It has been a rollercoaster season for Celtic concerning form, though it must be said that the club’s current form is that very word – concerning.

Coming off the back of a treble-winning season, returning manager Brendan Rodgers now held the keys to a well-oiled machine that was maintained and at the same time steadily upgraded over time by the now-departed Ange Postecoglou. With assets all over the pitch, the Australian left the east end of Glasgow to pastures new in the north of London, with Rodgers returning to the club after over four years away.

Fast-forward to the present, and the situation is a little bit more tense than was previously expected. Last weekend, Celtic were inflicted their first defeat of the league season at the hands of Derek McInnes’ Kilmarnock side at Rugby Park, the same team (and location) that dumped Rodgers’ men out of the League Cup back in August.

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As you would expect, there has been both backlash and finger-pointing galore – particularly online – since Sunday’s game concluded. Rodgers will know himself that this outpouring of emotion comes with the territory, given the size and stature of the club he is trying to steer to success. After all, he has been in this position before, both at Celtic and his jobs down south.

The question is: who is to blame for this inconsistent form that has been present for most of this season, both domestically and in Europe? There is no single correct answer here, but a collection of factors that have conjoined together at the worst possible time.

The manager

The buck stops with the man in charge of footballing matters, and when results are consistently inconsistent, then some of the blame has to go on the manager’s shoulders. Celtic have dropped points in two of the last four Premiership games – against Motherwell and Kilmarnock – which has led to the gap between Rangers and themselves being shortened to five (two if Rangers win their game in hand).

When Rodgers arrived back at the club earlier this year, he spoke about wanting to both continue the success of his predecessor, as well as make a more sustained impact on European football. Unless he can pull a result out of the bag against Feyenoord on Wednesday, Celtic will finish on fewer points than they managed in last year’s competition (two). The Atletico Madrid draw aside, Celtic have managed to largely regress in Europe, in a group that many saw as manageable with regard to getting out of.

As much as Europe is an added objective for Celtic to work on, the domestic game is the club’s bread and butter, and both performances and results have suffered in recent times. Regardless, the incumbent has got to find a way to stabilise both, or this season could unravel very quickly.

Recruitment issues

As things stand, Celtic’s business rivals that of the ill-fated 2020/21 season under Neil Lennon. Despite his poor performance on Sunday, Luis Palma has been essentially the only success story of Mark Lawwell’s transfer incomings this summer.

Celtic’s recruitment strategy had so much focus on the future that they forgot about the present side. Not to sound like a broken record, but projects like Kwon Hyeok-kyu and Marco Tilio were not required this summer, with the jury out on whether they’ll ever be ready to play consistently for the first team. Kwon has to actually make it onto the pitch to challenge that perception, mind you.

As much as younger players like Odin Thiago Holm and – to a lesser extent – Yang Hyun-jun have shown some early promise, they are not as good as the players they are deputising for in their absence. Of course, we cannot forget the defensive mess that Celtic find themselves in, both in terms of not identifying problem areas (left-back and in goals) and by signing players who are not featuring in the side whatsoever (Gustaf Lagerbielke and Maik Nawrocki). Mark Lawwell has a lot of making up to do next month if this summer’s transfer business is anything to go by.

Injuries and overreliance

It would be wrong to dismiss Celtic’s ongoing injury situation, which has made some of their best players unavailable for large parts of the season.

Admittedly, any team of Celtic’s standing and level would miss having players of undoubted quality and drive such as Reo Hatate, Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda unavailable. Add into the mix temporary absences to the likes of key players such as Cameron Carter-Vickers and Alistair Johnston and you can begin to understand why Celtic have not gotten into much of a rhythm this campaign.

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However, this could easily be added to the recruitment and squad issues that are present, as those who are coming into the respective positions vacated by injured first-team options are not of the required level. The over-reliance on Carter-Vickers in particular in this team is no new issue, as Celtic’s last five domestic defeats have all occurred when he has not been available for selection, which stretches back to last season. Perhaps Nawrocki could have been the player to provide that cover, though his injury issues seem to have cost him his place in Rodgers’ thinking at the moment. With Carter-Vickers yet to sign a new deal, an alternative may have to be found just in case he decides to move on next summer.

The post-Postecoglou hangover

This theory is one that a lot of sectors of Celtic are suffering from, both from inside the building and those who are invested in the club through means of passion.

On the pitch, several players are struggling to get fully going this season, who did not have the same problem last season under the now-Spurs manager. For example, Greg Taylor is noticeably struggling to revert back to the traditional full-back role, after being a standout in Postecoglou’s reverted system. The same could be said for captain Callum McGregor, though he has shown recent signs of a revival when playing further forward. Perhaps the biggest casualty is that of Kyogo Furuhashi, who has turned into an ordinary striker under Rodgers when he was the star under Postecoglou.

This hangover does not only apply to players, however, as both the very public successes of Postecoglou down south and Rodgers’ mixed return seem to be in part contributing to a malaise forming over those who follow the team. This sector was very much all-in when it came to the journey that the Australian took them on, with the after-effects and fatigue potentially still being felt to this day. Alas, the former manager has moved on, and so should everyone else, no matter how good his spell was in charge of the club.


Overall, this season has been very much a mixed bag, for a multitude of reasons. After a positive start – which included a derby win at Ibrox – there seems to be a bit of doubt that has been injected into the Celtic atmosphere, both on and off of the field of play.

With the gap now being cut to just five points in the Premiership, Celtic are in a title race that perhaps even they were not anticipating just a couple of months ago, hence the potential foot off of the gas pedal domestically. Sunday has now been and gone, and these problem areas must come together as one for the club to move back in the right direction.

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Celtic may have another Glasgow Derby against Rangers on December 30, but they must refrain from any more stumbles in the league in the lead-up to this showdown, which is shaping up to be the biggest game of the season so far.

Quite simply put, it is now time for Rodgers to demonstrate the management needed to steer Celtic back to where they want and need to be, and fast. Hopefully, the other identified problem areas fall into place in the process.