Celtic’s lack of depth in defence showed just how threadbare we are

It’s probably unwise to read too much into the performances or results of pre-season friendly encounters, but Celtic’s entertaining and fiercely competitive 3-3 draw with Rapid Vienna encapsulated Celtic’s current state of affairs both defensively and offensively.

From middle to front Celtic looked a side capable of going to-to-toe with both domestic and European rivals this season, yet a lack of depth in defence showed just how threadbare we may be when it comes to defensive cover.

Celtic of course score three superb goals, and the defence as the start of the attacks that led to those goals deserves credit. Yet the same old issues of defending cross balls, dealing with set pieces and a lack of organisation and awareness to danger at the back resurfaced again.

Celtic are of course without Carl Starfelt at this moment in time, and it should be noted his return – should he make it in time for the season opener with Aberdeen on July 31 – will make a considerable difference. However, the Rapid game certainly indicated that defensive strengthening is needed in this transfer window, and sooner rather than later, so that whoever comes in can get down to work in time for the season ahead.

Despite being a willing trier and having to play the entire 90 minutes on Saturday, Osaze Urhoghide looked somewhat cumbersome in the tackle, too static when danger emerged, and although there could be an argument to be made that he was being played out of position again, it didn’t look much better against SC Weiner on Wednesday when he moved to central defence.

As such, he may be a ‘warrior’ as the manager described him post-match on Saturday, but Urhoghide still looks as is if he has far more to work on than he has to work with, to be considered a viable option as a full back or central defensive back up this season.

Meanwhile Bosun Lawal has caught the eye as a prospect of note, but as we saw on Saturday, there is a lapse or two in Lawal too, to the point a season on loan somewhere he can make his mistakes away from the Celtic glare may be a better option than being thrust into an environment where every point will matter, even if it was just for the occasional first team appearance.

Stephen Welsh will perhaps be the third-choice centre back this season as he performed the best of those on show, yet the same can’t be said for Chris Jullien who looked to try his hardest but switched off too often at crucial times, and physically looked to have lost more than a yard of pace – a big deal considering he wasn’t exactly blessed with a great deal even when at the peak of his powers.

Celtic of course have signed Cameron Carter-Vickers on a long-term deal, and despite his short pass back to Joe Hart on Saturday, we know we have a player we can depend on for the season ahead, as we also have with Starfelt, but as we’ve seen with an injury to the latter, the choices in reserve hardly instil confidence for the season ahead.

It’s gone quiet of late when it comes to Celtic and central defenders in this transfer window, and it may be Jullien’s inability to agree financial terms with Schalke has put defensive reinforcements on the back-burner until we can remove the Frenchman from the wage bill. But Celtic cannot wait for that to happen.

The need for defensive reinforcements is already acute, indeed you could make an argument for a further two being required rather than just one, but at a minimum a good central defensive option and one who can challenge rather than just be brough in as a back-up remains a key position to fill.

IMAGO / GEPA pictures SOCCER – Rapid vs Celtic, VIENNA,AUSTRIA,09.JULY. Photo Philipp Brem

At left back Celtic have brought in Alexandro Bernabei to challenge Greg Taylor for the season ahead, meanwhile in the goalkeeping stakes the arrival of Ben Siegrist isn’t likely to be one who challenges Joe Hart enough to ensure the Englishman irons out the deficiencies that saw him cough up that goal on Saturday.

There’s not much we can do about that now, but it is a sign Celtic need to think about defensive reinforcements being of a sufficient standard to challenge the current incumbents, rather than simply supplement them. Bernabei looks the sort of player who will challenge Taylor and the battle will improve them both. The same approach now has to move to central defence.

Celtic showed they already have a midfield and attack that can make an impact in all competitions next season, yet at the back much of that good work can be undone by not having a similar standard of player to call upon in defence, nor the depth to match the options we have further up the field.

It would be a shame to see the forward options bear their teeth in Europe next season, only to see the defence show little more than gums.

We had a warning on Saturday that the old habits of parts of last season may die hard for some of the Celtic rear-guard options, but we have the benefit of an open transfer window to remedy such frailties. That’s something we simply have to take advantage of, whether Chris Jullien remains on the wage bill or not.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.


  1. Having lived through the Tommy Burns era of wonderful attacking players frequently let down by dodgy defending I couldn’t agree more that we need at least one additional quality defender.
    Someone needs to have a word with Jullien too about his positioning and tracking back, he was all over the place against Rapid.
    You can excuse fitness issues after being out so long but there’s no excuse for not knowing how to defend.

  2. Tam Donnelly on

    What a load of shite we had best defence in league last season .we had friendly for Gods sake and then let in a daft goal .That helps you too write this pish .Sensational Shite like the DR get a grip