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Crunch time approaches for Brendan Rodgers if he is to avoid being dragged into managed decline

January is shaping up as crunch time for Brendan Rodgers in his second venture as Celtic manager.

Whatever talks, promises and demands were made during talks with Michael Nicholson and Chris McKay back in June have to be delivered and seen to be delivered.

The last time Rodgers was around for a January transfer window he came out with Vakoun Bayo, Marian Shved, Timo Weah, Oli Burke and Jeremy Toljan. Technically he also got Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez, neither of whom could get a permit to play in Scotland which sort of summed up the club strategy.

Back in August Rodgers neatly distanced himself from the summer signings, explaining that he has to work with and coach the players provided by the club. Players or agents that impressed Mark Lawwell.

Gus Lagerbielke was signed as a follow up to a recommendation from Carl Starfelt’s agent.

Despite the frequency of European humiliations, from the great and the good down to Cluj, Malmo, Maribor, Molde, Ferencvaros, AEK Athens and others there remains a rawness and hurt at last night’s result.

While £72m rests in the bank account the quality on the park is getting spread thinner and thinner.

At the end of February Celtic looked in a strong position as they won the League Cup Final while driving to a domestic treble, bursting another Revolution! across the city for extra joy.

If three or four players had been added to those involved that day there is every reason to suspect that Celtic could joust with Feyenoord this season.

Rather than add to the quality Mark Lawwell went on another supermarket sweep of projects, of the seven signings only Luis Palma looks like he could play in the Champions League but he is a major markdown on Jota.

As well as the Superstar from Portugal, Carl Starfelt and Aaron Mooy are no longer around. When Liel Abada and Reo Hatate are out injured the quality drops alarmingly.

Celtic like to think that they have a transfer strategy, only in comparisons to their city business partners is it successful.

For every Jeremie Frimpong and Jota there are dozens of disasters dating back to Teemu Puki, Nadir Ciftci, Derk Boerrigter, Ismaila Soro, Albian Ajeti, Vasilis Barkas, Shved and Bayo. Players that made zero impact, that hung around on fat contracts before being quietly and expensively removed.

The current squad has plenty more from the House of Lawwell such as Alexandro Bernabei, Yuki Kobayashi, Marco Tilio, Sead Haksabanovic and Kwon Hyeok-kyu.

If Rodgers is to retain credibility he has to put his foot down for January, to impose himself. If he nods through more projects he is setting up further humiliations next season in Europe.

The manager won’t be in a stronger position than he is today. January recruitment should be well underway, positions and players identified in our price range of £4-8m. The money is certainly there.

Winning at Ibrox at the start of September provided Rodgers with buckets of goodwill, he can keep Celtic ahead of the other lot but some fans have slightly higher expectations.

When the January transfer window closes we’ll know if the ambitious Rodgers of 2016-2018 is still around or if he has returned to assist with the managed decline put in place when he was presented with Youssouf Mulumbu rather than John McGinn.

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