Celtic’s January transfer window is vital as the Hoops look to maintain momentum…
The rebuild since Ange Postecoglou’s arrival last year has been remarkable. In his 18 months at Celtic Park the Australian maestro has had an immense impact on the club, turning the Bhoys’ fortunes around, building an exceptionally strong squad, and wrestling back the Scottish Premiership crown from theRangers’ grasp last term.
It was an impressive outing for his first season at Parkhead and his side are in pole position to claim back-to-back titles sitting top of the table nine points in front of their main rivals. The club must be commended for how much they have backed Postecoglou, even back when the mainstream media were not sure whether he was the right man for the job or not with Hugh Keevins stating that Ange stood for Absolutely Not Good Enough!
The Hoops got off the mark quickly last January having completed the signings of Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi before the window had even opened. They were followed in the door a couple of weeks later by midfielder Matt O’Riley who has been one of Postecoglou’s standout signings. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Jota and Aaron Mooy were amongst the names that put pen to paper on permanent deals this summer adding to the melting pot as Celtic have gone from strength to strength under Postecoglou.
In previous years, the Hoops haven’t used the winter window to their advantage but like so many things, this has changed since the arrival of the Australian. Although Celtic may not be in European football after Christmas, they will still need to add to their squad depth if they’re to push on and secure the title in the second half of the season.
What areas need strengthening?
It is unlikely that a similar number of players will sign at the turn of the year as did in 2022 after the success of the last year but Postecoglou will no doubt be wanting to strengthen in a few areas. Celtic are 1/14 favourites to win the SPL according to these betting apps. Mortiz Jenz and Carter Vickers have established a strong defensive partnership but injury concerns to the American as well as Carl Starfelt have forced Postecoglu to look at the position despite already having four centre backs in the squad.
There is also talk of a big money offer coming in for Josip Juranovic off the back of his excellent showing at the World Cup for Croatia. As a result, Celtic have signed right back Alistair Johnston and central defender Yuki Kobayashi (pictured below), and we are still more than two weeks away from the January transfer window opening. So bar one more addition at right back to cover for the Croat’s potential departure, it’s unlikely Ange will add to his defence further in January.
One area could be in the middle of the park, specifically the number eight role. Postecoglou’s likes to have two players in that role in the midfield and while Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate, David Turnbull and Aaron Mooy have all been involved heavily this season, it could be argued another playmaker is needed to add an extra layer of protection.
Tom Rogic previously filled this role, but since the Aussie departed at the end of last season, one could claim that his shoes have yet to be filled. O’Riley and Hatate are the creative forces in the middle of the park and have both made significant contributions defensively, with the Dane in particular adapting well in the absence of the injured Callum McGregor. Both he and the Japan international will no doubt be attracting a lot of interest from a host of top clubs, so bringing a creative playmaker in could cover for a potential exit either in January or the summer and ease the dependency on the duo in the middle of the park.
In terms of attack, Kyogo Furuhashi and Giorgos Giakoumakis have undoubtedly been successful signings. Between them, they have scored 56 goals and provided eight assists in 103 appearances. It is going to take a player of real quality to keep both of them out of the team, but given the clear ambition that Postecoglou has, this is the level of forward he will be hoping to bring in.
Being lethal at Champions League level is something the current strikers have struggled with, so another player in this position could be a solution to fixing this problem for the long term. There is also the fact to consider that these two are their only options and with the Greek international linked with a move away in January, this has become a top priority.
Who should be brought in?
Striker is the position that will be causing the 57-year-old Aussie the most headaches and there are plenty of viable options out there, particularly in the wake of the world cup. Karol Swiderski of Poland was tipped as a man who could be a breakout star at Qatar 2022 and although he only managed one game for his country he has made a big impact on the international stage.
Swiderski has eight goals from 18 caps which, at 25, is a very strong return from his game time. The striker plays for Charlotte in the US and could be on the lookout for a move to Europe having previously played for PAOK and Jagiellonia Bialystok.
There is also the 26-year-old Iranian, Ali Gohlizadeh. He is a front man but has often plied his trade as a right-sided winger and that’s the versatility the Hoops would love to have. They could do with a speedy goalscorer with trickery and pace and Gholizadeh may fit that bill. Currently playing club football for Charleroi in Belgium, his goal-scoring stats could be better but he is creative and provides more assists as an unselfish player.
In midfield the Hoops have been heavily linked with Egyptian international Mohamed Magdy. Magdy, more popularly known as Afsha, currently plays for Al Ahly, where he has made quite the name for himself. He has been linked with a transfer to Parkhead several times in the past but this January could be the moment Celtic make their move.
Afsha does seem like a very good player, has impressed for both club and country, and has a big reputation. He is also versatile, capable of playing as an attacking midfielder, central midfielder and on the wings. A good fit for the side should any head for the exit door this January.
In defence, Celtic have been name-checked as one of the many teams after Real Valladolid starlet Ivan Fresnada. The 18-year-old right-back has represented Spain at U19 level and is regarded as one of most promising youngsters in his position.
Making six appearances in La Liga so far this season, he has caught the eyes of several sides across Europe. However, Everton are considered the favourites to land the young defender, with Frank Lampard’s Toffees reportedly already making an approach to Real Valladolid over a potential deal.