Brendan Rodgers has dropped his biggest hint yet that he will look to strengthen Celtic’s central defensive options.
An injury to Jozo Simunovic ahead of the Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in Germany forced Rodgers to deploy Mikael Lustig at centre back alongside Dedryck Boyata, with Cristian Gamboa slotting in at right back.
The Costa Rican defender endured a torrid time dealing with David Alaba and Kingsley Coman on the right hand side.
So far this season, Rodgers has played Simunovic, Boyata, Kieran Tierney, Erik Sviatchenko and midfield duo Kristoffer Ajer and Nir Bitton in central defence in a variety of combinations, in three-man and four-man defences.
Three defenders from last season’s squad - Efe Ambrose, Eoghan O’Connell and Kolo Toure - were allowed to leave the club or, in Toure’s case, retired, leaving Celtic short in defence.
While Rodgers brought in four midfielders and one striker during the summer, he did look to bolster his defensive options but intimated during the summer transfer window his desire to bring in a quality addition.
Celtic did pursue South African defender Rivaldo Coetzee, but ended their interest after Hoops physio Tim Williamson discovered an underlying problem with the player’s right foot during a medical in Johannesburg.
But Simunovic’s susceptibility to injury and Rodgers’ apparent unwillingness to rely too heavily on the 19-year-old Ajer may push the Celtic manager into bringing in back-up in his rearguard.
Rodgers told The Guardian in the aftermath of the 3-0 loss in Munich that people who had insisted he sign a centre-back during the summer ‘should be on the coaching staff’.
Rodgers added: “Since I’ve come in here, from the very first day, we’ve been struggling with the availability of central defenders. Not just one, not just two, it’s been three and sometimes four.”
Rodgers was forced to play Bitton at centre half alongside Simunovic against Astana in the Champions League First playoff round first leg match at Parkhead, while the return leg saw a makeshift pairing of Bitton and Ajer.
Until recently, Celtic were without Sviatchenko, Simunovic and Boyata. While Lustig and Tierney are more than capable of playing in the middle, it isn’t their natural position and robs Celtic of their qualities in the full-back slots.
Rodgers continued: “It’s something we’ve had to deal with and something we’ll have to look at in terms of getting that consistency.”
Whether Rodgers will look for a short-term deal now until the January transfer window opens, or attempt to hold out until the new year to bring in reinforcements remains to be seen.