Callum McGregor is one of the best midfield players in Britain. Not just Scotland (where he is the best) but on the whole of this island. He has the quality to play anywhere, and right now, in this team, he’s barely functioning at all.
He is a victim of whatever has gone wrong with this team over the summer. I think he believed, as I did, that he would be moved to a more advanced position.
Right now I cannot think of a better change to make to him, because in his current role he is being owned. Most teams double mark him, knowing he is the creative core, the man all our football flows through. Rodgers is moving him away from that job, which I’m glad of as other clubs have definitely figured it out, but he is really struggling to adapt to the changes.
The problem is, until we have someone who can do the defensive anchor job better than Callum he is stuck with the post. The way he plays may have been altered, but the position itself has stayed the same and he is really having difficulty with the change.
Let me repeat; I’m glad of the change. Because if your whole team builds its play through one footballer the opposition only has to neutralise him and the party is well and truly over. Sides were starting to figure that out. It was a matter of time before we’d have had to change the whole system anyway in order to still be effective.
Right now, we lack the players to put Callum back in an advanced role. The midfield iron man would add so much to our starting options.
Crucially, he would enable us to use the famed “double pivot”, which is to play him and McGregor together, side by side, in front of the defence … exactly the system I think we need to use at Ibrox. He would strike fear into opposing players who right now think that our midfield is soft and weak and easily bullied.
People may disagree, but I think the defensive midfielder is the most critical signing to get over the line before the window shuts and there’s no sign that we’re actively looking for one.
I cannot express my frustration enough over that. It would be the truly game-changing addition to the squad and the one we’re probably least likely to make as other priorities crowd it out.
Part of this has to be the sheer number of games he plays.
Again, this would not be an issue if we were able to replace him in that position.
Is Rodgers really going to be the third Celtic manager in a row to recognise that McGregor plays way too many matches and then does nothing to ease that burden on him? We did this with Scott Brown too and that cost us. We cannot afford to see this player burn out the way others have.
Since Rodgers first season, Callum has been the heartbeat of this side and when he isn’t on form none of this team is on form. This is not a small problem, it is something that needs fixing and the best way to do that is to change the way he plays.
The decline in this team’s performances and the decline in McGregor’s follow the exact same path and believe me that is not a coincidence.
To get him back to where we want him one of two things needs to happen; ideally I’d like to see both. He needs time out of this team. And he needs to be pushed further up the pitch. The issue arises when you consider that we don’t have anyone to take his place.
I really pray we sort that out.