What The Hell Happened To Stefan Johansen?

Image for What The Hell Happened To Stefan Johansen?


I read Davie Hay’s article just then on why Kieran Tierney doesn’t have to worry about “second season syndrome” with great interest, especially as he used the piece to illustrate the Curious Case of Stefan Johansen.

I think it’s worth pondering on just what happened there.

Stefan Johansen was a standout for Celtic.

Not for nothing was he an award winner.

I thought he was almost certainly our next big loss; a player we could have built the team around but who would have got punted to the EPL for big bucks in a sign of “progress.”

In many ways, what happened instead is the worst of all worlds.

His form slump reduced his value to a fraction of what it was. We lost the dynamic forward thinking footballer who could score goals and was developing into the finest passer of the ball at Celtic Park, and without the big money that would have come in had we found a buyer at the time.

I’m baffled at what happened to him. Baffled.

The hope is that a new manager and new tactics changes things and he gets another shot at it, but that’s going to depend on a complete change of system and an over-burdened central midfield.

We have, in effect – and this is provided we play a central two – one position for something like six players; Rogic, Brown, Johansen, Armstrong, Allan and Bitton, and you could throw Callum McGregor in there if you so choose, and Kris Commons too.

Why do I say one position instead of two? Well, scandalously none of those guys is a natural ball winning defensive midfielder, which means we’re probably going to have sign at least one of those. This imbalance is one of many imponderables at Celtic at the moment.

Keeping that in mind, has Johansen impressed enough to retain him?

Some of those players are going to have to go.

I like Nir Bitton when he’s on form, for example, but I cannot see how we justify keeping him if we’ve got Armstrong playing to form. I think the former Dundee Utd player is a future captain and a genuinely classy player … retaining him should be a key priority for the coming season, I think.

So, I’d let Nir go.

But what about Allan, who’s capable of moments of magic, albeit we’ve not seen much of him.

Or Rogic, who offers us the goals and the threat Johansen did last year?

I couldn’t justify letting them go when they’ve clearly go so much to offer.

Scott Brown, on the other hand, is a captain and a leader … but most agree he’s in decline now and we should be thinking past him, to future options (which is where Armstrong and Allan are absolutely pivotal to the planning).

None of this leaves much scope for Johansen, not as part of a midfield two.

If the new manager wants to go to a three or, God forbid, continue with Deila’s system then maybe, yes, if there’s going to be more creative freedom within that.

Those things aside, does Johansen even have a future at Celtic Park?

That’s a question I actually didn’t think I’d be asking this time last year.

My concern was that the issue might be taken out of our hands with an offer the board couldn’t’ refuse.

I never envisioned being where we are now, arguing about whether we should take a cut price deal just to get him off the wage bill and free up midfield space.

How in God’s name did we get here? The tactics haven’t changed. The dynamic of the team is pretty much as it was. That allowed us to become predictable and let teams set up against us to stifle our creative options, but that didn’t’ stop Rogic having a stormer of a season.

Is Johnsen beyond redemption?

Is he worth another go? At who’s expense?

Was he a one-season wonder, one of those guys who raised his game above its natural level for 12 months, only to slip backwards when it was done?

It’s been a while since we even saw this kid made a killer pass or a run which ended in everyone on their feet.

This is a big summer for Stefan Johansen, and many others inside Celtic Park.

I wonder if he’ll still be here at the end of it.

Share this article