In this Cynic feature, instead of asking our panel of writers their own opinions, we take some questionable opinions and ask the panel to defend them in 100 words or less. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and joining me is Eoin Coyne (@toomanybigwords), Sean McGinlay (@seanjmcginlay), Alex Papadopoulos (@AlexPapa67) and Stephen Wallace (@stephenwallac16)!
Celtic should sell Rogic this window
Coyne: If we stack up our attacking midfield players then there is definitely room for one to move on. Wee Hendo is the future and Christie is the present with N’tcham and McGregor also options there. Rogic has never been the type to stay consistent or fit through an entire campaign. These fitness and stamina issues allied to his tendency to underperform in Europe probably mean that, of the lot, Tam is the best option to sell.
McGinlay: I am a massive fan of Tom Rogic. Domestically, when he is at his peak, he makes everything look so easy. He has provided us we major moments in our history and has stepped up to every domestic challenge. On a European level he has flattered to deceive in most games and, with the vast amount of injuries, we’ve hardly seen him in a Celtic shirt for 18 months, and when we have he has been below par. I think now is the right time to move on.
Papadopoulos: If Celtic were to receive a sizeable offer for Rogic, it should be accepted. This is not because I don’t believe that Tam can produce match-winning moments of magic, but rather that it is how Celtic must operate as a club. Take a player, get a few good years out of them, then sell them on for a huge profit. In addition to this, he no longer owns the number 10 shirt, with Ntcham and Christie firing on all cylinders. That said, if any offer was less then ~8-10 million, then no dice.
Wallace: Selling Rogic would give you the money that has been lost due to not qualifying for the Champions League. He wasn’t that important last season and it would free up funds to strengthen other more important areas of the pitch. It would also allow for younger players like Dembele to play in that attacking midfielder role.
With Ryan Christie’s explosive start to the season, and Ntcham seemingly back to his best, I’m inclined to agree with the panel on this one. We will always have that goal to seal the Invincible Treble, though.
McGregor and Christie should sporadically be used as wide midfielders on the left and right respectively
Coyne: McGregor can pretty much play anywhere, such is his tactical intelligence. He was used in a wide left role to good effect on numerous occasions and Christie cutting in from the right to shoot on his strong left foot is a tantalising prospect and a different option to Forrest or Shved as he will be more comfortable in central areas, depending on how we are set up. One thing is for sure, neither should ever play full back.
McGinlay: Now both of these players should be first names on the team sheet in central midfield at the moment. However, when looking at counteracting various oppositions throughout the season, particularly teams who look to dominate in the wide areas, having McGregor or Christie cover the half space, similar to what Ntcham has done on a number of occasions, will allow for a more methodical approach to balancing the team. This allows for wing backs to push further forward with a more balanced defensive approach from the wide midfielders.
Papadopoulos: There is a case to be made that says this may be a necessity in order to accommodate Celtic’s best players. Neil Lennon seems intent on Scott Brown remaining in the side and with this it becomes difficult to fit Christie, McGregor and Ntcham in as well. Perhaps a diamond 4 behind two strikers or Eddy on the left of a front three with Christie on the right could be quite palatable.
Wallace: In many games last season Celtic were weak at full back. At times we were playing with Lustig and Hayes, and this season doesn’t look much better. Having these midfielders play here would provide more cover for the full backs as they wouldn’t be as inclined to get forward. Celtic have enough quality through the middle with Edouard and Ntcham that they don’t need typical wingers going forward.
I’m personally a massive fan of McGregor as a #6 and Christie as an #8 or #10, the other midfield role belonging to Ntcham, but maybe it wouldn’t be the worst for a tactical switch up when needed through a long season.
Bitton justifies his wages
Coyne: Every squad needs a certain amount of utility players and Bitton is a serviceable stand in both at centre half and as a deep lying midfielder. He’s not spectacular in either role but can provide perfectly adequate cover. He is also a known and proven quantity. Many may have wanted him gone this summer but it turns out he was needed for the first two rounds of our abortive attempt to qualify for the Champions League. Unlike a lot of the deadwood hanging around Lennoxtown, Bitton does indeed have a place in the squad and is worth having around.
