Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou admits he will set higher benchmarks for his team now he has the depth of squad to rotate players.
Postecoglou struggled to put an experienced back four together in the early weeks of his reign with the squad in transition and was left without a recognised striker for a spell in the autumn through injuries.
Celtic are still without key players David Turnbull and Kyogo Furuhashi through injury but the winter break and January transfer window have seen a replenishment of the squad available to Postecoglou.
The Australian was able to bring on experienced Celtic performers James Forrest, Tom Rogic and Nir Bitton plus the vastly-improved Giorgos Giakoumakis during Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
“We are getting a strong squad which means there’s competition for places and no-one wants to miss out,” said Postecoglou, who has Yosuke Ideguchi available again for Sunday’s Scottish Cup fifth-round visit of Raith Rovers.
“It gives me the opportunity to set higher benchmarks because I can rotate the team and that means that certain things like our intensity, our tempo, our intent to play our football, shouldn’t really drop.
“There were probably times, particularly in the first half of the year, where I had to make allowances that we weren’t going to be as sharp as we possibly could because players were playing so much football.
“So you assess a game a bit differently, and say we may have been a bit flat in certain parts of the game but there’s a reason for that.
“Whereas now, with the talent we have available, irrespective of the changes I make, those things should be there.
“It’s not so much changing the team for tactical reasons, it’s about changing the team to make sure everyone can perform at the levels we want.
“It’s not about saying ‘he is going to be better than him’, it’s more about saying ‘which 11 are going to bring the energy and tempo we need, who is looking the best in training, who needs a game to get to that level, who maybe needs a bit of a rest?’ My assessment has a higher threshold than before.”
Postecoglou hopes the increased availability of players allows him to take his transformation of Celtic’s play to the next level.
“It should in theory moving forward,” he said. “Even the Rangers game we were still pretty restricted in terms of what we had on the bench, not the players but the make-up of the bench.
“It’s only been post-Rangers game that we have got some bodies back and all of a sudden got some real options, both within a game and between games.
“So that will allow me in theory in the future but I have been around long enough to know that can change pretty quickly as well.
“What I’m trying to do is make hay while the sun shines, mate. So I’m trying to get as much in now while we have got the players in and hopefully that stays until the end of the year, which means we can accelerate a lot of things.
“But, if not and if we are again in a position where we are restricted, we still have a big squad.”
Josip Juranovic is likely to miss out with a knock against Raith along with Turnbull, Furuhashi and Albian Ajeti.
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