Celtic had lost just 4 games in their previous two SPL campaigns. Now, six games in to the season the record-breaking defending champions are languishing in 6th place after Sundays 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock.
This seasons old firm victory glossed over cracks that were beginning to show for Celtic. Poor performances against Partick Thistle and Hamilton stand out, as well as their exit from the Champions League.
Following the restoration of some order with the victory over Rangers, the hoops have looked lacklustre, lethargic and weak.
Brendan Rodgers side struggled for creativity against St Mirren, failing to find the net in a bore 0-0, albeit with 10 men. A good result followed in midweek, with Leigh Griffiths heading home the only goal as the team took 3 points against Rosenborg. But again, there was a lack of creativity and incisiveness to Celtics play. A far cry from the free-flowing football that has seen them carve teams apart in recent years.
The theme continued in to the loss at Rugby Park. Kilmarnock stayed strong and regimented, holding their line and frustrating Celtic. The home side managed to stifle what little creativity the champions to offer.
So what has gone wrong this season?
The reality of it is, that Celtic scraped through multiple games last year. They were lucky to avoid defeat against Motherwell, Hibernian and St Johnstone among others. With another European campaign to push for, the side needed to be strengthened to compete on all fronts.
Just a handful of players have entered the dressing room at Celtic Park, with some of their finest walking out the door. Fan favourite and illusive winger Patrick Roberts returned to parent club Manchester City, he was often instrumental in tighter games for Celtic, his quick feet and vison allowed him to produce moments of magic, a void that hasn’t really been filled.
Tom Rogic is now the only individual spark Celtic can look to, and he has often been a damp squib this season. Following the departure of Stuart Armstrong to Southampton for £7miillion, Celtic have failed to provide Rogic with a partner to link up with in midfield.
Ntcham and Brown were fantastic in prior seasons, but have looked off the pace this year and bringing in former Kilmarnock midfielder Youssef Mulumbu hasn’t helped to steady the ship.
Celtic fended off persistent interest for Kieran Tierney. Who, despite his struggling surroundings, still looks destined for a bright future.
They did the same with French striker Moussa Dembele, their talismanic forward. Since joining from Fulham for just £500k; Dembele has been the main source of goals and was particularly partial to finding the net against Rangers.
The ‘would he stay, would he’ go saga went on all summer, with some of Dembeles’ social media posts appearing to suggest he would remain in Glasgow. But alas, on the final day of the window, Dembele forced his way out, sealing a £19.75million switch to French outfit Lyon.
Transfer Market Failings
Despite breaking a club record to agree a permanent deal for another Frenchman, Odsonne Edouard, Celtic have failed to recruit the players they needed. Edouard is a talent, but he not a new addition, having spent last season on loan with the club.
The deal for Filip Benkovic looks to be good business in the heart of defence. Which has been a real Achilles heel for Celtic with the issues surrounding Dederick Boyata. Although a threat at the other end, Boyata always looks like he is on the verge of a blunder.
Celtic look fragile across the defence. Mikael Lustig, now 31, has been consistently tormented by quick opponents. Their only replacement is Cristian Gamboa, who has played little to no football in the past two years.
Jack Hendry has often come in for criticism as he looked out of his depth again on Sunday. Celtic particularly struggled when defending set pieces which ultimately cost them the game as Stuart Findlay headed a 93rd minute winner for Killie.
Celtic now are left with 10 points from their first 6 games, and have relied heavily on home advantage, as just 1 of their last 5 away outings have resulted in a victory.
Rodgers needs to rally his players quickly, there’s a lot of games to play before he can delve in to the transfer market again.