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Celtic’s Anthony Ralston needs to adapt to have a chance at Parkhead

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Anthony Ralston was the only right-back in Celtic’s squad for a long time this summer, yet still hardly got a look in. The 20-year-old needs to make a big decision to save his Celtic career.

On the chalkboard

The arrival of Hatem Abd Elhamed – with another right-back expected to come in, according to The Scottish Daily Mail – has meant Ralston’s immediate Parkhead future looks bleak.

Even before Elhamed came in, the 20-year-old wasn’t winning a seemingly one-horse race. Neil Lennon instead opted for a switch in formation, away from his preferred 4-2-3-1 and to an unusual 3-5-2.

Lennon has given him a chance in meaningless matches though; the second leg against Nomme Kalju and as a substitute while 3-0 up over St. Johnstone. Despite these run-outs in games that were effectively friendlies by the time he got on the pitch, it would be a surprise if he continued to get even cameos at right-back as the season goes on.

A new arrival would establish him as third-choice at best and surplus to requirements at worst.

Time to adapt

The 20-year-old spent a short spell at Dundee United in the season before last but that’s the only temporary spell he’s had away from Parkhead. A loan away this summer could be an option but would have to go extremely well to see him return as a viable first-team player.

His recent performances have been heavily criticised by fans, and with his confidence undoubtedly low, a loan is a big risk.

Alternatively, he could opt to stay and fight it out with potentially two new right-backs for game-time, but given Elhamed’s fee and reports of interest in a second signing in the position, he’d be swimming against the tide to be involved in even heavily rotated squads, let alone regular starting XIs.

One way in which he might be able to earn some minutes at Parkhead this season is to adapt to a new role. The defence has changed a lot this summer with the new arrivals and learning a different position could give him a chance to merit more opportunities.

Making small alterations to his style of play to become one or all of a left-back, central defender in a back three or wing-back could make him a brilliant squad player for Lennon.

None of these roles are that different from what he’s used to, and Nir Bitton has shown by converting into an authoritative centre-back, having spent the majority of his career as a midfielder, that adding a new role to your arsenal can go some way to resurrecting your fortunes.

It’s a transitional period at the club, so adapting to unusual roles and becoming a utility man could be the key to Ralston kick-starting his Celtic career and ensuring Lennon sees a reason to keep him around.

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Article title: Celtic’s Anthony Ralston needs to adapt to have a chance at Parkhead

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