Something has been bugging me for the last couple of weeks, as we’ve gone through several different team selections.
Ange seems to want to play Maeda out wide left.
And the question that automatically comes to mind is whether he thinks this is a permanent thing or not.
If he sees Maeda primarily as a wide player, where does Jota fit in?
There is talk that Jota might prefer to try his luck back at Benfica rather than sign for Celtic.
Ange has never hidden his belief that this team will cope whatever happens.
I am not saying that he knows more than he’s letting on, but if he’s determined that Maeda is a left sided player and that Giakoumakis and Kyogo are our central strikers, what then?
For the sake of squad strength, a player like Jota is essential.
On his day he is the unplayable footballer in Scotland, and if the chance comes to keep him – and of course, we have the first option on him – we will certainly not pass it up … but does Ange doubt that he wants to stay?
Or is he merely making sure that we have that alternative?
Ange thinks through everything.
He explores every avenue.
The fact that Hatate can play wide left is another sign that he might be thinking along these lines, about what happens at the end of this campaign if Jota decides to go back home.
We would be mad not to be thinking about it, just as we’d be mad if we weren’t considering what the options might be if Cameron Carter Vickers doesn’t want to sign.
Out of the two I’d have said once that Jota was the priority; I am not as sure now because Carter Vickers is so obviously the best central defender we’ve had in a while.
Ange would not be doing his job right if he wasn’t thinking beyond the immediate event horizon. He will be compiling short-lists of players as alternatives to both, but I think in the case of Jota he’s also looking at the options we currently have in the team.
One thing is for sure; Mikey Johnston is no longer part of the answer.
Without wanting to be hard on that boy, he simply hasn’t shown us enough to justify keeping him beyond this campaign.
There are some who say the same about James Forrest, but I think his consistency over a number of years and his ability to play centrally and behind the front man means that he will definitely be part of the squad going forward, although not as a first pick.
Jota is definitely going to play a big part in the remainder of this campaign, but it’s the manager’s responsibility to have plan for what comes next, and in playing Maeda wide he’s made it clear that this is a possible option to have, and although Jota would clearly be the favourite to hold that positon down it’s no longer a sure thing.
Ange likes to change things. He likes to experiment.
And he likes to have a Plan B.
It is all to the good.
As I’ve said here before, based on his proven ability to spot a player I am not in the least bit concerned about what happens if both of them decide to go back to their former clubs.
The combined total to sign them will be £12 million … Ange has built an entire squad for £20 million.
I think he can certainly replace them with that kind of cash.