Celtic’s recruitment over the last few seasons has not been strategic. At times it has been out of step with the needs of the manager. At others it has been last minute and desperate. Sometimes it has been unclear who is the decision-maker at the club.

As we near the winter transfer window Celtic can be relatively happy about the state of play in the wide areas of the team due to contract renewals, excellent form and the return of injured players to matchday squads. Even the continued use of a right-footer at left-back likely brings some much-needed focus on it as a position of need in this winter’s transfer window. However, the spine of the team - from centre forward to goalkeeper - requires surgery in the form of strategic recruitment in order for any rebuild to really succeed.

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Over the past few years Celtic have spent around £10 million, in terms of transfer fees alone, on centre forwards that haven’t fit the style of the team. Vakoun Bayo, Patryk Klimala and Albian Ajeti are three quite dissimilar player profiles but somehow not one of them aligned with the needs of the Bhoys. Bayo and Klimala have of course now left the club and it seems likely that Ajeti will soon follow suit. However, Celtic’s most recent centre forward recruit, Giorgos Giakoumakis, already seems a poor stylistic fit and potential evidence of the club’s continuingly sub-par recruitment moves.

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The Greek forward has only made two league starts and a handful of domestic and European substitute appearances for Celtic so should be given time to demonstrate his qualities but, based on his career to date, it is difficult to understand why he would be recruited for an Ange Postecoglou side. Even as Postecoglou perhaps works towards a more controlled version of ‘Ange Ball’ and seeks to round out his squad with different types of playing options, all recruits should suit his fundamentals of play.

Giakoumakis turns 27 in a few weeks and has rarely scored goals at a consistently high rate. In fact, last season, at VVV Venlo in the Eredivisie, was only his second time in double figures and amounts to over half of the goals he has scored throughout his career, despite having spent time at levels such as the Greek second tier. He was top scorer during that season in the Netherlands but only 13 of his 26 goals were from open play and he overperformed xG to such a significant extent that some regression could be expected. In addition, VVV Venlo came second bottom of the league and tended to make chances, such as through direct counter-attacks, which are generally not the type of opportunities he’ll have at Celtic.

Although diligent and committed Giakoumakis just doesn’t have the athleticism to press from the front, to force turnovers and exhaust opponents, in the way that Postecoglou wants. He also doesn’t appear to have the link-up abilities that would help Celtic against low blocks. Giakoumakis is willing, dropping into space and playing lay-off passes, but he is often static after doing so and generally has a closed-off body shape leading to any passing connections he forges lacking the purpose, speed or creativity required.

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If Postecoglou wished to round out his squad with different options at the attacking end of the spine then a player that fitted multiple roles within this team style - think Diogo Jota’s recruitment by Liverpool - might have been the smart approach. With Giakoumakis there is too much risk that he doesn’t deliver any of the required fundamentals, becomes unwanted by the manager and also that due to injury or a sale the plan B player becomes the plan A player by necessity and the whole team’s style has to change to suit them.

Fractures to the middle of Celtic’s spine, such as Ryan Christie’s departure, were foreseeable and could have been prepared for. There’s now a lack of depth in the central attacking midfield area of the squad which has led to an overreliance on David Turnbull and Tom Rogic, resulting in a surely predictable injury for the Australian and necessitating a positional reshuffle for Callum McGregor. In addition, Christie typically made in excess of thirty possession adjusted pressures per 90 whereas Turnbull and Rogic each make an amount in the low twenties every match - another indication of a sub-optimal fit for Postecoglou’s style of play.

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Deeper into the spine and while Ismaila Soro likely made sense when scouted as a replacement for Scott Brown’s ball-winning and aggression in the middle third he is not of the level required in terms of technique. Last season he was dispossessed three times as often as Brown and made three fewer deep progressions of the ball into the final third on average each match. Celtic can’t expect to recruit flawless players, particularly into a multi-faceted midfield role, but after two years at the club it doesn’t seem as though the Ivorian’s skills on the ball are developing as required in Postecoglou’s view as he has been left out of the last six matchday squads in the league.

