The more our squad’s minor injury problems clear up the more we are going to learn about how Neil Lennon wants to set this team up in the second half of the campaign. It is worth noting that this is game number three and our starting eleven has not been strengthened in any way, shape or form by signings.
Lennon is doing his job. I wonder if others are.
Without a game changing signing, Lennon has decided to adapt game changing tactics.
Two different formations in a week; different that is from the one we usually play with. One part of the squad may be stronger – the forward line – but the central midfield is down one player and the wide positions are reduced by two.
Shved might as well not exist, so we could call that three.
The manager wants at least one more signing; in my view we actually need two, including a central defender. And even then, I wonder whether any of them will make the first eleven substantially stronger than it currently is.
In the meantime, Lennon will get on with what he has. In truth, if he’s prepared to use the players who are currently here – Shved included – then he does good resources to work with. The question is, what does he do with them?
Forrest will be back in the team soon; does Lennon ditch his new found enthusiasm for two strikers when that happens?
Because something has to give.
The 4-3-1-2 has no room in it for Forrest, unless he plays “in the hole” behind the front men. The 3-5-2 could utilise wingers, but that means giving up on policing the right and left sides with players as capable in defence as they are in attack. I’ve seen Celtic play the 3-5-2 like that; Strachan did it, and so did O’Neill.
The thing in its favour is that more often than not it was devastating in Scotland.
When we played with the wing-back variant on Wednesday night it was one of the most comfortable wins at Rugby Park in many a long year.
That should not be ignored.
There is the standard 4-4-2 or the diamond 4-4-2; both utilise wingers and full-backs and a holding midfield player coupled with an attacking one. Lennon does not favour the 4-4-2 and it’s been an age since any Celtic manager did. The issue there is the midfield; it is the strongest part of the team, and most Celtic bosses are loathe to leave too many players out of it. In some ways, our strength and options in that area has limited our tactical flexibility.
In truth, the 4-4-2 is wasted in Scottish football.
The 4-2-3-1 which we usually play – and which I fear Lennon will soon revert back to – uses full-backs and wide men both, but the wide men’s job is to support the single striker; they don’t play as regular wingers. In the modern game having attacking fullbacks and wingers in the same team is viewed as a waste.
The flat 4-4-2 doesn’t get one man forward to support the strikers, nor drop one back to support the defence. The 4-4-2 diamond does both of these things but leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the pitch which opposing teams can exploit.
The thing is, if Lennon continues with two up front, and I hope he does, then something has to give.
The 4-3-1-2 and the 3-5-2 both give us the option of a strong central midfield and an attacking option in support of the forwards, but both come with a compromise.
The first eliminates the need for wide players and the second means choosing between having attacking fullbacks or wingers … I prefer the 3-5-2 myself because of the extra defender who can push into the anchor slot.
But if Forrest plays in one of those systems them Frimpong or Abd Elhamed doesn’t.
If Bolingoli, Taylor or Hayes play then there’s no room for Christie wide left or Elyounoussi, far less the wide player Lennon talked about wanting yesterday.
This is dilemma the manager is facing … and our season will hinge on what he decides.