Sunday, June 7, 2015

2014-15 report card - Celtic

Getting better all the time
Celtic crest

LEAGUE: 1st, 92pts (2013-14 - 1st, 99pts)
SCOTTISH CUP: Semi-finals
MOST USED FIRST XI: Craig Gordon, Adam Matthews, Jason Denayer, Virgil Van Dijk, Emilio Izaguirre, Scott Brown, Nir Biton, Anthony Stokes, Kris Commons, Stefan Johansen, John Guidetti

OVERVIEW: Considering how impressive Celtic were in 2015, it's remarkable to think how much they actually struggled in Ronny Deila's first few months.  Europe was largely a disaster (a pub quiz question for the future - which club was knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers twice in the same season?) and they dropped points remarkably easily in the league while the players got the hang of a style of play very different to that employed by Neil Lennon.  Deila himself called the November win at Pittodrie a turning point, and from then on they looked much more coherent.  And, whilst their subsequent moaning wasn't very dignified, it's not unreasonable to say they were one horrendous refereeing decision away from a treble.

HIGH POINTS: The home game against Aberdeen in March wasn't really a title decider, but any possibility of a battle for top spot was blown away with a crushing 4-0 win.  The League Cup triumph was Celtic's first in six years.

LOW POINTS: Being thumped in Warsaw was embarrassing, but blowing their second chance, against a weaker side in Maribor, was even worse.  Winning four out of fourteen European ties (two of which were against Icelanders KR) was a terrible return.

STAR MAN: Stefan Johansen was the first of the attackers to really get the hang of his countryman's philosophy - despite playing in a more advanced role than he was previously used to.  Whilst other teammates shone in spells - most noticeably Leigh Griffiths in the springtime - Johansen was consistently excellent all season and deserved to be named Players' Player of the Year.

ONE FOR THE FUTURE: Jason Denayer isn't even twenty for a few more weeks, but he's got to be one of the most impressive teenage defenders anywhere in Europe.  He cruised through the season, and whilst Celtic want him back, I suspect Manchester City will consider him ready to play at a higher level.

WASTE OF SPACE: Aleksandar Tonev's year in Scotland will go down in infamy; the Bulgarian made pretty much zero impact on the pitch, and of course got banned for racially abusing Aberdeen's Shay Logan.

THE BOSS: I can't help feeling that Celtic dodged a bullet when Roy Keane declined the job last summer.  Deila had a rough start, but the club's faith in him was justified.  Not only were Celtic winning games at a canter after Christmas, but they were doing so with some delightful football.  He's gone from looking out of his depth in the autumn to a man who might be the subject of interest from elsewhere in the near future.

PROSPECTS FOR NEXT SEASON: The onus for 2015-16 must be on a better European campaign, and there is plenty of confidence that Celtic will get back into the Champions League.  Given that Deila didn't get much of a transfer kitty last summer, it will be interesting to see how much he has to spend this time around.  He has a fair bit of dead wood he could do with shifting, in order to make space for new recruits.  Domestically, they will of course win the league again - the question is by how much, and whether they can get a treble this time.

FIRST TEAMERS DEFINITELY LEAVING: Joe Chalmers, Jason Denayer (end of loan), John Guidetti (end of loan), Aleksandar Tonev (end of loan), Mubarak Wakaso (end of loan)

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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