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Since arriving at Celtic Park during that uncertain summer of 2021, Ange Postecoglou has transformed the club.
He’s not only had to be a football manager and coach, but also a de facto director of football as he set about rebuilding the squad he inherited.
With the fourth transfer window of his reign nearing an end however, planning for Celtic’s summer transfer window is already well underway.
Speaking as far back as early November Ange said,
“A couple of weeks ago, we sort of did our [January transfer] planning. The bulk of the work’s been done.
What this time gives me is a little bit of opportunity just to plan for the rest of this year and probably the next summer window.”
Standing still is the equivalent of going backwards as far as Ange is concerned.
Here we take a look at some of the priority positions that he may need to address this summer, and some potential issues the squad faces.
The signing of Joe Hart has been an undeniable success.
Any reservations around his arrival were quickly put to bed as the former England No.1 brought some much needed leadership to the backline.
Leadership that was sorely missing in the season that shan’t be spoken of!
That being said, Hart will turn 36 before the start of next season and has shown glimpses that age may be catching up with him.
Nothing major, but goalkeepers especially can see dramatic dips in performance once the decline sets in. See across the city for a prime example.
The alternatives to Hart don’t inspire much confidence.
Benjamin Siegrist arrived in summer but hasn’t challenged Hart and doesn’t seem to fit the team’s style of play.
Scott Bain may be slightly better with the ball at his feet but is still very much the third choice keeper.
The most interesting backup is Tobi Oluwayemi who has been touted as a long term replacement for Hart. The youngster has just gone on loan to Cork City where he’ll pick up some valuable experience.
It would be a lot to ask the 19 year old to step up to even second choice at this stage of his development, so this could quickly become a key position to fill, and Celtic should be looking for a new number one this summer.
At first glance, this may seem like an odd suggestion as this Celtic squad contains a number of wingers.
Felipe Jota, Sead Haksabanovic, James Forrest, Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda are all options currently available to Ange.
What all of these have in common though is that they are right-footed, with most doing their best work predominantly from the left.
Is a creative left-footed right winger in the mould of a Jota with a bit more pace at a reasonable price too much to ask?
Think Gareth Bale in his prime. Shouldn’t be too hard to find…
James Forrest isn’t getting any younger, and Liel Abada ,whilst extremely talented, does have obvious room for development.
We can often be very left wing dependant with most attacks starting on this side, and so this is the challenge for the scouting department.
This type of player would add a new dimension to the attack.
The centre of the park could be another key area Ange may look to strengthen in summer.
Currently, the two positions either side of Callum McGregor are most commonly occupied by Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley, with Aaron Mooy and David Turnbull in reserve.
Mooy isn’t getting any younger, and although he has impressed after a slow start, his limitations are clear. He isn’t a viable long term solution if we are to progress in Europe.
The same could be said for Turnbull, who seems to have stagnated and is firmly the fourth choice in the attacking midfield positions.
Controversial as it may seem, there is a debate to be had about Hatate and O’Riley and whether they have the potential to take us to the next level in Europe.
What can’t be argued is that they need more quality help when going through dips in form in a 50-plus game season.
A creative midfielder that has the physical capacity to play Ange’s energy-sapping style of football while also being able to chip in with a few goals would take this team to a new level.
Of course, this type of player is coveted around Europe and won’t be easy or cheap to find.
Homegrown Players Issue
A potential issue that has gone under the radar is the number of “homegrown” players teams require for UEFA competitions.
Celtic are required to have a minimum of eight homegrown players in their 25 man squad. UEFA defines this as players who have been trained by their club or by another club in the same national association for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21.
At the minute Celtic are bang on eight players; Bain, Taylor, Ralston, Welsh, McGregor, McCarthy, Turnbull and Forrest are all classed as home-grown.
Only McGregor and Taylor are first choices however, so this is clearly an area the club will have to address.
This feeds into the wider problem of the Celtic Academy not producing enough players of the required quality to hold down a first team place.
Ange will be hoping the likes of Rocco Vata can go some way to rectifying this, as several of those listed are approaching the end of their current deals or have no future at the club.
Ange is of course well aware of these issues and has previously said,
“We are still building. We are 18 months into building a football team.
If what I am envisaging comes to fruition over the next 12 to 18 months, then we should constantly be in a two- or three-year cycle of regenerating the team.”
This shows a much welcomed long-term vision being implemented at the club, with an interesting summer window in store.