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Nawrocki’s Latest Injury Further Highlights The Risks Of Celtic’s “Project” Strategy.

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When Nawrocki got injured yesterday I think people were more exasperated than dismayed. It was like “oh, not again …” more than people were worried about us having been dealt a blow. The only thing this might actually impact on is our ability to shift him before the season starts, because it’s becoming increasingly likely that we’ll try to.

Last year, Rodgers held a little session with a group of fans who, if memory serves me correctly, were corporate guests. It was a Q&A where he was sharply honest about a number of players. If reports from that meeting are accurate, and they were not contradicted anywhere either by people inside Celtic or those who were there that night, he passed a withering judgement on Nawrocki by talking about how the club just couldn’t seem to get him fit.

And this sounds unusual on the surface of it, but in fact it’s not. This is one of the risks which is attendant in signing project players at the expense of more experienced ones. This is why Rodgers and other managers prefer experience.

Because one of the things you pay that little bit more for when you buy experience is to know that players can handle a long, arduous season, that they are not injury prone and that they can cope with various types of demands on their bodies.

Scottish football is fast and aggressive.

This is not a European league where players can dwell on the ball, and you have to know that a footballer can handle those demands, and the younger a player is and the less experienced outside of his homeland, the more you’re simply guessing on that score.

It takes time for some players to reach the stage where they are strong enough, both physically and mentally, to get to that place. Some of them never do. Some really good players end up with lesser careers because their natural fitness levels aren’t high enough to play for a sustained length of time at the highest level. We all know that.

But when a player is in his early 20’s and has played in one league, how’re you going to know whether he’s capable of moving to another country and another style of football which might be more physically demanding? At that age there are a lot of unknowns and that’s just one of them. But when you consider that players who do have experience are often unable to cope with the rigours of moving from one country to another, it’s one every manager is aware of.

See, this is why certain leagues buy from certain other countries. It’s why teams in France and Holland buy from Africa more often than teams in nations like Spain or Italy do. There are cultural reasons, yes, but they know those players can come and adapt and enhance their teams; there is a template these people follow and part of that is about knowing which sorts of players are physically matched with the teams they are signing for.

Our Japanese players came in and slotted right into the team. Our Korean players have struggled. Because the demands, and the requirements, are different in both countries. The standard is higher in Japan. The game is quicker. And Ange knew the players who would fit the system, and what the requirements here were.

Look at how he talked about Maeda; he knew that the crucial things about Maeda which would make him a success here were his energy and his work-rate. He didn’t have to guess that he’d fit right into the system here, he knew he would.

Much of what went wrong with our summer last year is that the club allowed the “Moneyball” people to try their hand at it and that’s what the whole of that window was about. It was about letting the number crunchers try to assemble a team, but it was doomed from the start because they understand stats more than the underlying mechanics of football.

Moneyball doesn’t even properly work in the sport which pioneered it; baseball. The Red Sox did, indeed, break the Curse Of The Bambino by winning their first title in 83 years under John Henry’s leadership, where one of the guys he brought in was Bill James, the guy who started the whole sabermetrics phenomenon. But if that’s all the Red Sox had done – sign players the way Bill Beane did with the Oakland A’s – that would have been one thing … but they spent good money at the same time, as did Liverpool when Hendy took over them.

On top of that, people around Celtic who talk about Moneyball don’t quite understand what it was that Billy Beane did. He bought players about whom there was a wealth of available information, but who had, for whatever reason, been undervalued.

Most of them were players deep into their careers.

Our version is about using statistical analysis to identify them young … but that’s faulty thinking for an obvious reason. Beane valued experience first. He used to argue that traditional scouting, which preferred high school players who had certain key attributes, was deeply flawed and that college scouting was better … and why?

Because players had more experience, you could see which ones had fitness issues, attitude issues and personal problems and that because they’d played more games there was a deeper pool of stats to draw conclusions from. That’s why those who argue that we should only be shopping for player 23 and under are absolutely wrong.

