Jump to content
  • entries
    125
  • comment
    1
  • views
    5,317

Ten In A Row is in jeopardy - must Celtic switch manager to save it?


hislopsoffsideagain

404 views

The last time Celtic lost three consecutive home matches, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, Kylie Minogue was at number one with 'Tears On My Pillow' (no, I've never heard of it either) and Rangers were on their way to Two In A Row.


Admittedly in the subsequent thirty years there won't have been many times when Celtic played back-to-back-to-back games at Celtic Park against teams of the quality of Rangers, Milan and, um, Sparta Prague, but still.


How has it come to this?


Yes, Rangers have improved. We're yet to find out whether yet another post-New Year slump will derail their title push, but it would obviously be foolish for Celtic fans to pin their hopes on that. Steven Gerrard's side are playing with confidence and no little skill. It's worth remembering at this point that, for all the spending down Govan way, Rangers' budget is still way behind Celtic's. For them to be so superior at this point is quite startling...and the way they are going about it is also exposing Celtic's problems for all to see.


The bottom line is that Rangers have a plan, and Gerrard's squad has been built with it in mind. In contrast, if Celtic's grand strategy for 2020-21 was all about the switch to three-at-the-back, it made no sense to this blogger. Playing three central defenders in the Premiership against teams who sit back and soaked up pressure just unnecessarily robs the team of an attacking or creative player...even more so given Lennon's insistence on deploying Scott Brown at the base of midfield as well.  In Mohamed Elyounoussi, James Forrest and Mikey Johnston they have three wide players who don't obviously fit into that system, though the injuries to the latter two have made this less of an issue than it might have been. Ditto the more natural number tens like Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic.


The Shane Duffy factor has been thoroughly dissected elsewhere, but the bottom line is that this is not a player that fits what Celtic need in central defence - either in a back three or a back four - in the slightest. Duffy is not a bad player, but his weaknesses are woefully exposed and his qualities are rarely on show in this situation. It is a failure of recruitment. 


And it isn't the first one. Celtic have signed three left-backs in fifteen months. Greg Taylor and Boli Bolingoli cost £3million each and whilst Kieran Tierney's shoes were always going to be impossible to fill the bottom line is neither player can hold a torch to Rangers' Borna Barisic. Nor were they especially well suited to playing as a wing-back; ironically, as soon as Lennon signed a player tailor-made for the left wing-back role - Diego Laxalt - he reverted back to a back four which currently makes Laxalt look very uncomfortable.


Meanwhile, the list of players currently out on loan and with no future at the club includes Bolingoli, Vakoun Issouf Bayo, Jack Hendry and Maryan Shved. It's not clear who is leading transfer policy at Celtic, but it does seem that folk are not all on the same page.


As for the coach himself, it is increasingly tempting to wonder whether Lennon's first spell at Celtic Park was really all that. After all, his three league titles came when the closest opposition were a Rangers side on the brink of liquidation, Motherwell and Motherwell respectively; to be frank Celtic would have won those leagues with you, or me, or even Ronny Deila in charge. In continental competition, take away Tony Watt's goal against Barcelona - bear in mind that Celtic, with 11% possession, rather rode their luck that day - and results were not impressive; they finished rock bottom of their Champions League group in 2013-14 after nearly losing in the qualifiers to Shakhtar Karagandy, while they missed out on both the Champions League and Europa League groups in 2010-11 and only got into the Europa League groups the following year after Sion were disqualified.


His return in early 2019 as a stopgap made a fair bit of sense given Brendan Rodgers' sudden departure, but in truth the team's form for the rest of that season was hardly all that and they huffed and puffed their way past a pretty putrid Hearts side in the Scottish Cup Final. It was not a performance that justified offering Lennon the job permanently after the match, but it was the romantic option and perhaps the easy one too. It was probably cheaper also in terms of wages, but it could be argued that the European qualifying failures of this season and last have made appointing him very expensive indeed for the club.


The fact is that since Rodgers left Celtic have largely coasted, as if they feel they are untouchable. In fact, 'stagnated' may be a more appropriate term. On the pitch, there is very little sign of tactical imagination. The formation may have changed recently but in the final third the strategy seems the same; to rely for moments of individual brilliance to unlock defences. It's worth noting that both they and Rangers have endured their star player and talismanic striker suffering a collapse in form this season. Rangers have barely missed a beat despite Alfredo Morelos' struggles; Celtic simply do not look the same without a potent Odsonne Edouard.


Edouard isn't the only one out of sorts. After the Sparta game, Lennon didn't hold back. He accused the players of being 'lazy' of 'lack of application', 'lack of hunger' and suggested they weren't working hard enough in training and that there was a need for a 'culture change'. The obvious elephant in the room there is the question of who is responsible for working them in training. After all there is precious little evidence during matches that they have worked on anything particularly intricate tactically. Heck, back in August Kieran Devlin at The Athletic reported that a number of players employed their own fitness coaches because they were unsatisfied at what the club was offering.


