Very pleased we appear to be on the verge of signing a central defender, especially one who at 24 (Erik Sviatchenko), should be very much in his prime. The previous two seasons each brought excellent defensive performance records but things fell apart from the very start of this season – way before Virgil van Dijk left.
The reasons for the are varied. Jason Denayer left to be replaced by Dedryck Boyata. Dedryck is more settled now but he was well short of Jason’s standards early on. Still is. We have also regressed in the full back positions. Emilio Izaguirre’s decline has been gradual but clear. 18-year-old Kieran Tierney makes fewer mistakes and (I think) poses a greater physical challenge.
Then we have Mikael Lustig. Mikael has always been a favourite of mine; as recently as September I regarded him as our best defender, but I think he’s been well off his best for most of the season. He has been regularly caught in the wrong position and his distribution is often a possession-losing lump upfield.
Craig Gordon would be first to admit his form is nowhere near where it was last season, when he almost single-handedly was responsible for us reaching the Europa League knockout stage. The questions for Craig are what’s going wrong and can it be fixed?
Think back to the latter days of Artur Boruc’s time at Celtic. Artur has gone from having Bayern Munich scouts at Celtic Park to watch him to a guy we sold without fuss as a backup for Fiorentina for £1.2m. Whatever it was he had, had gone. I thought he was finished. Six years later he’s at something approaching his best at Bournemouth.
Craig Gordon has the best part of 4 years on Artur. He has time to get back on form.