FORMER Celtic hero Kris Commons has compared Cameron Carter-Vickers to Virgil van Dijk.
And the one-time Hoops and Scotland international midfielder insists it was no surprise his old club missed the influence of the crocked centre-back in the 3-0 slump at Ibrox.
With the USA World Cup defender missing for the season’s run-in following surgery on a knee problem, Ange Postecoglou paired Carl Starfelt with Japanese rookie Yuki Kobauyashi – and it was an uneasy partnership, as CQN pointed out in Alex’s Angles yesterday.
THE DEFENCE RESTS…Todd Cantwell is unchallenged as he strikes the opener.
The Swede struggled and the 22-year-old left-sided operator, brought in from the J-League in January, was basically overpowered by fired-up opponents – a fact highlighted with the second goal where he was bowled over by a more determined John Souttar to get to a right-wing corner-kick to flash a header past the static Joe Hart.
Commons is concerned about action replays in the Champions League group stages next season and has urged the manager to address the problem area in the summer transfer market.
The ex-playmaker said: “If Celtic want to progress in Europe, I still think there’s a slight weakness in one of the centre-backs that could be improved and upgraded.
THE DEFENCE RESTS…Yuki Kobayashi is knocked aside as John Souttar heads No.2.
“But let’s not pretend Carl Starfelt was alone in that regard on Saturday. There were several players in the Celtic team who did themselves no favours at all.
“Alexandro Bernabei has been a disappointing signing thus far. He was supposed to be the new first-choice left-back ahead of Greg Taylor. Celtic paid £3.75million to sign him from Argentina last summer, but it’s Taylor who has ended up having an outstanding season and has rightly kept Bernabei out the team.
“Yuki Kobayashi is neat and tidy on the ball. However, the pace and physicality of the game looked too much for him at times. He certainly didn’t offer the same level of authority and assurance as Cameron Carter-Vickers does when he plays.”
Commons, writing in his Daily Mail column, continued: “I reckon Carter-Vickers is actually the most dominant defender we’ve seen in Scottish football since Virgil van Dijk. So, it’s no surprise Celtic should look so vulnerable when he doesn’t play. He’s a massive loss.
THE DEFENCE RESTS…Joe Hart is left exposed as Fashion Sakala races away to slot in the third goal. Anthony Ralston is too late to intervene.
“That doesn’t excuse the display overall. Having set such high standards for themselves all season, they were off the pace at Ibrox. Postecoglou must have been really disappointed. His mantra is all about how Celtic never stop.
“Some people were saying this was a dead rubber and a meaningless game. Trust me, as someone who has played in my fair share of these games, there is never a meaningless Old Firm game.
“Celtic had the chance to eclipse the points tally set by Brendan Rodgers’ Invincibles a few years ago. That chance has now gone thanks to one poor performance, so I don’t believe that this game didn’t matter.
“When you come so far in a season and you have a chance to break a record like that, it will hurt when you don’t go on and actually do it.
“In all fairness, Celtic have been pretty much flawless for months. They’ve played some incredible football and wrapped up the title.
THE DEFENCE RESTS…Joe Hart is all on his own as he repels this raid from Fashion Sakala.
“They had a day off on Saturday and, unfortunately, you just can’t get away with that when you’re playing your biggest rivals. The sense of disappointment will pass in a few days.
“Celtic are still only one game away from a fifth domestic treble in seven years.”
Commons added: “As for Rangers, this was a much-needed victory for Michael Beale. It gives their fans some light at the end of a trophyless season. It was also important for Beale on a personal level after coming off second best so many times against Postecoglou.
“I don’t think it changes a great deal for next season. Rangers still face a massive summer rebuild. Celtic will still start next season as red-hot favourites to win a third league title on the bounce.
“Rangers have shown that they can lay a glove on their rivals and at least make it a proper title fight next time round.
“My old team won’t face anywhere near the same level of transfer activity as Rangers in the summer. For Postecoglou, it should be more a case of evolution than revolution as he looks to tweak one or two areas in his squad.
“Carter-Vickers and Starfelt have formed a good partnership over these past couple of seasons.
“But this was an afternoon when too many of Celtic’s fringe and squad players failed to grasp the opportunity given to them.”