Deila shares why he didn't pick Rodgers favourite at Celtic
By Alex Stevens
Ronny Deila has claimed that Stuart Armstrong was not ready to play in central midfield at Celtic last season.
The Norwegian signed Armstrong from Dundee United in January 2015 in a double deal that also included Gary Mackay-Steven.
But Armstrong, 24, struggled last season as Deila opted to play him left in his 4-2-3-1 formation, preferring to use Tom Rogic or Stefan Johansen in a central playmaker role.
Now, under Brendan Rodgers, Armstrong has developed into one of Celtic’s key players,
Deila has been criticised for holding Armstrong back last season, a version of events that is disputed by Deila as he explained why the player was not the finished article when he arrived.
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“Stuart Armstrong couldn’t come straight into Celtic and be the best player at Celtic when he had just left Dundee United,” Deila told the Herald. “He needed time. Now, once he has one and a half, two years, under his belt, he is starting to adapt to playing at Celtic.
“He played central for us as well at times too. But we had Tom Rogic and Stefan Johansen there, Stefan wasn’t a natural No 10 but he did well the first year, and pressed the game well for us.
“Tom Rogic did well too and we did play Stuart in the central as well sometimes. I agree that he has made this [central midfield] his best position. But at that time I think he needed more experience to be able to play there.
“I am so happy that he has made it, and developed that way. He was a player that we believed in. We bought him for some money and everybody needs time to adapt. That is the issue when you have clubs like Celtic. You don’t have the time. Because you have to win and develop.”
Deila led Celtic to consecutive Scottish Premiership titles during his two years at the club, after joining from Stromsgodset, but he was criticised for a poor record in Europe and failure to progress into the Champions League group stages in both seasons.
The 41-year-old is now back in his native Norway, where he is the manager of Oslo-based club Valerenga.
Deila was replaced by Brendan Rodgers at the Celtic helm and the northern Irishman has taken the team that were already dominant in Scotland to new heights.
They are unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership as they close in on sixth consecutive title in record time and are on course for a domestic treble after already winning the Scottish League Cup.