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Given the form of Leigh Griffiths towards the end of last season for club and country, as well as the return of top scorer Moussa Dembele from injury, Celtic fans have been asking whether there is a way to get both of them into the starting XI.
We touched on the subject here recently too and commented on the fact that Jonny Hayes is an old fashioned winger who likes to stay wide on the right and beat his full-back. That works in a 4-4-2 of course but if Brendan Rodgers does stick with his 4-2-3-1, then frankly, Hayes is going to find himself too far away from the lone striker and his balls into the box, therefore, be dead accurate.
In this sort of formation, it’s much better for modern wide men to be employed, i.e. left-footed player on the right and vice-versa, which is something that worked very well at Celtic last season. Scott Sinclair is still at the club and can fulfil the role on the left, but Patrick Roberts is back at Man City for now and his former loan club are crying out for him to come back.
Despite the acquisition of Hayes (and this is not something he will enjoy reading), Rodgers is still publicly chasing Roberts and knows fine well that Dembele aside, (arguably) Roberts was one of very few players who could cut it down in England and showed himself to be a class apart in the Scottish Premiership, even if he was still learning his trade.
Players of Roberts’ quality do not come along every week and frankly, the Scottish Premiership was lucky to have him. In ordinary circumstances, a player of this type would not consider further playing time at that level. However, Celtic’s trump card is Champions League football.
Unless Roberts is promised first team opportunities at the Etihad – which is highly doubtful even after the release of Jesus Navas, then another year at Parkhead may yet be a good option.
A 6-month loan deal may also be something all parties could consider. From Celtic’s point of view, they may or may not be still involved in Champions League football after this point and so reassessing their squad in the winter may not be such a bad thing.
For the player, spending the first half of the season in Europe’s top competition is a chance for him to break into the England squad in what is after all, a World Cup year. If there seems to be no chance of a place for Roberts on the plane to Russia by December, then an extension of his loan at Parkhead could be organised.