Of all the assets a football squad can have, I believe that speed is the most potent.
The ability to get up and down the pitch quickly, to switch play like lightning, turning defence into attack, the capability to run at desperately slow defenders and make them look feeble … it’s destroyed teams over the years and allows tactical flexibility that can rout teams.
I have not seen a quicker Celtic team than the one we have right now, not for years and years, perhaps not ever. Aside from those players with real pace we did have in the squad, Brendan has added others, most notably Dembele, Sinclair and Gamboa.
These guys are all pacy footballers, and he clearly gave a chance to Janko for the same reason.
Brendan has identified it as the most important element of his team building plans. Add Forrest, Roberts and Griffiths to the equation and we have the capability to dismantle sides who are lacking that particular skillset. One team comes especially to mind; the one we play next. Their supporters are positively petrified at the prospect of facing these guys with a backline that makes traffic cones look highly mobile. The prospect makes me salivate.
Our backline could do with a little pace, but then there are few top class centre backs who you could actually say would hold up in a hundred yard dash. But Kiernan has always been able to get up and down the park and Gamboa sounds like he has speed to spare.
It’s nearly impossible to build a team full of sprinters, but the areas where pace is best utilised are those where’ve got it in abundance.
Of course, just having pace in the team is not enough in and of itself.
Ronny Deila had fast players in his squad, but I never thought he knew the best way to get the best out of them. His tactical choices didn’t allow enough creative freedom, and there were games when his selections were ultra-cautious where a quick counter attacking team would have fared well.
A case in point was the Sevco semi-final, where his team selection and tactics were appallingly negative. Even if you accept (which few of us do) that we had to be slightly more defensive than usual, he could have used pace as a potent breakaway weapon, which he never did.
Brendan will have no such fears.
Pace will be used to destroy opponents, and we have a special score to settle with our next ones. As he continues to progress this team, expect the emphasis on speed to continue being apparent in his signings. It wasn’t for nothing that he valued James Forrest’s contribution, and gave him a surprising new deal.
Of all the changes Brendan has brought to the team, this is the most readily apparent, and the most welcome. Modern football is increasingly built on this asset, which makes the way Sevco has gone about their transfer business all the more bizarre and damaging. If there’s logic to eliminating speed from their side I’ve yet to see it, and the question is increasingly being asked on their forums and on their blogs, those which aren’t foaming at the mouth over the SFA.
Someone asked me last night what I really think of the upcoming game against them, and I’ll tell you right now that I have no fears about it, not even the ones I had over the cup semi final where I knew they had a chance depending on what version of Celtic showed up. I have no such concerns this time; a Brendan Rodgers team with an attacking outlook can afford two or three players having an off-day and I still reckon we’ll take them apart.
If everyone shows up, meaning business, this could be Sevco’s first (but not last) 6-2 style skelping from us.
Because speed kills, and they’re simply not set up to deal with it.
In Brendan We Trust.