I really hate International football, partly because 90% of it is a waste of time but mainly because it deprives us all of Celtic games for the best part of 2 weeks. I had the misfortune to watch the second half of the Scotland game yesterday, the less said about that the better really.
The main hope from International week is that our players return unscathed from injury but sadly this has not happened with the news that Georgios Samaras is likely to be out for 4-6 weeks following a shoulder injury.
He is certain now to miss the first 2 Champions League games and his absence, particularly in Moscow will be significant for the team. Fortunately, we signed two strikers at the end of the transfer window – Lassad Nouioui and Miku Fedor. My knowledge of both players is limited, bar reading a few recent articles that have appeared on the Celtic interweb.
Fedor seems to have the ability to play through the middle or as a wide forward player, more in the Samaras mould. Lassad is described as a more traditional target man.
It will be interesting to see how many times Lenny starts with 2 strikers up front, especially in CL games. This will maybe determine how much we see of Lassad as it would be a surprise to see Gary Hooper miss out on a starting place for many of the big games.
Given the importance of Commons and Forrest to the attacking side of the team then it is going to be fascinating to see what Lenny sees as his strongest line up for the CL games. However, I would still expect the team to alter on a game by game basis depending on the opposition, as has been his trait up until now.
With the removal of Bangura, Rasmussen and Murphy from the club then it is appears that we have significantly improved the quality of our front line, at least before the injury to Samaras. So how does the rest of the squad look now that we have completed our transfer activity?
The capture of a 3rd keeper took me by surprise, given that we have Lucas Zaluska as strong back up to Forster, plus no proper reserve football to provide game time to unused players. My knowledge of Lubos Kamenar was zero up until last week, but I was intrigued to hear the ever knowledgeable Snake Plissken describe on the HomeBhoys show what a prospect he is considered to be.
It appears we have a fee agreed for him, but how much we are likely to see of him is unknown at this stage. However, we can clearly agree that the goalkeeping area has also been strengthened, whether or not it was required. The departure of Dom Cervi, the possible reason for the capture of Kamenar.
Defensively, we have seen a number of players leave the club. Blackman, Loovens, Cha, Majstorovic, Toshney, Wilson, Thompson, O’Dea and Towell moving away on loan or under freedom of contract. None of these players would have been considered to be regular players this year, so their departures are not a concern and the freeing up of wages will be both significant and welcome to the club’s playing budget.
We only saw the introduction of Ambrose to the squad, another player who comes with a strong reputation. Strong, athletic and pacey he seems to be the exact type of player we needed at Centre Half and I hope we see him introduced straight into the team.
I wrote previously that we were quite weak at Centre Half and I was hoping to see us bring in a couple of players for this position. The continual injury problems for Rogne are a concern but hopefully Kelvin Wilson will continue to improve on his recent good form and push hard for a place in the team.
Another concern is the continued indifferent form of Izaguirre. Mulgrew can provide cover in this position but it is not his best position and this is an area we could struggle with this season. Even on top form Izzy does have his weaknesses defensively and this could be exploited by the quality of opposition we will face in the CL.
Overall, I don’t think we are really weaker defensively, despite the number of players we have moved on. However, another left sided defender would have been a welcome addition.
Finally, in midfield we saw the much anticipated departure of Dave Ki to Swansea for over £6 million, a good piece of business by the club. McGinn and Juarez also moved on and again with little impact as they had no place in Lenny’s plans this season.
I wrote previously about the mixed opinions on KI, but one thing for sure is that we don’t have another similar type of midfielder, who can pass the ball with confidence and help retain possession. This will be especially important in European games and I hope we don’t live to regret his departure.
Fortunately we do have a number of excellent midfielders, albeit of a different style so it was certainly the one area of the team that we could afford to lose a senior player from. Also, this will also allow us to see much more of McGeoch and Twardzik this season who have an abundance of potential and promise.
Again, we are not really any weaker or stronger in this area but it is something that will need addressing in future transfer windows with the likely departure of Victor Wanyama at the end of this season. Quality not quantity was the objective of this transfer window and we seemed to have achieved this with the five players recruited (including Fraser Forster).
Back to the action and Saturday sees us travelling to Perth to face St Johnstone. With the game against Benfica on Tuesday, this game gives us a chance to blood some of the new signings and maybe protect some key players to avoid injuries.
I would like to see us play a 4-4-2 with the following players – Forster, Lustig, Wilson, Ambrose, Izzaguire, Commons, Wanyama, Twardzik, Forrest, Lassad and Fedor. A strong team that is more than capable of getting all 3 points with a 3-1 win with goals for Forrest, Commons and Fedor.
Liam (twitter @BrummieBhoy)