Celtic Gossip: January is time to continue the rebuild and support our manager

January is time to continue the rebuild and support our manager…

When it was announced that the long wait for Eddie Howe was in vain and that Celtic were ready to appoint a relatively unknown coach from the Japanese J league, my heart sank but how wrong was I?

I have to put my hand up and admit it was pure football ignorance on my part in overlooking a man who has won silverware in every league he has managed and taken a team to the world cup finals.

Photo: Jeff Holmes

Ange Postecoglou has proved me wrong and restored stability and pride to a team that was a demoralised shambles when he took it over. He has proved he is the man to take us forward.

Well enough of the mea culpas, I’d like to discuss how our club can build on the work done so far and ensure we have a chance to win the title back. An achievement which could prove catastrophic for our main rivals.

We lie four points behind the league leaders and recent results highlight that once again the title will go to either them or us. A title that provides automatic Champions League qualification. A prize worth investing in.

The key to winning the league will be the January transfer window, when our threadbare squad needs and deserves reinforcements in a number of areas. Ange has already shown he can be trusted in the transfer market and our new CEO Michael Nicholson has to ensure the board provide the funding to supplement the squad and obtain the players our manager wants and needs.

Jota of Celtic celebrates after scoring their side’s second goal during the UEFA Europa League group G match between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic FC at BayArena on November 25, 2021 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Secure Jota

The priority piece of business in January must be to ensure we tie Jota down and arrange a permanent transfer. This will not be easy, given his fine form, which will have alerted alternative suitors and perhaps encouraged his agent to look at other offers.

Strengthen the defence

Celtic currently have the best defensive record in the premiership, losing only 10 goals in the league thus far, but most of us would like the defensive backline strengthened. The fact is  once first team players are injured or suspended; the back-ups do not fill many with confidence. Let’s hope for a clean sheet at Tannadice on Sunday.

Joe Hart and Kyogo Furuhashi of Celtic celebrates after the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Hibernian FC and Celtic FC at on October 27, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Joe Hart has given us reliability and provided some fine saves but neither Bain nor Barkas are suitable alternatives. Barkas will be sold or loaned in January, so a competent second choice keeper is essential. Some want a younger guy to learn from Hart but hungry keepers establishing their career want to play.

Perhaps it would be best to look at an experienced player with the ability and confidence to step in when needed. They could along with Hart share that experience with our younger crop of keepers, especially Tobi Oluwayemi, who is highly rated at Paradise. Either way a goalkeeper needs to be on our shopping list.

Left back has been a problem for too long. Greg Taylor has been rewarded with a new contract so Ange must rate him. While no one can fault his work rate and commitment, he needs competition and this must be addressed, despite the addition of Liam Scales. Josh Doig of Hibernian has been mentioned but the fee required might mean our resources are used elsewhere and an alternative loan option is considered.

Cameron Carter-Vickers and. Carl Starfelt (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

At centre half Starfelt is growing in confidence and Cameron Carter- Vickers has been exceptional and hopefully we can make his loan permanent in the summer. Welsh is a competent back up, but with Julien still on the road to recovery, I would not be adverse to a pre contract offer or deal in January for another centre half, who would certainly add to the squad.

Add energy and steel to the midfield

Midfield has me worried in two areas. One of my players of the season is Callum McGregor and he is in my view, best suited to a less defensive midfield role. This means we need an experienced defensive midfield player. Bitton has been more than competent when called upon, but he can be prone to both a rush of blood which results in dismissal, and he is also injury prone.

As for James McCarthy, he is still not up to the level we require and if we can secure an experienced defensive midfield player, that would allow McGregor to do what he does best and also protect our defence, especially in Europe.

Callum McGregor of Celtic applauds the fans during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Heart of Midlothian at on December 02, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The second area of the midfield that has me concerned is our lack of a box to box attacking midfield player. When the tempo is high, we over run teams, but when we slow the game down a packed defence has caused us issues and we have dropped points. An energetic midfield player would help, and it is encouraging that Celtic are looking at Reo Hatate a player who can fulfil a number of roles from left back to midfield and even provide cover on the left wing.

KOBE, JAPAN – JULY 17: Reo Hatate of Japan in action during the U-24 international friendly match between Japan and Spain at the Noevir Stadium Kobe on July 17, 2021 in kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

The recent launch of the Japanese specific website is a clear indication that Kyogo will not be the only player recruited from the J league. Ange knows these players well and given the success of Kyogo it is a market we should be all over.

Buy a striker or two

While we are the league’s joint tops scorers, I would think I am not alone in worrying at the alarming amount of chances we are failing to convert in so many games. We are lucky to have Jota and Kyogo who are two quality front men, but that apart our attacking resources look thin.

Forrest is just back from injury, Abada is off form, but is young and has a good future ahead of him and our new Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis has had an injury prone start to his Celtic career. Mikey Johnston needs to fulfil his much talked about potential and I would envisage Ajeti will join Barkas in moving on in January. Leigh Griffiths, on a season long loan at Dundee is struggling to get a game for the Dens Park side, to think that he was awarded a contract extension at Celtic in the summer!

: Ayase Ueda and Daizen Maeda of Japan wait for corner kick during game as part of Copa America Brazil 2019 at Morumbi Stadium on June 17, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alessandra Cabral/Getty Images)

It is plain we need recruitments in the forward line and two names have been mentioned which would be welcome additions. A player Ange knows well is Daizen Maeda from Yokohama F Marinos. He has had an excellent season scoring 18 goals in 35 games. Around £3.5m for the top scorer in the J League would be an excellent piece of business.

The second name to emerge in the last few days is Stade Brestois striker Jeremy Le Douaron. Only 23 he is yet another versatile player who can also play wide left or right.

PHOTO NICOLAS CREACH / LE TELEGRAMME. FOOTBALL Brest ( 29 ) Stade Francis le Blé le 15082021
Saison 2021-2022 ligue 1 Uber Eats 2 ème journée Stade Brestois / Stade Rennais Jérémy Le Douaron

As the speculation around a loan move for Hannes Wolf from Borussia Monchengladbach highlights, we will be linked with many players in the next few weeks, and I am sure a number of existing players will depart either on loan or permanently.

The board must not let us down

Our Manager has earned the right to be backed by our board and resources are available to provide this support.

Celtic Park Celtic temporary chief executive Michael Nicholson (centre) Photo: Jeff Holmes

Ange and the bhoys have exceeded my expectations in the speed and quality of the rebuild and I firmly believe if we can stay in the hunt until 2 January , we have an excellent chance of going into the winter break with confidence. Then with the right recruitment, we can look forward to 2022 with a squad strong enough to compete both domestically and in europe.

I just hope the Celtic board don’t let us down again.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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