Not many in Scottish football had heard of Ange Postecoglou when he was appointed as Celtic’s new manager last summer.
At that time, the Hoops were in disarray, both on and off the pitch. A period of transition was expected and accepted, but Postecoglou’s ideas were absorbed by his players much quicker than anyone had predicted.
A near complete rebuild of the squad was carried out over the summer and January transfer windows.
The likes of Kristoffer Ajer, Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard departed Celtic Park while Kyogo Furuhashi, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josip Juranovic and many others arrived.
Very few of the new crop failed to make a good impression as Celtic won the Scottish Premiership title.
Now, though, Postecoglou and his players must make another leap forward to be ready for next season’s Champions League.
Celtic have gained automatic entry to European club football’s most prestigious competition through their domestic success last term, but the Hoops are still an incomplete and inexperienced team.
Recent reports claim Celtic are in the market for a new left back to provide competition and cover for Greg Taylor with Lanus left back Alexandro Bernabei believed to be on their radar.
Taylor has improved under Postecoglou’s stewardship, but there remains the sense that Celtic could upgrade in his position.
The midfield is central to the way Postecoglou’s team plays football and so it seems likely Celtic will strengthen in this area, particularly after the exit of Nir Bitton at the end of last season.
Vinicius Souza has been strongly linked with a move to the Scottish champions and would bring a great deal of dynamism to the Celtic midfield.
Jota is expected to complete a permanent switch to Celtic following an extremely successful loan spell in Scotland last season, but Postecoglou could still use another winger to broaden his options in the final third.
James Forrest has recently signed a new contract to stay at the club until 2025, but his injury record means he can’t be relied upon.
The improvements Celtic need to make to be ready for the Champions League group stage might have more to do with their style of play and ideology as a team rather than the personnel within their squad.
Postecoglou has turned the Hoops into the most dynamic, forward-thinking team in Scottish football, but he might have to be more pragmatic against better teams in Europe.
Brendan Rodgers paid for not adopting a more conservative approach in continental competition during his time as Celtic manager.
For all that he achieved in Scotland, he was never able to achieve any meaningful success in Europe. Instead, Celtic suffered a number of chastening defeats in both the Champions League and Europa League.
Postecoglou must learn from this and accept he won’t be able to impose his own game on European opponents as he is able to do in Scotland.
Whether or not the Australian adapts and tailors his approach will go a long way to determining whether Celtic will truly compete in the Champions League next season.
Celtic’s scouting and recruitment over the last 12 months has been of the highest standard and it must continue to push the team even further forward.
But the best piece of recruitment the Glasgow club has done in that time was the appointment of Postecoglou. He’s the one that could lift Celtic’s level before they take to the continental stage again.
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