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.
One year since £800k Celtic transfer collapsed, Rivaldo Coetzee still hasn’t played
The South African very nearly joined Celtic. But a toe injury nearly finished his promising career.
One year ago to the day it looked as though Celtic had secured a top young defensive talent. Ajax Cape Town announced that the young South Africa international Rivaldo Coetzee had agreed a deal to join Celtic.
The move was pending a medical and work permit, both of which were expected to be successful for Celtic.
It looked a fantastic deal. Considered one of the top young talents in Africa, the defender had won the player and player’s player of the year awards at Ajax CT the previous season.
Celtic would have paid a fee reported to be in the region of £800,000 for the player, according to Goal, and it looked a great piece of business.
However, the walls came crashing down around this deal.
As reported by the BBC a medical discovered an issue with Coetzee’s right foot and the plug was pulled on a transfer. Ten days later, with Ajax CT no longer a welcome environment he switched to fellow South African outfit Mamelodi Sundowns.
One year later and it would not appear Celtic made a mistake.
The problem with Coetzee’s medical was clearly more serious than first feared. One year later, and Coetzee has not played a single game since.
At the end of July, he returned to full training. The Times in South Africa reported recently that at one stage, the shockingly bad toe injury was threatening to end his career at just 21-years-old.
Celtic have no doubt dodged a bullet for now. But they should also keep track of his progress. He remains extremely young and equally as talented. If he can prove he is over his injury woes, maybe a return bid could be on the cards from Celtic.
Celtic must not be undercut on £25m Kieran Tierney asking price
Everton were willing to pay £18 million for the Celtic defender, with the club wanting £25 million.
Earlier this summer Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney looked like being on his way to Everton. The Scottish international was being earmarked as a potential replacement for the aging Leighton Baines.
However, when it came down to matching Celtic’s asking price, Everton would not meet the amount the Bhoys were after. As reported by The Scottish Sun, Celtic wanted £25 million for Tierney. Everton were only willing to go as high as £18 million and pulled out of a deal, signing Lucas Digne from Barcelona instead.
The report even claims Spurs are hoping to sign him at a cut-price deal of just £10 million, taking advantage of Celtic’s inability to qualify for the Champions League and the financial hit that caused.
Celtic must not budge on their high asking price for Tierney. He is an extremely talented left-back and the Bhoys would be selling themselves short, especially at just £10 million.
Perhaps there is wiggle room on a £25 million fee, but Celtic should not be taking a £15 million cut to move on their best talent.
Three ins and outs Celtic could complete this week
Crisis in Europe means that the pressure is on Celtic entering into the final full week of the transfer window for Scottish teams, with Brendan Rodgers looking for ways to strengthen his squad whilst also considering who may have to depart to balance the budget.
This could lead to some unexpected signings and departures, with these three some of those which may take place…
Kieran Tierney (Tottenham)
It seems unlikely a deal would go through this week, but the two clubs could come to an agreement ahead of a January move, particularly as the Mirror claim that the reason for the potential deal for just £10 million would be due to the club’s need to adjust budgets following Champions League failure.
Celtic will not want to sell the 21-year-old, particularly at such a low price, unless they really have to and it seems that the club’s situation is not quite that severe yet.
Douglas Luiz (Manchester City)
Brendan Rodgers was spotted at the Etihad to watch Manchester City face Huddersfield Town on Sunday and City Watch have speculated that his presence may have been to hold talks over a move for Douglas Luiz.
The Brazilian had a work permit application rejected to it is likely that he will leave the Citizens for elsewhere, but he could fulfill the requirements for SPL. Having spent last season on loan at Girona and with the good relationship between the two clubs, it could happen quickly.
Dedryck Boyata (Lyon)
The Scottish Sun stated that he was a target for Lyon, among several European clubs, earlier this summer but no deal has yet come to pass. A row over him declaring himself injured for a crucial fixture could prove to be the end of his Celtic career, whether his destination is Lyon or not.
“I had a long chat with Dedryck the other day. We have created a wee bit of distance from what happened last week. We will look at that over the weekend but Dedryck is still a Celtic player and I want to have him involved.”
Rodgers seems keen to retain his services though, so it could take an impressive offer in order to persuade him to part ways with the Belgian defender.
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