Fraser Forster is Neil Lennon’s undisputed number one keeper at the club and while we were all questioning Lennon bringing back the big Geordie, we have all been put firmly in our place with the on loan Newcastle keeper proving pivotal with a number of superb saves this season.
Both Lukasz Zaluska and Dominic Cervi are just making up the numbers in the goalkeeping department in all honesty. Not because they are not good enough, but because of Forster’s fine form. It would have been good for Zaluska and Cervi to be given a cup competition each to give Forster a rest, but it looks as though this is the only position in which Lennon will not chop and change. It has done wonders for the big Geordie and hopefully Celtic sign him up before the end of the season.
The problem area for Celtic and has been for several years. It did help that Celtic had Artur Boruc in goals to pull off some stunning saves to deny the opposition, and now that Forster is hitting form the defence has settled somewhat also – not to say that the problems are solved though.
The best news of the season has to be the return of Emilio Izaguirre from injury, however the Honduran has not reached full fitness and is not back regularly just yet. His stand-in Badr El Kaddouri played a total of seven games for Celtic, scoring once against Rangers, but he was no Izaguirre and the likes of Mulgrew, Ledley and Matthews kept him out of the side – thankfully he has left Celtic now after his loan deal ended.
Welshman Adam Matthews has been a revelation for Celtic this season, he has slotted into the side with relative ease and despite talk of him moving away from Parkhead with the English Premier League being his likely destination, the full back remains at Celtic and thank god for that. With the likes of Mark Wilson and Cha Du-ri also battling it out for the right back spot, it is a position that is overloaded and we will probably see one of them sold in the summer. Wilson was linked with a loan move to Leeds United near the close of the transfer window, but that fell through and he remains in Glasgow. As for Cha, he is far too inconsistent and could be heading out the door in the summer but with Celtic chasing their first title in four years it’s always good to have some extra players on the books just in case of injuries or a loss of form.
At the start of the transfer window, Celtic signed Swedish international Mikael Lustig from Rosenborg. The defender stated that he wants to play at right back, and with three players already in that position the big Swede will find it tough to knock Adam Matthews off his perch unless the Welshman is at left back. Lustig is an experienced defender both domestically and. However, Celtic fans will have to wait for his debut as the defender is currently out injured. Talking of experienced Swedish defenders, Daniel Majstorovic has returned from a horrific eye injury after he had found some sort of form, and while he can be a bomb scare at times at the back his experience could prove invaluable in the title run-in.
Currently Thomas Rogne and Charlie Mulgrew are Celtic’s central defensive pairing currently and for the most part they haven’t been troubled much. If they have then the 19-year-old Kenyan Victor Wanyama is there to help out from time to time. Kelvin Wilson has also returned from injury and looked assured against Inverness Caley Thistle in the Scottish Cup Fifth Round clash on Saturday.
With a bereft of defensive options the likes of Glenn Loovens, Andre Blackman and the returning Efrain Juarez will find it tough to break into the side.
After a good enough start, Israeli midfielder Beram Kayal has been ruled out for the remainder of the season following a tackle by Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch in the second derby of the season.
Kayal’s absence has allowed the likes of Joe Ledley, Victor Wanyama and Ki vying for the central midfield slots and currently it is Ledley and Wanyama who are the preferred partnership. Ledley has been a consistent performer for Celtic this season and has rarely put a foot wrong. Now what can you say about Victor Wanyama, except for AMAZING! The 19 year old midfielder got his break thanks to a number of injuries and has not looked back since. A Celtic side without the Kenyan in it is weaker for it. A shoe-in for Young Player of the Year.
Captain Scott Brown has returned to the side at a time when the club has been in fine form, and with three goals in three games (two of them penalties) he has helped guide Celtic to where they are today – at the top of the SPL, the final of the League Cup and the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup.
Another January transfer window signing, Rabiu Ibrahim has signed on for three and a half years at Parkhead after he terminated his contract with PSV Eindhoven. The Nigerian is an attacking midfielder and will be a player for the coming season rather than slotting into the side right now. But with his fellow African Victor Wanyama breaking through after injuries gave him his chance, Ibrahim may just get that break to kick start his career at Celtic.
James Forrest is another contender for Young player of the year, after his performances this season in the green and white hoops, but I can’t see past the talent and the maturity of Wanyama. The talented winger has started where Aiden McGeady has left off, with the Irishman’s move to Spartak Moscow. Injuries are proving to be a thorn in the side of Forrest but when he is man marked by one, sometimes two or three players, you know that the young Scot is a threat to the opposition. Hopefully Celtic can keep the midfielder for years to come, with Spurs sniffing around among other clubs, it will be a tough task to keep the youngster when his contract is nearing its end. But the kid has a good head on his shoulders and has reiterated his desire to stay at Parkhead, despite the £7 million link from Spurs.
Kris Commons has also returned to the fold of late, after injury and speculation surrounding Neil Lennon and the former Derby player. Another player who will be coming in and out of the side in the next few weeks and months, the midfielder is always handy coming on as an impact player. But there are better players in the side now who deserve a regular first team slot.
Paddy McCourt was linked with a move to Blackpool in the transfer window, and in all honesty I doubt Celtic would have missed the Northern Irishman. He has played 14 games this season, 12 coming on as a substitute and has failed to find the target. The cult hero may have the trickery and the skill to beat defenders, but with his lack of consistency, fitness and game time, it will be a case the player leaving Celtic sooner rather than later for pastures new.
With McCourt’s departure this summer, one player who could take advantage of that is Dylan McGeough. The midfielder has made four substitute appearances this season, scoring a wonder goal on his home debut against St.Mirren running some 70 yards before scoring, just eight minutes after coming on. The future is certainly bright with McGeough and Forrest in the ranks.
The final signing of the January transfer window is Pawel Brozek, a player that Rangers were keeping a keen eye on and who McCoist was happy to talk about hoping to partner the Pole up with Jelavic before the Croatian moved south and Craig Whyte blocked McCoist from spending any of the money brought in. I know very little of Brozek other than he has had a torrid time in Turkey and is looking to find the form which will see him selected for Poland’s EURO 2012 squad, and with the player looking to prove himself Celtic could benefit from the player’s desire and determination.
The enigma that is Georgios Samaras is still in fine form. At the start of the season the Greek was taking pelters from the Celtic fans and was also booed onto the field at one point, now the striker has found his form again and found his shooting boots, the fans love him once more. He may not be a player who starts every game for Celtic, but he is certainly an important player for Celtic going forward.
Competition is always great for a team, and there is one competition that is pushing Celtic towards the SPL title, the battle between Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes to see who can score more goals. Both players have linked up with Samaras this season and have found the back of the net, but together they are deadly to any side in the SPL. Stokes is on 17 goals one ahead of Hooper who is on 16, one of them is certainly set to finish top scorer in the SPL this season.
The likes of Rasmussen and Bangura do not have a future at the club and come the summer, both players should be shown the door. For Bangura it is more to do with injuries and a lack of any real football talent, for Rasmussen it is rumoured that his attitude is not good enough and has prevented him from signing for the clubs he has spent time on loan with, away from Celtic. Either way both players are picking up wages that would be better spent on a new striker, who should come in during the summer.
With the Celtic squad being one of the biggest in the SPL, there will be a few departures in the summer, however with places few and far between, the competition between the players will most certainly see Celtic benefit rather than those sides whose squads have been decimated through injuries, lack of form and transfers.