New Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has been working with the players for just over two weeks but what is concerning is the lack of transfer activity or speculation.
I’ve said for many months now that the rebuilding job facing Postecoglou is the biggest the club have faced for over a decade and, with their Champions League qualifier closing in, I’m surprised at the lack of movement and activity.
When you consider how financially rewarding the Champions League can be for a Scottish club it is even more alarming.
The squad the new manager has inherited is a skeleton one that is imbalanced and overloaded with an array of centre midfield players but, outwith that, there’s very little competition or depth.
Postecoglou did, however, taste victory in his first game in charge; a pre season game against Sheffield Wednesday during the week but the lack of senior players available to him will have been a concern.
The young lads who came in acquitted themselves very well indeed and some may well have caught the eye of the manager but he’ll be happy now the majority of his experienced international players are back in training after the Euros.
I have to absolve Postecoglou of any blame in regards to the current transfer predicament because the long delay in appointing Neil Lennon’s successor has brought this on, meaning he has to play catch up.
The knock effect of it all has left the manager very little room for manoeuvre as he’s trying to assess his own players while trying to decide what new players he needs.
It’s a double-edged sword for him really, as he knows he desperately needs new recruits but won’t want to add players for the sake of it. There have been a few young overseas players linked but surely the Celtic Academy has to be the first port of call for a player of that type otherwise what’s the point of investing heavily in the youth system.
Managing Celtic is hard enough but trying to micro analyse every area of the football department in a short space of time has made Postecoglou’s job even harder.
The protracted and unsuccessful pursuit of Eddie Howe is still hindering the club and may well do for a while yet regarding the crucial time they lost in the chase for new players in particular.
From the off, the manager has been clear and concise in how he wants to set up his team as well as the aggressive nature he wants to press. He wants to attack at pace and entertain but, looking at the squad available to him, even with the first choice players back I’m not sure if he can fulfil his promise.
For example, Celtic have two first team wide players on their books in James Forrest and Mikey Johnson. Forrest is isolating after being a close contact of a positive Covid test but will be fine next week and Johnson has been hampered with injuries over the past couple of seasons.
Even if fit, those two alone aren’t enough to allow Postecoglou to play his open expansive football. It was clear and obvious when Celtic kicked off last season a lack of width was a major issue for the club yet a year down the line they’re still in the same predicament.
This highlights the lack of awareness from the previous recruitment team, as out and out wingers are synonymous with Celtic yet there’s a dearth at the moment.
Last season Celtic struggled at times to break down teams that sat off them and got men behind the ball. They were forced into wide areas knowing that was an area they were short in and they were easier to contain.
In many ways teams didn’t fear them as much and their results in the final three months of the season showed that. They played very narrow so for Celtic to get their mojo back they need pace and creativity on the flanks.
Postecoglou has said in the last couple of days he’s aware his team need multiple players in a variety of positions but was unsure of the timeframe for that to happen. This goes back to the late timing of his appointment and the handicap he’s working under.
A problem Postecoglou and Celtic may also encounter is other teams’ awareness of their need for players and quickly while throwing into the mix they have money to spend.
Potential targets valuations suddenly increase as selling clubs sense an opportunity to get more than the market value due to Celtic’s need. The demands from agents of players involved could also rise and Celtic could find themselves involved in a long drawn out transfer process when time is of the essence.
Postecoglou knew it was never going to be straightforward and simple but now he’s got down to work, I’d imagine the job is even bigger than he thought.
I was asked this week should the new man get a season’s grace if results don’t go his way early on?
That is a tricky one because at a club like Celtic winning is all that matters. However the resolve of board and CEO Dominic McKay in particular could be tested if he gets off to a tricky start.
The fans are desperate for their club to bounce back after the failings of last season but I’m sure even they can see that, so close to the season, their team still needs major surgery. It may well depend on the progress of the team as a unit, the style of play and whether there are shoots of hope that Postecoglou is making his mark.
I certainly think the manager deserves a period of time to get it right due to the nature of the job he’s inherited and since he’s arrived he’s said the right things. He seems a calming influence and is not flustered by what’s going on around him.
He may well need more of that as the season progresses, that’s for sure!