Pre-season is all about learning things. This Celtic side today was the one which finished the last campaign, and so what exactly did we learn that we didn’t already know?
That Joe Hart is prone to errors. That a central defence without Carter Vickers will not be as good as one with him in the team. That middle to front we can play dazzling football. That Daizen Maeda grows in stature with every game we watch him play lately.
Brendan Rodgers is learning some of this for the first time. Which is why we should not be getting carried away with what we’ve just witnessed. There are really great players in this side, and this team as a collective is much, much stronger than the sum of its parts. But the machine needs tweaking in certain areas and we’ve known it a while.
There is little doubt that defensive reinforcements will be high on his list of priorities.
The need for it is obvious and it would be foolish at best if we didn’t pay heed to the warning we’ve just been given. I don’t ever read too much into pre-season games, but even towards the end of last season it was clear that we need cover at the back.
It’s also increasingly apparent that we need a top class keeper. Hart has given us two excellent years. But there are too many red flags which we simply can’t ignore. He is careless. For any defensive player that’s bad. For a keeper it’s unacceptable, and today we saw him make at least one glaring error. I didn’t think Siegrist covered himself in glory either.
That was a case of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of how we’re capable of playing, and whilst the result looks awful on paper we conceded three of those goals after changing the bulk of the team, and when our defensive unit consisted of Kelly, Welsh, Scales and Bernabei.
You can safely say that you’re never going to see those guys start together in a competitive game … so I am not reading a lot into those goals late in the match where even I couldn’t tell you what the system was or which formation we were supposed to be playing.
But from those to the positives, and there were very many of them too. For a start, Hatate was excellent, Abada showed why we want to keep him, Turnbull has scored again and he’s shown us that he can still play a role at this club … and Danger Mouse was absolutely exceptional.
He scored three, could have had another couple and proved that he deserved that contract extension because he’s going to be a big, big, big player for Rodgers’ team.
Going forward, I saw a lot to be encouraged by. The one disappointment was that Haksabanovic was quiet, but only as compared to the two men who played up top with him.
The first half performance was very credible against a team midway through their season and the second half collapse only came after our multiple substitutions had weakened our back line further … for all that there were far too many basic errors of the sort we saw last season, and from Hart that howler which will have further convinced Rodgers that a new goalkeeper is a must.
I was often critical of Rodgers in the past for prioritising attacking players at the expense of the backline. We definitely have enough firepower, although most of us are encouraged to believe that another forward going footballer is incoming … clearly, though, it’s not the area of greatest need, which is at the back. And preferably European based players.
I liked a lot about that today. It was better than the usual pre-season fare, and going up against a team in the middle of their league campaign was always going to be challenging. It was all that and more, and for most of the game we acquitted ourselves well.
There is work – lots of work – to be done at the back. I am sure that having seen us now win the flesh that Brendan Rodgers will prioritise that. We have the money to do serious surgery on our defence if that’s what’s required. Some tweaking most assuredly is.