Winter exodus?

I fully expected to be doing an end of year review about now. I abandoned that (ever so slightly) to address recent developments at Celtic. 

The lacklustre 0-0 draw with Rangers at home was the main talking point until stories began to circulate about a revolving door in this transfer window for Celtic. There are plenty of factors that have brought about this need for change in fact they’ve been collating for some time now.

The efforts of our manager and his team of invincibles have perhaps distracted us from this. Or perhaps these have always been known issues which have been given time to run their course?

Either way, Brendan Rodgers has stated that he foresees a few players moving on who want more games than they’re currently getting. When you compile that qualifying list of players it consists of fewer than we had in that position a year ago following a summer culling.

Celtic already have several players out on loan but nothing has been suggested about their futures as yet. More may follow with youth prospect Regan Hendry going out on loan to Raith Rovers as well as Joe Thomson back at Queen of the South for a seecond time.

Scott Allan’s loan spell at Dundee continues. A permanent switch might be good for all parties given the unlikeliness of him making it at Celtic now. 

The same could be said for Nadir Ciftci who remains on loan at Plymouth Argyle. He’s there until the summer but with one year left on his contract at Celtic he could find himself out on loan again if Plymouth Argyle send him back north.

The main shifting came from Erik Sviatchenko who has been the first to confirm he will be moving on permanently. After speaking in his homeland he confirmed that he had been told he could look for another club.

For many this won’t come as a surprise. He appeared out of favour not long after Brendan Rodgers arrived despite looking like a shot in the arm after he arrived in January 2016.

Injury has kept him out this for most of this season until recently. Despite not having a settled defence though, Sviatchenko hasn’t found his way back into Rodgers’ plans.

It also appears that the axe is still swinging through the Celtic defence with suggestions yesterday that Jozo Simunovic could also be on his way out. Surprised?

Well his time at the club has always been filled with slice of curiosity. A potentially large fee was agreed for such a young player that none of us knew much about.

I thought it seemed like a remarkably huge gamble for Celtic at the time. Since then, it’s fair to say Jozo looked decent whenever he’s played.

That was just the problem though. He barely played.

A total of 17 games in his first season under Ronny Deila were all down to injury. A transfer to Italy fell through in the summer that Brendan Rodgers took over and the Croatian turned Bosnian and Herzegovinian international went on to play 33 games that season.

This season he’s managed 12 of the 38 competitive games Celtic have played in less than 6 months which hasn’t helped the manager at all. Now it’s rumoured he may have played his last with a move south the latest story doing the rounds.

If true I’m totally baffled by the entire fiasco especially with his last move collapsing and then going on record as always being committed to Celtic. I mean does he want to go or is he being shown the door?

In terms of being culpable in big game errors he is no worse than any of his central defensive counterparts and has looked like our best centre half, but his injury concerns are unhelpful. In general Celtic have been poor at the back this season and seriously lacking stability.

Surely that would mean Dedryck Boyata is in the firing line as well? So far I’ve read nothing about that but you never know how this window will go.

You would have to say that one guy that has to go is Cristian Gamboa? Since his arrival 18 months ago he’s played 23 matches – that’s 21 last season and 2 this season.

If he isn’t providing Mikael Lustig with a challenge, particularly when he could do with one, you’re a wasted pay packet. With Anthony Ralston back in contention after injury and with a fresh contract, there’s no place for the Costa Rican defender now.

Another regular no-show is Liam Henderson. With virtually no game time this season at all his time is probably up.

I genuinely like the kid but he hasn’t featured enough to convince me that he is in Brendan’s plans. Another loan might buy him some time but he should already have been out on loan if that was the case.

I would probably haven thrown Kristoffer Ajer on this list as well but he’s actually been played the last couple of weeks. The cynic in me would normally say he’s being put in the shop window but Rodgers has only had words of encouragement for him suggesting that he has a future at Celtic.

I questioned why he wasn’t fielded earlier in the season particularly with all our defensive injury problems. So it’s been pleasing to see the guy get a chance and do well into the bargain.

He went on loan to Kilmarnock a year ago and played 17 games. So I was surprised that he was overlooked earlier in the season with Nir Bitton getting the nod instead.

Bitton is a midfielder of course, but this season his inclusion has been mainly at centre half. That drew a lot of criticism about Celtic’s failure to shore up adequately in defence for the season ahead especially in Europe.

Now that criticism is seemingly coming home to roost. We could well be looking at some significant changes in Celtic’s defence this month.

We already have one player coming in, in the shape of experienced Bundesliga defender Marvin Compper. That will hopefully bring some stability for the future of this defence.

I’ve often wrote on my blog that Rodgers has never really recruited heavily since his arrival 18 months ago.  At some point this was going to have to change and it looks as though that time is now.

We all suspected we might lose Moussa Dembele in January. His name has slid down the pecking order in this window by the looks of things.

Stuart Armstrong was another name on that initial exit list, but I think his name has dropped down list as well. He needs to start improving his season if he really does want to move on as many folk would have you believe.

So it looks as though things are about to change at Celtic. I’m pretty optimistic about this to be honest.

The winter break couldn’t come quick enough. This squad of players look jaded.

Brendan Rodgers downsized the massive squad he inherited after one year in charge. Now that looks to be reduced further.

The bottom line is he needs players that are good enough and fit enough to play week in week out. So many let downs have come from players only able to tick one of those boxes.

We’ve been unfortunate in some areas whilst other situations have been poor judgement. Our defence has suffered this season through injury, lack of back up and failure to recruit in the summer.

Other areas of the field have been strong enough in terms of numbers. Though some of the performances from key players has been a let down overall.

I suggested that the unbeaten run was a possible contributor to that mentally and physically. Whether I am right or wrong about that, this winter break will be good for all concerned.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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