This is not a defence of Ronny Deila’s time in charge of Celtic. Last Sunday’s defeat was a prime example of how Deila has underachieved, particularly in the bigger games. Regardless of what you think of the player recruitment policy at the club, the squad should still have given a more positive reflection of their abilities against Rangers. They sat off their possession-hungry opponents too often, were ponderous in their own approach and didn’t give enough respect tactically to the second tier champions. That’s all on Deila.
Similar accusations can be thrown at him for the defeats to Ross County and Inverness CT, the other times Celtic have exited domestic cup competitions during his time in charge, and several matches on the continent, most notably the defeats to Molde, the second leg against Malmo and last season’s bottle job against Maribor. Regardless of the strength of player brought in, there was still enough talent at his disposal to get better results out of these fixtures. Therefore, he still deserved to go.
However, Deila is far from being the only one at fault for Celtic’s current malaise. Over the course of his managerial career at Parkhead, there was a consistent lack of high quality talent coming in. We don’t know, and will likely never know, how much influence or control he had over transfer policy, though it is widely assumed he wasn’t in full command of this side of the football club.
There’s nothing underhand about this, it’s just the way bigger clubs are generally being run in the 21st century, but there’s little doubt the system used, whatever it was, failed to provide the first team with top quality recruits. How much of this is Deila’s own doing is up for debate.
Here are all 22 players signed by Celtic during Ronny Deila’s time as manager. They are ranked into six categories. Warning, it doesn’t make for great reading if you’re a Celtic fan.
If you’re feeling generous you could include Jason Denayer and Craig Gordon in this list. However, by stars I mean the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama, real top quality talents that belong on the Champions League stage and make Celtic the envy of English Premier League sides by owning such assets. Both Gordon and Denayer are, and were, very good for Celtic, just not quite at that level.
Craig Gordon, Jason Denayer, Erik Sviatchenko, Patrick Roberts
It’d be just as easy to chuck Sviatchenko and Roberts into the ‘Jury’s Out’ group and leave this section almost as bare as the one which preceded it, but I’m going to take a punt on these two. Even in a rudderless Celtic side they’ve managed to stand out as being a pair capable of performing above the mean. A ridiculous miss in the Old Firm derby aside, Roberts has already shown himself to have real star-level ability in those legs of his, while Sviatchenko looks like that rare breed of player - a defender Celtic can rely on. He was excellent in Sunday’s defeat despite starting the match on the bench, which was a severe (and potentially fatal) error in judgement from Deila.
THE JURY’S OUT
Logan Bailly, Michael Duffy, Ryan Christie, Saidy Janko, Jozo Simunovic
Five players who haven’t made much of an impact but then haven’t had much of a chance. Bailly was always expected to back-up Gordon and that’s precisely what he’s done, while Janko and Simunovic’s input, thus far, has been limited by long-term injuries. Duffy has spent most of the season out on loan to Alloa, while Christie has barely been afforded an opportunity to this point. Celtic recalling him from his loan at Inverness in January seemed to be a statement of their intent to play the young attacker. Instead, he’s sat on the bench, begging the question of why he was recalled in the first place.
Gary Mackay-Steven, Stuart Armstrong, John Guidetti
I tried, where possible, to fit everyone into either the “hits” or “misses” category because there’s little fun in sitting on the fence. However, I felt these three needed their own separate space. To Celtic fans, they may all feel like misses, but then the club won the title last season, will win it again this year, and these guys played more than a supporting role in both. Armstrong and Mackay-Steven may not be living up to previous expectations, but they’ve played 73 games combined. They don’t deserve to be in with the likes of Tyler Blackett and Jo Inge Berget, and they don’t deserve to be qualified as successes either. As for Guidetti, for all his flaws he still scored 15 goals as a Celtic player. Not a bad return.
Jo Inge Berget, Mubarak Wakaso, Stefan Scepovic, Dedryck Boyata, Nadir Ciftci, Scott Allan, Tyler Blackett
Ciftci never made much sense as a Celtic signing purely because he didn’t fit into Deila’s system. The same can be said for Allan who lacks the energy to play at the No.10 role in the same manner as someone like Stefan Johansen. Blackett and Boyata have each had turns at having a complete mental breakdown on the field of play - Blackett against Molde and Boyata at Hampden on Sunday - while the others were foreign imports who didn’t work out at all. To expand on Scepovic, his departure last summer was a curious one. He never looked great in a Celtic top but, considering who they replaced him with, surely it would have been better just holding on to him? Speaking of whom...
THE OH MY GOD, WHY?
Aleksandar Tonev, Carlton Cole, Colin Kazim-Richards
Tonev’s inclusion in the worst of the worst doesn’t need to be stated. As for the other two, well, what was the point? A 32-year-old Carlton Cole barely has the ability to move, a fact Celtic didn’t seem to work out until after they signed him to a deal through until the end of next season. They then decided to double-down on ageing ex-EPL strikers with a January move for Kazim-Richards, this time on a deal until the end of the 2017/18 season. He’s similar to Cole with a better touch and mobility but, historically, not as much of a goal threat. These two additions may have been fine, especially Kazim-Richards, if the plan was to utilise a little-and-large strike-force with one of them and Leigh Griffiths, but Deila showed little inclination towards such an approach.
Celtic have to do some deep soul searching before they make an agreement with a new manager. They need to bring together a coherent plan of where they want to be, how they want to get there and what type of man they need for the job. The transfers from the last two years indicate the previous strategy was just too scattergun, as do whispers that Deila had a big say on bringing the likes of Sviatchenko and Boyata to the club and no say on some of the other transfers. They need coherency from the top down or mistakes of the past 24 months will only end up being repeated.
THE SCOTSMAN ON SOCIAL MEDIA