Things are never easy for Celtic Football Club and nothing epitomised that more than the Hoops’ 2-1 defeat on Thursday evening.
Ange Postecoglou’s men sealed their route into the next round of continental competition but they did so the hard way with defensive mistakes.
Celtic began the new season the way they finished the last one, making errors at the back.
Nir Bitton had a difficult start to the new season by getting sent off against Midtjylland in the Champions League and then losing John Souttar for Hearts’ opening day winner.
However, in recent weeks, the Bhoys have looked more assured and organised at the back. They’d kept four clean sheets in their last five matches before everything went awry against AZ Alkmaar in midweek.
The Hoops lost 2-1 but went through on aggregate. That wasn’t before a howler from Joe Hart, though.
He failed to clear a long ball over the top which led to Alkmaar’s opener and then Carl Starfelt turned the ball into his own net to put the hosts in front.
Starfelt has attracted criticism from pundits since arriving in Glasgow and his first-half performance on Thursday certainly justified some choice words. John Hartson went as far as to call it “schoolboy” defending.
Yet, he did improve in the second half as Celtic managed to see things out and qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.
With Starfelt struggling to adapt to life at Paradise in the early weeks of his Celtic career, Postecoglou should consider dipping his toes into the transfer market.
They confirmed the arrival of Liam Scales on Friday morning and he could be well-suited to providing cover.
The Irishman is capable of playing at left-back or at centre-back so could fill the void. Yet, we sense that Celtic need a little more experience at the heart of their backline.
One player they should turn to is Manchester United defender Phil Jones.
The 29-year-old has had his fair share of injury problems in recent years and hasn’t actually played a competitive game of football in 2021.
That being said, the 27-cap England international is now overcoming those issues. Speaking about Jones recently, Man United assistant manager Mike Phelan said: “He’s worked extremely hard and it’s mind-blowing at times because you are doing it on your own so credit to him. Phil Jones, for me, has been terrific in the gym.”
Thus, with defensive problems mounting again, Postecoglou should consider reuniting Hart with his former Three Lions colleague.
He is adept at playing the ball from the back and was once tipped to be Man United’s best ever player by Sir Alex Ferguson.
On that evidence, there is clearly a talented player in there. The best bit is, he could also be available on a free transfer. This seems like a no-brainer for Celtic.