With the January window closing in, Celtic will be putting the final touches on their transfer plans. While they remain top of the Scottish Premiership and have European football to look forward to in 2018, there is undoubtedly room for improvement within the squad.
The recent 4-0 defeat away to Heart of Midlothian not only put an end to the reigning Scottish champions’ long unbeaten streak, but reminded them of the defensive issues that have been present throughout the campaign. These problems were never more evident than in the two Champions League defeats to Paris Saint-Germain.
Marvin Compper is a Celtic transfer target and believed to be moving closer to signing. Another is Lewis Morgan, with BBC Sport reporting that the St. Mirren player is set to join for a fee of around £300,000, before being loaned back to his current club for the rest of the season.
The 21-year-old is said to be keen to work with Bhoys boss Brendan Rodgers. But it appears unlikely he will do so at least until next summer’s pre-season period. In the meantime, the idea is he will continue to grow and gain playing experience in the second tier where he has thrived this season.
However, if the above deal does indeed go through, what impact will Morgan make on Celtic’s first team? Here, Football Whispers investigates.
WHO IS LEWIS MORGAN?
Morgan, just like Hearts midfielder and fellow burgeoning prospect Harry Cochrane, began his career with Rangers before leaving in his teens. He joined St. Mirren in 2013 and went on to make his debut for the club while they were still in the Scottish Premiership in 2014/15.
The Buddies have developed a number of talented young players in recent years, including industrious Hibernian midfielder John McGinn and classy Aberdeen playmaker Kenny McLean, both of whom made the most recent Scotland national team squad. Morgan looks to be on the verge of following in their footsteps after impressing at Championship level.
Last season, the 21-year-old established himself as a key player for St. Mirren. He made 46 appearances for the club in all competitions, scoring ten goals and setting up a further six. All in all, he averaged 0.38 goal involvements per 90 minutes.
This term he has continued to have a direct hand in his team’s goal output, finding the net ten times himself and assisting his team-mates on eight occasions in 23 games. His average goal involvement per 90 minutes has gone up from 0.38 to 0.88.
Morgan’s impressive progression has caught the attention of traditionally bigger clubs, with Rangers reportedly keen to bring him back to Ibrox and English Championship outfit Nottingham Forest also said to have kept tabs on him. However the latest developments suggest Celtic will win the race for his signature. If they do, what happens next?
MORGAN CAN LEARN FROM ALLAN AND CHRISTIE
The St. Mirren youngster can learn valuable lessons about the harsh realities of the move he is purportedly about to make from previous similar transfers.
Scott Allan was once touted as one of the finest prospects in Scottish football while at Dundee United, but a move to West Bromwich Albion didn’t work out. He failed to make a single appearance for The Baggies before moving back north of the border with Hibs.
Having resurrected his career in Edinburgh, he then joined Celtic in 2015. However, after one half-season in and around the first team, the creative midfielder has been sent out on loan to Rotherham United and Dundee.
Ryan Christie followed a slightly different path, remaining with Inverness Caledonian Thistle into his 20s before moving to Parkhead. However, he is now on this third loan spell in as many seasons and has made just 13 appearances for Celtic.
Morgan is a different player to Allan and Christie, but he should be fully aware of the possibility that he may not get his chance immediately. Assuming he is signed and loaned out for six months, there is no guarantee that he won’t be loaned out once more for the 2018/19 campaign.
Stylistically, he seems a good fit for Rodgers. The Celtic boss prefers a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, and the youngster could slot into any of the attacking midfield roles in those systems. His movement is good, he possesses good control and an eye for goal – all of which would be maximised in the aforementioned positions.
However, while he seems to be a good tactical fit, it is unclear exactly how difficult the step up from Scottish Championship to Premiership will be. This isn’t specific to the player – it’s always difficult to measure potential when an individual moves up a league.
At 21, Morgan is a relatively late bloomer. But, with his ability to beat a man and quality in tight spaces, he has the attributes to play for Celtic. So, if and when the deal does go through, and he does eventually make it into Rodgers’ squad, he can expect to get opportunities in the starting line-up.