Celtic and an ‘out there’ change-up for Fir Park

It’s no secret that Celtic are in dire need of something different for the remainder of this campaign, if we are to harbour any ambitions of retaining the Scottish Premiership at the expense of our fierce city rivals, theRangers.

With Brendan Rodgers’ team hell-bent on throwing away a very agreeable and comfortable advantage over the newest Ibrox entity, it seems as though if it is to be done, it will have to be done the hard way.

With this in mind, it has been a dreadful story this year for the footballing purists amongst us, as the football being dished up for us to swallow has been the most insipid in recent memory. Misfiring forwards and ineffective wingers are just part of a larger picture that has saw our defence depleted from last season and unable to maintain any sort of consistency. However, the inability of the defenders to move the ball out of our own half quickly and efficiently has been a major hindrance at times too, virtually nullifying our attack before it gets a chance to start.

Callum McGregor needs help and has been way below the expected performance levels too lately – but the team generally has been poor – which has led to low-confidence within the ranks. We sorely miss Reo Hatate and no matter what is levelled at him at times, he’s undeniably our brightest spark in the midfield creatively and when he’s not around, it can really be a drag to watch Celtic fumble around trying to break down tightly packed defences in Scotland.

Reo Hatate celebrates after he scores his team’s opening goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Kilmarnock at Celtic Park  on October 07, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

We need more potency for sure but at times that means leaving the midfield area exposed and Rodgers dislikes the idea of losing control in that area in matches. It’s a reasonable concern in all honesty as many games are won and lost in the midfield battle throughout the course of a footballing season. We’re in dire straits right now but and need something to freshen up and change the perspective and dynamic of the team, otherwise we will just falter this year. No question about it.

I know many have called for the removal of wingers completely from the team and I must agree with the sentiment to a certain degree. I would not be disappointed in the slightest if we saw a 4-4-2 diamond shape on Sunday lunchtime and it would be most welcome to see something different. However, I thought it would be interesting to put forward an out-there change of formation and personnel to this current team and see how that would be received…

My Formation Change


Joe Hart – Big Joe in goals for obvious reasons as the big man has been incredible since he helped steady the ship back in 2021 under Ange and will now have his swan-song in football.

Maik Nawrocki – Nawrocki is a bit of a conundrum if we are being honest. Looked ropey at Pittodrie and had to be replaced as he couldn’t get to grips with Miovski. Despite this, he’s excellent at breaking the lines and that is something we badly need.

Cameron Carter-Vickers – The American international gives us all the fear when he’s not fit and available. This year has been chronic without him and Hatate at times. If he’s prepared enough, I would give him and hour then make a substitution so we can impose ourselves and try and get a comfortable enough lead.

Liam Scales – The Irishman is certainly a better player than I ever imagined he was and has been the mainstay in the defence this season. He does his job without much fuss although has come in for some criticism for his dithering on the ball and deficiencies in trying to progress play. Still think it would be harsh to drop him and he also gives you good balance alongside the other two in a three-man defensive unit.

Greg Taylor – The former Killie player has endured highs and lows in a Celtic jersey but nobody can deny we are weaker when he isn’t in that starting line-up. His limitations in a traditional full-back role are noticeable as is his lack of real pace at times. However, when inverted under Postecoglou he was sensational in that midfield position at times linking play with his comrade and captain, Callum McGregor. I would sit Greg in front of the defence in a two-man pivot.

Tomoki Iwata – It’s readily apparent that the team is missing physicality in that midfield engine room and the Japanese star certainly brings that to the table. Not to mention he’s also very clever and tidy in possession and he is a perfect dovetail for the steady Taylor, which can shield the defence from opposing transitions.

Adam Idah – This would be another controversial decision to put Idah at RWB. However, we need power and pace in that position and the Norwich City man has that in abundance. He may lack a killer instinct in front of goal but he’s well-suited to the rough and ready side of the game and could easily play that position without much fuss. He could also provide great service for Kyogo with their link-up play which has been evidenced in recent weeks.

