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Three lessons learned from Celtic’s season

Ruari Macneil

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Photo: Getty Images

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.

Life long lover of sport in general with a soft spot for football. A consistent defender of Scottish football as a spectacle. Desperately waiting to see my country qualify for a major tournament.

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Celtic

Erik Sviatchenko could be like a new signing for Celtic next season

The Danish defender spent the second half of the season away from Celtic on loan.

Mathew Coull

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January saw Celtic decide to let Danish defender Erik Sviatchenko make a move back to his former club FC Midtjylland on loan. The centre-back was having an indifferent campaign at Celtic. After suffering a knee injury at the start of the season he found himself struggling for first-team football at Parkhead. Kristoffer Ajer’s development into a central defender and the presence of Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic saw him pushed out of the matchday squad altogether.

It was a shame to see him pushed out in this manner. Sviatchenko had an excellent 2016-17 campaign with the club, playing 43 times for the Scottish club and establishing himself as a genuine first-team option.

(Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Sviatchenko had shown great development in his 18 months at the club. He joined the club in a £1.5 million deal from FC Midtjylland in January 2016 and it appeared Celtic had a bargain on their hands.

But after his struggles this season, perhaps Celtic is a step up he cannot quite handle.

Although, the opposite might also be true. In fact, the £1.5 million man might actually be like a new signing this summer.

Sviatchenko had an excellent spell back at his former club. He quickly played himself back into the first-team at the club. His presence helped an inspired run toward the Danish Superliga title.

(Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

In the end, they managed to overturn the points lead that Brondby had and this week won the league title for the second time in their short history.

His form has shown that he is still more than capable of playing a role for Celtic. His season was decimated by that injury at an extremely unfortunate time from which he could not get back into a settled and successful team.

But this summer, he will have a chance in pre-season to push for first-team football at Celtic once again.

Fans who remember his better days in a Celtic shirt will be happy to welcome him back, as he could become a crucial member of the Celtic squad once again in 2018-19.

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Celtic

Celtic’s Kieran Tierney could replace Danny Rose at Tottenham, despite large fees

Celtic have slapped a £30 million price tag on the 20-year-old.

Josh Kerr

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Tierney
Photo: Getty Images

Kieran Tierney is another emerging star from the Scottish Premier League and his current club Celtic are already preparing for the top English clubs to come swooping this summer.

According to Daily Mail, Brendan Rodgers’ side have committed to a £30 million asking price to deflect the advances of the likes of Tottenham, who are said to be considering a move for the 20-year-old.

Despite the large fee, Spurs should not be put off making an approach. The young Scotsman would be the ideal long-term replacement for Danny Rose whose departure from North London looks inevitable this summer.

The Lilywhites have reportedly been watching Tierney throughout the season, with his performances for the Hoops impressing.

His displays in the Champions League, despite encountering a challenging group, including Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain, will have impressed Mauricio Pochettino and it this level of talent that could see Spurs swoop for the left-back.

The departure of Danny Rose appears imminent, with the Englishman likely to leave after an 11-year spell with the Lilywhites and his exit will leave Spurs need to ensure they are able to sign a top quality replacement and the Celtic academy prospect could just do that.

At just 20, he is already thriving in his home country winning title after title, and already looks ready for a big-money move to fulfil his outstanding potential. In a Spurs side that relies on the attacking quality of its full-backs, Tierney would fit right in.

However, the player is under contract until 2023 after signing a new six-year deal last season, meaning the Scottish champions are in no rush to sell.

Having said this, an offer from the Premier League and a side capable of reaching the latter stages in Europe would prove difficult to turn down. If Spurs are able to meet Celtic’s asking price, it will be interesting to see if the Hoops would be willing to turn down such a significant fee.

The sale of Rose will most likely be enough to fund Tierney’s move and many Spurs fans will be eager to see their side launch a raid for Celtic’s most promising young talent.

