Celtic’s decision to sign 12 new first-team players this summer has left their new manager Ange Postecoglou with some serious selection dilemmas.
Despite Kristoffer Ajer’s departure from Parkhead and their dismal defensive record in 2020/21, his biggest headache is actually at centre-half.
Nir Bitton’s reckless early season form has all but eradicated his selection from the manager’s head.
However, after signing Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers, you’d have thought they’d be automatic picks in the middle of the backline.
Carter-Vickers started his Celtic career in the best way possible with a man of the match display against Ross County last weekend.
The defender scored a deflected effort from long range and was a pillar of solidity at the back.
However, one man who hasn’t been so reliable is Starfelt. The Swede looked an eye-catching addition from Rubin Kazan and judging by a pass success rate of 92%, he certainly buys into Postecoglou’s philosophy of transitioning and building play from the back.
Yet, his defensive abilities have left a lot to be desired. He scored an own goal against AZ Alkmaar in their last European tie and has been caught in possession multiple times. All of that provoked John Hartson to describe him as “clumsy.”
With Carter-Vickers shining on debut, he should be an automatic pick for Celtic’s clash with Real Betis tomorrow.
It’ll be an incredibly tough first group stage fixture for the Hoops but they can combat the likes of Nabil Fekir and Cristian Tello by unleashing Stephen Welsh.
The 21-year-old has only missed one European outing this term and has proven to be a very reliable figure.
His development has come on leaps and bounds and he would offer Postecoglou more assurance than Starfelt on Thursday evening.
Dubbed “fearless” by Football Insider pundit Noel Whelan last month, the young defender has made 1.3 tackles per game in the Premiership this term. That happens to be the highest number by a centre-back at Celtic in 2021/22.
Furthermore, he commits fewer fouls (0.7) per match than the rest of Celtic’s centre-backs.
On that evidence, Welsh could be vital to stopping a Betis side that has enjoyed the third-highest average possession (61.5%) in La Liga throughout the new campaign.
Clearly a team who love to pass the ball around, his tackling and discipline will have to be on point. That’s an area that’s evidently eluded Starfelt so far.