Celtic’s midfield quandary

Earlier this year, John Collins said players will leave after the arrival of Kristoffer Ajer.

The former Celtic assistant manager made the statement as they have contracted a lot of midfielders. The new boss, Brendan Rodgers will look at loans, transfers or terminating contracts to form a balanced squad at Parkhead.

As you can see below, the Northern Irishman has 11 central midfielders in the first team. Whether they are attacking, defensive or in between. Even in the wide areas, they have seven players for two positions.

#6: Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Charlie Mulgrew.
#8: Scott Armstrong, Scott Brown, Liam Henderson and Callum McGregor.

#11: Anthony Stokes, Derk Boerrigter, Gary Mackay-Steven and Patrick Roberts.
#10: Scott Allan, Ryan Christie, Stefan Johansen and Tom Rogic.
#7: Kris Commons, Michael Duffy and James Forrest.

If I was a coach I would want to give myself the best chance to have quality throughout the squad rather than quantity. I would employ two players for each position and play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation. I expect the former Liverpool manager will plump for a similar setup.

This is how I would clean up that packed midfield:

End of contract

Derk Boerrigter: Self-explanatory. In 2013, Neil Lennon purchased the winger for approximately £1.8m from Ajax. He failed to appear the season just past and only started five times during his spell in Scotland. Nonsensical to keep him around.

Need moved on

Kris Commons: He was a real talisman for the club under Neil Lennon, but, soon, the time will come when the soon to be 33-year-old will be a shadow of his former self. Celtic will not want a footballer, who is one of the five highest earners at the club to be on the fringes of the squad, thus, any six-figure fee for his services would be fair.Then the money on his wages can subsidise a move for someone in a position that lacks depth. E.g left back or center forward.

Michael Duffy: The Irishman came in for an insignificant amount over 12 months ago. Last season, he turned 21 and was plying his trade on loan at recently relegated Championship side, Alloa Athletic. With the talent already around at Lennoxtown, a future in that first-team is less than likely.

Steffan Johansen: The Player’s Player of the Year in 2014/15 is a shadow of his former self. Deployed as a deep-lying playmaker instead of being stationed behind the striker has hindered him and highlighted his weaknesses. A move at this stage is most likely best for all. Especially, if Peter Lawell can make any profit on the £2m spent on him in January 2014.

Sell at the right price

Nir Bitton: The Jewish international fulfilled his potential under Ronny Delia. So much so that he may be the next big-money move to the England. Over the last couple of seasons, the board has had to sell a player as they failed to qualify for the Champions League Group Stage. An offer of around £8m would tempt the board because the 24-year-old has signed a new deal that contracts him till May 2020, Lawell would hold all the cards at the negotiating table.

Liam Henderson: A fantastic footballer who has shown his commitment to improving with the loan to Rosenberg. He has also taken his chance at Easter Road; setting up two goals in their Scottish Cup win against Rangers. Still a teenager, he would have to oust captain Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong for that symbolic number eight jersey. Now, seems the perfect time to try and get a good fee and reluctantly sell the bright prospect.

Callum McGregor: A bit of the odd man out for the Hoops, too old to be considered a prospect and not established enough to be selected week in and week out. He will turn 23 during the summer and needs to be playing more often that not, unfortunately for him it seems that it would be difficult to get regular game time under Rodgers.

Tom Rogic: Seemed to be injury prone and looked like his stay in Scotland would fizzle out into nothingness. Although, during the last three-quarters of the 2015/16 campaign, he showed why he was brought over from Australia with an array of thunder-bastards which helped the Bhoys to their fifth consecutive league title. Playing behind the main goal threat, Leigh Griffiths, he built up a real report with the Scotsman and with Ryan Christie and Scott Allan vying for that same role, something has to give. The Australian will be the most sellable asset and garner the most interest abroad and down south.

Trimmed midfield

#6 Ajer, Mulgrew.
#8 Armstrong, Brown.

#11 Mackay-Steven, Stokes.
#10 Allan, Christie.
#7 Forrest, Roberts.

An overview for the rest of the squad:

Retain

#1 Bailly, Gordon.

#3 Tierney.
#4 Sviatchenko.
#5 Simunovic.
#2 Lustig, Janko.

#9 Griffiths.

Need Out

Ambrose, Boyata, Çiftçi, Cole, Fisher, Izaguirre, Kazim-Richards and Šćepović.

Sell at right price

Findlay and O’Connoll.

Loan

Breslin, Lindsay, McManus, McMullan, Nesbitt, Thomson and Wardrop.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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