There's still time to turn this around - two-thirds of the season in fact. And the Celtic squad has more than enough quality to do so. But it is fair to say we have reached the point where you'd be surprised if Neil Lennon was still in charge by the end of the season. And it's also fair to note that if you're going to change manager, an international break - like the one coming up next week - would seem like the least painful time to do it. Do they take the plunge and sack a manager for the first time since Tony Mowbray? The fate of their Ten In A Row dream may well depend on what decision they make.


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

View the full article

0 Comments


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.



  • Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events found
  • Topics

  • Posts

    • Lewis Hyde off on loan to Rothes: https://ictfc.com/lewis-hyde-joins-rothes-on-loan-2
    • HT: 0-0. FT: 1-2. 1st Scorer ICT: Sutherland. 1st Scorer Pars: Todorov. Crowd: 2133.
    • HT:                           0 - 1 FT:                            0 - 2 1st Scorer ICT:         Duku 1st Scorer Pars:      Toddy Crowd:                     2400
    • Great to see the goals again and there are a few belters there 
    • Surprise Surprise   East End Park is the venue on Saturday as surprise Championship leaders Inverness visit the Kingdom of Fife to take on surprise packet Dunfermline Athletic. I say surprise packet, as that is exactly what The Pars have become under the guidance of former Alloa Athletic manager Peter Grant. I fully expected the Pars to be challenging at the opposite end of the table given their financial backing and the assumed quality of their squad. Unfortunately for them they find themselves languishing at the foot of the table and winless after four games with only a draw against Morton  to show for their troubles. They do have a Fife derby to come against Raith Rovers, but that won't be easy either. They have shipped three goals against Partick, Arbroath and Ayr United and their fans are now talking boycotts in an attempt to use fan power to force the board to act now before their season is completely ruined. Look out for the mass exodus on the hour. However, beware the scalded cat! In stark contrast, Inverness are on a winning run of five games on the bounce in the Championship, have the manager of the month in Billy Dodds, and sit top of the table having already beaten three of the favourites in Raith, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle. What could possibly go wrong? PPV Stream @ ParsTV £12 OFFICIAL PREVIEW ROBBO BOOK VIDEO WATCH SUPPORTERS BUS Stat Attack First Competitive Meeting Aug 7th, 1999 League (A) 0 - 4 Most Recent Competitive Meeting Mar 20th, 2021 League (Championship) (A) 1 - 0 Last 10 Competitive Meetings 1 - 0 (A) 1 - 1 (H) 1 - 3 (A) 2 - 1 (A) 2 - 0 (H) 1 - 0 (A) 1 - 0 (H) 0 - 1 (A) 2 - 2 (H) 3 - 0 (A) Biggest Victories Jul 26th, 2016 League Cup (Group C) (A) 5 - 1 Heaviest Defeats <ouch> Aug 12th, 2017 League (A) 1 - 5 Aug 7th, 1999 League (A) 0 - 4 Highest Attendance Apr 10th, 2004 Scottish Cup (Semi-Final) (N) 13,255 Head 2 Head Venue Pld Won Drn Lst For Agst + / - Home 21 9 8 4 27 19 +8 Away 22 9 8 5 28 25 +3 Neutral 2 0 1 1 3 4 -1 Total 45 18 17 10 58 48 +10 Overall stats sway in our favour with the last ten meetings showing that Inverness have been more dominant in recent years. A far cry from the 4-0 thrashing dished out on our first venture into the Championship back in August 1999 when the Pars brushed aside the upstarts from the Highlands who dared to move up through the leagues to challenge the central belt dominance. In our defence we were reduced to ten men and conceded two late goals.       Pld W D L F A +/- Pts 1. Inverness CT 5 5 0 0 7 1 6 15 2. Kilmarnock 5 4 0 1 6 1 5 12 3. Arbroath 5 3 1 1 12 4 8 10 4. Partick Thistle 5 3 0 2 11 8 3 9 5. Queen of the South 5 2 0 3 7 8 -1 6 6. Raith Rovers 4 1 1 2 6 6 0 4 7. Ayr United 5 1 1 3 5 8 -3 4 8. Morton 5 1 1 3 5 9 -4 4 9. Hamilton Academical 5 1 1 3 6 12 -6 4 10. Dunfermline 4 0 1 3 3 11 -8 1 Other fixtures this weekend, all 3:00pm Saturday Hamilton v Ayr United Morton v Raith Rovers Partick v Kilmarnock Queens v Arbroath LATEST TEAM NEWS Michael Gardyne missed out last week having picked up a knock in training prior to the Buckie Thistle cup game. Looks like we are mostly free from injury with Billy Mckay and Lewis Jamieson champing at the bit as they remained on the bench last week. Look for a relatively unchanged squad this weekend. If it's not broke, don't fix it! We have also recruited someone to watch videos. Good work if you can get it. Dunfermline will have Owain Fon Williams, Nikolay Todorov and Kai Kennedy in their squad as they look to get off the bottom of the table.   Aaron Doran will make his 300th appearance this weekend. Let's see if he can add to his 50 goals he has scored for the Caley Jags     View full article  
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. : Terms of Use : Guidelines : Privacy Policy