Erik has gone, but the defensive drama has not

The departure of Erik Sviatchenko wasn’t an unexpected one. It is another head scratcher though.

When he signed for Celtic in January 2016, he was an instant hit as he brought some stability to Celtic’s back line. It was a troublesome area for then manager, Ronny Deila.

In the Dane’s first full season, this time under Brendan Rodgers, he managed 43 appearances. However, it was this season just gone where his place became uncertain.

After suffering an injury and subsequent three-month lay-off between August and November, he fell down the pecking order. He wasn’t the only central defender to fall foul of injury though.

Celtic lost Jozo Simunovic for almost two months between September and November. Before either of these players were on the injury list, Dedryck Boyata had already been on the treatment table since July, not returning until mid-September.

So Celtic had their defensive issues, calling on the likes of midfielder Nir Bitton and defender in the making, Kristoffer Ajer. Neither of these players you would expect to have been lining up against the giants of Europe or even the bigger challengers in Scotland but they did.

By the time Sviatchenko returned to the first team fully fit you could forgive him for failing to understand why he wasn’t back in the fold immediately. Yes, the makeshift defensive choices had gotten Celtic through some of their challenges, but they needed someone who knew the job as Rodgers took chance after chance.

In the Dane’s own words, Rodgers said to him that he couldn’t guarantee him first team football. With the World Cup looming and possibly hoping to get himself in the candidate pool, he made a loan move to former club FC Midtjylland.

Whilst there he helped secure the Danish Superliga but failed to make the Danish World Cup Squad. Now he has made the return to Denmark permanent, but why?

I don’t blame the guy for returning to his homeland and former club, but when Celtic’s back line remains so unstable, was it really necessary to offload the guy? By no means do I think that he is irreplaceable, but given some of the bomb scare performances by Boyata, continual injuries to himself and Simunovic and the relative inexperience of central defending by Bitton and Ajer it is another weird one.

Had Celtic moved Boyata or Simunovic on, the latter not for the first time, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Celtic need stability at the back and we’ve not seen that since the partnership of Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer – three seasons ago.

With Erik gone and the remainder of the Celtic back line unreliable or work in progress, this is most certainly an area the club need to invest in. If we come unstuck once more in Europe due to this then questions will be asked.

Celtic were threadbare at the back last season. Yes, largely due to injury but that is one of our key issues to those left.

Ajer looks like a good prospect and Jack Hendry might fit the bill in time, but that means Celtic need Boyata and Simunovic to be injury free and on their game. That might be beyond both of their capabilities and Brendan Rodgers needs to be alive to that especially with expectations in the Champions League still great, despite the obvious financial disparity between Celtic and the European elite.

For now, we wish you all the best in your next venture, Erik. Good luck.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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4 thoughts on “Erik has gone, but the defensive drama has not

  1. Boyata, Simovonic and Ajer combined effetively to only concede 25 goals in 38 games. A remarkable stat when you consider 4 of them were against Hearts in what was a very bad day at the office. Athletico Madrid only conceded 20 and Juventus 23 in their respective leagues. Not any other teams in top league in Europe conceded less. Credit were it’s due, our defensive woes are grossly exaggerated in my opinion.

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  2. I don’t think Brendan was ever sold on Eric from the beginning. Solid and dependable as he is, he lacks pace and height required for a CB at Champions League level. He’s also not the most technically gifted therefore he prefers Bitton who is a better passer, which is required due to our style of play. Good luck Eric HH.

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  3. Boyata and Simunovic were the centre back partnership for a long time towards the end of the Invincibles, when I believe Erik was fit but clearly not a first pick for the manager.
    Short of spending shedloads, they had done enough to be given a chance to prove themselves at the higher level in Europe but injuries robbed them and us to find out if they could rise to that.
    The failure to get proper replacements for 3 injured CBs and the desperation of trying to get an injured 20yo from South Africa at the end of the window was just wretched.
    Personally I like Boyata and if he can play like the last few weeks when he’s match fit and keeps it simple then he’s head and shoulders our best defender but anymore bad injuries or bombscare moments when he thinks he’s a playmaker then it needs to be bye bye.
    I see we’ve been linked with a defensive ‘utility’ player, which is not what we need, either a proper experienced full time centre back or don’t bother.

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