With the news that Greg Taylor will be out of action until the beginning of 2022 being confirmed by Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou, throughout my next few articles I’m going to take an in-depth look at the options we have available to replace him at left back. It is a position that no one has managed to fully make their own ever since Kieran Tierney was sold to Arsenal in the summer of 2019.
Scotland international Taylor has been missing since last month’s 3-0 win over Ross County where he sustained the injury on his shoulder, which resulted in him having to go under the knife to rectify the problem.
Speaking after Celtic’s win over St Johnstone on Saturday, as reported by The Herald, Ange Postecoglou said:
“Greg’s had an operation on his shoulder, it’s about four weeks since he started rehab so he’s still a good couple of months away. It’s a contact thing where we have to be careful.”
With Taylor’s recovery having now been confirmed as being months away, I think it’s a good time to take a deeper look and see who we have within the squad capable of becoming the new mainstay in the left back berth. The first person I’m going to have a closer look at is the man who played there during our last match against St Johnstone, Josip Juranovic.
First things first, Juranovic is a right back. Ange Postecoglou was delighted to be able to conclude the deal for Juranovic in the summer, purchasing the player from our old foes Legia Warsaw for £2.5m. This was a fantastic piece of business, to obtain the services of Croatia’s number one right back for such a sum was truly impressive.
Juranovic made his debut at Ibrox as we lost 1-0 to theRangers were he was asked to step in at left back due to a shortage of players in that position. While discussing it with the media he stated the following, as reported by thescottishsun:
“It was a wonderful feeling to play in a game between Celtic and (the)Rangers though. The only thing that was strange to me was that I had to play as a left back.
“The manager wanted me to play there as he only had one young player left who was capable of playing that position due to injuries. I happily agreed with him because I wanted to make an impact in the derby. If there were no goalkeepers and he wanted me to play there, I would if I had to!”
Juranovic’s comments show that playing left back is still very unfamiliar to him. Watching him playing there both against theRangers and against St Johnstone at the weekend I had the same feeling, that he looks an excellent acquisition but that it’s clear to see he’s not entirely comfortable in the position he’s being asked to play.
Defensively I think he’s looked solid in both games, although we have had very little game time to judge him on I would actually go as far as saying out of everyone who has played in that position this year he has looked the most defensively assured, Taylor included. Good in the tackle without giving fouls away he also seems to possess good positional sense and doesn’t get caught out often in that regards. So far so good.
Where I think he struggles in the position however is going forward. ‘Angeball’ heavily relies on the full backs getting forward as much as possible to help out the wingers. Basically if our attacking players are getting repelled trying to play through the middle it will be up to the full backs to deliver balls in from the flanks for our attack to feed on.
The problem I have noticed with Juranovic is that as he isn’t naturally left footed, he is constantly halting his runs to cut inside to deliver the ball in with his stronger right foot, often slowing the attack down. This is the major problem you will get with playing a natural right back as a left back, or vice versa. It is definitely a negative point when trying to ascertain whether Juranovic is out best option in the position.
Hopefully over time the player can adapt but at the moment he does look quite uncomfortable in an attacking sense, even though when utilised in his natural right back position internationally and at his previous clubs his attacking ability was much vaunted.
Personally I think Juranovic may be our mainstay in the right back berth in the future, winning the battle against Anthony Ralston to be regarded as our number one choice in that position. With Ralston currently putting in commendable performances it means that along with Juranovic, our two best full backs are both right sided. With Juranovic probably the more flexible positionally of the two it has unfortunately for him led to him being utilised on the left with Ralston remaining in the right back role.
Minus my gripes about him having to constantly turn onto his right foot to cross the ball, I regard Juranovic as a more than capable replacement for Taylor and have a feeling Ange may feel the same going forward.
In my next article I will be looking at another candidate for the left back position, the often demonised Boli Bolingoli.