Can Brendan Rodgers close the gap between Celtic and the elite?
Celtic suffered yet another heavy defeat in the Champions League when the Bhoys fell 3-0 to German giants, Bayern Munich on Wednesday evening.
Since Brendan Rodgers has arrived at the club, Celtic have lost 7-0 to Barcelona, 5-0 to Paris St Germain and now 3-0 to Bayern but will Rodgers turn things around to help Celtic compete with the very top clubs in Europe?
There can be no doubt that Celtic have come a long way since Rodgers' arrival at the club in the summer of 2016. He still remains unbeaten in domestic competition and has guided the Scottish side to win the league along with two cups last season as Celtic moved well clear of the rest of Scottish football. However, despite that domestic success Celtic still seem further away than ever from making a big impact in Europe.
Obviously, there are clear financial reasons why Celtic have struggled. With most of the clubs they have come up against having budgets that dwarf that of Celtic. But that has been the case for a while now and Celtic generally didn't lose as heavily as they have in the last year or so. Another reason is the manager's approach. Rodgers has always made it clear that he likes to play the game in a certain way and to be honest Rodgers' style doesn't suit a team at Celtic's level when playing against the elite of Europe.
Rodgers likes his teams to try to dictate the play, set the tempo and he has said more than once that the best form of defence is to have possession of the ball as the opposition can't hurt you without it. These Champions League games against Barcelona, PSG and Bayern are like kryptonite to that style as they all like to play in a similar way but they are doing it with players who cost more money than Celtic's entire team. In truth, they are just a different level to Celtic and it's almost impossible to beat them at their own game.
So what can Celtic do?
The options are simple. They either accept their place or they go down the line of “parking the bus” and hope for some joy on the counter-attack. Rodgers' position seems to be clear on this as he said after the Bayern defeat that he would rather lose playing how we want to play as opposed to defending for 90 minutes and still lose. Some people will admire his dedication to continue doing what he believes in, but others will point out that he is in a results orientated business and therefore should make some concessions to perhaps make the team a little tougher to play against.
Regardless what your opinion is on Rodgers' approach there can be no denying that he has been like a breath of fresh air to Celtic. His appointment lifted the fans like no other since the Martin O'Neill days and despite falling short at the very highest level he has led the club to huge improvements in his time at the club. It's easy to criticise Celtic when they suffer a result like this but it should also be remembered that before Rodgers arrived Celtic were suffering European meltdowns in qualifying rounds against teams like Artmedia Bratislava, Maribor FC Utrecht, Legia Warsaw and others. Since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers, the team have reached the lucrative group stages of the Champions League two years in a row and as it stands their European adventure looks set to continue into 2018 thanks to their 3-0 win away to Anderlecht last month.
Are Celtic going to upset some of the European giants? Probably not. Are they going the right way? Time will tell but if they are going to improve further they will do so by continuing to improve the personnel the manager has at his disposal.
Brendan Rodgers has the team playing good football and domestically it's winning football. Realistically, the budget is always going to hold them back in Europe but if they can continue reaching the Champions League group stages and get results like the one against Anderlecht then they can try to gradually narrow the gap between themselves and the giants who dominate European football.