Creative force, left-back, fringe players future - the key Celtic talking points ahead of first friendly
Celtic travelled to Austria on Monday as their pre-season preparations stepped up a notch.
It is the first stop for the club prior to moving on to the Czech Republic. They will play two friendlies before they do so. Rapid Vienna are opponents this weekend, but prior to that is a meeting with Wiener Viktoria in the Austrian capital on Wednesday.
Seven into three
Ange Postecoglou has plenty of choice in the final third of the pitch. The answer as to how he will get seven players – Jota, James Forrest, Mikey Johnston, Daizen Maeda, Kyogo Furuhashi, Liel Abada and Giorgos Giakoumakis – into three positions is quite simple – squad rotation.
As usual Celtic, will be operating on four fronts this season, with the added excitement and demands of Champions League group-stage football. Then there is the mid-season break due to the World Cup in Qatar. Between the first league fixture against Aberdeen and the break, the club will likely play 24 matches in 104 days.
The team’s identity under Postecoglou means players will need to be energetic and recover well to go again and again.
Forrest and Johnston
It is relatively easy to surmise that sixth and seventh choices are James Forrest and Mikey Johnston. The latter’s season could just about be summed up by the anguish felt when he suffered an injury after being handed a start in a Scottish Cup clash with Raith Rovers. In two seasons when he should have been making a claim for a starting berth, the 23-year-old started just seven games due to injury issues.
Then there is Forrest, whose influence has been on the wane over a similar time period. Again, not helped by injury problems. Pre-season will be a big one to try and push themselves back up the pecking order.
There is understandable excitement surrounding new boy Alexandro Bernabei. The club’s first-ever player from Argentina ticks a lot of boxes in terms of fitting into Postecoglou’s Celtic side and it was a position which needed greater depth. Pre-season will give a good indication as to who will be first choice, with the expectation it will be Bernabei. But Greg Taylor is someone who is a reliable presence and knows the league very, very well. He demonstrated he can fulfil the role required, especially his performance against Rangers in the 3-0 win.
The 22-year-old is a creative force. Across last season’s Premiership season, Turnbull was top for assists per 90, second assists per 90 and shot assists per 90. When he played he was involved and when he was involved he would set up chances. A hamstring injury robbed him of a large chunk of the season. With Tom Rogic gone he could have even more responsibility in midfield and was a regular starter for Postecoglou. However, there is the presence of Matt O’Riley, who could well rival Turnbull for that creative role in certain games.
Pre-season will be a big one for the club's fringe players to impress, while giving fans an idea of who will be part of the squad going forward. A number of the club’s younger players will fall into this category, as will Osaze Urhoghide, James McCarthy, Yosuke Ideguchi and Christopher Jullien, whose move to Schalke 04 fell through.
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