I once believed that it was a virtue to have players capable of playing in any number of positions.
It gives you “options” and it gives you tactical flexibility.
But in order to utilise these guys properly you need a manager who can organise the team well.
The trouble is, the “versatility” of certain players has been used as an excuse for Celtic not bringing in footballers who are naturals in certain positions.
With Bitton at the club we have two central midfielders converted into centre backs.
Even more ridiculous, one of them has been deputising at right back.
Ajer is a fine player; that’s the only reason we’re getting away with it. He should never be played so completely out of position though, and certainly not to compensate for terrible squad building.
I don’t know another club which so consistently plays players in roles that they are not naturals in. No wonder we so often look a disorganised mess.
We’ve had wingers and attacking midfielders playing as strikers.
We’ve had attacking midfield players in defensive roles.
We’ve had a central midfielder playing at left back.
We frequently play central players out wide.
There have been games since Lennon took over where half the team on the pitch was playing in an unfamiliar role.
This is daft enough when done as a tactical arrangement; what’s worse is that the “versatility” of our squad has been used as an excuse to neglect certain areas of the team, on the grounds that we have players who can function in those positions.
We’ve seen the consequences of this unfold.
When we don’t play strikers we don’t score goals. When we don’t play wingers we have no width in the team, no matter who we sling out wide. And when we don’t play central defenders we lose stupid goals and the players we do put in that position find themselves being cruelly exposed at times.
We play in Scotland; it’s the only reason we get away with this lunacy with any kind of consistency. In Europe, against a better class of player, it has been disastrous.
Nir Bitton exemplifies this ridiculous policy. I like him as a player.
He can definitely play as a central defender at a push.
He has picked up some of the skills to do so, as a consequence of working so long with Brendan Rodgers and his outstanding coaches. But he is not a natural in that position and every game he plays there is a gamble because of that.
Bitton is linked with a move back to Israel in the summer.
I think he’s been a brilliant servant to the club and if he wants to go I’d let him, and wish him well.
Yes, it makes the rebuilding job a little bigger and a little more pressing but you know what? It was always going to be big, and pressing, anyway.
We now need both a central midfielder and a central defender to replace him … because for all this was viewed by Lawwell as a cheap fix for a problem it just shows how short-sighted the idea is; upon Bitton’s departure it leaves us exposed in two positions instead of just one.
Surely, though, we have to just bite the bullet here and stop messing about.
This bizarre experiment is surely at an end.
Once Ajer goes as well we’ll have no choice but to buy some centre backs who actually are centre backs.
Rodgers knew what he was doing in moving Bitton into the middle of defence; he was never seriously trying to make Bitton a central defender … this sprung from Barcelona and Guardiola’s decision to play Mascherano there because teams so seldom attacked them that it gave him license to push one his defenders up the pitch.
The natural way to it was to put a defensive midfielder into the back line … and Rodgers liked the idea so much he nicked it.
It was never supposed to become a permanent feature.
It was never supposed to be a substitute for having the right players in the right role; it was a tactical move for a very specific tactical situation. We used it as a stop-gap and we’ve paid a high price for it.
IF Bitton wanted to stay I’d keep him, but only in his proper role.
If he wants to go I’d wish him well … and I’ll consider it a blessing because it removes even the temptation to use him in a position he’s not accustomed to and should never be played in again.