Who will be Celtic’s number 8 under Brendan Rodgers?

Following on from our review of the number 6’s available to Brendan Rodgers, we will now focus on the number 8’s.

As noted in earlier articles in this series, Rodgers preferred formation is 4-2-3-1.  This would normally necessitate playing with two 6’s and a 10 in the hole behind the main striker.  However, that does not mean that there is no room for a dynamic number 8 in the squad.

Domestically, Celtic will spend most of their time on the front foot and, at Celtic Park especially, there may not always be the need for two 6’s.  While the likes of Callum McGregor, David Turnbull, and new signing Odin Holm can play in the number role, we have identified Aaron Mooy and Matt O’Riley as the two most natural 8’s in the squad.

With Rodgers having previously worked wonders in developing Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong into more-rounded players, it will be interesting to see how he integrates Mooy and O’Riley into his squad.


Aaron Mooy

The Aussie midfielder’s future seems to be something of an unknown quantity at the moment with rumours circulating on social media that the 32-year-old may be about to call time on his career over the summer.  Australian sports outlet FTBL has reported that Mooy is “thinking things over about his future”, adding weight to the rumours.

Signed last summer to a mixed response from the Celtic support, Mooy went on to contribute 7 goals and 9 assists in 29 appearances last season.  After a slow start to life at Celtic, Mooy quickly established himself as a major component of Ange Postecoglou’s team.

His ability to control the tempo of the game and play defence-splitting passes would be welcome attributes in the coming season. However, with injuries taking their toll on Mooy’s body, it may be he decides to call time on his career rather than stick around for another season.

His experience could prove invaluable should he stay and see out his contract, and I am sure that a fully-fit Aaron Mooy could be an interesting commodity to have at our disposal for European and domestic games.  Perhaps something for Brendan to consider as he shapes his squad for next season.

Matt O’Riley

The Dane has proven to be a quality acquisition for the club since his arrival in January 2022. Oozing class, the youngster added some versatility to his game this season when filling in for Callum McGregor in a more defensive role.

His versatility, commitment, and determination to drive the team forwards are traits that will endear him to Brendan Rodgers.  O’Riley has the technical ability and mindset to push on and become a top-quality player and is someone who could thrive under Rodgers’ guidance.

O’Riley has been linked in the past with moves to the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga, and is on the cusp of breaking through into the Danish National team. A season (or two) of development with Rodgers and increased exposure to the Champions League could help see O’Riley kick on and reach the top of the game.



Liam Shaw

While Mooy could have a future in the Brendan Rodgers era and Matt O’Riley looks like a perfect fit for the Northern Irishman, Liam Shaw is the odd man out of the number 8’s.

Signed before Ange Postecoglou took over the managerial hot seat in 2021, Shaw has made just two appearances for Celtic.  A loan spell at Motherwell during the 2021/22 season was underwhelming at best and the Englishman spent last term at English League 1 side Morecombe.

Despite coming with a reputation as one of Sheffield Wednesday’s top young talents, Shaw has made no impact on the Celtic team and I can’t see that changing any time soon.  With two years left on his contract, it may be best for all parties if ties were cut this summer and the 22-year-old allowed to forge his career away from Celtic Park

James McKenzie / Kevin McCluskie

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