the League Cup and are still in with the chance of winning the treble-treble and yes they are in Europe beyond Christmas for the second successive season – but there is a clear indication that Celtic as a team on the park is in decline and the other clubs in the league are now catching up with them.
Celtic on the decline?
Key players over the past few seasons are picking up injuries that have hampered their season, the lack of quality in key positions is telling, but the failure of the Celtic board to strengthen in the summer is a major reason for Celtic’s continued decline on the field.
Signing kids from Manchester City aren’t going to cut it anymore. Daniel Arzani’s signing was as great as Craig Gordon and Dedryck Boyata trying to pass the ball on Saturday – woeful! Yes, he picked up a long-term injury but for Celtic to progress domestically and in Europe, they need to stop signing players that are projects for other clubs as we are now seeing less emphasis being placed on signing players permanently and seeing players sign on loan as short-term fixes at a cost that is far from value for money.
Celtic need to develop their own players and bring in permanent signings that they can develop to take the club to the next level on the park. Kieran Tierney, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and even Anthony Ralston to an extent are players that have been given their shot after graduating from the academy hitting the ground running. We also had permanent signings like Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster, Gary Hooper and Kris Commons – who were all at different stages of their career and did a job for Celtic.
Yes, Rodgers signed Odsonne Edouard and while some could argue that Moussa Dembele signed for Celtic when Rodgers became manager – but the French striker was actually being scouted when Ronny Deila was at the club.
Signings are a must this January, but Rodgers’ transfer record as Celtic is less than impressive and one wonders how much of an impact any potential January signings will actually have on the team and Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football.
Rodgers’ signings at Celtic
Unlike his record against Rangers, the former Liverpool manager’s record when it comes to transfers is very poor.
Scott Sinclair [Aston Villa £3.69m] – The former Swansea, Chelsea and Manchester City winger had a great first season at the club, but he is now a shadow of his former self. Other teams have changed their tactics to combat his threat last season, while his touch now looks very heavy and despite a stand out performance against Aberdeen on Boxing Day – that wouldn’t be hard as he faced Shay Logan – he has been poor. He was like a man down against Rangers.
Eboue Kousassi [FK Krasnador £3.15m] – Supposedly signed as the youngster was a combative and driven midfielder. One that could have potentially replaced the likes of Scott Brown, but all he has done has picked up a wage for sitting on the bench or in the stand week in week out. Was told in the summer that he could find a new club – but he is still at Celtic and will probably be at the club until the board either pay him out of his contract or when it runs out.
Cristian Gamboa [West Brom £1.08m] – Seen as competition for Mikael Lustig at right back, but has never made the grade. He has had some appearances – mainly through injury to Lustig or to rest the Swede, but has fallen down the pecking order behind Anthony Ralston. Right back is a problem position for Celtic with Lustig seen as the weakest link, but Gamboa has failed to prove his worth or his ability to make the right-back position his own.
Kristoffer Ajer [IK Krasnador £540k] – Had a good season last year before injury curtailed his development and playing time. Has been playing second fiddle to the likes of Dedryck Boyata, Filip Benkovic and Jozo Simunovic – and for the most part, has been played out of position at right-back when Lustig has had to go off injured. Came on against Rangers at the weekend for Benkovic and did better than Boyata had done. However, I think he might do better with another loan spell away from the club as he did at Kilmarnock to develop further, although I cannot see him as a central defender – maybe as a sitting defensive midfielder?
Kolo Toure [Liverpool Free] – Came to Celtic bringing his experience to the defensive set up and while he rarely played he was part of the Celtic side that went unbeaten domestically all season in Rodgers’ first season in charge. Has now quit playing football and is now coaching.
Moussa Dembele [Fulham – compensation fee] – While seen as a Rodgers’ signing, he was being scouted by Celtic prior to Rodgers’ arrival and I cannot really justify his inclusion in this list other than he signed for the club after Rodgers was appointed the manager. Did brilliantly for Celtic with some major goals and was signed by Lyon for £19 million – but left in a less than dignified fashion. One of the major reasons in Celtic’s decline this season – their failure to sign a replacement for Dembele.
Dorus de Vries [Nottingham Forest Free] – Another of Rodgers’ former charges during his Swansea days. The keeper was brought in to become Celtic’s number one as he could play the game the way Rodgers wanted too – by playing the ball out from the back. However, as soon as he dropped Gordon there was a huge outcry and with de Vries’ performances less than impressive, the Scotland international soon returned and has never looked back even after some horrific showings. When Gordon got injured last season, it looked like de Vries could get a second chance at redemption but he too picked up an injury and that saw Celtic sign Scott Bain on loan from Falkirk before making it permanent. Will be gone this summer.
Olivier Ntcham [Man City £4.5m] – Took some time to settle at Celtic last season, but when he did he was a revelation. Partnering with Scott Brown in central midfield they dominated games domestically. But this season he has been the shadow of his former self. Speculation of a move to Porto for £15 million looks to have turned his eye and his performances have dropped so much so that he is no longer a regular first-team player – playing second fiddle to Callum McGregor – and his performance against Rangers on Saturday showed how much has he declined as a player. With Brown’s decline along with Ntcham’s Celtic’s dominant Central Midfield is now lightweight and the John McGinn debacle further typified the Celtic board’s failure to strengthen as they penny pinched.
Charly Musonda Jr [Chelsea £2.25m loan deal] – Spent big to bring the kid to Celtic and in his first few appearances he looked the real deal. But his attitude stank and quickly found himself on the periphery before being sent back to Chelsea. A waste of talent and money.
