Celtic find themselves in attacking limbo right now. The Bhoys are heading into the 2017/18 season with just two senior strikers in their squad and they aren’t in a position to add to that.
Moussa Dembélé and Leigh Griffiths both missed the draw with Rosenborg on Wednesday evening and Celtic looked blunt going forward. It’s understandable. After all, the pair scored a combined 50 goals last season.
In their absence, Brendan Rodgers opted to Tom Rogic in a false-nine position for their third-round Champions League qualifying match.
It resulted in a number of questions being aimed at the Celtic manager. One of which being: why hasn’t Rodgers delved into the transfer market to bring in attacking reinforcements?
On the surface it seems pretty straightforward. To compete on all fronts Celtic need depth in key areas. There’s an argument to be had that the striking position is the most important within a team because, as cliche as it sounds, goals win games.
Sir Alex Ferguson used to ensure he had four quality strikers when he used a two striker system. He almost built his squads around it. Then, as he tweaked his formation so it was just one leading the line, the need for four dropped to three. Sometimes the Scotsman had too many strikers at his disposal.
And while Celtic are as dominant as Manchester United were domestically, Rodgers’ men don’t quite have the same appeal in the market and therefore can’t replicate that model, at least not effectively.
In an ideal world the Bhoys would take a leaf out of the Red Devils’ book and bulk up their offensive options. Competition breeds success and three capable strikers battling it out for one position would be beneficial. But it’s not as easy as that and it’s why they find themselves in purgatory.
Chris Sutton touched upon this point after the draw with Rosenborg, saying:
“Listen, I understand why so many people are questioning him going in to the campaign with just two front men. I can see the point in having more men available as back-up. But the reality of the situation is that it’s far more difficult than it sounds.
“Keeping three sweet would be nigh impossible. It’s alright saying Rodgers should have more strikers but in truth he’d be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
“Who is this third striker he’d be able to bring in anyway? You’re not going to get a top-quality front player who is going to come to Scotland and be happy to sit on the bench every week behind Dembele and Griffiths. It’s not going to happen. I certainly wouldn’t have come north if there was any suggestion I wouldn’t be playing.”
Rodgers showed an awareness of this following that match.
“We’ll assess it. If we don’t think we’re going to get the response from Leigh we then have to look at whether [the injury is] going to be for a sustained period of time,” he said.
“Of course you need a reference in your team and it’s something that we’ll monitor and assess.”
Celtic are a name known across Europe but they're a victim of the lack of quality on display in the Scottish Premier League.
Rodgers' men are in a unique position, and an unenviable one. They need to find strikers willing to play second fiddle to Dembélé for the most part but who are good enough to step in and do a job in the Champions League if the Frenchman isn't available.
It's an impossible task even before you take into account the budget the Bhoys have to play with. Many Premier League clubs in this situation would trump for an experienced striker on a short-term deal, but even those aren't cheap these days.
Furthermore, a loan deal isn't an appealing proposition either. And those that are willing to head to Scotland on loan probably don't have the requisite quality.
It's not the first time Rodgers has been in this predicament during his managerial career. While at Liverpool he had a similar problem when Luis Suarez was suspended and Fabio Borini was out injured. Away at Upton Park he was forced to field Jonjo Shevley as a false-nine in a 3-2 win.
The following month Liverpool signed Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho for a combined £20million to bolster their attacking options. Celtic, though, aren't in such a luxury position.
Rodgers has a job on his hands and will have to be at his charming and persuasive best if he's to bring in attacking reinforcements this summer. They can't go through the season knowing one knock to either of their strikers leaves them with just one senior striker, not if they want to go far in Europe. It could well be his greatest challenge as manager.