Has Nir Bitton now cemented his position in the starting eleven?

With the news that Nir Bitton has been named in the Cinch SPFL/Premier Sports Cup team of the week after yet another excellent display at the heart of the Celtic midfield it really is time to look closer at his contribution to the team and discuss whether he deserves to remain in the team even upon Tom Rogic’s return.

20th November 2021; Hampden Park, Glasgow City, Scotland; Scottish League Cup semi-final, Celtic versus St Johnstone; Nir Bitton of Celtic

Since Ange Postecoglou took over in the summer Nir has had an unlikely career resurgence, making 15 appearances in total this season in all competitions. Recently he has been getting rave reviews for his performances which have been fully deserved. The main reason for this resurgence is that he is finally getting an extended run in his most natural position, centre midfield.

Signed in 2013 by Neil Lennon it’s unbelievable to think that Nir has been at the club for over 8 years. He had a quiet start to his Celtic career under Lennon, possibly struggling with comparisons to the player he was brought in to help replace, Victor Wanyama. It was under Ronny Delia that Bitton first began to flourish, showing plenty of steel and guile in the middle of the pitch and also chipping in with a fair few goals, most of which were stunning long range strikes.

GLASGO:Nir Bitton celebrates with Virgil Van Dijk and Scott Brown Celtics 2nd goal against Malmo FF during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Round Play off First Leg match between Celtic and Malmo FF at Celtic Park on AUGUST 19, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.(Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

It was under Brendan Rodgers that Bitton started to regress. While most of his teammates seemed inspired by Rodgers appointment, Bitton’s performance levels actually declined and he soon fell out of the first team picture with Stuart Armstrong impressing more than the Israeli international.

It was Rodgers though that first started utilising him into a ‘ball playing’ centre back in the summer of 2017, something I personally disagreed with. While the idea may have worked out well in later years with Kris Ajer, I thought Bitton never fully suited the role. Up until Ange took over this summer Bitton had been continually deployed in this role over recent years under both Rodgers and Lennon, very sparingly getting a chance to impress in his more natural position in midfield.

Emilio Izaguirre (L), and Nir Bitton of Celtic celebrate at the final Whistle with a young fan during the Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Celtic FC at Ibrox Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Since Tom Rogic got injured against Hibs at the tail end of October, Bitton has stepped up and put in some fantastic performances during the past month. He has easily been one of our best players in the last few matches which leads us to wonder about what happens when the Australian is back to full fitness and raring to go. Does Rogic have to bide his time on the bench or will Bitton make way for his return?

Personally I believe Bitton is undroppable on current form. I think he adds so much to the Celtic midfield with a mix of high level technical ability, a fantastic ability to read the game and a more defensively minded attitude than our other midfielders. Having Bitton guarding the area just in front of the defence means the likes of Callum McGregor can influence the play further up the park.

I think the position that should be up for grabs should be the attacking midfield position. Before the injury to Rogic the manager had been playing both the Australian and David Turnbull in midfield which I think left the area unbalanced and required Callum McGregor to do all of the dirty work on his own. Against some of the weaker teams in Scotland it worked fine as we were on the front foot most of the time but against the top 6 sides and in Europe it often left us exposed.


Football Scottish League Cup Semi-finals Season 2014 2015 men Scotland 01 02 2015 Celtic FC Glasgow theRangers FC 2 0 v l La Ola cheering After Game happiness cheering go to supporters at  Final whistle Mikael Lustig, Scott Brown, James Forrest, Adam Matthews Nir Bitton, Kris Commons & Jason Denayer

I’m surely not the only one who has noticed that Turnbull has been quiet recently, in fact to be brutally honest at some stages during matches he’s been totally anonymous. If it’s a straight pick between him and Rogic I would be inclined to go with the Australian who has a unique ability to produce moments of magic and is capable of unlocking even the most stubborn of defences. As Rogic isn’t known for completing the full 90 minutes it would be a major advantage having someone like Turnbull to come on in the last third of the game.

In conclusion I think that Nir Bitton has done enough recently to cement his position in the starting eleven. When everyone is fit I think on current form it should be David Turnbull who drops out, even though I think he’s a fantastic young player I think that a midfield containing Rogic, McGregor and Bitton is our best choice going forward. It will provide the perfect balance in the middle and should play to the strengths of each player involved.

I would like to hear what the rest of you think as I’m sure many will disagree with me so please leave your comments below.

Conall McGinty

Click here to order Harry Hood – Twice as Good direct from the official online Celtic store or pick up your copy from any Celtic store. This photograph is from the Livingston store…

About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!

6 Comments

  1. Totally agree and still think Bitton can develop along with the rest of the team. It’s a shame he’s been played out of position for so long. Also he can be flexible as we saw against St J and do a good job if he has to play as a CB. Which other MF can you say that about? Intriguing what will happen when James McCarthy is fully fit.

  2. Keith Gillespie on

    Totally agree. The Wizard can cut open defences, Nir solid as defensive midfield leaving Calmac to weave his magic against our stronger, more determined oponents.
    A much better balance all around.
    Turnbull still has a few rough edges to smooth out to become a better team-player.
    Him and Rogic playing together reminded of Christie and Rogic, Christie and Ntcham – good players who just didn’t compliment each other.
    And as you say, a more than fitting replacement for when Rogic tires or gets too much attention.

  3. Fine article Conall and a debate to be had. Bitton has plenty of positives. He brings a physical presence we lack in open play and defending and attacking set pieces, he protects the ball well and his passing is probably a little underrated. His experience in a new team is also an added advantage. The minuses are the time he takes to turn when receiving the ball and his passing through the middle is a little ponderous. Ange seems to have negated this a little as McGregor plays closer to him than either Rogic or Turnbull do to McGregor when they play. This protects us a bit and allow McGregor to progress the ball quicker than Bitton can, but the downside is one of the attacking players has to now drop a little deeper and lessens our ability to occupy defenders centrally and allows opposition defences more time to regroup. Not such a big issue against attacking opponents, but low block teams can find it a bit easier to force us into wide positions if Turnbull is the only real advanced attacking midfield player. My preference is we buy an 8 in the window and have Calmac as the 6, however Bitton as ever has proved he is squad gold. So far the switching off he’s evidenced when playing in central defence hasn’t surfaced in midfield. That’s been great to see.

  4. Martin Leadbetter on

    Bang on – Bitton is a terrific player who seems to be a focal point and someone who can keep the ball moving – Turnbull has been disappointing and has been asked to do so much over the last 18 months.

  5. 200% agree, big beets is playing brilliantly since start of this season, allways admired this big Celtic man , I.ve never enjoyed him playing in hoops back 4 , and I realise his national bosses selected him in defence, but at hoops he.s 100% more effective in midfield, good luck to this guy who.s never spat the dummy no matter where he plays with the hoops as long as he PLAYS

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