The last couple of weeks have been memorable for Celtic and their fans. Days after securing their sixth consecutive league title the man behind such a fantastic campaign, Brendan Rodgers, signed a new and improved four year contract that will keep him at the club until 2021. And with an undefeated treble in their sights things could get even better for the Hoops.
But something Rodgers has continued to stress throughout the campaign is the need to improve as a collective. It seems like a hard task considering the success on the domestic front and a return to the Champions League this term. The idea is to enhance the quality of the squad for next season and aim for yet more domination domestically and progress in Europe.
We look at three positions Rodgers could strengthen to take the Bhoys to the next level.
The form of Scott Sinclair and James Forrest has been exceptional in the last nine months but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rodgers sign another winger to add quality depth and provide crucial competition.
Gary Mackay-Steven hasn’t impressed when handed opportunities and is likely to be heading for the exit. The answer could also be staring Rodgers in the face in the form of Patrick Roberts. The 20-year-old is set to go back to parent club Manchester City in the summer where he’ll complete pre-season but another spell on loan in Glasgow wouldn’t be out the question. Roberts himself has said that he’d be happy to return to Parkhead if it’s best for his development.
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The England under 21 international has already shown Pep Guardiola what he’s capable of when Celtic faced City at the Etihad where he gave a standout performance capped off with a fine goal. He’s also been in immense form lately with a goal and four assists in his last three games. Roberts would be welcomed back to Celtic Park with open arms and would undoubtedly be a reliable reinforcement.
If there’s one area where Celtic have sufficient depth it’s in midfield but that shouldn’t stop them looking to upgrade especially with the aim of competing in the Champions League. The Bhoys have a nice blend of youth and experience plus a balance of different profiles. They possess sitting midfielders in Scott Brown and Nir Bitton; Eboue Kouassi is an enforcer while Stuart Armstrong, Callum McGregor and Liam Henderson are all action box-to-box types. Plus Tom Rogic offers subtle panache as a number 10.
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However, Rodgers already stated his desire to sign another midfielder this summer. At a fans Q&A he said: “I’ve always wanted another midfielder. It has to be someone of real quality, someone who can make a difference. We need a midfield player who can make a pass and make a difference in the Champions League.”
Someone will most likely need to be sold to free up room in the middle of the pitch but the champions could do with a player who is the all round midfield package to elevate their performances in Europe. An individual who can keep the ball moving and pull strings in possession with a combination of class and calm.
It’s vitally important to have such a player for the Champions League as Rodgers knows, someone who has the ability to unlock a defence with a special pass or slow things down away from home when under intense pressure. Those sort of players are like gold dust but it’s encouraging to see the club trying to attract that calibre of player.
Despite having the best defensive record in Scotland, doubts still remain about the quality of the centre backs. The likes of Erik Sviatchenko, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata have all improved under Rodgers’ tutelage and 21 goals conceded domestically is a testament to that.
All three will have a major role to play next year but there’s still a feeling that they could be easily found out in Europe. Celtic’s defensive record in continental competition wasn’t the best this term as they shipped 23 goals in 12 games. It’s fair to say if the Bhoys have aspirations of competing fiercely in Europe they will have to up their game defensively.
Hence, it’s easy to see why Rodgers would be on the lookout for a commanding defender who can act as a leader and be able to play out from the back.