Sorting the defence must be summer priority for Celtic

Yesterday’s Scottish Cup semi final provided one of the most memorable cup games in recent years in a match that had so many twists and turns that by the end of it all I was mentally exhausted.

We were all put through an emotional wringer as Celtic continually let Aberdeen back into the game to take the match firstly into extra time then into the dreaded lottery that is penalties. Even then we fluffed our opportunity to put our opponents to the sword and in all honesty I feared our cup dreams were over when Joe Hart missed the chance to put the tie to bed, only for the same man to go on and pull of the save that took us to the final.

While Aberdeen deserve huge credit for putting in an excellent 120 minute performance during a season where they have been massively disappointing during the league campaign, this match highlighted a lot of areas where Celtic are weak and will need to strengthen throughout the summer.

Whether we go on to win a League and Scottish Cup double or end the season with absolutely no silverware at all won’t change the fact that this Celtic squad needs a serious overhaul. I said yesterday in an article that Brendan Rodgers needs to be given money to spend on players that HE wants, to sculpt a squad in his image and then and only then can we fully judge the Irishman.

 Ester Sokler of Aberdeen scores his team’s second goal past Joe Hart of Celtic during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Aberdeen and Celtic at Hampden on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

This was the second time in two weeks that Celtic have conceded three goals after also letting in a treble against theRangers at Ibrox. It is glaringly obvious to anyone who watches us that out defence is a huge weak spot. It has cost us badly at times this season, and I’m talking domestically never mind on the European stage where it’s even more obvious.

Take Aberdeen’s second and third goal yesterday. If you had popped out and come back in before the third you would most likely have thought they were just showing a replay of the second goal. That’s how similar they were. A cross ball to the back post with Liam Scales and Greg Taylor caught like two deers in the headlights as the Aberdeen player rose to nod the ball in unchallenged.

 Angus MacDonald scores his team’s third goal past Joe Hart during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Aberdeen and Celtic at Hampden Park on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It’s hard to be critical of two honest players who go out there week after week and give their all for Celtic but the truth is if we want to reach the next level as a club then these two shouldn’t be first choice players in their positions.

Taylor was fantastic at times under Ange Postecoglou playing that inverted full back role, and although his forward play has dropped slightly this season, he has still been decent in that department but defensively he has always been weak. His small stature doesn’t help him and he often gets caught out in the air domestically where Scottish team tend to play the direct route towards their big striker up top.

Liam Scales story this season has been heart warming with the Irish man going from being on the brink of leaving the club to a mainstay at the heart of the Celtic defence but in all honesty the experiment is over.

He is definitely a player who has improved massively since arriving from the League of Ireland but he can’t be a first pick centre back at this club if we hope to reach the next level and dominate at home and make an impression in the Champions League. I think both him and Taylor could stay at the club and be useful squad players, much like Anthony Ralston, but they should not be first picks from next season onwards.

 Angus MacDonald reacts after scoring his team’s third goal during the Aberdeen v Celtic – Scottish Cup Semi Final at Hampden Park on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic must go out this summer and sort their defence out once and for all. A top goalkeeper is an absolute must with the retirement of Joe Hart. We also have to bring in a left sided defender to partner Cameron Carter-Vickers in the centre of defence.

We have been crying out for a top left back for years, probably since Kieran Tierney left for Arsenal. For me the main thing we should be looking is that they are strong defensively. If you look at some of our best full backs in recent years the thing that always stands out for me is that they are defenders first and foremost. The likes of Lustig, Johnston and Tierney were all good going forward but it was their defensive capabilities that made them stand out.

 Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is seen as Celtic win a penalty shoot out during the Aberdeen v Celtic – Scottish Cup Semi Final at Hampden Park on April 20, 2024 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

We need to clear out some of the players who we know by now don’t possess the quality that is needed to be a Celtic player. Lagerbiekle, Welsh, Bernabei, Bain and Siegrist all need moved on in the summer as they don’t meet the standard required. Lagerbiekle clearly isn’t rated by the manager and the rest have all had ample chances to impress and failed so should be let go without hesitation.

As I said I would keep Ralston, Taylor and Scales as good honest back up choices and Nawrocki should also be retained as back up for Carter-Vickers.

