The Celtic Captain Has Never Looked This Ineffectual. He Needs To Make A Change.

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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.

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  • Roonsa says:

    Absolutely agree 100% with your opinion of our top signing priority. We need to move Calmac forward and effectively plug the gap he leaves behind him. That we are leaving this to the last few days of the transfer window (in fact, probably the last day as we all know how this works) is a travesty. I honestly thought Nicholson had cast the Lawwell tactic of brinkmanship into the fiery pit. However, I am now of the opinion that he struck lucky with Ange who successfully got us to look the other way whilst the old guard re-grouped. Here’s to more loan deals being struck on September 1. Great.

  • Drew says:

    100% accurate

  • PB says:

    Hi .
    We keep hearing about the need to buy a defensive midfielder and I think we all agree that we need one .
    We have Iwata who was player of the year when he was signed and doesn’t get a look in . You can’t go from player of the year , arrive at Celtic and become a poor player.
    Obviously we don’t see what’s going on in training but he’s hardly had a chance in the midfield position
    ( under the previous manager also ) and it’s one I don’t understand.
    Would love to know what’s holding him back .

  • Bigchunkylardass says:

    What about Holm, is he not a 6? And at 20, it’s time for him to get game time, we Calmac on the pitch, either beside or in front of him, seems ideal for him to thrive.


  • Jorge says:

    McGregor has been average at best in most games for a while and poor in all of the big games where he has not been afforded the luxury of the time and space he gets against the average SPFL teams. As for him being the best midfielder in Scotland, he is not even second best midfielder at Celtic. He is lightweight and ineffectual in a proper contest. I do agree that the team is crying out for a quality defensive midfield player.

  • Jackson says:

    Agreed James
    We bought Kwon for the defensive mid……another project who will never be in Rogers plans

  • Michael McCartney says:

    The loss of Mooy in the midfield has left a large hole in our midfield. When the dip in form occurred at the end of last season it was no coincidence that Mooy was injured during that period.
    CalMac desperately needs an experienced midfielder along side him, he can’t be expected to carry the work load himself while Hatate is out .Celtic’s policy of only signing projects is coming back to bite them big time.
    I agree with you James, this is the area we need to strengthen in, when the midfield is really functioning well, this in turn protects the defence. During this century our midfield has always had a good mixture of skill and energy, with the loss of Mooy, and Hatate being injured we haven’t got that at the moment. If Celtic don’t address this problem before Friday then I’m afraid this season could be over before Christmas.
    A decent Centre Back is needed even on loan as the injuries in that dept look like long term.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    100% agree. A tough midfield enforcer should be absolute priority before this window shuts. Out of the key places we need reinforced, imo defensive mid, striker, left back, central defence and keeper, the mid position is the most vital . And if we go tae ibrox wi just Turnbull, O’Reilly and Calmac in our mid, we can expect the inevitable, far as ahm concerned. We’ll be outmuscled and over-run. It’s up tae this board in the next 4 days, tae show exactly how much ambition they have for this season, never mind Europe.

  • Paul Mac says:

    Wasn´t Iwata (and Kwon) signed for that defensive mid position? Does Brendan not trust them or are they not doing it in training? I would try Iwata for a few games in his natural position (rather than be shunted out to centre back or right back) and if he doesnt make the grade review his status in January .. Unless they can conjure up a def mid in the next few days of course.

  • Wee Gerry says:

    Matt O’Reilly played that role excellently when McGregor was out under Ange and I thought Iwata was bought for it but can’t get a game?

    I’d have at least attempted to slot Iwata in there preseason but it seems that BR doesn’t like him and will soon be getting rid of him.

    So even though we might already have the solution under our noses Rodgers won’t use it.

    Adding even more to the sense that he really hasn’t a clue what he’s doing.

    • Jorge says:

      We already knew about Rodgers’ dodgy character (snake) but I am yet to be convinced of his competence as a manager and publicly blaming the lack of ‘quality’ in the squad on the recruitment by the board – “I work with what I am given” – is pathetic, even if it were true.

  • Johnno says:

    Agreed to a degree James.
    Was an issue that was arising at the back end of last season, and carried into the start of this season.
    More of how the team is set up with using a midfield 3.
    Using full backs or the wide men to help boost the numbers in the midfield area isn’t working particularly well when the players been used in these areas aren’t that great with the use of the ball, at there feet.
    We were playing a high tempo game, with attacking space with fast movement, and pressing in numbers if the ball was lost, to win it back quickly. Admittedly it was a high risk approach especially in CL football, yet it worked with players with a lower technical ability with the use of the football.
    Rodgers has currently ripped up that approach to our game, and only really succeeded in highlighting our weekness within our team to a greater degree so far imo.
    I would class such an approach as poor management, when your not using your players in such a way to get the best from them in return.
    Could such an approach from the management work well in the long term?
    Remain doubtful myself, as possibly looking at players to play such a precision type of football would require players way above what we as a club would be willing to pay upon players.
    A far more simple solution imo, would be a change in how the team is set up currently.
    Add the extra midfielder into the team to allow calmac more room to operate against the man to man marking he currently has to contend with. Which in return would mean going with a back 3 or a front 2?
    My preferred option would be a back 3, mainly due to our full back play so poor generally that has only helped highlight the problems within the calmac role more so, and not totally convinced a replacement within the role is the answer to a problem that exists within the set up of the team imo

  • SSMPM says:

    As the season progresses, the injured return and new signings at CB are bedded in, I’d like to see us move to 3 at the back, enabling 2 pivoting DCM. one staying, one marauding forward. With either 4 or 5 across the mid I think this would allow Cal that opportunity to advance on. Maybe with 2 up front, Maeda and Kyogo say or that new forward if we get him that would provide that bite we’re missing too.
    It’s plain to see that since Xmas Ange’s team, Cal and the other midfielders, had been off their usual pace. The only saving grace was the post WC performance and energy of Mooy and Maeda. So freshness and energy in that midfield is badly needed, sadly not with Hatate atm, a player that also went backwards after his injury.
    Does Cal need resting? Or does he need fresh legs with him? He’s missing the energetic Hatate too.
    Scales didn’t add as much as I would have liked him too but I think we have to persist as in a back three he will add options; unless a new experienced CB comes in, saves the day and takes the glory. Scales should be developed at home now as at least a squad CB but also consideration at LB/LWB and see if he can improve that position.
    All is not lost. If O’Riley had taken half of his clear cut chances we’d have scored a few and won. The finishing was rank and even when playing badly last season it was that which accrued the 3 points. Brendan has Kyogo adapting to a new role that doesn’t suit him. I hope he reverts to a fast pivoting 2 up front, stretching the other teams. Right now it seems disjointed and lacklustre. We may be out of form but we’re top of the league. Better to face our struggles now than later. A few new 1st team non development faces and we’ll kick on. HH
    If we turn up Sunday we should come away with at least a point admittedly that feels more like hope right now than expectation

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