The one factor that ensures Celtic are not weaker than last season

A narrative around Celtic’s strength has been developing over the last week or so, with the suggestion being that the treble holders’ squad is in a weaker state than it was last season.

Judging by some of the social media reaction from Celtic fans, many others are also worried at the lack of quality recruits we’ve managed to get over the line since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers last month. Indeed, this discussion continued into Friday’s ACSOM Bulletin where Jim Orr also raised his concerns.

But does the argument that Celtic are weaker at this point of the pre-season stand up? Let’s have a look at what has changed with the squad since we wrapped up a world-record eighth treble…

Out have gone two keepers – Vasilis Barkas and Conor Hazard – without the arrival of any replacement. This is a position that may well need strengthening, with Joe Hart at 36 and into the final year of his contract, which has led to us being linked to Dinamo Zagreb’s Croatian international, Dominik Livaković. I’d argue, however, that as it stands we are no weaker in this department due to Barkas and Hazard contributing zero last season.

We’ve lost Aaron Mooy to a debilitating back injury following a swansong season from the Australian where he appeared in 42 games for Celtic. Although Odin Thiago Holm has been acquired from Vålerenga and can play the same defensive or attacking midfield role as Mooy, the Norwegian has never played more than 22 games during a campaign and it is unlikely that the 20-year-old will fully establish himself in Brendan Rodger’ midfield next season. 

Also in the frame is South Korean Under-23 international defensive midfielder, Hyeok-kyu Kwon, who could be on his way from Busan IPark in the coming days.

Like Holm, 22-year-old Kwon doesn’t look as though he will feature as prominently as Mooy did last season. Someone who may well make a similar contribution is a player we already know well, Tomoki Iwata, who has just signed permanently from Yokohama F. Marinos.

Replacing Jota

The one player we have not yet discussed, of course, is Jota, who sealed a £25 million+ transfer to Saudi Arabia earlier this month. The departure of our old double-denimed superstar from Portugal – and the lack of a bonafide replacement – seems to be the main point of consternation in this whole debate.

Sure, we’ve brought in Marco Tilio and are about to announce Yang Hyun-jun. Both players, like Jota, can be deployed on the left or right wing. But neither player is expected to be at the level of Jota, and how could they be?

When we brought the Portuguese winger in, initially on loan two seasons ago, he was nowhere near the player that we’ve just sold. Jota became that ‘game-changer’ of a player during that period. Celtic gave him a platform on which to develop, and he grasped it with both feet.

The arrivals we have already brought in, or are about to announce, have been identified by the same recruitment team who brought Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers to the table, and those two players turned out to be linchpins of the double and treble-winning sides under Ange Postecoglou.

There seems to be a clamour for ‘big-name’ or expensive buys during this close-season. We have the money, so why are we still shopping in the £1.5m-£2.5m market? One side of the argument would be that this approach worked with Hatate, O’Riley and Maeda, so why not continue to take advantage of opportunities in this bracket when they present themselves? Conversely, the quality we obtained when we shelled out £6 million+ on CCV and Jota is undeniable.



One factor that seems to be overlooked when discussing the drop in quality is the fact that we’ve replaced the manager with someone who will arguably improve the quality of many of the existing squad. Brendan Rodgers has a track record of revitalising and developing players, and this impact could take many of our squad to another level.

Rodgers is less than a month into the job and there will undoubtedly be several more arrivals before a competitive ball is kicked. The injuries to Alistair Johnston and Cameron Carter-Vickers will undoubtedly be at the forefront of the Irishman’s mind, so I’d expect some defensive options to be the focus of his recruitment meetings in the coming weeks.

Are we weaker than we were last season? I’m confident that we won’t be in three weeks’ time when we line-up to kick-off chapter two of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic story.


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