Tactics

Meling can ensure Celtic haven't been weakened by Tierney departure

 • by Sam McGuire
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Celtic find themselves in a tricky situation. Having pocketing £25million from the sale of Kieran Tierney to Arsenal, they’re against the clock to reinvest that money in an attempt to improve Neil Lennon’s squad before the transfer window closes.

Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo arrived in July and was tipped to be the left-back for the Bhoys this season but, if reports are accurate, the Scottish champions are in the market for another left-sided full-back.

Birger Meling is top Celtic’s wishlist. The 24-year-old has ten caps for Norway and his importance to this Rosenborg team has steadily increased since his arrival in 2017.

Meling spent a year in Britain with Middlesbrough as a 19-year-old. He failed to make a first-team appearance for the club having joined from Viking and returned to his home country in 2014 when Stabæk cut short his spell in the North East. He made his debut the same year.

After three seasons with De Blaa, Rosenborg came calling, and with the Norweigan giants Meling has experienced European football – he even started, and scored, against Celtic during the Champions League qualifying round last season.

Tierney’s influence on the Bhoys side was huge and replacing what he brought to the team will be key if Celtic aren’t going to be weakened by his departure.

A selection of Meling’s key stats paints a fair picture of what he’s about. He’s not averse to crossing, averaging 4.45 per 90 last season, and is diligent defensively, averaging 6.75 tackles and interceptions.

Tierney played 1.46 open-play key passes last term – which showed he’s a creative force – and was confident in possession; he attempted in excess of four dribbles per 90.

Replacing that output isn’t going to be easy but it is possible.

A lot of these numbers hinge on the system being utilised. Some managers don’t want their full-backs to be dribblers and instead task them with getting the ball into the penalty area from wide areas.

So the fact Meling’s attempted dribbles per 90 aren’t close to Tierney’s doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be capable of upping that number if required. He’s used to putting in a high volume of crosses, 3.41, and can pick a pass given his expected assists average of 0.12 per 90 last season.

The 24-year-old reads the game well, making 4.45 interceptions and he’s heavily involved in play, averaging over 45 passes.

Meling isn’t as comfortable centrally as Tierney was but as an outlet down the left he’d be an ideal replacement for the new Arsenal full-back.

Given he’s moving from Rosenborg, a huge fee isn’t likely going to accompany him. He could prove a shrewd signing for the Bhoys.

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