An invincible season for the Celts last season and it is difficult to see past them this campaign again. This is my review ahead of the new SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership season and how I look upon Brendan Rodgers’ sides chances over the weeks and months ahead.
Rodgers has been ruthless this summer with the players he has let go: players you can ultimately say have failed to make an impact or force their way into the first-team plans for the coming term. Despite running with lower numbers so far in terms of squad size, Rodgers has also shown great faith in the youngsters which are plying their trade predominately in the Under-20’s set-up.
Belgian Goalkeeper Logan Bailly, Defender Saidy Janko and former Scotland International Kris Commons have all left the club this summer after not playing many, if any, matches under the tenure of the former Liverpool boss. With youngsters Conor Hazard and Ross Doohan attending their pre-season training camp in Austria, it shows the introduction and the link between Tommy McIntyre’s Development side and the pathway the players have to the first team. Anthony Ralston and Calvin Miller have also gained experiences playing against Sunderland at the weekend with others such as Jack Aitchison and Mikey Johnston receiving recognition for their efforts last term.
It is great to see so many Scottish youngsters being given the opportunity if they are good enough and I wonder if more players will follow suit this season. An impressive season on-loan at Morton has saw Jamie Lindsay join Ross County on a season-long-loan this campaign, and I suspect this is to gear the youngster up for the chance to stake a claim in the first-team at Parkhead in the coming years. Another Morton loanee last term was Aidan Nesbitt who also impressed in the Championship. After appearing at the Toulon Tournament this summer, it will be interesting to see if he forces his way up the ranks or if he will also be sent out on loan. My other two picks for players perhaps knocking on the door this term are Jamie McCart and Joe Thomson, who were both on loan last season. McCart had a spell at Inverness – and I wonder if his loan was a similar theory to the Jamie Lindsay scenario this season – while Thomson had impressive spells with Dumbarton before swapping part-time for full-time when joining Gary Naysmith’s Queen of the South in January.
We all know how tough it will be for all these players to even attempt to make an impact considering the internationally recognised players who have left the club in the summer – Emilio Izaguirre, a Honduran International; Efe Ambrose who has gained caps for Nigeria as well as Gary Mackay-Steven who has represented Scotland’s National Side in the past.
Furthermore to that, the standard of players still at Rodgers’ disposal is clearly the best in Scotland: so far, having kept a hold of Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Dembele has been crucial but with the Frenchman injured at present, his suitors may need to wait a while longer to try tempt the striker away from Celtic Park. The upturn in form of certain players, such as James Forrest and Callum McGregor under Rodgers’ stewardship shows the potential within the club right now and it is difficult to see past them for at least the league again this season, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if a treble was to occur again.
I think it will be difficult to be invincible again, but, the squad at present is more than good enough to beat every team in Scotland right now and I cannot see that changing any time soon. The squad may need tweaked slightly if players move on, but, I cannot see many more additions this summer, to be honest. The signings of Johnny Hayes, Oliver Ntcham and Kundai Benyu shows the plethora of attacking options available to Celtic. If Rodgers was to add anywhere, with the squad how it is at the minute, then I would suggest another striker and possibly a left-back to cover Kieran Tierney would be the most likely incomings. Players moving out – apart from the already rumoured Armstrong and Dembele who have both been linked with moves away this summer – will be few and far between in my opinion. I think Nadir Ciftci will attempt to move on and this may allow the Celts to bring in a third forward while Liam Henderson is the only other player I can see requesting a move away from Celtic Park permanently. After a successful and enjoyable spell at Hibs on loan, the midfielder has been unable to force his way into the manager’s plans consistently and because of this, he may decide to move on to pastures new to keep his progression up, with the youngster far too good to be sitting in the stand.