When a team who should make it to the Champions’ League group stages doesn’t make it to the Champions’ League group stages there will be questions asked about what has went wrong; when a club does it twice in the same season it is beyond explanation.
It is easy to sit and slag Celtic off for their exploits in the Champions League playoffs this season and rightly so; it is incredibly embarrassing for a team of Celtic’s stature to twice be given a footballing lesson by a Polish club, only to be let back in on a technicality (harsh but fair), however what is more embarrassing is to be given a second chance against a poorer team and still make the exact same mistake.
The natural assumption is that the manager Ronny Deila is massively out of his depth, and you would be correct for thinking that. He was incredibly naïve against Legia Warsaw; playing too much attacking football rather than sitting back and accepting a 2-1 defeat. He managed to follow this up with an even more naïve performance against Maribor, a team who in the first leg were there for the taking but he accepted a 1-1 draw thinking that would be enough. That is fair enough if you come out at home and play your own game but instead of doing that Deila had Celtic come out and play for a 0-0 an incredibly dangerous tactic at the best of times, even worse when you have a team which could questionably keep a clean sheet.
Celtic got caught out and paid the price, the sad thing is that they looked totally lost after Maribor scored and that points to the biggest problem with Celtic the players aren’t good enough to wear the shirt. Name the four best players from the Celtic Maribor match and there is no doubting that only four players will come up; Virgil Van Dijk, Callum McGregor, Craig Gordon and Kris Commons. Van Dijk is a quality player and is too good for Celtic and will now almost certainly leave, but the other three have something in common, they’re all Scottish. If you look through the Celtic team and count all the non-British and Irish players you will see they have about twenty players, quite a large number. Now count the amount of those players who if they left would actually be a lost to the club…about two right? Van Dijk and Lustig are the only two foreign players out of twenty who are worth their place in the squad, which is incredible.
When Rangers went bust Celtic were handed a unique opportunity, they were almost certain to win the league each season for the next three years (minimum) so it was the perfect opportunity to blood the youth players along with a number of more experienced players, so that by the time the newest club in Scotland got to the top flight they would have battle hardened youngsters who would be more than capable of winning the league and competing in Europe. Instead Celtic find themselves into the third year of the three without having brought through any youth players and having filled the team with below mediocre foreigners.
All of this sounds a touch xenophobic but to go back to the Maribor game once again, Celtic lacked passion and seemed disjointed with what was expected of them, I don’t think this would happen if it was a team full of Celtic youth prospects, I am more than sure that they would have understood the situation and coped with it a lot better. Now all of this relies upon what I alluded to earlier (about blooding youngsters two years ago) and now it is almost too late. It is also questionable whether Deila would really risk doing something like this seeing as how he is already under serious pressure only months into the job.
I think most people were pretty surprised when Neil Lennon resigned as Celtic manager because it didn’t really make sense at the time, now it is pretty clear why he left, the team wasn’t nearly good enough and he wasn’t getting the investment he required to make it better, which naturally leads us onto the biggest problem in all of this, the board.
The Celtic board after many years finally accepted that they are a selling club, which is great because this allows for Celtic to be able to plan accordingly. The problem however is that instead of reinvesting the money which they have been receiving for players who have been sold on for a healthy sum (Wanyama, Hooper, Forster, etc.) they have pocketed it. It seems like a harsh statement but so far this year Celtic have spent a total of £0 and have instead filled the squad with a bunch of average loan signings. The saddest thing is that the board seem to be unwilling to bid more than £3 million for a player, yet they have managed to let great Scottish talents like Ryan Gauld, Andrew Robertson and even Stevie May slip through their fingers whilst Celtic fill their squad with piss poor Scandinavian’s and players who couldn’t cut it at a higher level.
Celtic were given a unique opportunity three years ago yet have managed to not take it. Going out of the Champions League qualifying twice this year is just the tip of the iceberg; there are much deeper problems at Celtic which are not going to be able to be fixed in the space of a year. If you add it up you have a poor board, a manager who looks out of his depth and a squad which is good enough to win the Scottish league but can’t hold their cocks in Europe, it isn’t good and is only going to get worse if they continue to head down this path.
So what do you think of Celtic’s current situation? Are they in the total mess which I believe they are or is it just a blip and Ronny Deila will turn out to be the Norwegian Jose Mourinho? Leave a comment and let everyone know.