Shopping for players at 25, that buys you more certainty and a clearer evaluation, and out there in football undervalued players exist every bit as much as they once did in baseball and in part that’s because football clubs are filled with people, many of whom do not know what they are doing and try to build teams in the slipshod way we did in the summer.

Our two centre backs are classic examples. Both might be good players, but one is too slow to play the high pressing game Rodgers wants, and that impacts on both the attacking and defending phases of the game, and the other is simply not physically up to the demands of that system. That Rodgers spotted that so swiftly once these guys were in the building shows how little thought went into either of those signings, and he’s not prepared to let that happen again.

Nawrocki finished the season behind Liam Scales. Scales had a great season but is a deeply limited player regardless and that’s not slagging a boy who came on leaps and bounds but is a cold-blooded and necessary analysis which focuses on nothing but a simple question; is he the best we can do? And since we know the answer is no, we are duty bound to buy better.

That means Nawrocki quite simply has no future at the club, and we saw the reason why yesterday. We also saw, again, though the ultimate flaw with last summer’s signing policy. The bean-counters and the stats geeks should be nowhere near team-building at Celtic. They simply do not have the skills required to do it the way a football professional would.

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  • SARAH says:

    Nowrocki had great game v Rangers. Wonder why he can’t repeat that.

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      Must’ve been before Season 2011/12 Sarah, Cos after that ‘Rangers’ kicked the bucket !

  • Stephen says:

    Wtf you talking about? You talk some nonsense but this is an.all time low. What about CCV Kyogo and calmac over past 2 seasons? The fact you think experience players are less likely to get Injured is laughable and embarrassing

    • James Forrest says:

      Who said they were “less likely to get injured” you dickhead?

      I said that they have a HISTORY which can guide you in making decisions about signing them.

      You were clearly too thick to understand it. That’s why you think I talk “some nonsense.” Most of it goes right over your thick skull.

  • Roonsa says:

    Brilliant article, well observed. Any time I have seen Nawrocki (and that hasn’t been a lot, obviously) I thought it looked like there was potential there. But that was all it was. And that’s all project players are.

    My impression was that Brendan was going to give him until beyond this transfer window just in case. This is not a good start to the boy trying to prove himself. It’s a pity but football can be cruel and these guys know the risks.

  • Waldorf Salad says:

    Getting injured in as Friendly a game as u cd EVER get sums this DUD up! If we paid £4M GOD HELP US coz we’ll NOT even see HALF ae that back! Wdnt even play him in Lg Cup just GET RID of ASAP!!

  • Brattbakk says:

    CCV, Scales, Nawrocki, Welsh, Kobayashi, Lagerbiekle is already too many centre backs. It’s one area where I’d accept we should sell before buying more. Is there any info on Nawrocki’s injury? It didn’t look too serious.

  • Fat mike says:

    If the dara o’sé rumours are true it’ll solve that problem, lagerbielke and nawroski will be out the door on loan or permanently with scales and Welsh able deputies

  • Henriksgoldenboot says:

    The question begs…… do we have another Jozo Simunovic here? Without doubt a player in there but made of glass?

    We got one good almost full season from Jozo and what a season it was and we saw his full capability.

    I feel the same about Nawrocki. He needs to be given a chance, what his main problem may be is not his physicality but his physical endurance. If he has low endurance then this can affect the body in many ways. And he may be the type who needs game after game not dipping in and out of games because ironically this isn’t good for this type of player. I played with many a player over the years who were like this.

    What we mustn’t do is blame the player here. Because if he is a real dedicated professional and just wants to do well then this will be affecting him too and not just us and the club. Sometimes as fans/supporters we become blinkered and think of our own issues with these players. I’m sure our expert medical staff are working hard alongside the player and management to get big MIKE back on his feet. Hopefully we’ll see the player thats in there regularly someone who proves to be an asset to the club.

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