Jonny Hayes [Aberdeen £1.32m] – Aberdeen’s best player was signed to bolster the club’s depth on the wings, but despite working hard he just isn’t cutting it. The Dons got Ryan Christie on loan as part of the deal and he had a bigger impact on the Dons’ season than Hayes did at Celtic. A serious leg injury did affect his time at the club, but with the likes of James Forrest performing – Hayes’ time at the club will be short.
Jack Hendry [Dundee £1.23m] – Signed from Dundee with bags of potential after impressing [as hard as it was] at Dens Park. Hendry joined Celtic as a project player but was thrust into the limelight due to injuries and has never looked comfortable. Just like Ajer, he probably should be farmed out on loan to develop for a season or two – but the fans have already made their minds up over Hendry and it’s not good news for the kid.
Marvin Compper [RB Leipzig £1.03m] – The German side must have been laughing all the way to the bank after Celtic signed the defender. He has mustered less than one game during his time at Celtic and has featured on the bench fewer times than Rodgers has won trophies. A total waste of money and signed at a time when the club needed players for Europe. Compper was cup-tied and his one and only game came against Morton. Surprised he is still at the club and seeing out the remainder of his contract when it would have been better to rip up his deal after agreeing to a severance package.
Lewis Morgan [St.Mirren £306l] – Unfair to comment on the kid’s time at Celtic so far as injury hampered his pre-season and the start of his time at the club, but he will struggle to break into the Celtic team and suspect he will be farmed out on loan sooner rather than later.
Kundai Benyu [Ipswich Free] – Signed as another project player and despite impressing in training stopping him being sent out on loan straight away, he was eventually loaned to Oldham last season only to be frozen out as results started to go against the English side. Will not amount to anything at Celtic and will disappear soon enough.
Odsonne Edouard [PSG on loan/permanent £9.27m] – If I am being honest, he didn’t really justify his £9.27m price tag from his showings last season on loan despite performing against Rangers. And with the departure of Dembele, much has been placed on the shoulders of the 20-year-old – even more so with Leigh Griffiths out of the picture due to off-field issues. I was overly critical of the French youngster at the start of the month after some poor showings, but it is now clear that he must have been struggling with injury and played through it culminating in him being taken off injured against Motherwell. The rest did him a wonder of good as he came on against Aberdeen on Boxing Day and turned the game around helping Celtic win 4-3. Surprised that he didn’t play from the start against Rangers, but when he did come on he brought some dominance to Celtic’s attack – what little there was of it though.
Patrick Roberts [Man City loan] – Not a Rodger signing in my eyes. Signed for Celtic under Deila and had a great season for the Norwegian in his final year at the club – but under Rodgers’ he failed to perform as he had under Deila and with an injury hitting his season and the form of Forrest pushing him out of the side – Roberts was just another player picking up a wage. Yes, the club tried to sign him once again this summer – but the player chose Spain over Scotland. His time at the club has been and gone despite the bromance with Kieran Tierney.
Scott Bain [Dundee loan/permanent] – Signed as a back up after Craig Gordon and Dorus de Vries got injured. But whenever he has been called into action, he has been consistent. He is much more suited to Rodgers’ style of play from the back than what Rodgers is but Gordon is a better shot stopper and this is what is winning out at the minute. Helped Celtic to their third successive League Cup and should be given the gloves again for the Scottish Cup campaign. A solid performer and one of the few Rodgers’ signings to be consistent whenever called upon.
Emilio Izaguirre [Al Feiha Free] – Left the club when Rodgers first took over but returned in the summer possibly to make the board feel good about themselves with few players they signed. With Tierney first choice, Izaguirre was warming the bench or the stand for most of the time – but when called upon he did perform well until the Dons game when he was hung out to dry and replaced by Jonny Hayes in the Aberdeen game. It hasn’t worked for the Honduran and he won’t be staying at Celtic beyond the summer.
Daniel Arzani [Man City loan] – Signed thanks to the links with Man City. Arzani did well for Australia in the World Cup and swapped Melbourne City for Man City [both clubs owned by the same parent company] – promptly farmed out on loan to Celtic as soon as he signed his deal with the English Premier League side, he never mustered a single appearance before picking up an injury minutes into his debut against Dundee at the end of October. His season is over with thanks to an ACL injury and despite the deal being an 18-month loan, it may very well be cut short in the summer as Celtic cut their losses.
The Disco Lights – An honourable mention to the supposed £3 million installation of the disco lights at Celtic during the summer. They have been more impressive at Celtic Park than many of the signings listed above and added much to the atmosphere.
For the most part, Rodgers’ signings have been woeful. He has turned around the performances of players already at the club and got a good season out of a few of his signings, but the rest have been a total waste of money and I can understand why the club brought in a Head of Recruitment. But with Lee Congerton being as much use as a chocolate teapot when it comes to signing quality players, the board will now need to look at bringing in a successor to Congerton to help Rodgers with his recruitment.
What do Celtic need to do?
With the Celtic fans demanding 10-in-a-row from the club, the January transfer window will show just how much the Celtic board want it also. Some weak ass signings on loan just won’t cut it and they must delve deep into their coffers to make a statement.
They need two new strikers, one central defender, a new right back and a dominant central midfielder – that is the bare minimum.
Celtic’s decline has created a title challenge of their own making and just like when they hired Rodgers to replace Deila after the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers – they must now make moves to stamp out any hope of a Rangers title win sooner rather than later. Producing the funds to sign players and hiring someone who can actually pinpoint top quality talent – unlike Congerton.
Dermot Desmond and especially Peter ‘Billy big bonus’ Lawwell must now pull their fingers out, sign quality and set down their own marker or they can kiss goodbye to Celtic’s quest for 10-in-a-row.