Celtic are 10 points better off than at this stage last season. Their goal difference is superior by eight. Last season’s closest challengers were three points behind; this season it’s five (albeit with a game in hand).
But whilst these basic stats imply that results have improved, there still remains some concern around certain areas of the team, particularly following two poor performances against our title challengers, Rangers.
ACSOM’s team of contributors have their say on where Neil Lennon should strengthen when the clock chimes on the witching hour this Friday night…Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
I’d like a right-winger to give Forrest competition, as he played his best when he had to fight for his place with someone, which isn’t the case these days.
Also, another centre-half would be good, as I don’t think Bitton is a long-term answer and Jozo is always out with injuries. Despite some shaky moments, Ajer and Jullien have been ok but competition is heathy and keeps everyone on their toes. I don’t think Benković will be playing much at Leicester, so we should bring him back up the road.
I’m sure other areas may be addressed in the summer, but, until then, and to keep fighting on all fronts, a right-winger and centre-half are in need this week.
We need to bring in an experienced centre-half who attacks the balls coming into our box. I think we are still missing Dedryck Boyata, who shored that side of things up for the defence.
Outside of Brown, we are too easily bullied, so I’d also like to see us bringing in a central midfielder with a bit of dig.
We are still lacking a dominant centre-back and a player to challenge James Forrest.
Something is missing from the midfield too, and I hope that Ismaila Soro is the answer. However, looking at age alone, it seems that the Ivorian is another project, rather than someone with the experience required to step straight into the first-team.
We’ve only conceded 14 goals this season in the league but nine of them have been from set pieces.
Defensively, I don’t think we’re fragile if we play two centre-backs. If we go 3-5-2, then I’d like us to bring in a centre-back as cover for Jozo because he’s never had a decent run without picking up some niggle. Ajer being injured/ill forced us to recall Stephen Welsh just days after loaning out Lee O’Connor.
In the midfield, James Forrest has been off the boil for a while but he doesn’t have a lot of competition. I’ve seen people shout for Jeremie Frimpong to be played further forward, but I think it may take time for him to adjust to the fact he can sit higher up the park. Martin Boyle isn’t the worst shout to add to the squad, especially if it’s to push Forrest on.
Ryan Christie’s return will probably push Olivier Ntcham out of the side despite the fact I think he’s played well lately. The reliance on Brown to play lots of games in a short period of time will hurt us so I’d be happy for Ntcham to play alongside Callum McGregor and even rotate those three throughout this long stretch of games.
Going forward, Christie probably plays in that slot behind Odsonne Edouard and the return of Mo Elyounoussi can’t come quickly enough. A right-winger to push Forrest would also be a good move.
Upfront, it’s good we can rotate between Edouard and Leigh Griffiths, who certainly needs more match sharpness. Patryk Klimala has arrived for £3.5 million and it will be interesting to see what kind of game time he gets.
Karamoko Dembélé coming off the bench on Saturday shows Lennon needs depth at rIght-wing, and although I think Dembélé will come good, we don’t want to be reliant on him this early in his career. He should be a 20-30 minute sub every week to ease him into first-team football. Ewan Henderson now can’t go out on loan anywhere so he’s another good option to have.
I reckon if we get two plus Soro, I’d be after a centre-back and a right-winger – the returns of Elhamed, Elyounoussi, Christie and co will come at the right time to drive us through to the next Glasgow Derby.Watch Kevin McKenna with A Celtic State of Mind