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Transfer Window, Part 2: The New Bhoys

September 11, 2010

Charlie Mulgrew

Mulgrew was brought in to be a squad player, looks unlikely to be anything more and in that respect is not a bad signing considering he arrived for free. His lack of pace and agility are his biggest weaknesses but they can be compensated for if he improves his defensive skills, in particular his positioning and awareness. His quality from set pieces will be an asset, as will his versatility, with him able to provide cover for a variety of positions. Could become a good utility player.

Cha Du-Ri

Like Mulgrew, a free transfer, Cha Du-Ri will be another who is a good value signing. His biggest strengths are physical – he’s powerful, possesses electric pace and is full of running, enabling him to tirelessly provide attacking support on the right flank. At times his crossing is a little wayward, but this is offset by the sheer amount of crosses he actually delivers per game and in the SPL should chip in with a good tally of assists. Although his speed allows quick recovery, defensively he isn’t as strong, particularly when dealing with crosses from the opposite flank. When defending a cross, it is important to position yourself so that you can pay attention to the man you’re marking as well as the ball but Cha Du-Ri is sometimes guilty of ball-watching and standing the wrong side of his man. His weaknesses shouldn’t be too much of a problem in most SPL games though, where generally Celtic don’t have to defend as much.

Joe Ledley

So far, especially since he arrived for free, Joe Ledley looks like one of the signings of the entire transfer window. He mostly does the simple things well and so is rarely wasteful in possession – passing statistics for Celtic matches are hard to come by I would imagine his passing accuracy percentage is high. This type of player is particularly useful when you’re a side that likes to keep possession, as we do when playing in the SPL. This doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of the more dangerous pass however, and at times displays characteristics almost of a deep-lying playmaker, which could be a role he could develop in to. His weakness is a lack of pace but he makes up for it with a good positional sense and well-timed runs, often arriving late into the penalty box. His best role is in the centre of midfield but he has shown he can do a job elsewhere, though at left-back he was caught out defensively once or twice. All in all, he looks like an excellent signing and should go on to play an important role over the next few years.

Daryl Murphy

Murphy’s signing was greeted with the least enthusiasm from the support and his career record to date adds some justification to this reaction, with uninspiring spells mostly at Championship clubs. There was also a touch of bewilderment as to why exactly he was brought in, with Celtic seemingly already well-stocked in his type of player but this will surely become apparent as Neil Lennon’s vision unfolds. So far, he does actually look like he offers something a little different to what we have witnessed in recent times –  an old fashioned target-man who can lead the line, and won’t stray to much from the centre. Technique-wise, he doesn’t look particularly strong and it remains to be seen whether he will be first team or squad player.


Efrain Juarez

So far, Juarez looks like he could be Neil Lennon’s best signing, with possibly only Ledley ahead of him due to being a free transfer. At first, it looked like his passing wasn’t as strong as the rest of his game but as he has settled he has shown this isn’t the case. He doesn’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses, though his career record to date shows he hasn’t been much of a goalscorer but this may be due to playing mostly at right-back. For Mexico he has recently played as more of a box-to-box midfielder and this looks like his best role in a Celtic shirt, though perhaps he’s been even more attacking for us with his energy being made use of to make bursts in the box. At times he has pushed right up alongside or even in advance of Celtic’s lone forward and has the stamina to get back into midfield when possession is lost. If he continues in this type of role he should get a good goal return, partly due to the sheer number of chances that should come his way, with runs from deep often difficult to defend against. On the occasions he’s been given more defensive duties, he has performed them well too, showing a good ability to track runners from the opposition midfield. Like some of the other signings, his versatility will be a great asset and he also looks like he could go on to become an important player over the next few years (if we can hang on to him!)

Gary Hooper

Gary Hooper is a goalscorer and has a good record at every club he’s been at, from Grays Athletic in the old English Conference, Hereford in League Two, Leyton Orient and Southend in League One then again with Southend in the Championship. His last club was Scunthorpe and he continued his scoring there with good records in League One and then last season scoring 19 goals in 31 starts in the Championship. Injury has halted his start at Celtic but in the pre-season friendlies and second leg against Braga, he demonstrated excellent off-the-ball movement and showed you don’t need to be a big, physical striker to convert crosses into goals, rather timing and clever runs. On top of this, he has also showed he has more to his game than just goals, making his selection through the middle not a certainty. If we continue with the variations of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3 formations, then perhaps he could line-up in one of the wider positions or even just behind a lone forward (where he played in one of the Emirates Cup games). The World Cup showed that the lone forward doesn’t necessarily have to be the main goalscorer, with the likes of Villa and Mueller getting good tallies despite playing in wide positions. The space that Samaras creates when playing up front alone would be perfect for Hooper to take advantage of. It’ll be interesting to see how this one develops.

