With Brendan Rodgers starting work at Celtic’s Lennoxtown training facility this week, the new manager and his staff will be looking for solutions to some of the Bhoys’ issues over the last few years.
While domestic league success has been maintained, many fans were left underwhelmed by Ronny Deila’s reign due to faltering in cups and not exactly shining in Europe.
Rodgers doesn’t have long to get things right with Celtic’s most important games of the season coming before most leagues get underway again.
Here are FIVE problems Rodgers must solve in order to meet the expectations of supporters…
Celtic may have had the best defensive record in the Scottish league for the last two seasons, but in Europe it’s been a different matter.
Under Ronny Deila the Bhoys conceded 40 goals in 26 European matches. The majority of those came in the group stages of the Europa League when opposition got a little tougher. In the 12 group stage matches under Deila, Celtic only kept one clean sheet and conceded two or more goals in eight matches.
If Celtic want to have any hope of making a mark in Europe in the coming campaign then this is a clear area where improvement must be made.
Celtic have lost eight semi-finals or finals in the last seven seasons. Hampden has become a place Hoops fans dread going to for fear of slipping up once again. Often with everything to lose and nothing to gain in terms of expectations, the Bhoys simply haven’t turned up on many a big occasion, despite delivering three domestic trophies in the same timeframe.
In Europe, similar can be said. The Bhoys haven’t come through a knock-out stage in the Champions League or Europa League since 2003/04. Granted opposition have been of the highest quality but it’s those nights that supporters dream of.
At the very least fans will be hoping to finally overcome the play-off round of the Champions League once again having missed out to Maribor and Malmo under Ronny Deila.
There’s no denying that the semi-final defeat to Rangers was embarrassing for all Celtic fans. It was a defeat that ultimately led to Deila’s departure – proof that supporters take this game as seriously as they ever did.
All eyes will be on the first derby of the new season. Whether at Ibrox or Celtic Park, it’ll be one of the first big tests for Brendan Rodgers. A big win could provide the energy needed to have a phenomenal season, while a defeat will immediately raise question marks for many Hoops fans.
When Celtic rained in six goals in Martin O’Neill’s first derby game, everyone knew the club were entering a special era.
Celtic played out five 0-0 draws last season, only one other season in the last twenty years saw more. On the face of it that might not seem like the end of the world but it was a symptom of Celtic’s inability to grind out results against lesser opposition.
Defences in Scotland learned how to frustrate Ronny Deila’s team – sit in, shut them up. While Leigh Griffiths had an exceptional season, the over reliance on him became a real problem, and it’s an issue Rodgers will have to fix if his side are to capture the imagination of the terraces.
Fans have come to expect that if Celtic are to draw or lose then at the very least the opposition will have had to have a very good day, yet too often over the last 12 months that hasn’t been the case.
Celtic have 40 players listed as part of the first-team squad, including those out on loan. Some of them are young and have played only a handful of games but there’s no doubting that the Bhoys have one of the biggest squads in Scotland, if not Britain.
Rodgers talked about enjoying working with a core of 22 outfield players in his first press conference as Celtic manager and this would no doubt go a long way to alleviating fans’ concerns of quantity over quality.
Celtic’s playing budget has never had to stretch as far as right now with teams of lesser stature often able to outspend the Bhoys. Reducing the depth could go a long way to improving the standard of the first team.