It is that time of year when ludicrous opinions are bookmarked for later ridicule.

As the dawn of the 2023/24 season approaches for Celtic, I’ve been asked to ponder several predictive questions relating to the new season.

Full disclaimer: it is this type of content that partly inspired me to start Celtic By Numbers ‚Äď that and player match ratings. Surely data and facts are a better tool for such a discussion? However, it is¬†just a bit of fun. So, here we go.

Player of the Season

For this award, you not only need consistent performance but more prosaic availability. The best player tends to be someone who has been highly present as well as productive across the campaign. That leads you to captain Callum McGregor, someone who famously has appeared in more minutes than just about any other footballer on the planet. McGregor did suffer injury last year, and - with a stock of central midfielders - the first signs of gentle and natural age-based decline. With a new manager keen on power and pace, it may be that McGregor is not as omnipotent.

What about goals? Kyogo Furuhashi already looks sharp after his goal versus Wolverhampton Wanderers in Dublin. Can the 60-minute maestro again break the 30-goal mark? He probably will, but for this award, it feels more worthwhile to look at wider contributions.  

READ MORE: An ode to James Forrest: A modern-day Celtic great

An outside bet would be Matt O’Riley, a developing young player who may prosper under Brendan Rodgers’s expert coaching and tutelage. Cameron Carter-Vickers has arguably been POTS the last two campaigns for sheer performance consistency. Irrespective of his partner or the circumstances, Carter-Vickers' personal performances were extraordinarily consistent, and therefore it feels like it will be third time lucky for him.

Prediction: Cameron Carter-Vickers

Young Player of the Season

One of the most exciting aspects of Rodgers’ return is the impact it may have on existing squad members. He rejuvenated several players in 2016/17 including the captain Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney.

Celtic have signed a batch of young prospects this summer, but you must account for the normal settling-in periods as these young men adapt to new environments. Based on existing physical and technical capabilities, Rodgers will have a positive effect on several of Celtic’s existing younger players, especially Alexandro Bernabei, Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley.

However, it is wide forward Liel Abada who one expects would make the biggest jump forward. Very much in the classic mould for Rodgers of a front-foot aggressive, attacking wide player, Abada’s productivity rose last season despite being used mainly as an impact substitute. He averaged a remarkable 1.14 expected scoring contribution (expected goals plus expected assists), partly due to the role as a sub coming on against tired and ragged opposition, but - across his metrics - he showed discernible improvement as demonstrated in a recent column.

As Ange Postecoglou seemed to settle on a small core of trusted players, Abada saw his starting opportunities diminish. Under Rodgers - and with Jota sold - there is a clear run for the Israeli to tie down the right-hand attacking wide spot. He will do that, and we will hopefully see spectacular numbers as a result

Prediction: Liel Abada

Top Goal Scorer

With 34 goals, Furuhashi was given the very specific central striker role and player the part to perfection last season. Entering his prime years, there is little evidence barring injury to suggest he will diminish. Perhaps striking duties may be shared with Daizen Maeda. Could Abada - given a prolonged run - challenge the Japanese for top scorer?

All possible, but it is difficult to argue against the former Vissel Kobe man.

Prediction: Kyogo Furuhashi

Most Assists

Like top scorer, there is a slight issue here as I would judge it on expected assists per 90 minutes, not the actual assist total. However, based on xA90 last season, the leaders would have been:

Turnbull                 0.51

Abada                    0.5

Haksabanovic         0.48

Jota                       0.4

O’Riley                   0.35

A little substitute dividend thing going on with the top three on this. Jota and O’Riley’s xA number were mainly as starters against fit, organised opponents. As regards actual assists, David Turnbull topped the list with 0.59 every 90 minutes followed by Aaron Mooy with 0.54.

Next season? Given Abada will be a regular starter - as previously stated - and he has the most productive numbers beyond Turnbull (squad player) and Mooy (retired), it seems worthwhile going for the young Israeli in this category too.

Prediction: Liel Abada

Signing of the Season

This is very tough, mainly because it feels like Celtic’s major transfer activity is yet to materialise. It appears the club are active for several key positions looking for starting personnel. 

Meanwhile, the strategy of unearthing undervalued younger players from less well-scouted markets continues. Most of the summer signings fall into that category except for Polish centre-back Maik Nawrocki. For that reason, it feels like Nawrocki will have the most impact on the first team of those signed so far. 

But as for the overall signing of the season? We'll have to wait and see.

Prediction: Maik Nawrocki

How Will Celtic Do In Europe?

Last season's Champions League campaign was plucky and exciting, but also chastening. The gulf not just in ability but athleticism to Real Madrid and Red Bull Leipzig was stark.

It does not feel like Rodgers has the resources to materially bridge that gap in one window, but we may see a more pragmatic team shape and hopefully be less open at the back and on the counter. That being said, the reality is likely to be a fight for the third-place spot and continuing European football after New Year in the Europa League.

READ MORE: Ryan McGinlay's Celtic 2023/24 season predictions

Under Rodgers, it feels like we have a coach mature enough to navigate that. For a first season back and with this young squad, I’ll take that as progress. Will Celtic win a post-New Year knockout tie? History is against that prediction but it feels like the team is positioned to win at least one tie in the Europa League knockouts.

Prediction: Third place in Champions League group 

What still needs to be done in the transfer market?

Goalkeeper, left-back and an athletic box-to-box midfielder. And - equally as important - as many as ten or more need to be trimmed from the wage bill.

Prediction: Goalkeeper, left-back and midfielder

What trophies will Celtic win?

Given the financial realities, Celtic should be crowned Scottish champions once again relatively easily. However, given the lack of quality amongst SPFL squads and management beyond the top two and the distorting effect playing derbies has without away fans, the league will be closer than the balance sheets say it should be.

Cups are - of course - a lottery to a great extent, although Rodgers mastered the format the first time around. One would hope Celtic will claim at least one of them and ending the season with victory at Hampden is always the perfect start to the summer.

Prediction: League and Scottish Cup