Rodgers gets his point across – but life without Dembele is not so bad
There was a straightforward rejoinder to those debating how Celtic might fare in their post-moussa Dembele world yesterday: they have already had a successful dry run at it. Without the Frenchman for much of last season after he failed to start 33 games, it didn’t turn out too badly for the double-treble winners.
Ultimately, it was more the circumstances than the actual departure itself that made his wheedling his way out of the Glasgow club to join Lyon for £19.7 million hours before the window closed so potentially unsettling for the squad and manager he left behind.
The as-you-were nature of Celtic on the field was reflected in the fact their starting line-up for yesterday’s 1-0 victory was the self-same as for their 5-0 flailing of the Ibrox men in the pair’s last meeting. While Rangers have patently improved under Steven Gerrard, the dominance that Brendan Rodgers’ side exerted was in the mould of previous vanquishings in the course of their 12-game unbeaten sequence in the fixture in all but the final scoreline.
It was suspected that Celtic’s torturous transfer window would cause trauma and tremors that would reverberate into their first face-off with Gerrard’s revitalised, and unbeaten, 0 Moussa Dembele: ‘Deep down I know he is a good boy’
Rangers. It didn’t. Dembele is a top-class talent. He can be explosivewhenhishamstrings are not limiting his game time. A total of 51 goals in 94 appearances, and seven strikes against Rangers, reflects that. Yet, with a third straight clean sheet coinciding with Dedryck Boyata’s third straight outing this season, Celtic’s retention of a defender who attempted to work his ticket before Dembele had even considered agitating, may, in time, prove significant for their fortunes. No matter that Rodgers is disquieted at only – only – having Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths to choose from for the central striker role.
An exasperating summer window patently also left the Irishman nursing personal reputational bruising he sought to apply a balm on post-match. He did so by calling out Dembele for the tactics the player employed to lever his way out of the club.
The forward accused the Celtic manager on social media of breaking promises made to him about being allowed to move on. Sources in the French sporting press ran with claims that the Celtic manager had three times tried to push him into accepting moves – most notably a switch to Brighton in January.
The forward then utterly torched his relationship with Rodgers by sulking on the training pitch at Lennoxtown on Friday to spark a confrontation between the pair. In turn, yesterday Rodgers sought to turn to ash Dembele’s version