Since the turn of the year, Celtic have been impressive, to say the least. The additions made in the January transfer window seem to have sparked something in the dressing room that all of the players, new and old, have carried with them onto the pitch
We have seen Celtic score 21 unanswered goals in what has been a very promising start to the second half of the season. The opposition is naturally an argument that will be flagged up but the manner of the performances in each of these matches was seldom seen – certainly with any consistency – in the first half of this season, regardless of who the champions were playing against.
Over the first seven games of 2019, some players have shown real promise, others have shown signs of old form and some remain their frustrating selves.
A lot has happened over January and the beginning of February which has highlighted who could be the most influential players for the remainder of the season and who needs to ‘shape up or ship out’.
In other words, the stock of some of the Celtic players has in some instances increased and in others, decreased.
This is Celtic FC – The Stock Market.
Scott Bain - UP
Mikael Lustig - DOWN and Jeremy Toljan - UP
The flare gun for right-back assistance seems to have been fired off a long time ago. With Mikael Lustig being targetted by most teams as a weak spot and Anthony Ralston not quite looking up to the job, it was clear business needed to be done and in typical Celtic fashion, they waited until the final hours to bring a somebody in.
Jeremy Toljan came in with the reputation of a player of a good calibre and from what we have seen so far, he looks to be exactly that. He has not really been tested in a defensive capacity but the thought of attacking parity on both flanks when KT returns is irresistible.
To be fair to Lustig, he has been fairly solid over January but I fear in his case it is a matter of weak opposition and Celtic having most of the ball. Now we have seen what a player like Toljan can offer, if only in glimpses, it will be hard for Lustig to displace him if the German follows the trend that initial appearances suggest.
Emilio Izaguirre - UP
I think it is safe to say many were underwhelmed with the resigning of Izzy but he has done himself no harm with his recent performances. Unfortunately for Izzy, KT has raised the bar for what the Celtic fans expect and what seems to be par for the course is perceived as being below standard. Nevertheless, the left-back has shown himself to be a worthy squad player if only for SPFL matches.
Scott Brown - UP
I have become convinced that Scott Brown has a painting of an ageing football player hidden somewhere in his house. It seems that every time he is written off, he comes back just as strong with his characteristic smile and swagger. He looks to have returned to his rock solid best, perhaps buoyed by his recent contract renewal.
Brown solidified his return to form with a thunderbolt strike against St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup and all signs point towards him maintaining his place in the centre of the park for the remainder of the season.
Ryan Christie - DOWN
Jonny Hayes - DOWN
I think I speak for much of the Celtic support when I say that I want to see Hayes do well. Yet time and time again I find myself underwhelmed by his performances. It looked like he may have found his place in the picture at Celtic when he came on at left-back at Pittodrie in late December. However, it was clear he wasn’t to be trusted in the big games when he was subsequently dropped at Ibrox.
With Izzy and KT out, he may well find a run of games by default and I truly hope he takes his chance but for now he remains a bit of a flop.
Ollie Burke - UP
The signing of Burke was certainly well received but as the Scot has racked up some real game time, it is apparent that he is maybe better than initially thought.
His physicality and speed were never in doubt but in more recent games, his hold up and touch have improved quite significantly.
Scott Sinclair - UP
It is true that the winger is still haunted by the Sinclair of Christmas past but his form coming to the end of the year and the start of 2019 has been on a steep gradient upwards. Starting with a hat-trick against Aberdeen, Scott Sinclair looks to be playing with a freedom we have not seen since his maiden season. And with another three against St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup, he is well on his way to being the top scorer in green and white for yet another season.
Sinclair is clearly a confidence player and 2019 has given him a lot to be confident about. Who knows, maybe he is slowly edging towards the form he showed two years ago when he first arrived on the scene at Celtic?
Overall Squad - UP
At the beginning and throughout January, the injury crisis at Celtic has been nothing short of extraordinary. Nevertheless, with seven games played, we have seen a flawless record with all resulting in victory and not a single goal conceded. The new signings are settling in nicely with Burke and Tim Weah having an almost instant impact on proceedings and after beating St Johnstone convincingly. the unprecedented treble-treble is very much on the cards.
Now, as we go towards the Europa League clash with Valencia, key players are starting to train and come back into the fold. Dedryck Boyata has started the last two games, Odsonne Édouard is starting to come back to full match fitness, KT is back in training and Filip Benkovic’s injury is not as bad as first thought. Overall, it looks as if Celtic are only going to get stronger and based on what we have seen so far in 2019, that thought should greatly disturb those around us.