In the aftermath of last night’s game, I wrote an angry match report about how we continued with the tactic of passing the ball side to side and backwards. I didn’t know it at the time, but almost as I was publishing it, Brendan Rodgers was making exactly the same point to the media.
It seems that our manager is not particularly pleased with the style at the moment.
To me it was the best news of the night. Brendan knows that the fans are unhappy with the way the team is playing, and he has vowed to work with the players in training to make sure that the ball moves forward with greater urgency.
This is the best news we could have gotten, and it will be the most positive thing the club does before the January window opens. Nothing particularly dramatic has to change in our style; it will involve players being more alert about moving into space off the ball.
I saw numerous instances last night where there was space in front of a Celtic player to pass into … it was just that there was no Celtic player ready to move into it, to exploit the room.
This is one of the reasons the ball goes backwards so often; our movement off the ball is not what it should be. The slow build-up only works in two circumstances; first, when the defence or the midfield comes to meet the ball, creating space, or when footballers are alert enough to shake off their markers and find some.
Our best football in the last two years has come about when players have moved intelligently off the ball. Scott Sinclair was particularly good at it; look at some of his goals. He has great positional intelligence. It’s almost as if he and others have been handcuffed to one specific role or area of the field.
A little creative freedom is what’s needed here.
I have a great deal of sympathy with our manager on this, by the way. You look at the last few games and what you see is that the defensive frailties appear to be gone. The manager changed the system slightly and it has made us a better unit at the back. This is why we look more rigid than we have in a while; players are holding their positions more and not wandering away from their responsibilities as they have sometimes been prone to do.
But whilst it bolts the back door, it makes us less potent up front. Brendan’s job now is to find that happy medium, that land between the two where we can get what we need up front without compromising the art of defending.
That’s what the manager gets paid the big bucks for, though.
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