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Why October Looks Set to Make or Break Celtic’s 2022/23 Campaign

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That’s the only word that can be used to describe Celtic’s opening six games in the 2022/23 SPL campaign.

Six straight wins and just a single goal conceded.

It’s a start that boss Ange Postecoglou could only have dreamt of earlier this summer.

Although it’s true that Hoops’ squad has been impressively strengthened in the last 12 months – to the point that it’s far superior to the one at Ibrox – getting victories in such style and swagger must be praised.

Already there is a five-point gap between them, with not even a quarter of the season elapsed.

While many feel that Postecoglou and Celtic are on a one-way ticket to yet another SPL title, there are many trials and tribulations lurking on the horizon. Not least a nine-game month of October that’s sure to be a stiff test of character and fitness.

A quick glance at the October schedule shows there is only a three-to-four-day gap between games, in what promises to be a gruelling period. Three UEFA Champions League group games, a Scottish League Cup tie and five SPL fixtures means that, by the end of next month, Hoops fans will almost certainly know whether their team is on the brink of a good year or a potentially great one.

More than £20m of investment has given Ange a squad that does provide some flexibility to get through significant periods of fixture congestion, which are toughest on midfield and creative players.

It allows for squad rotation to counterbalance the likelihood of decreased on-field synchronisation. This is necessary given the recent academic research into fixture congestion cycles, demonstrating that the intensity of player movements is significantly reduced, even if overall running distances is not overly affected.

Which squad players are likely to come into their own through October?

Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy would certainly be one player that Postecoglou can count on in the coming weeks.

The experienced 31-year-old, snapped up from the Chinese Super League, was a savvy free transfer pick-up.

The three-man midfield system that he operates means that rotation will be essential to keep the likes of Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate fresh through the season. Mooy would be the oldest midfielder in the Celtic side, with him being a similar age to James McCarthy. Like McCarthy, his Premier League experience will be vital in big game scenarios this season.

Former Benfica wide man Jota has been an undisputed sensation since moving to Glasgow.

He has that ‘X Factor’ ingredient that could be the difference in tight games, particularly in European competition.

Keeping the 23-year-old Portuguese fit and firing will be of vital importance, which means recent recruit Sead Haksabanovic will also be relied upon to provide competition in the wide forward areas.

Postecoglou will be hoping that any transfer issues surrounding the Montenegro international will not prevent him from featuring heavily for Celtic in the coming weeks.

The 23-year-old was signed from Russian side Rubin Kazan, who themselves had paid £5.5m to sign him from Swedish side Norrkoping. However, the Swedish Allsvenskan outfit have unceremoniously reported Rubin to FIFA as much of that £5.5m fee has not yet been paid to Norrekoping.

Scottish left back Greg Taylor has been a solid force in the Celtic backline since joining from Kilmarnock.

Although his stock continues to rise, Postecoglou recently signed some competition for his left back berth in the shape of Argentine, Alexandro Bernabéi. The 21-year-old arrives from Argentinian side Lanus in a deal worth around £4m.

The pint-sized Argentina U23 international also has the potential to become something of a cult figure at Parkhead and his dynamism will prove very useful throughout this hectic autumn period.

For the first time in a long time, Celtic fans know that their manager has the depth to rotate and still continue to play in the front foot that’s made them such an irresistible domestic force in the last 12 months.

Last season’s sales of Odsonne Edouard and Kristoffer Ajer have finally bore fruit.

Image Source: Pixabay

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