The few readers of this blog may have noticed that the posts, as well as infrequent, tend to be predominantly critical, commenting cynically on some sort of going-on at Celtic Football Club.
For a club who’ve achieved such unrivalled success throughout the past decade, it seems a little odd to focus primarily on the negatives amidst such overwhelming positivity.
The reality though is simple. When things are going well, success is enjoyed. Like for many, that usually means a drink in hand amongst friends and family, conversations flowing into songs, moments of elation turning into memories of celebration. Fortunately, as Celtic fans, we’ve been spoiled with such occasions in recent years.
On the contrary, when things go wrong, we all also like to have a moan. And, whilst victories are cherished in company; in disaster and defeat, written word can be a cathartic means to vent frustration. Fortunately, as Celtic fans, we’ve routinely been spared such occasions in recent years (hence the irregularity of these posts).
Now, after that self-indulgent tangent (catharsis, remember), the reasons for claiming this week ‘calamitous’ need little explanation. Kilmarnock and Bolingoli, are all that needs to be said on the matter.
However, rather than the usual rant and rave after disappointment, yesterday’s singing of Albian Ajeti, and the wider indication of our transfer strategy this summer, leaves room for cautious optimism.
The drawn out process that has become synonymous with a Celtic transfer negotiation may have caused frustration in recent weeks, but Ajeti, alongside Vasilis Barkas after Fraser Forster had declined to stay, was Celtic’s number one target in his position, as reported by The Athletic. That both first-choice preferences have joined the club can only be reason to be positive.
The extensive video clips of Ajeti’s time at FC Basel look promising (don’t they always), and though I can’t claim to have any detailed knowledge about the player, one factor that shouldn’t be fixated on is his ineffectual season at West Ham United.
Players in their early twenties struggling to make an impact in a new country, is not reason to write them off. For evidence of this you only need look to two of today’s stars of the Premier League itself: Mohamed Salah and Kevin de Bruyne, who were permanently sold by Chelsea at the respective ages of 24 and 22, having been deemed not good enough, or not the right fit for the club.
Of course the level of expectation at Chelsea is significantly higher than that of West Ham and the quality of the players mentioned above cannot be compared with Celtic’s new number 10. But the notion that the examples above do support, is that sometimes a move can simply be the wrong one at the wrong time, rather than a clear reflection of a player’s ability, or lack thereof.
That West Ham were embroiled in a relegation scrap until their post-lockdown upturn in form also stands in Ajeti’s favour. Settling into life at a new club is difficult enough for most young players, doing so as an attacking threat, at a side starved of possession and scrapping for points, adds an extra layer to that challenge – Bayern Munich’s flying winger Serge Gnabry can attest to that, having been deemed not at West Bromwich Albion’s level by manager Tony Pulis, whilst on loan as a 20-year old back in 2015.
Whether Ajeti and Barkas prove successful signings will have to wait to be seen, but, with the off-field shenanigans and the turgid on-field display of the last week, the small victory of actually paying sizeable money to get our preferred targets in the door, particularly after the goalposts had been moved (as with Ajeti’s proposed loan becoming an immediate permanent deal), must be celebrated.
The proactivity in the transfer market cannot stop there, however. And we can all only hope that similar style targets have also been identified in a number of areas requiring further additions.
The circumstances of the past week have undeniably handed an early advantage and confidence boost to our rivals across the city, but with our league games temporarily on hold, rather than seeking relief through complaining about the calamity that caused it, perhaps a more optimistic approach can provide the same satisfaction. Only cautious, mind. It is still Celtic after all.
Optimism? From this blog? More content like this please!
Given we had clearly expected Forster to hold up his end of the bargain and follow through on his flirtations, do you think we would still have paid for Barkas? Don’t get me wrong, I really like his profile and I like having left-footers in the team (for obvious reasons), but I’m not convinced he was our first choice.
Ajeti I think is different. I get the impression we have been monitoring his progress for a number of years and with the change of managers at West Ham we pounced on an opportunity to get him in – even if he did take a bit of convincing!
The big question of course, is how this fits in with Eddy? A quality replacement should we lose our main man this summer / autumn? Or is Ajeti a compliment to our existing strike force? And if that means two up top there are knock-on effects to other parts of the team.
A 3-5-2 means Bitton or El Hamed as first 11 starters. Neither have played much for Celtic in the last 12 months. Does splurging on a striker mean that we must now too splurge on a central defender?
And if anyone mentions McKenna I’ll expect this blog to return to its normal pessimistic, critical theme…
Yeah you’re right re Forster, maybe I’ve worded that quite badly. As you say it was simply expected that he’d be staying so I’ve considered him not being signed more like a player leaving than a player not joining, hence referring to Barkas as number one target rather than number two. But nope, I don’t think he’d have been signed if Forster had stayed. Obviously we know how brilliant Forster is/was, but I’m quite excited at signing a 26 year old keeper, and hopeful that he could be around for a long time to come if everything works out.
Totally agree with Ajeti, there were rumours we were trying to sign him last summer until West Ham stumped us with their £8m bid. Though not sure how true that is but if so good to know we’ve been keeping track of his situation.
Eddy leaving gives me the absolute fear and I simply don’t want to talk about it. Burying my head in the sand/or trying to be the optimist again and pretend there’s no risk of him going? You can decide.
Can only hope the fact that centre half and left back seems to be our next priorities signal a shift back to 3-5-2 with Eddy and Ajeti playing together. Or if we do play 4-2-3-1/4-3-3, Ajeti will simply be second choice, giving him a year to settle fully before taking over from Edouard next summer. Again, wishful thinking I’m sure.
Shane Duffy seems to be the name doing the rounds the most at the moment, I suppose if we’re going to sign a big physical centre half to play in between Jullien & Ajer, I’d much rather him than McKenna, as you say.
In terms of money I think there’s a good chance our next signings will be loans. In a way it’s what I want because if we spend big again it’s surely a bad sign that someone is leaving imminently?