RONNY DEILA has admitted he doesn’t know Celtic’s best back four formation.
And the Norwegian is working overtime in training with his players in an effort to come up with a solution.
He has bought Jozo Simunovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Saidy Janko (Manchester United) and Dedryck Boyata (Manchester City) for an outlay of around £8million.
He also has Tyler Blackett on loan from Old Trafford until the end of the season as the defence takes on a new look after the sales of Virgil van Dijk, to Southampton (£13m), and Adam Matthews (£2m), to Sunderland. Jason Denayer also left as he returned to parent club Manchester City after his temporary transfer. Celtic’s hopes of re-capturing Denayer for another season ended on that dismal night in Malmo and instead Denayer is now playing his football in Turkey in another season long loan deal.
Deila is now going through a process of testing his new arrivals alongside the existing defenders in a bid to find a settled back four.
He said: “It’s hard to say who are the best because I haven’t seen enough of every player. But I have eight or nine good defenders and that’s good.
“We work a lot in defence now in training, so we get the structure right and then we have to see in the performances who is best together over time.”
The Norwegian believes the Hoops are now equipped to challenge in all three domestic competitions as well as on the European stage.
He said: “I think we are better. If you look at the same time last year, we are in much better shape and also have a bigger squad and more people know what to expect in different roles.
“We are stronger as a squad now. Everyone knows how we play and it is easier to turn around players and switch. We have more people available, a lot of players have developed a lot. Tom Rogic or James Forrest didn’t do so much last year because of injuries, but this year they are becoming important in the team.
“We have improved; you can see that in Europe compared to last year and you can say that’s bad or what we’ve done is not good enough but it’s better than it was the year before.
“In the league, we have more points than we had last year. I think we’ve scored 23 goals in eight matches, that is double as many as we had last year.”
In addition to highlighting key numbers, Deila believes there are many positive factors surrounding the club.
He added: “We are in a better place, we’re still in every competition and we got a point against Ajax so if you think about results it’s better, but I see beyond that as well.
“I see a culture here that players are getting better and better and it is nice to see when you have players like Tom Rogic and James Forrest start to get close to their potential.
“It excites me and gives me energy every time when they go on the pitch and I see they get better. There is so much talent in this group,
“Kieran Tierney came in against Raith Rovers, he’s 18 years old and he looks like a mature player, so there are so many positive things here that I can see.
“I think we have more control of the games than we had last year. I think we were under pressure many times last year, I remember at home to Aberdeen in the last 30 minutes we couldn’t cope with them. We won the game but we had trouble.
“Away against Dundee it was 1-1 and we should have lost it, so I think there are a lot of positives this year.
“I think we’re going the right way, but there’s a long way to go, so much more potential to take out here.”
One thing worth mentioning when considering the Celtic defence is the form of Efe Ambrose. He seems to be relishing the chance to fill the role vacated by Van Dijk in the heart of the Celtic defence. He is taking responsibility and he has genuine pace – something that is required in defenders playing the system Celtic adopt.