There is work needing done throughout the Celtic squad this summer but for me yesterday proved that sorting out our backline should be our number one priority.

Conall McGinty

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!


  1. Yes left side poor and wit miadea out it showed up that side but saying that aberdeen players all the time in world to pick out a cross from the right midfield and winger should be covering palma trying go for a pass when he could have held it but that’s Celtic way I’m sure if Mc Gregor or iwata would have held it

  2. 100% agree with everything in the article, however if Aberdeen were up against Sevco or their cousins yesterday they’d have beaten both.


  3. The defensive set up wasn’t really addressed during last summer, and was hardly helped by the injury crisis within the CB positions either?
    Rodgers made some decisions with possibly choosing to keep Hart and Taylor as 1st choice in there positions, even if many within our support thought it needed to be addressed?
    This is no longer the case and we still haven’t replaced Starfelt as a partner for CCV with the solid forming for a defensive set up to work properly imo?
    We still remain a fairly brutal team when forced to play on the back foot, which isn’t helping when we aren’t such a dramatic attacking team any longer either imo?
    Can understand ourselves wanting to become a more controlled team in our play, which will be a requirement for gaining success in Europe, but we are still some way away for that being achieved, especially with the defensive set up as it currently is imo?
    Yes, I would expect changes within the current structure of the defensive set up within the squad for next season imo?
    Don’t believe Bain will be kept in the no2 keeper role, so potentially we could be looking at 2 keepers coming in, which should avoid another barkas situation arising?
    Still think an upgrade is required upon Taylor, even if I wouldn’t be to sure weather Taylor is prepared to play the ralston role within the squad?
    Still got monty and frame to potentially do the backup role in the position, but hopefully Taylor does stay as a decent enough option within the squad imo?
    CB positions aren’t so straightforward with how the overall squad seems to be currently structured?
    Still think we will be looking at having 5CB within the overall squad next season.
    So therefore CCV, along with Welsh and lawal could be requirements to fill the 8 homegrown rule in play?
    Still think rocki is a better option than scales currently for the left sided CB role for the remainder of this season imo?
    However, I wouldn’t claim rocki is the permanent solution for the position either next season?
    So still possibly need another CB within the squad, which in turn could well mean that there is potentially no place available for scales imo?
    Might be a bit harsh upon scales who has had a fairly decent season overall for ourselves, especially when it wasn’t expected from him whatsoever as most thought he would be moved on, including myself?
    If anything is to have be learnt this season is the requirement for strength in depth is required within the overall look of the squad, especially with the amount of injuries gained this season?
    We already know now that most of the backup options for ange aren’t within the plans of Rodgers, so far more work was required than I believe Rodgers expected upon his return?
    As much as I can appreciate what Rodgers is trying to build with the overall structure of the squad, there is still some way to go before its completed, and this without knowing what changes could occur and decisions upon Paulo and idah still to be made?
    Haven’t been overly impressed with the decision making of Rodgers either this season, and to many question marks remains regarding as to whether his methods really is getting the best out of key players who we still depend so much upon, but aren’t hitting there capabilities on a consistent basis this season?
    So plenty of work is required during the summer still, but currently plenty of work still required in the remainder of this season has to be produced yet, and of a better standard than yesterday produced also imo?

  4. Chris Gibbons on

    Very much agree with much of your article, apart from the Taylor criticism. Perhaps he looks to have problems because Liam Scales is not the best Liam Scales is much overrated. Aberdeen realized this and played on it. Teams also let him have the ball coming out of defense as he often makes a bad pass. Adam Idah is also massively overrated. He is the fourth choice at Norwich for a reason. He has a touch like a Rhinorus on heat

  5. That team needs a big change not just scares taylor yang but most of our team has’nt turned up im really worried for these 5 games that are left espically with that defence they are shocking taylor is never their and scares as soon as a player shuts him down his arse goes and kicks the ball anywhere yang i going right off that clown he beats the man but never crosses it then he loses the ball its time toget rid of these kid on players.against aberdeen yesterday hatate
    mcgregor oriley were shocking honest im really surprised we got to the final because aberdeen should have put that game to bed honest so the next game is dundee surely we cant play like that again eh..Hail Hail