Uninspiring January Could Cost Celtic In Europe

 • by Stefan Bienkowski
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Celtic’s 1-0 win over Hibernian at the weekend was their sixth victory in their last seven games, yet any hope of celebrating such a feat was overshadowed by an injury to goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

The 35-year-old shot-stopper was forced off after injuring his knee after colliding with Hibs and former Celtic defender Efe Ambrose. Although it wasn’t the infamous knee that has blighted much of Gordon’s career, the goalkeeper is still expected to be out of action for three months.

Such an injury is always unfortunate for any club, yet this one in particular underlined a notable vulnerability about the Scottish champions. In his post-match press conference Brendan Rodgers admitted the club would probably now be forced to find a third goalkeeper to sign before Wednesday night to offer competition alongside the rarely-used Dorus de Vries.

Indeed, while Celtic clearly enjoy a healthy advantage over the rest of the Scottish Premiership in terms of resources and players available within their squad, this month has seen an uncharacteristic, austere approach from the Glasgow club to bolstering a team that could undoubtedly use some additional support in certain areas.

Leigh Griffiths was also forced off with a recurring calf injury in the very same game and will now most likely miss the all-important Europa League clash with Zenit St Petersburg next month.

The Scotland international has undoubtedly been Celtic’s most consistent goalscorer this season, with three goals in his last four Premiership games and 12 in total across the season so far – he’s also claimed eight assists.


Amidst constant speculation over Moussa Dembele’s future at the club and the manner in which the striker has clearly been distracted from his usual goal-scoring responsibilities, Rodgers now finds himself dangerously light up front.

If the Frenchman does stay beyond Wednesday night but doesn’t get back to scoring goals then the Scottish champions may be forced to rely upon young Odsonne Edouard – who hasn’t netted in the league since early December.

Another injury that highlights Celtic’s inactivity in the transfer market is actually the one that belongs to the recently acquired Marvin Compper. The 32-year old was presumably signed as cover for Celtic’s already shaky defensive line, yet an injury during the winter break has now ruled him out till the end of February. Coupled with the departure of Erik Sviatchenko, Celtic may actually finish the January transfer window with fewer options in defence than they did at the start.

Central defence has long been a position Celtic fans have been crying out for further investment and although a deal for Jack Hendry of Dundee may now be pushed through before the end of the window, it says something about Celtic’s transfer policy that so much has to happen before they’re willing to act.

Even if the club do bring in another central defender, it won’t offer much help to both Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig. The former, while still showing clear signs of brilliance, is beginning to suffer from far too much game time without any respite, while the latter has seen his performances take a notable dip this season.

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Yet neither has any clear or proven back up to help carry the load. And if Tierney were to pick up a serious injury now Rodgers would be forced to get very creative with finding cover on the left flank of his defensive line.

Of course, Celtic have made some signings. Lewis Morgan looks like an outstanding talent, yet he will play out the remainder of the season on loan at his St Mirren. And although the loan signing of Chelsea youngster Charly Musonda should offer some crucial help to either James Forrest or Scott Sinclair on either wing, his arrival stands as a lone example of what Celtic should be doing a lot more of in this current window.

Indeed, Celtic fans will gawk at any comparisons to their cross-city rivals, but there is plenty to admire about the manner in which Rangers have quickly and efficiently used this current window to patch up the notable holes in their team.

Although Jason Cummings, Russell Martin, Jamie Murphy and Sean Goss may not offer much compared to their Celtic counterparts – and are no more than short-term loans – they do suggest a rare sign of pragmatism at Ibrox that has been lacking at Parkhead in recent weeks.

There’s little doubt that Celtic will go on to win the Premiership again. They’ll almost certainly win the treble too.

However, the manner in which the club are refusing to buy cover for key players or indeed upgrade on problem areas in the squad could come back to haunt them in the Europa League or at certain points between now and May.

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