Having options in multiple positions on the field is a wanted utopia that all managers will crave in the modern game, including Celtic’s Brendan Rodgers.

However, even he will be baffled at the amount of choice he currently has at his disposal, especially at the back in the centre of defence. In a position where historically Celtic have struggled for depth and options when players are unavailable. Think back to Rodgers’ first spell at Celtic, where if Dedryck Boyata or Kristoffer Ajer were unavailable then there was a problem at the back. Now in his second spell at the club, Rodgers has at last half a dozen defenders to call upon if and when required.

Of course, this now injury-free positional sector has not been like this for the whole season, as the beginning of this year’s campaign – both domestically and in Europe – was admittedly blighted by injuries to the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh and Maik Nawrocki. These injuries in turn prompted the club to opt for an emergency loan in the form of Nat Phillips from Liverpool, joining the club until the January transfer window.

The proverbial spanner in the works – and not a negative one by any stretch – is the emergence of Liam Scales as a credible starter for Celtic. The Irishman spent last season out on loan at Aberdeen, where he was an ever-present under both Jim Goodwin and his successor Barry Robson as a left-sided centre-back, a change from the left-back he was sparingly used as at Celtic under Ange Postecoglou during his debut season at the club.

Ever since this position suffered the unluckiest run of injury woes in modern memory, Scales has been an ever-present at the back for the club. Not missing a single minute since his inclusion in the team for Celtic’s 0-0 stalemate against St Johnstone at home in August, the form and performances of Scales has been the surprise of the season for both those following the team and his own manager. His Ibrox showing alongside Lagerbielke showed that he was up to the level, with European defensive masterclasses against Lazio and Atletico Madrid providing more proof in his favour.

Scales’ solid displays and subsequent form off the back of those showings have solved a lot of problems that had the potential to derail Celtic’s entire season early on in proceedings. However, a new problem has arisen, especially concerning a couple of new permanent recruits in the shape of Nawrocki and Lagerbielke, who are not getting any game time as a consequence of Scales’ great form.

As things stand, Rodgers plays with two central defenders in Celtic’s consistent 4-3-3 position, as has been the case since the start of the season. This was not a problem when Carter-Vickers, Nawrocki and Welsh were out, as Lagerbielke, Scales and Phillips would fight it out for those two spots. The problem now is that all of the aforementioned defenders are now back in contention to start for the club. A welcomed headache, but a headache all the same for the manager.

This is where Rodgers has to use his man-management skills to keep Celtic’s plethora of defensive options happy about game time. A rough estimate would tell you that Celtic paid around £7.5 million for the services of Nawrocki and Lagerbielke from Legia Warsaw and Elfsborg in Poland and Sweden respectively. That’s a lot of money for bench players, that is, if they manage to make the bench.

Despite Lagerbielke not having any sort of disclosed injury – and featuring for his country internationally – he has struggled to make the bench, with Phillips being preferred as the back-up central defender when Scales and Carter-Vickers start for Celtic. Despite having a shaky start to proceedings at his new club – though he got away with his lapse in concentration at Ibrox – Lagerbielke faces a fight to make it back into Rodgers’ defensive plans. Though he has just returned to full training from a nasty hamstring injury, Nawrocki is in the same boat, having been in and out of appearing on the bench despite being a nailed-on starter before his injury.

One player whose situation should be a little easier to clear up should be that of the emergency loan defender Phillips, who has made fleeting appearances in truth. Thanks to the volume of defenders at the club, you would expect his January loan deal to not be extended beyond the new year. Admittedly, the stop-start nature of his Celtic stint has directly mirrored his career in truth, so he will probably have to search for regular football elsewhere away from his parent club next year.

Perhaps the forgotten man in all of this discourse concerning defensive players is the homegrown Welsh, who was named on the bench for the first time since recovering from his hamstring injury, picked up just hours after signing his extended deal at the club. Rodgers rates the defender highly, so it will be interesting to see where he sits in the hierarchy of Celtic’s defensive wall. Can he take inspiration from his fellow teammate in Scales and force his way into the team?

The point must be emphasised and underlined that these are unfamiliar waters that Celtic currently find themselves. However, not all players will be happy with the amount of – or complete lack of – game time that they are currently receiving. Will those players elect for a January exit, or will they stay and try and displace Scales to partner Carter-Vickers? Perhaps the latter may depart – as horrible as that sounds – and free up space next summer for the likes of those waiting in the wings. We will have to wait and see on that one.

Either way, it is a congested position for Celtic to manage, regardless of the positives that come from having that volume of cover. One thing is abundantly clear, and that is the defensive trinity of Nawrocki, Lagerbielke and Welsh have a fight on their hands regarding trying to take Scales out of the Celtic team at the moment.

Patience is required, the same kind that Scales showed before his big opportunity came in the form of an injury crisis. It is a virtue, after all.