While 2018-19 was another successful season for Celtic, there’s always room for improvement. The Bhoys completed a domestic treble but have again failed to make a real impact in Europe. The question is, how can Neil Lennon strengthen his side to go one step further next season?
2018-19 in review
With no real competition in sight, the Scottish title has become something of a bare minimum for Celtic in recent years. Celtic have won the Scottish title every season since Rangers crumbled early in 2012 and are now massive favourites to win their 501st Scottish title in 2019-20 according to the odds on Redbet.
In truth, they did everything they could domestically in 2018-19, in Brendan Rodgers’ third season in charge. Celtic saw off Partick Thistle, St Johnstone, Hearts and Aberdeen to claim their 18th Scottish League Cup and eventually overcame Hearts in the Scottish Cup final last month.
However, they’ve certainly met their match in Europe, where they failed to qualify for the Champions League, losing 3-2 on aggregate to AEK Athens. That saw Celtic parachuted into the Europa League, where they made it through to the Round of 32. Valencia proved too strong an opposition for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who were beaten over two legs before Rodgers left for Leicester.
Goals, goals, goals
One of the areas where Celtic can certainly improve is in the goalscoring department. The Bhoys have become reliant on Odsonne Édouard up top, with Sinclair and Forrest contributing from the wings. However, in games where those key players struggle, or are shut out by the opposition, there’s no real plan B.
Celtic failed to win 11 league games last season. They failed to score in nine of those games, with five goalless draws and four defeats to nil. There was a similar issue when they were eventually knocked out of the Europa League. Celtic failed to score in two matches against Valencia.
One potential solution to their problem comes in the form of Dwight Gayle. The on-loan West Brom striker failed to make the desired impact in his time at Newcastle, leaving Benitez indifferent about the striker’s future. However, he’s continued to be prolific in the second tier of English football, attracting the interest of several clubs.
Unfortunately for Gayle, those clubs are hardly a step up. Recently relegated Huddersfield and Fulham are among his best options if he wants to stay in England. By moving north of the border, however, he will benefit from top flight football and a chance to play in Europe.
Between the sticks
Celtic’s last decent run in Europe came in 2012-13, when they reached the knockout stages of the Champions League. Without a doubt one of they key members of that team was Fraser Forster. The domineering goalkeeper put in a series of impressive performances, racking up clean sheets against HJK Helsinki and Helsingborgs IF to help Celtic through to the group stages.
He kept out Benfica for a vital point earned and played a pivotal role in Celtic’s monumental 2-1 win against Barcelona, earning the nickname La Gran Muralla (The Great Wall) from the Spanish press.
This season, Rodgers had the choice between an ageing Craig Gordon and 2018 signing Scott Bain. Despite his inexperience with the Celtic side, Bain has made the number 1 spot his own heading into 2019-20. The question is, can he reach the mark Forster set in Europe?