In terms of additions made for the first-team, the hit ratio has been unheard of with at least a dozen making a significant positive impact. Beyond that, the likes of Aaron Mooy and Moritz Jenz have been good, while Benjamin Siegrist’s game time has been limited due to the continued excellence of Joe Hart.
The Australian has spoken previously of the preparation that goes into ensuring the club are planning two, three or four windows ahead. He once again offered praise to the work done by Mark Lawwell, the head of first team scouting and recruitment, and the team which works with him. Postecoglou said: “You need to have good people around you and a good scouting network and a good recruiting area which we have now with Mark Lawwell. They do all that work in terms of gathering information and then we make that decision.”
Celtic are preparing for the upcoming window as they look to not only stay well ahead of rivals Rangers but improve upon a squad which faced what you could perhaps term as a reality check in the Champions League after failing to win in the group stage. A stage they are set to return to with what appears to be an insurmountable nine point lead going into the break for the World Cup.
‘Where growth lies’
It’s understandable to initially query whether the team needs improvement. Yet, while reinforcements are not needed for the remainder of the season, it is about continued involvement. It's not that long ago, Postecoglou remarked that there was no “fear” of losing his star players but it being “part of the process”. He said: “If you look at clubs who do well at Champions League level that are our size, what do they do? They develop players, sell them on, and replace them with better versions, hopefully. That is where I think our growth lies.”
That growth may begin with a new right-back. It has been reported that the club will listen to offers for Josip Juranovic following the World Cup. The Croatia international has the perfect shop window to impress prospective buyers and if he does well it is the perfect time for Celtic to cash in and extract maximum value. He is 27 years of age, contracted for three-and-a-half more years.
Anthony Ralston continues to be a dependable right-back option. The Scotland international has grown under Postecoglou’s tutelage, adding to his skillset in possession. His aggressive play and direct bombarding can be so destructive on the domestic stage. The Celtic manager is keen to rotate his full-backs, however, meaning a Juranovic's departure would require a replacement.
Making January look easy
January is a notoriously difficult transfer window. That is minimised by preparatory work and Celtic have displayed the benefit of adding players mid-way through the season. Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda all provided a freshness last campaign but that experience saw them hit the ground running coming into this one.
The nature of the Japanese season market makes the January window a good time to sign players from a league which Postecoglou knows so well and the club have had so much joy out of it. Celtic have been strongly linked with Vissel Kobe’s Yuki Kobayashi. A young left-sided centre-back who can provide balance in the middle of defence, he ticks a lot of boxes. A six-month period to get used to Scottish football would benefit the player and he would add depth to a defence which has had its injury issues at centre-back.
Beyond those two positions, it is about looking at potential departures in the summer. Liel Abada and Jota are two attackers who have constantly put up impressive numbers and two who really should attract plenty of attention due to a combination of their quality and age. Sead Haksabanovic has already been a shrewd pick-up, displaying his versatility in attack. It would be somewhat of a surprise if those wide attacking areas are not ones which are regarded as a priority in terms of scouting and crunching the numbers relevant to what Postecoglou seeks.
Most demanding of positions
The other position which stands out as one which requires vigilance is in midfield. Matt O’Riley is another Celtic star who has had reported interest from English Premier League sides and has filled in for Callum McGregor since the captain’s injury, forcing him to miss 11 games. It is understood that when the Danish Under-21 star was at MK Dons there was a hesitation amongst Premier League clubs about the step up from League One. There can be little hesitation now after the year he has had in the green and white hoops. Then there is Reo Hatate who was one Celtic player who really stepped up on the Champions League stage, making one of the passes of the group stage against Real Madrid.
David Turnbull still has huge potential and is an excellent midfield creator. Mooy has been competent but Oliver Abildgaard has not made much of an impact. After all, the demands on a midfielder at Celtic are huge, especially the No.8s, who have to act as de facto No.10s, wide men and full-backs depending on game situations.
It will no doubt be a fascinating window at Celtic who are safe in the knowledge they are looking to improve from a position of huge strength. Don't be surprised if those reinforcements come at right-back and centre-back as well as midfield and, potentially, a wide forward.