CHRIS SUTTON insists Brendan Rodgers will have to go into overdrive in the transfer market before the deadline in 12 days’ time.
The former Celtic goalscoring hero reckons the returning Hoops manager is THREE players short of a squad that will equipped to handle the challenges at home and abroad.
Sutton admits concerns over the depth of the resources available to the Irishman and the gaffer must address the problems before the midnight August 31 shut-off for deals.
Left-sided defence, midfield and attack are the areas that urgently require strengthening as the season prepares to get into full swing.
A BIG HAND…Brendan Rodgers encourages his Celtic players at their Lennoxtown training HQ.
The one-time England international striker said: “Brendan Rodgers has dipped quietly into the transfer market until this point.
“But there are now fewer than two weeks to really start rattling on the window and making a proper noise because Celtic need it to happen.
“Let’s not waste words here. Celtic, for the levels the manager and the club are trying to reach, are stretched. It’s hardly what you would call breaking point, but the squad needs additions of quality to compete both in Europe and at home.
“Rodgers is working towards that and I’m sure big players will be added within the next fortnight because, quite frankly, I think there simply has to be. And that’s even before anyone takes in the possibility of another top contributor following Jota and Carl Starfelt out of the door.
“Gustaf Lagerbielke is the sixth signing of the summer. It might be seen as a straight replacement for his countryman, but that can’t be accurate right now. It’s just not that simple.
“Starfelt got a kicking from some on his way out of the door and it was unfair. His partnership with Cameron Carter-Vickers was the platform on which Celtic built their success under Ange Postecoglou.
“It is naive to just think Lagerbielke will slot in and be as impressive. Maybe he will, but no-one knows at this stage.
“Maik Nawrocki looks good, but, again, it’s early days. The Pole and Lagerbielke are undoubtedly the future, but Celtic need the now and the sight of Carter-Vickers going off injured at Aberdeen exposed a lack of depth.
GONE BHOYS…Filipe Jota and Carl Starfelt will be missed by Celtic.
“Stephen Welsh did well and now has signed a new contract, but is he the long-term answer? Further forward, there have been glimpses from Yang Hyun-jun, such as the way he made Matt O’Riley’s goal at Aberdeen.
“But surely Celtic aren’t expecting the South Korean to be the one to fill Jota’s explosive boots. That’s an awfully big task.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Odin Thiago Holm has looked impressive in the middle of the park, but there’s no sign of Kwon Hyeon-kyu while Tomoki Iwata hasn’t kicked a competitive ball in midfield so far.
“I raised concerns about David Turnbull really turning it on in the big matches in this column last week and, when asked to go into the tough environment of Pittodrie, he didn’t make a difference and was hooked at half-time.
“Reo Hatate’s injury hasn’t helped a situation which leaves only Callum McGregor and O’Riley in terms of hardened and consistently proven in that engine room. O’Riley seems to be thriving with the new set-up, yet there are discussions around a variety of other situations that alteration brings.
“For instance, Greg Taylor was excellent last season playing that inverted role. He’s a talented player and the system which Postecoglou deployed and the way he utilised his full-backs suited him.
IT TAKES TWO…Greg Taylor and Anthony Ralston are likely to be the full-backs at Rugby Park.
“Taylor could come central and get on the ball. Make passes and help to create. But I have my concerns about him as a one-on-one defender and Rodgers’ set-up has him more back out on the regular left-back beat and facing runners.
“He’s not looked comfortable with that against Ross County and Aberdeen and he’s certainly not going to be comfortable against Europe’s elite. Alexandro Bernabei doesn’t look like an alternative and left-back requires attention.
“Alistair Johnston is going to return for the Champions League at right-back and Anthony Ralston can be an able deputy on the other side.”
Sutton added: “Goalkeeper is interesting. I sense people are now looking for faults in Joe Hart. Yes, he made a big mistake against Ross County which could easily have seen the concession of a goal or a penalty.
“But he was excellent against Aberdeen last Sunday as he took pressure off a makeshift defence.
“If an upgrade on Hart is available, then that’s fair enough. But, to me, the immediate issues in defence, midfield and attack are all far-more pressing.
“Kilmarnock are going to give Celtic a real test tomorrow. Derek McInnes has done a great job through the summer and I was so impressed with them on the opening night of the Premiership season against Rangers.
PICK IT OUT…Daizen Maeda races away in triumph after planting a header in the Kilmarnock net in Celtic’s 4-1 win at Rugby Park in April.
“Their intensity was too much for Michael Beale’s team and they will be the same again in this Viaplay Cup tie. Celtic need to shine on the pitch in Ayrshire and they need to start really turning up the heat in the transfer market.
“Put it this way, if Jota and Starfelt were still at the club, they’d be starting in Ayrshire. So, that tells me, even without injuries, the squad is weaker now than the end of last season.
“Rodgers is trying to develop his new-look side and he is well capable of knitting things all together, but he needs to have the right building blocks.
“And, right now, I can’t help but think he’s at least three short.”
Tomorrow’s meeting on the plastic pitch in Ayrshire will be an action replay of the semi-final of the same tournament last season when the Hoops won 2-0 at a storm-lashed Hampden on a January evening with Daizen Maeda and Giorgos Giakoumakis, with his last goal for the club, on target.
The champions played at the Killie venue twice in last season’s victorious campaign, winning on both occasions while scoring nine goals – 5-0 in August and 4-1 in April.