Quick fix is a big risk for Celtic

A MERE seven signings into the summer, Celtic manager Neil Lennon knows what he wants. "I need another goalkeeper, no doubt about that. We're also looking for a left-back, a centre-half and maybe also a centre forward as well," the Irishman says. That'll be practically the spine of the team, then. Which might explain why squad numbers 1, 3, 5, 7 have yet to be given homes.

The fact that Lennon appears to have done so much transfer business yet has so much he still intends to do might give a certain context to his first competitive selection. It may also offer some comfort since the team he fielded in Braga did so little, leaving themselves with too much to do in the Champions League third round qualifier return leg at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

Celtic remain a team in flux. Half the side that featured in the hideously careless 3-0 defeat that ends any realistic hopes of a place in the Champion League play-offs will be eased out of first-choice positions. Into this bracket comes new signing Charlie Mulgrew, his long-term status surely that of left-back cover, while midfielders Joe Ledley, Efrain Juarez, Baram Kayal, right-back Cha Du-ri and striker Gary Hooper contribute on a regular basis. Other new arrival in the shape of Daryl Murphy will surely be among the supporting players along with Mulgrew. The holes that remain to be filled speak of the potentially flawed nature of Celtic's transfer policy. Yes, the club are able to play the market and are adept at buying and selling, but where has this left the overall quality at a critical juncture?

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The question principally needs to be asked of the goalkeeping position. It is clear to anyone listening closely enough that Lennon cannot countenance relying on Lukasz Zaluska. "Could I go with just Zaluska and Dominic Cervi? No. I want to get another one in. I think that's important. Zaluska is a pretty consistent goalkeeper and he's proved that, but he needs competition," says Lennon. For "competition" read a senior figure to the Pole, hence the fruitless pursuit of David James.

Unfortunately for Zaluska, he has become a magnet for misfortune in a Celtic jersey. Maybe it is just coincidence that he has been in goal for the biggest calamities suffered by the club in the past year: the 4-0 trouncing by St Mirren that marked the heaviest non-Old Firm league defeat in 30 years; the 2-0 defeat to Ross County that was the most humiliating cup defeat in the modern age; the morale-sapping defeat with two closing minutes goals against Dundee United and now a three-goal reverse against a wishy-washy Braga capped by a 35-yard free-kick sailing over his head.

Yet, Celtic had a better goalkeeper than Zaluska. A man who, more than any other in the post-Martin O'Neill era, has been responsible for dragging the club through Champions League qualifiers and even the groups stages. The "brilliant" - Lennon's word the other day - Artur Boruc was punted for peanuts in the form of a 1.7m fee from Fiorentina. The wages for the final year of his salary probably equate to another 1.2m. But if Boruc has been around to keep Celtic in the tie at Portugal, that in itself could have been worth in the region of 2m were it to have given Celtic a platform to draw glamour opponents in the play-off round. The pairing with Arsenal last year raked in not far short of this. It is all very well for Celtic to play the market and seek value for Aiden McGeady, but the question entitled to be asked is what a largely sell-first, buy-with-the-proceeds approach is doing for their competitiveness meantime. In January, the club were 1m to the good in terms of transfer fees from all the comings and goings. Since then, the departures of Stephen McManus, Zheng Zhi, Simon Ferry, Paul Caddis and Boruc have brought in another 4m. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but the combined fees paid-out up front for Hooper, Juarez, Kayal and Duffy add up to around 5m.

Maybe that is working your squad in clever fashion, but it creates incredible upheaval. Tony Mowbray wanted to keep Gary Caldwell and Barry Robson in January, and bring in players who would complement and, by the summer, be sufficiently assimilated to replace them. There is a great myth that O'Neill came in and ripped up the squad he inherited; a discredited bunch which had lost the league by a record margin and infamously succumbed at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup.

The starting XI that blitzed Rangers in that momentum-shifting 6-2 record derby win a month into the season contained nine players who were at the club when the Irishman took charge. Equally, the big players in Gordon Strachan's first title winning season weren't just new arrivals Shunsuke Nakamura, Maciej Zurawski and Boruc, but Shaun Maloney, Stilyan Petrov, Bobo Balde, John Hartson and Lennon himself.

The problem for Mowbray, and now Lennon, is that by the end of Strachan's era there wasn't the same quality as existed at the conclusion of the previous two managerial tenures. Indeed, Mowbray's inheritance was more meagre than any other since Tommy Burns replaced Lou Macari in 1994. Ditto with Lennon a summer on. It will take weeks, perhaps months for a first team to take shape, but Celtic don't have that time. Strachan's first season turned because, following the debacle of the 5-0 record European loss to Artmedia Bratislava, and the 4-4 opening day SPL draw at Motherwell days later, Celtic pulled it together and came mighty close to the biggest turnaround in the history of continental competition. Lennon has pinpointed that 4-0 return leg victory over Bratislava as the night a team and support remembered they were capable of producing watchable, winning football. Lennon accepts his team must serve up something similar on Wednesday.

"It would give us a real shot in the arm if we could put on a performance like the second leg against Artmedia. Obviously we want to win the tie first of all and go through, but if we can't get through the tie we have to try to win the game and do so convincingly," Lennon says. "There wasn't a great deal of positivity to take from Wednesday, but there wasn't a lot in that Braga team to put the fear of God in us either. Lukasz didn't have to make save after save, and it wasn't like they had long spells of possession, or had a great swell of concerted pressure. We know we have to be wary about conceding a goal, but also know that we have to get a head of steam up and go after them."

Then Lennon will go after more players, possibly with a 9m bounty claimed from Spartak Moscow for McGeady. He needs that, but equally needs an end to an ever-more wearying saga, he admits. "I might not get the money to reinvest in the team anyway," he says.

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"It's just all the speculation and indecision regarding his future - it's just difficult at times to deal with. It must be difficult for him, too, as I was in the same situation myself before I went to Celtic (in December 2000]. And that rumbled on for two to three months, albeit before the transfer window came in. So I would like it nipped in the bud sooner rather than later."