BRENDAN RODGERS has told Celtic’s critics to judge his team at the end of the season.
The champions have stuttered this term, lost twice in the Premiership to Hearts and Kilmarnock, failed to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the first time in the Irishman’s three campaign starts and were comprehensively turned over by RB Salzburg in the Europa League on Thursday.
The Hoops have scored just six goals in their last seven games, are six points behind the Tynecastle table-toppers and Rodgers is now preparing for tomorrow’s dodgy trip to Perth to take on St Johnstone.
The manager, though, is refusing to press the panic button and insists the nucleus of the squad which won the double-treble will rally in the forthcoming months.
He said: “We’re in early October. We’ll continue to work. If there’s any message then it is: ‘Judge us in May.’ There’s nobody panicking in here. We lost a game against a better team, so we’ll just focus on our next game and stay calm.”
Asked if the sudden deadline-day departure of Moussa Dembele has damaged his frontline options, the Parkhead gaffer replied: “When you lose the players that we have then, of course, it will make a difference.
“It is not just Moussa, there is a collective – there is Stuart Armstrong’s goals and his running ability and we had Paddy Roberts leaving, as well. But we have to continue to work. The players who are here work tirelessly every day and put a lot into it. We have to look to find the answers.”
Pressed on the possible recruitment of players in January, Rodgers said: “We can’t talk about that now – we work with the players we have and we need to find a way of doing that. For the goals we lost on Thursday, we weren’t cut open and there weren’t a load of chances against us, but we know we can defend better.
MISSING LINK…Moussa Dembele was whisked off to Lyon on deadline day.
“I’ve analysed the game and, as I said on Thursday night, the better team won. Our players’ spirit was great; unfortunately for us, we didn’t cope with their build-up play and that bit of pressure, technically.
“We failed to make passes under pressure and that was probably our biggest weakness. We defended reasonably well and frustrated them during the first-half, reducing them to shooting from distance.
“Unfortunately, we then gave away two cheap goals from our perspective, but there’s no argument that they deserved to win.”
Rodgers added: “Listen, it’s where we’re at at this point in time. We’re working very hard to find the solutions.
“There are probably a number of reasons. We’ve struggled a little to create opportunities and the speed of our game has something to do with that – we need to play with a higher tempo and we need to move the ball forward more.
“These are all things which are constantly looked at and worked on. There’s no doubt we’ve not scored anywhere near as many goals as we’d have liked to, but we just need to keep chipping away and I thought that in our two previous league games that had started to return in terms of the fluency.”