• MySTV

The evolution of the Victor Wanyama midfield role at Celtic

Michael Gunn of TicTacTic considers the future role of Celtic's midfield powerhouse, Victor Wanyama.

Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama.
©SNS Group.

Celtic's unexpected semi-final defeat to St Mirren a week ago wasn't just a staggering jolt to a young team gleaming with hot prospects.

Their manager, not blameless himself, accused his players of performing like spoiled kids. But for one player in particular - arguably the jewel in the crown - it was a stark reminder that there is a long way to go before strolling into the heady heights of an elite English Premiership team.

Victor Wanyama was outstanding in a 4-0 demolition of Dundee Utd, with Sir Alex Ferguson among other interested parties in attendance - but since then it's been a troublesome period for the precocious Kenyan.

At Hampden in the cup, he was a pale imitation of the brutish ballwinner-cum-playmaker that piqued the interest of Europe's elite through monstrous performances against Spartak Moscow and Barcelona. Lennon's recent move to 4-3-3 hasn't helped, with Wanyama and his companion water-carriers on either side strangled by St Mirren's numerical midfield advantage.

It was five against three, with Lennon abandoning the system after only 13 minutes. By then St Mirren deservedly led thanks to their blistering start, with a second narrowly missed chance from Stephen McGinn prompting the abrupt change in formation.

Perhaps too much had been asked of Wanyama, whose dynamism and presence gives the sense of two players worth of effort. The initial pitting of three midfielders against five suggests Lennon has faith that that athleticism can make up such numerical shortfalls - but not on this occasion.

With the Kenyan FA claiming Celtic's star asset is on the brink of joining "one of the big two clubs in the world" it seems increasingly likely that the growing hype in this case is justified. He is the real deal.

Yet despite apparent interest, given comments last year by Sir Alex, Wanyama doesn't appear a natural fit for Manchester Utd. Just eight months ago he told the official Man Utd website: "I don’t think we’ve had a holding player since I’ve been here. We’ve never had a holding player.

“We tried to get Roy Keane to do that but he just couldn't do it. He had to play a way that was his own way of playing, so I’ve not had it for 25 years. Why should I think about it now?”

If Wanyama's C.V. boasts one thing, it's of being effective in just that position - a midfield anchor. Making his debut for Celtic at centre-back, his unique selling points quickly became clear - a potent mix of strength, ball-winning, aerial ability and dominating physique. Recently his passing game has developed, not unlike Alexander Song at Arsenal who went from no nonsense ball-winner to rangy playmaker, catching the interest of Barcelona in the process, where he now plies his trade.

Broadly speaking, teams across Europe have been opting out of selecting those deployed in such "Makelele" roles. Javier Mascherano was relegated into defence for Barcelona, Manchester Utd use the technically gifted Michael Carrick, as Arsenal do with Mikel Arteta. Juventus' deepest midfielder is Andrea Pirlo and German giants Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich prefer ball-playing options like Sven Bender and Javi Martinez respectively.

If the holding midfielder is disappearing across Europe, it isn't to say that Wanyama couldn't excel. His battering-ram performance against Barcelona will remind Ferguson and co. that in the ever changing landscape of football tactics, there's inevitably a place for brute force. Or, like those who see their position in midfield ebbing away, he may find himself at centre-back - like Song, Mascherano or Daniel De Rossi.

He may stay in Glasgow beyond even this summer, considering his contract expires in 2015, but like all of the up and coming starlets on Celtic's books, ultimately his aim is outwith Scotland. While Lawwell will focus on getting the right price, Lennon must now step up finding a capable replacement.

Michael Gunn runs the thoroughly excellent TicTacTic, providing tactical insight in all Celtic's matches. You can follow him on Twitter.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.