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Another midfielder that hasn’t appeared often and is a further example of questionable recruitment through the middle of the team is James McCarthy. The Ireland international turned 31 last week and has not been used in the Scottish Premiership since being removed at half-time against Dundee United in September. In addition to the likely decline and need for increased rest due to his age he has also had a difficult history of injury including repeated hamstring issues. A key fundamental for a Celtic player, due to the need to attempt to win multiple competitions, is availability.

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Interestingly, of the nine players that played any minutes last season for Celtic as they entered their early peak age years of 23 to 25 four are no longer at the club, two others seem likely to leave soon and only Greg Taylor, unavailable due to injury currently, could be considered a starter.

Age and injury history must be factors the club considers during recruitment, particularly for important positions through the spine of the team.

In central defence, Celtic faced the difficult task of replacing both the English Premier League-bound Kris Ajer and the injured Christopher Jullien. However, there could have been some preventative early measures in this area rather than a need for last-minute emergency surgery.

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Ajer’s departure, at some point, was inevitable and Celtic, as they also failed to with Jeremie Frimpong, should’ve exerted more control on how and when he left and been ready with a fitting replacement. Jullien has now been injured for almost a year and will turn 29 shortly after he returns to the team so, similarly, it could be expected that the Hoops recruitment department have a short-list of players for a defensive rebuild.

Instead, there’s been the hit-or-miss reliance on loans, a use of youth that might not be quite ready and purchase of players that don’t quite provide what their predecessor did.

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Ajer was a unique player, with both the quantity of successful dribbles and length of his ball carrying in the 90th percentile. Carl Starfelt is significantly lower in his output for those metrics, at around the 40th percentile, which has a clear impact on Celtic in build-up play. If Celtic couldn’t find someone that replicated Ajer’s ball carrying then at the very least recruiting a left-footer may have helped in possession at the back. Starfelt makes just 15% of his passes with that foot and Stephen Welsh, his replacement for the recent match at Dundee FC, uses his left on just 1% of his passes.

Leo Hjelde, an 18 year old left footed ball-playing centre back and recent under-21 debutant for Norway, left Celtic this summer for Leeds United apparently concerned about his development and pathway into the first team. He may not have been ready to start for Celtic yet but certainly routes into the side, particularly the spine of it, for youth must be a consideration during any rebuild.

Welsh has filled in fairly well this season but he does not seem ready to be a regular Celtic starter. He was at fault in terms of defensive fundamentals for Andrew Shinnie’s Livingston winner in September and, although not solely culpable, was exposed positionally and aerially for both of the goals the Bhoys conceded in Dundee. Starfelt has also not excelled in the air.

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On the other side of defence Cameron Carter-Vickers has dominated aerially, winning 77% of his duels, and matches up well with Christopher Jullien statistically while also, with his eight deep progressions into the final third per match, providing some of the ball play Ajer previously did. However, his loan status means the future of this section of the spine is uncertain. Will Celtic exercise their apparent option to buy on him? Will he have other suitors? Will Celtic have suitable alternative options to action quickly if an outcome isn’t determined in a timely manner? Recent history doesn’t provide a lot of confidence that the club will handle that situation perfectly.

The final vertebrae is in goal where, of course, Joe Hart has excelled as a shot-stopper - saving 1.37 goals above average expectation in the league and 1.78 more than expected in European competition. However, his claiming of crosses, such as against Dundee FC, has been questionable at times and his distribution with his feet is ultimately not at the level a Postecoglou team needs especially when facing pressing teams in Europe.

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Hart is a clear upgrade on Vasilis Barkas. the Greek has been fairly inept at the basics for Celtic and, despite it seemingly being considered a strength, hasn’t really impressed with the ball at his feet either. Celtic can be pleased with their recruitment of Hart and he’ll be their starting goalkeeper for the foreseeable future but part of the spinal surgery should be the recruitment of an heir, with ability in all areas of the modern game and the opportunity to develop under the experienced Englishman.

Retaining Barkas and expecting him to become a future starter of the level required or anointing Conor Hazard, 24 years old at the end of this season and yet to convince, as successor is not the sort of decisive action needed and just pushes a future problem temporarily out of sight and mind.

Get this rebuild right and Celtic can push for the title, taking advantage of Rangers potentially being in disarray after the departure of Steven Gerrard, but also avoid the need for more emergency surgery in each and every transfer window over the next few seasons. Ensuring that the spine of the team meets Ange Postecoglou’s needs will be key to long term success.