Spurs will not want to break the bank for a Rose replacement. However, if the Lilywhites are to continue progressing under Pochettino then they need to ensure the board match the ambition of the fans by ensuring maximum strength in every position of the pitch.

Tierney has already established himself as one of Britain’s top full-backs and a move to the Premier League could take the Scotland international to the next level in his development.

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Celtic’s historic treble cements place as the dominant force of Scottish football

Brendan Rodgers’ side secured a second successive treble this weekend.

Martyn Cooke

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Brendan Rodgers
Photo: Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, whilst much of the world’s attention was focused on the historic Royal wedding taking place at Windsor, Celtic were busy making their own piece of history in the Scottish Cup Final.

Goals from Callum McGregor and Olivier Ntcham secured a comfortable victory against Motherwell and means that Celtic have now secured back-to-back domestic trebles to cement their position as the dominant force in Scottish football.

After going the entirety of last season undefeated in domestic competitions, many onlookers were left wondering what more the club achieve in the subsequent season. Although they were not able to repeat that feat this campaign, Celtic ensured that they would break a different record by becoming the first team to win successive trebles.

It is a remarkable feat. Neither Jock Stein or Martin O’Neill were able to ensure such dominance despite the legendary teams that they both developed, which leads us to Brendan Rodgers.

When the Northern Irishman arrived in Scotland two years ago he came with his reputation having taken something of a beating by the media and supporters south of the border.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

He had risen to prominence during a successful spell with Swansea City, which ultimately earned him a move to Liverpool in 2012.

Initially he had made good progress at Anfield, coming within a Steven Gerrard slip of winning the Premier League title in 2013/14, yet the departure of Luis Suarez and poor decisions in the transfer market resulted in a sharp decline in performances and results in subsequent years.

Rodgers was sacked in October 2015, departing with no silverware to show for his efforts, and was left wondering what might have been. His initial impact at Liverpool was quickly forgotten – he was branded a failure and unsuitable for management at a so-called ‘big’ club.

However, the 45-year-old has rebuilt his reputation in Glasgow and has reinvented himself as one of the leading coaches in British football.

He has moulded Celtic into serial winners and the team play with pace, energy, style and swagger that produces football which is blissfully simply, yet joyous to watch.

Rodgers has created a club that has cemented its position at the summit of Scottish football and that has been so dominant over the last two years that it is difficult to see anyone toppling them.

Critics will automatically highlight the financial disparity that exists between Celtic and the remainder of the Scottish Premier League as the defining factor of Rodgers’ success.

Whilst that is true to an extent, it fails to explain why previously Celtic managers have been unable to produce the same level of dominance in previous years?

If the task of winning back-to-back trebles or going an entire domestic campaign unbeaten is so easy, why has it never been done before?

The truth is that Rodgers has taken Celtic onto the next level and, whilst money does play a part, it is his coaching, man management and playing philosophy that have been the most pertinent factors. He and the team should rightfully bask in the plaudits and glory of the previous two campaigns.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It is ironic to think that, prior to moving to Glasgow, Rodgers’ management career had lacked any tangible reward in terms of silverware.

Now he has won six trophies in two years.

However, there is still a sense that the Northern Irishman has work to do at Celtic. Their performances in domestic competitions have not been replicated in Europe and there is still certainly room for improvement on that account.

Then there is the imminent arrival of Steven Gerrard at Glasgow Rangers.

His appointment has generated considerable interest and intrigue in the Scottish game with some suggesting that his arrival could mark the start of club’s resurgence and re-emergence as a genuine force.

It remains to be seen what Gerrard’s impact will be at Ibrox, but there is little doubt that Rodgers would like nothing more than to swat away any challenge from his former captain and to discourage any sort of revival by Celtic’s cross-city rivals.

Any sense that Celtic supporters are becoming bored by their club’s dominance have not been apparent during the previous couple of months. The scale and sound of their celebrations in recent weeks suggests that they are thoroughly enjoying their moment in the spotlight.

And so they should. There team is making history and, judging by the previous two years, they will have plenty to celebrate in the future.

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