Is it any wonder that Celtic look disjointed at this moment in time?
We’ll get to the incomings (or lack of) just shortly, but let’s firstly look at those currently unavailable through injury.
Two of our starting back four – and arguably two of our most important players – Alistair Johnston and Cameron Carter-Vickers head up the queue for the treatment table at Lennoxtown.
They’re joined by centre half Yuki Kobayashi who picked up a knock in our first pre-season friendly in his native Japan.
And by Stephen Welsh, who suffered an injury while the ink was still drying on his new 4 year deal.
Reo Hatate, one of our most creative players is facing a month on the sidelines after sustaining a calf tear against Aberdeen.
Oh – our Plan B in the attacking areas – also has calf trouble, and like Hatate will miss several weeks.
And finally, new Bhoy Marco Tilio, who may well be a player that’ll excite us in the months ahead, has been deprived the chance to show what he can do, again due to injury.
That’s seven first team players.
You can argue the importance of all these players but Johnston, Carter-Vickers and Hatate are undoubtedly vital members of Celtic’s starting XI.
Any manager and any team would feel the absence of such talent.
Brendan Rodgers certainly has.
What about the six players who’ve been brought in to ‘bolster’ Rodgers’ squad?
Marco Tilio – unavailable so far due to injury.
Kwon – zero minutes across three competitive games under Rodgers.
Odin Thiago Holm – A quiet first start against Kilmarnock but a player who could become something at Celtic.
Maik Nawrocki – so far so decent from his three competitive starts. Has found himself alongside three different partners in each game. Carter-Vickers (Ross County), Welsh (Aberdeen), Lagerbielke (Kilmarnock).
Gustaf Lagerbielke – a relatively stable debut (despite the result) and signs for optimism.
Yang – one of few positives from Rugby Park. Always looking to have an impact whenever he’s featured so far.
There’s attributes to like from all of these players, but are any of them ready for the serious jump in quality that the Champions League will present?
The suspicion is unfortunately not – at least not at this stage – but quite frankly we just don’t know.
With 10 days of the transfer window left, that’s concerning.
A centre half mainstay of the last two years in Carl Starfelt has departed for La Liga. The Swede was a crucial part of our success in the last two seasons but you could be quietly confident that we’ve moved swiftly to replace him with both Nawrocki and Lagerbielke.
No such luck with replacing a player like Jota however.
The Portuguese was the undoubted creative spark in a Treble winning Celtic side.
A spark which we now seem to be badly missing.
Aaron Mooy too was capable of moments of magic in his solitary season at Celtic Park, but so fleeting were his contributions that his absence won’t be felt anywhere near as keenly as Jota’s.
This article so far may be viewed as some sort of rationale as to why we failed to overcome Kilmarnock.
Far from it.
The factors above are valid but still don’t excuse Sunday’s failings.
This was a Celtic side featuring no less than eight full internationalists in the starting XI.
The other three – Maik Nawrocki, Matt O’Riley and Odin Thiago Holm – are all youth internationals who in all likelihood will gain senior recognition this season.
So yes Brendan Rodgers has had a difficult run of injuries to contend with.
Yes the impact and qualities of his new arrivals hangs very much in the balance.
And yes he’s lost some key personnel over the summer.
But there are no excuses for failing to defend the League Cup trophy at the first hurdle.
We lacked fight, desire and work rate on the day. All of which should be fundamentals when wearing a Celtic shirt.
His side should still have been more than capable of overcoming a Kilmarnock side who Celtic defeated in all four fixtures last season. (By an aggregate scoreline of 13-1).
A side who finished 10th in the Scottish Premiership.
A side who lost a number of their own first team players.
Yes they’ve improved under Derek McInnes and have had a solid start to the season.
The signings of experienced Scottish players Matty Kennedy, Robbie Deas, Stuart Findlay and Kyle Magennis amongst others has played a part in that.
And yes their artificial surface is an abomination which has no place in top flight football.
But again, no excuses.
We – and more importantly Brendan Rodgers – knew all of this heading in to the tie, and yet somehow contrived to put in as poor a performance as we’ve seen in some time as we limped out of the cup at Rugby Park.
Rodgers is a coach of the highest quality, one I’m fully behind, but whilst the board have work to do off the park in the coming days, he and his players most certainly have work to do on it.
A SEASON DEFINING END TO THE MONTH?
In the coming 10 days the summer transfer will close and Celtic simply must add quality to Rodgers’ squad in that time if we’re to compete domestically and to emerge from the Champions League campaign with some credibility.
The manager himself re-iterated as such in his post-match comments and he doesn’t want players to be added to his pool merely for numbers sake.
Think Oli Burke, Jeremy Toljan, Timo Weah et al. We cannot go back to those days.
If and when he has additional quality options available to him – as well as the return of some key players – then and only then might we see a side which is a true reflection of the manager and what he’s looking to achieve.
In our three games so far – despite two wins sitting alongside Sunday’s defeat – it’s something we’ve yet to witness.
No room for excuses. It’s now time for the club to back the manager.
Listen to the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly as we discuss Room For Improvement, The Case For The Defence & Transfer Window Worries!
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