Celtic look on course to achieve back-to-back domestic trebles this season having reached the Scottish Cup final for the second year running, after winning the League Cup earlier in the campaign.
Although teams have appeared to draw closer to the Hoops this season in terms of shortening the gulf between the Hoops and the rest of the league, this has been more down to a less dominant season from Celtic in terms of number of wins, rather than a major improvement from the likes of Aberdeen and Rangers.
There have been many lessons learned from the current Celtic campaign, with some players continuing to shine off the back of last season, while others have struggled to maintain their form and have not looked the player they once were.
A few obvious things stand out, such as the significant problems in defence, but here are three lessons we have learned from the Bhoys from 2017/2018.
The gulf between Celtic and the rest of Europe’s elite is as big as it has ever been
For Celtic to get back to being competitive in Europe it will take some serious work and, given the way modern football is going, that may never be achieved by a club even the size of the Scottish giants.
Celtic were well and truly hammered by PSG and Bayern Munich this season and, despite recording a brilliant 3-0 away victory against Anderlecht, were defeated in a similar fashion by the Belgian side at home in the last group game of the Champions League.
It is easy to criticise Celtic for not turning up in Europe or not playing to the best of their ability but, to be realistic, the likes of Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths – as talented as they are – do not even slightly compare to players such as Edinson Cavani, Neymar, Robert Lewandowki and Arjen Robben.
It is no surprise that the likes of PSG and Barcelona can fire six or seven past Celtic on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening, in a similar way that Celtic are capable of doing the same to the likes of Hamilton Academical and Ross County on their day domestically.
The defence, bar Kieran Tierney, needs some serious sorting out
Celtic’s defence has been woeful at times this season and, going into the big games, has always felt like a liability. The central defensive options have not lived up to expectations at all in recent years, since the likes of Jason Denayer and Virgil van Dijk were lining up in 2014.
Kristoffer Ajer looks a useful player for the future, but is still by no means the complete product, and each of the other centre-backs have had their fair share of torrid performances. Mikael Lustig also looks way past it at right-back and, despite having performed to a high level for the last six years at Celtic, has diminished in quality at a rapid pace over the course of the season.
To sum it up, Celtic’s defence needs a serious overhaul this summer and a lot of players should be let go. Players such as Dedryk Boyata and Mikael Lustig have proved this year that they cannot be relied on and, with mistake after mistake, it feels their time at the club is up.
Scott Brown’s importance to the success of the team is worryingly significant
There are a large number of players in the Celtic squad who are capable of producing match-winning displays in the big games, but no player is as consistently instrumental to the side’s success as Scott Brown.
Brown is a captain that leads by example and takes no prisoners each time he turns out for the club. Having spent over a decade at Celtic Park, his importance has only seemed to grow each season and his consistency in a Celtic shirt has been quite remarkable.
With no international football to worry about anymore, Brown’s entire focus is now on club matters as he looks to prolong his domestic career. However, rapidly approaching 33 and with a strong history of injuries, Celtic fans will be wary of losing Brown in the next few seasons, which will leave a gulf in the team that not many players in world football would be able to fill.
It is not only his quality as a player, but his entire aura around the club that will be sorely missed. This makes it all the more important that Celtic manage to successfully mould a Kieran Tierney or Callum McGregor type into a ruthless leader to take over the captaincy when the times comes.