IT WOULD hardly be revolutionary. Yet, at home to Kilmarnock this afternoon, Celtic manager Ronny Deila could be about to configure his team in a fashion that would be radical when set against his orthodoxy across his first four months in Scotland.
A first goal by £2.3 million signing Stefan Scepovic in the win over Astra Giurgiu in the Europa League has strengthened the Serbian striker’s case for a starting place this afternoon. Meanwhile, John Guidetti’s ability to find the net for Celtic on a regular basis since he arrived in a one-year loan deal from Manchester City means the Swedish striker is a guaranteed first pick.
In Deila switching between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 when shaping his side, the impression created has been that two central strikers into one team does not go for the Norwegian. The form of Guidetti – ineligible for the Europa League group stages – has allowed a performer with a big personality to become that one. However, Deila maintained the other day he was not averse to selecting a strike force, as opposed to just a striker. Gasp, he even made it plain that sending his side out in a 4-4-2 formation would not be anathema to him.
“I think they [Guidetti and Scepovic] can play together. We just have to get the right team around them,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting and something we’re going to have to try out at the right time. We’ll see about that on Sunday maybe, or whenever it might be.
“I think they can suit each other. They are both intelligent players, and intelligent players can play together. I would think of playing them in a 4-4-2. It’s all about principles for me, not about systems. We have to play the system that suits the players and if doing that could make us better, it’s no problem. Consistency is important.”
Consistency has entirely eluded Deila’s Celtic. They will seek wins over Allan Johnston’s side today, and in the League Cup quarter-final at home to Partick Thistle on Wednesday, to put together a four-game winning run for the first time this season. Even when they do win, it is often without conviction. Mikael Lustig slammed the performance that brought a 2-1 win over the Romanians the other night as “crap”, though he was grateful for three points that put Celtic in a strong position to qualify for the Europa League last 32.
In these Deila days, players’ form seems to fluctuate wildly from game to game. Callum McGregor has endured a recent dip after excelling in the opening couple of months in his breakthrough season and his manager did not reject the suggestion that the 20-year-old may be in a need of a rest.
“You know he is a young player and when a young player comes in he has nothing to lose,” Deila said. “Every time you kick the ball the right way the crowd is behind you and then the expectation follows. You start to get high shoulders and you have to cope with that. We will see if we will give him a rest or not
“He is a good player and he is a very professional player so we have to manage him the right way. You can see he is a little bit more down than up but he scored a nice goal against Ross County [last weekend] so it’s a bit of a roller coaster.”
Deila has certainly been on a white-knuckle ride as Celtic manager. His summer recruits to the squad have also placed him on a footballing ghost train because, with many of them, you never seem to quite know what is round the corner. Deila is unabashed that his transfer activity – with Scepovic one of only two new faces among seven, Craig Gordon the other, brought in on a permanent basis – has improved the team options.
“I think we had a good window,” he said. “Craig Gordon has been fantastic, Jason Denayer is unbelievably good, Guidetti has been very good and I think Scepovic showed on Thursday he has something to give. [Mubarak] Wakaso has been in and out because of injury and also because of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers. [Aleksandar] Tonev and Jo Inge [Berget] need more time – especially Tonev because he has been a long time out and he is a young player and he needs confidence.”
But confidence doesn’t appear in plentiful supply where Celtic are concerned.