In a couple of weeks, Celtic will be back in competitive action after a three week lay off. Before that happens they’re in Dubai once again for their winter retreat and will prepare for the second half of another busy season.
Despite all Celtic’s success, it’s still hard to believe that for two years running, the end of year meet with Rangers has ended in defeat. In 2018 the unthinkable happened and if that had been forgotten, as well losing last season’s second Ibrox encounter too, there was the small matter of stealing the League Cup from our opponents who were by far the better side, just weeks before their victory at Celtic Park.
The psychological boost for Gerrard’s players must be massive, especially having won at Celtic Park for the first time in their current existence. You could say it avenged their undeserved loss at Hampden because as you know leagues aren’t won in December, even if it came across like they had.
Celtic of course still won the title last season after losing the end of year derby in 2018. Even with the departure of our then manager less than two months later, another treble was sealed having won the Scottish Cup in May.
To be fair this has not been a bad season so far. Neil Lennon has made some good acquisitions, the football has been better and even though we failed to reach the Champions League group stage, our top spot finish in the Europa League group stage was an impressive first for the club.
As 2019 has come to a close though, our displays have been beginning to look drab. We went on an unbeaten run after losing to Livingston, but it has been win ugly in the latter stages of 2019.
In a long campaign you may need to do that from time to time, but you cannot lean on that too heavily. Injuries have meant some of our best players are on the sidelines without the same quality stepping in to provide that same spark.
We have three strikers on our books. Edouard has been missed when out and in those periods we haven’t been able to rely upon Griffiths or Bayo for one reason or another.
That’s a problem and only one of them. We have similar issues elsewhere.
Forrest, one of our key players up until recently, hasn’t been at his best despite being free of injury. That’s when you might expect to see someone like Shved come in or even push Frimpong forward and allow Bauer to slot in at right back.
Johnston started the season well before picking up an injury and thankfully Elyounoussi seized his opportunity before succumbing to injury himself. The question is that in the absence of these guys at any given time, Sinclair has barely seen match time and has been frozen out despite his stats making him a prime candidate.
The middle of the park hasn’t had too many issues other than the right combination. Brown has been great, especially in games when the team have been poor, but sometimes the dynamic hasn’t yielded anything.
As much as I love seeing Christie in that pivotal number ten role, I miss the forward play of McGregor. Then there’s the question of when do you play and not play Ntcham because he gives you something all of those guys don’t and we haven’t really seen Rogic since coming back from injury.
At the back we haven’t been too bad either, even after losing Tierney. Bolingoli has sort of emerged from those unimpressive early days to become a bit of a hit, but I think many fans would like to have seen more of Taylor.
The Scot hasn’t featured a great deal, but when he has, he has looked the part, but still hasn’t seen as much action as Hayes. On the right, Elhamed was looking like a brilliant signing before injury, but with Bauer and Frimpong we’ve been solid in the Israeli’s absence.
At centre half we’ve seen a steady partnership between Jullien and Ajer, but at times feel tardiness has crept in to the Norwegian’s game whilst the Frenchman continues to emerge as a great player.
With Simunovic only just back in light training following a lomg lay off, we’ve only had Bitton as backup. Hendry hasn’t features and shows non signs of doing so either is so this could be an area, along with a striker, that deserves attention.
We have three competitions to battle for over the next five months. Edouard needs some available back up and as much as we’re all desperate to see Griffiths back on his game again, thus far has been seldom used .
Bayo remains an unknown quantity right now. He may come good, but we’ve rarely seen him to know whst his quality is like.
Bitton is more than able to play centre half and midfield, but it is clear we need to invest in at least two players. If guys these guys on the fringes of the team are going to remain in the fringes without any clear explanation then they need move on.
Lennon knows who he wants and who he doesn’t want. Judging by lack of appearances by some so far this season, we should expect exits in this window and the next.
We’ve got some guys in the final six months of their contracts. With so much at stake it is likely most will stay until the end of the season at the very least unless they’re exit has little impact.
The one possible exit might be Sinclair as a small fee could be involved. He’s so far out of the picture it’s hard to see any further input from him befor his contract expires.
Hendry is another mentioned and with no real impact on the first team a move might be best for everyone. Whether that’s a loan or permanent deal he has a decision to make.
I’ve read all sorts about Griffiths going out loan, but I can’t see it. There’s hope he’ll make it back into the team and resurrect his career.
On his day he is prolific and I’m not ready to say he’s finished. This guy needs football and our backing.
We’ve got every reason to be optimistic. We haven’t seen our best football for a wee while, but knowing what we’re capable of, we just need to get back on track.
That’s what I’m looking forward to. Seeing a reaction after a good break.
This squad is highly capable. They just need to click again.