If someone had said to us all even just a couple of months ago that we would be going into the tie against the Ibrox club minus our number one forward, his back-up striker and all three of our first pick midfield starters, you’d have called that a crisis, right?
Because by any definition, that’s exactly what it would look like. Long term injuries have kept Turnbull on the side-lines. Now McGregor joins him. Rogic is off playing for Australia. Kyogo might or might not make it, but most of the reports don’t sound good and Maeda leaves to go and play for Japan with these massive games looming in front of us.
By any available definition, that is not a good situation to be in.
And yet … and yet … and yet …
Prior to yesterday, we knew we’d be without Rogic, Turnbull, Kyogo and Maeda and most of us were fairly relaxed about it. Even those who dare not even hope to see the Japanese striker recover from his injury in time to take the pitch.
Yet this where the real strength of Celtic will start to become clear. This is where our January business will start, already, to pay major dividends. Because the central midfield was already the strongest area of the squad, and this month we’ve strengthened it further.
Even without our three first picks, we have no fewer than six players to compete for three slots; seven if you want to play Jota behind the forwards in the Rogic and Turnbull attacking midfielder role. The word “options” is oft times overused, but it’s applicable here.
Provided Ideguchi makes it, he will compete with O’Riley, McCarthy, Bitton, Hatate and Soro for a place in the midfield three. That’s what you call strength in depth. That’s because we did our work well and we did our work smart this window.
Three of those guys are new signings, and we already know that two are pretty decent. We know that McCarthy and Soro can do a job for you at a push. Bitton is one of the unsung heroes of the campaign and none of us have any fears about playing him in his traditional midfield role. O’Riley, we’ve not seen yet but the reports are all good.
We will know more, of course, on Wednesday night. But I think we can be optimistic, because a bunch of these guys are established internationals and we’ve seen already, what most of them can bring. It will be interesting to see who Ange picks as his starters in midweek; that’s going to tell us who he has his eyes on for the game at Celtic Park.
A few months ago we would legitimately have seen this as an injury “crisis.” But our January business has rendered it an “injury issue” and that’s not the same thing.