McGinlay: Now, for me, I am not even playing devil’s advocate with this one. I genuinely believe it. Nir Bitton is a very valuable asset for Celtic in most big game scenarios, we just never seem to utilise it. First of all, he is a central midfielder – in no way is he even remotely capable of playing centre half. More to the point though, Bitton is someone who can dictate and delay the tempo of a game like no other. He has such a calming presence on the ball and is able to pick out passes other players simply cannot see. He is also intelligent with his interceptions and is invaluable to use when looking to close out a tie or to take the sting out of a frantic occasion.
Papadopoulos: To defend this I will have to use that most deliberately evasive of words when it comes to describing a football player: versatile. Nir Bitton is the embodiment of this mythical ‘versatility’ He is fine in midfield and fine at centre half. Despite this, if it is a choice between him playing 15-20 games a season or Jack Hendry being 4thchoice centre back, it becomes a far easier one.
Wallace: Like it or not, Bitton is one of the leaders in the team. With Lustig away, he can now step into a role higher up the hierarchy and establish himself as one of the key members of the squad. On the pitch, we could do much worse at centre back. He can play more than one position, which over the course of a season could prove vital.
I think this one comes down to perspective. Does he earn his wages as much as a player in and around the first team? Probably not. Does he earn his wages more than your Marvin Comppers? Absolutely. A fringe utility player sums Bitton up well, and it’s clear that Lennon doesn’t mind using him.
Deila is the most important manager so far in the run of 8 titles
Coyne: I’ve always said history would judge Ronny more favourably than we did at the time. Ousted a lot of the old guard, though perhaps not as thoroughly as needed, and oversaw the crucial and tricky transition from the tired looking team Lennon left behind in his first spell to the sleek Rodgers outfit that went the season unbeaten. Gave Kieran Tierney his debut and stuck with him and was a dodgy call away from winning a treble himself. Clearly given limited trust and backing from the board (so, so many loans).
McGinlay: Ronny set in stone many of the foundations that we have built on in the following years. He was the first manager to bring in a more European and modern approach when it came to fitness training, nutrition and tactical analysis. His playing approach was fast paced, front-footed and focused around developing younger players into a mould of player that would fit the system. He has provided us with the majority of the players who right now star in our side. He built the foundations that allow the rat to transition so easily into the club. If we hadn’t had negative dressing room influences and constraints on his ability to develop the club in his own image, who knows how successful he could’ve been.
Papadopoulos: Ronny came to the club at a pivotal time, a time that cried out for rejuvenation. In the long run, without the new ideas he brought, as well as the players he brought in and moved out, then perhaps the foundations would never have been laid for the rebel treble we have just witnessed. When Celtic make it to 10 in row, Ronny must be brought back to a hero’s welcome.
Wallace: When Neil Lennon left, we didn’t know what to expect. The club could have gone in a new direction, gotten cocky and lost the league. In came the hero that we didn’t expect: Ronald Deila. He brought the roar back to Celtic (get it?). He was responsible for key signings for the invincible season and onwards like Roberts, Armstrong, Boyata, Ajer, Simunovic and Christie. These signings have been key for Celtic since. Also, without Deila having been in charge, the board wouldn’t have realised that a specific kind of manager had to be brought in. He was also responsible for big name signings like Carlton Cole.
It’s an excellent point that Deila set the groundwork for Rodgers to come in and set Scotland alight. Many of the squad used for the three trebles were Deila’s players. A clear transition into modern football started with the Norwegian and, in the same way it was an injustice not to back Deila to the hilt, it would be an injustice if the board didn’t follow that through now.
If you have any points you’d like to challenge our panel with, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below, on the Patreon app or on Twitter @90MinuteCynic or @SJRussell23. Thank you for reading.