As a consequence of the utter failure above him to make the signings Celtic need, Brendan’s options for tomorrow are all pretty grim. But he’s shown a tendency towards tactical flexibility which may well be his, and our team’s, saving grace.
Whatever he decides to do, I absolutely refuse to blame Brendan for anything that goes wrong tomorrow. He has been dealt an abysmal hand by those above him; he’s faced with nothing but a series of bad options. If he can make it work anyway he’ll be entitled to enormous credit.
The question is; what will he decide on?
If Brendan goes four at the back most of us will understand.
He could field Janko, O’Connoll, Lustig and Tierney; that would make sense and most of us expect something like that, although my own view is that Efe Ambrose will play. But a back four exposes the central defence’s weaknesses, and although the personnel to do it isn’t really there he could – if he was so inclined – take a punt. Four at the back only seems safe. I’m not convinced it is.
Brendan could gamble on a back three instead.
That would sacrifice his full backs but it would allow him to play an extra man in midfield, perhaps as an anchor. The obvious candidate is Scott Brown, playing just in front of the defence. If he goes with Tierney, Ambrose/O’Connell and Lustig that will allow the defenders to cover better for one another than they could in a 4-4-2 and with the midfield anchor we can choke off the supply to their forwards from midfield.
The danger will be how to cope with their delivery from out wide.
Our wingers will have to do a power of extra work in coming back to cover, and the three defenders will have to keep it very compact indeed, staying in position in the penalty box no matter how intense the temptation to close down the wingers will be. This will require discipline.
With no wild card signing, Brendan will have to go with wild card tactics instead.
We’re hellishly exposed here; there is no “safe” option. As our board clearly has no problem gambling with our Champions League qualification hopes (and since many of our fans feel the same way) we can’t realistically have any issue with the manager chancing it.
There are pros and cons here.
Even with the back four the safest option would be to defend deep and narrow. Yet there’s an alternative to that too; to go for broke. A 3-5-2 is a fundamentally attacking system, and it might well be that Brendan decides what we need more than anything else is to hit them hard from the start, go for the early away goal and rock them back on their heels. If we grabbed one quick another one might well end the tie. Force them into their own unpalatable decision and try and bring them back to Celtic Park chasing it.
One thing is for sure; this guy ain’t no Deila, wedded to one system, one formation, one approach that if it failed would consign us to a certain fate.
Brendan has already experimented; the 3-5-2 at home in the last round was just the system we needed to break down a packed defence. This manager believes in adapting to the circumstances.
He’s the reason for optimism that this might end in something other than disaster.
This is a huge decision.
Either way, win or lose, he deserves our unqualified support.
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