Matt O’Riley of Celtic celebrates scoring his team’s opening goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Hearts and Celtic FC at Tynecastle on October 22, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Matt O’Riley – Inside from Idah would be Matt O’Riley, who is great in that advanced position that we saw Tom Rogic occupy so frequently in a Celtic shirt throughout the years. Like Rogic, O’Riley has an innate ability to find space and time on the ball to play intricate passes and feed the striker. We need that at this current moment in time badly.

Callum McGregor – This is where the captain should be playing in my humble opinion. He’s far too good a technical footballer to be stuck back playing last-ditch tackler to save the defence from attacks. When he played more advanced under Rodgers in the Irishman’s first tenure he was a delight to watch. He’s deadly in and around that box and could feed Kyogo all day long if he’s safe in the knowledge someone is covering behind in the central areas.

Daizen Maeda – Playing on the left-side as the LWB would be iron man, Dazien Maeda. The Japanese international could run all day long if you let him and that energy is infectious at times. He gets the team on the front foot and always does his part. His finishing and final touch is often called into question but in this system he would be more concerned with protecting the wings, allowing the technicians in O’Riley and McGregor to create for the forward.

Kyogo – The wee man has struggled this year and it’s no wonder. No Jota, no Hatate, no Mooy. It’s been a considerable drop off in quality around him which has had a material impact in the amount of chances he gets and renders him ineffectual at points in games. It’s been sad to witness but there’s no doubting striker is his best and most accomplished position on the field of play. With McGregor and O’Riley being closer to him in this system and feeding him with those deft through balls, it could get him firing again.

How would you change it up this Sunday at Fir Park? Is this proposal too out there to imagine, or could it spark us into life potentially? Give us all your thoughts and your suggested line-up and formation in the comments section below…

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.


  1. Gordon Raeburn on

    I will settle for any formation that wins the game and wins it with style. I am so glad you suggested no Palma. People rave about him but I just don’t get it. He thinks he’s great but a winger with no pace, who can’t cross and is far too easily brushed aside is a waste of a jersey.

  2. Would agree that some form of change could be required, as nothing has really worked well for ourselves for any period of time, so far this season?
    Highly unlikely to see any drastic changes, at this stage of a season, as an unusual action to be taken by a manager, but still believe drastic measures within our form, can call upon drastic changes to be made?
    With Rodgers preference in playing to be upon such a possession based game, then wouldn’t it make sense to be starting with our most reliable possession based players?
    Don’t believe that it currently involves the full backs and wingers at present, due to there link up play and use of the football has been pretty poor to date to say the least imo?
    Would agree with yourself upon the back 3 option of rocki, CCV and scales.
    However, would change calmac for Taylor, due to calmac being much better with the football, and potentially offer more in an attacking sense with getting forward imo?
    Would opt for a 3/2 split in the attacking options moreso than a 4/1 that you have opted for?
    Still think a Maeda and kyogo partnership could work, especially with Maeda able to work the channels on both sides, moreso than starting wide and producing nothing really within the wider areas to date this season.
    Should allow for better movement with pace, to potentially cause more problems in the danger zone imo?
    Behind a front 2, I would go for a 3 attacking midfield, to hopefully provide far better service to a front 2, and allows for them to attack the space from deeper, and make more space to get the shot off quicker at goal, than being able to be closed down to quickly, that is currently in operation?
    Hatate of course is a massive loss, but still enough within the squad to potentially play it also imo?
    Still think Palma could do a better job behind a front 2 in a central position, with possibly Paulo and Oreily either side of him?
    Even without Hatate, there are potential options available, as Holm, idah, along with calmac pushing up still allows for ourselves to provide better service and getting more creative players into more dangerous scoring positions imo.
    Still allows ourselves to bring on wider players also when the game opens up moreso later in a game, where you would expect a far more comfortable lead to be in place, but the attacking intent remains the same, than trying to close up shop, where we look appalling at trying to do so currently?
    Saying all that, there still remains a higher chance of getting served up the muck that Rodgers likes to serve us up presently along with his bullshit for starters and dessert at present imo?