Biram Kayal

There is little to go on when considering the strengths and weaknesses of Kayal, with little to no coverage of Israeli football in this part of the world and only a few appearances for Celtic so far. That said, his debut was excellent and he displayed some of the characteristics to his game that we might be able to expect in future. He showed a great range of passing with the capability to dictate the tempo like a deep-lying playmaker but also showed aggression and physical strength, with a willingness to ‘do the dirty work’ in midfield. In recent times Celtic have lacked a good defensive midfielder, probably since the departure of Neil Lennon, and Kayal looks like he could be the answer to those problems, though for now he can be put in the ‘wait and see’ category.

Daniel Majstorovic

It’s early days for him in a Celtic shirt but Majstorovic looks like the dominant, experienced central defender that we have been lacking for quite some time. For years we have lacked leadership at the back (as well as other areas), with the problem being exacerbated by Boruc’s departure but this guy looks like he can bring that quality to the side, as well as looking fairly comfortable on the ball for a stopper-type defender. His age means he’s unlikely to be a long-term solution to our defensive problems but you need a seasoned pro when most of the rest of the squad are still in their 20s and you have good prospects like Rogne and Misun in need of someone to learn from. A free transfer, this should be another good piece of business by Lennon.

Emilio Izaguirre

Like Kayal, there isn’t a great deal of information available on Emilio. A decent World Cup for an unremarkable and defensive Honduras side and a good, solid debut are all we have to go on but what we can say is that he at least looks like an improvement in the left-back slot. Again though, it remains to be seen whether this will be maintained or whether he will contract the same disease that afflicted the initially impressive Lee Naylor. Physically he’s strong – very much the Honduran mould – and fast and is full of running. Also interesting is that he has been taking a number of set-pieces and it can only be a good thing to have a left-footed alternative for them.

Fraser Forster

Fraser Forster’s immediate selection in the first team in place of Lukasz Zaluska indicates he will be, for this season at least, the replacement for Artur Boruc. He has some big gloves to fill and at 6’7 will hopefully have to presence to do so. Unless you were an avid follower of League One last season it’s unlikely you will know a great deal about him, but during his Players’ Player of the Year award at Norwich City is encouraging. He also comes with a glowing reference from Paul Lambert meaning we can be confident that the goalkeeping position should be secure over the next season, until we find a permament ‘Holy Goalie’ replacement.

Anthony Stokes

When you sign a forward it’s only natural to look at their statistics, and his stand up well. Last season was the first full one of his career so far, making 42 starts and scoring 24 goals in all competitions including a scoring run of 14 goals in 15 games from December ’09 to May ’10. Add his brief spell at Falkirk and it comes to an impressive 40 goals in 60 starts in Scottish football. He’s capable of scoring a variety of goals including the odd spectacular one, though most of them are of the old fashioned poacher type – he’s a ‘fox in the box’. Domestically at least, he should be an asset and at just twenty-two years old he has plenty of time to add more to his all-round game. One last thing to point out is a knack of scoring in big games. Last season he scored 2 goals against Rangers, 2 against Celtic and 1 against Hearts (though only played in two Edinburgh derbies). He should provide good competition for Hooper.

Conclusion

All in all, an encouraging first transfer window from Neil Lennon and a brave one given the high turnover of players. There very much seems to be an emphasis on athleticism, pace – vital in modern football – and aggression, which should help with the higher tempo, more intense style of play that the boss is trying to inject. Interesting also is that all but one of the signings are in their twenties, with a number in their early twenties and so roughly at the same stage of their careers. Alongside the goal to win the title back this season, there appears to be a long-term plan in place with the possibility of these players maturing together. The side has looked impressive in the SPL so far this season and should be able to improve as the new signings settle in throughout the season.

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