Celtic are edging closer to being a finely tuned engine. A few parts need replacing and there are too many spares, but things are running along nicely.
Next season the team should look a lot leaner. Not so much the shape of the players, but the amount of senior players in the squad.
As Brendan Rodgers let slip about the preferred number of players he would like to work with, there is no doubt that it will be his long term aim to reduce that figure. Right now though, he has a large squad to work with and that is what he must continue to do for now.
In the days and weeks ahead of us in January we might see that number fall. By the end of the season it will undoubtedly drop.
There are several players out of contract in the summer. Craig Gordon, Leonardo Fasan, Emilio Izaguirre, Eoghan O’Connell, Kolo Toure, Efe Ambrose, Patrick Roberts and Kris Commons
Gordon and Izaguirre are supposedly both set to sign new deals. I think that would be smart on both accounts at least for another season.
There are other candidates in the squad though who despite having longer contracts will be thinking about their careers. Dorus De Vries, Logan Bailly, Dedryck Boyata, Scott Allan, Nir Bitton, Gary Mackay-Steven, and Nadir Ciftci all need to have decisions made on their Celtic futures.
De Vries (36) and Bailly (31) are both competing for the one spot that Gordon (34) has just reclaimed. Even if Fasan (23) doesn’t get another contract, the goalkeeping position at Celtic is currenrtly oversubscribed.
My personal thought would be to keep Fasan and Bailly and send De Vries packing. There is only one position and with the exception of Fasan, the postion in the team is ageing.
Moving slighty forward to defence we have O’Connell, Toure and Ambrose. Ambrose should have been jettisoned a long time ago.
O’Connell is a decent prospect who might be worth another contract. Toure on the other hand has come in and done a job and it sounds as though Rodgers might be keen to retain his services, at least on the coaching area where he is said to have been influential.
Then there is Boyata. I’ve never been convinced by the Belgian defender at all.
He hasn’t been missed in terms of what he has offered since his arrival. I would personally take the first offer that came in and I am sure there will be interested parties.
Someone who may still have a chance is the young Norwegian, Ajer. He was signed in advance of of his 2016 summer move but has been way down the pecking order.
A loan move might be his best option. That might all depends on the managers impression of him though.
Despite a long wait to play under Brendan Rodgers, there is still a question mark over Mackay-Steven. He isn’t a bad player to be honest, but I wonder whether he will be anything more than a bit part player and if that will be enough for him.
He has certainly weighed in with goals in his time at Celtic. With Patrick Roberts certain to return to Manchester City in the summer, it could well move GMS up the pecking order, but he needs to be playing for us to know his true worth.
Scott Allan is another player who needs clarification on his future. His loan spell has ended and there doesn’t appear to be any more clues as to his role at the club.
There are just so many midfield options right now and the club should never have got in this position in the first place. Allan was a regular at Hibs when Celtic bought him but he has barely seen the light of day in a Celtic jersey.
He’s probably wishing he’d gone to Ibrox. Did we just buy him so they couldn’t?
We’ve snapped up all these young guys under Ronny Deila but you can’t play all of them. Ryan Christie is champing at the bit and likely to have a Celtic future but even he is struggling to get in the team.
And despite showing some real promise, Liam Henderson can barely get a game. He like many others though is still young and has every chance of making it at the club.
Nir Bitton, an internationalist who had a purple patch a while back is currently a bench warmer. Celtic may even decide to cash in on him despite not really showing any desire to leave the club.
The numbers tells us though that players will have to move on. Nadir Ciftci is probably right at the top of that list.
Celtic haven’t played a regular two man attack for several years. With three senior players contending for one spot, Ciftci finds himself behind Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths.
He hasn’t shown any sign of making it at the club. He was a key player for Dundee United along with Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven but he has failed to impose himself as a Celtic player let alone have earned the right to wear the number 7 jersey.
Even with all of those players covered, I haven’t even been able to talk about the youth players eager to show their worth. Ralston, McCart, Aitchison, Nesbitt among others.
So it is quite obvious that as it stands, Celtic cannot operate with such great numbers. It doesn’t allow for all senior players to get a chance of getting on the teamsheet or the bench.
More importantly, it doesn’t allow for youth to get a chance either. You can’t begin to imagine an influx of new players without saying goodbye to a reasonable amount of the current squad.
Brendan has been patient, moved things around and introduced a few new players. Essentially though, the writing is on the wall for many others and he will know exactly who they are and why.