Celtic cyberspace hasn’t been at its happiest in the last fortnight, with the fund raising match for the great Jock Stein yesterday being a notable exception.
I usually hate international breaks.
I do enjoy usually watching Scotland – who’s abysmal display in Georgia owed much to a seriously off-form Scott Brown – but in truth, I am simply marking time until Celtic are playing again. It’s not much fun.
This international break has been gloomier than most, coming hot on the heels of an uninspiring transfer window closure and spin from the club relating to at least one of our signings – more on that later in the week, I’m sure – which itself came right after our Champions League exit.
It’s been frustrating. But it’s almost over.
At the end of this week we’re back in business, and against Aberdeen, and I can’t help but think that this international break, for all the negativity surrounding Scotland’s chances of qualifying (if you’re an Ireland fan, you lucky devil, you won’t be particularly bothered about that haha) for the Euro Finals next year this one actually seems like it might have been a blessing.
People inside Celtic needed the time and the space to refocus, Ronny Deila in particular.
I think our team has looked a little disjointed this season, even when we’ve been winning.
We can’t keep making the basic mistakes that have been so costly in recent weeks, such as our defending from set pieces which is so woeful it has to be a result of bad organisation behind the scenes.
Ronny will not have had many of the players to work with, but he can analyse this issue and discuss it with his coaching staff, and hopefully begin drilling it into the players when they return from playing for their respective countries.
Tonight’s international against Germany also gives Scott Brown a chance to redeem himself for recent performances, and the opportunity to raise his game against a side like that should actually do him the world of good.
He looks as frustrated right now as many of us feel, and it would be fitting if he had a storming game and turned things around.
For all I’ve bitched and moaned the last fortnight – and I have, of course – I still think we have the makings of a right good Celtic side.
Our left back problem will haunt us in Europe, unless Blackett has been signed to do that job and is up to it, and our lack of a proven finisher at that level means that just being in the Europa Groups is probably the best we can hope for, but domestically we certainly have the stuff to dominate our rivals, and the experience these players will get playing against Ajax, Fenerbahce and Molde will be invaluable next season when we play those dreaded Champions League qualifiers.
The team needs something at the moment, a little spark, a little juice.
Or maybe just a little time and space to develop and grow without interference from outside.
Now that the “will he, won’t he?” saga involving Virgil Van Dijk is over with, Celtic should be able to look forward to a little stability, at least until the media decides which player to try and sell next.
Our domestic form – the late capitulation at Kilmarnock aside – has been pretty decent, and whilst it’s not generating the lavish praise of a certain other sides unbeaten run we’re a top flight team playing against the best in the country.
Our biggest rivals await us at the end of this week, and that’s a prospect that will hopefully be focussing some minds at Celtic Park.
Our midfield has to play a lot better than it has in recent matches.
Everyone knows how I feel about the players in that area; it’s the strongest part of our team, filled with excellent talents.
But some of them haven’t shown us that much this season.
Gary Mackay Steven looks so short of confidence that it’s almost heart-breaking because that kid has as much natural talent as anyone in the side.
Stefan Johansen is shockingly off form and Scott … well, Celtic cyberspace is already doing to death the Scott Brown situation.
I also don’t like to see our next captain, Stuart Armstrong, played wide.
Up front our boy wonder Leigh Griffiths is highly effective when the midfield gets the ball to him, and will score goals galore.
I had hoped Gordon Strachan would reward his fine domestic form with a starting berth against Georgia, but in retrospect I’m glad he didn’t as the delivery into the front man he did play (Steven Fletcher, ironically enough) was lousy and he’d have had a very frustrating night.
One player who has to focus, above all, is Dedryck Boyata.
How long has it been since a Celtic player scored own goals in consecutive matches?
If his confidence goes he’s going to have real problems, because no defender can afford that.
I like Dedryck.
It’s clear from scouting reports and the way he’s rated down south that he’s got the makings of a very good player, but we have to remember that he’s played only 60 odd games in the last five years. As tempting as it might be for the manager to bench him a while what he needs more than anything is time on the pitch, a steady central defensive partner beside him and a chance to show what he can do. I do believe we’ll see the emergence of a fine talent over time … but his start has been pretty horrendous.
Everyone will be looking forward to seeing the way our new boy plays alongside him, and with no question over whether or not they’ll be at the same club at the end of the season that should help him settle.
Sometimes international week breaks up momentum.
At other times it comes just when things are beginning to get tense, and offers everyone a breather.
This is one of those times, and as such it’s been better for Celtic than most.
If all of our players return fit from duty with their respective countries I will call this particular gap in the domestic campaign a success, because it’s given us all some time to reflect and hopefully allowed Ronny the chance to think about some things.
I expect us to beat Aberdeen on Saturday, and to do so with the kind of inventive, attacking football that we were promised.
It will lay down a marker for the rest of the season.