Had we been played off the park today in a style that was undeniable, I would not be writing this piece.
Had it been a demolition job like the ones we’ve handed to them so often in the past, I would not have given this matter the slightest thought.
Had I thought we saw evidence today that theirs is a team of great players the equal of our own squad I would be gardening or watching television instead of sitting here putting down my thoughts on this.
But the truth is that we were beaten tonight by a bang-average team which knew our game-plan, set up accordingly and took its chances on the day.
Sevco is not a great side. They are a well organised one that plays a certain way and does it well.
That’s all. And this has nothing to do with Gerrard as a manager, because he’s the most bang average part of their club.
There is a myth growing around Gerrard that he is an unpolished gem as a manager.
In fact, Gerrard has ended up in the right place at the right time, at a club which is reckless about money and has given him a fortune to spend in his two and some years there. With £30 million at his disposal he should be getting a lot more bang for his bucks though.
His own playing style is just as predictable as ours is, but whereas he has seen Lennon’s approach and knows how to master it, Lennon has not been terribly good at challenging his. Lennon, who once famously said he wasn’t one of those managers who bothered over-much with tactics, puts too much reliance on having the better players … that cost us today.
But Gerrard’s tactics are exploitable. Hibs played a high press where they got into their faces, and they could have won that game. We certainly had the players who were capable of finding gaps in that Ibrox defence; they aren’t terribly impressive when they come up against a decent attacking side which knows how to utilise space.
We were defeated today by a side that managed only a couple of shots on target; we put out a makeshift defence. Our starting line-up had five players in it who’ve never played in this fixture before, and we lost the game to two dreadful errors at the back.
Yet all of Sevconia is in raptures at the way they played; I thought they looked ordinary and one dimensional and I’m glad that they did, because a team on top form, playing really good football, would have given us a doing today, a proper one.
And I don’t feel like that’s what I watched. I would have had the same concerns, and the same emotions, had I watched Hibs do that to us or Aberdeen; a gnawing sense that our own failings are what caused us the problems today.
Sevco fans believe they are a better team than they are; look at the performances of their so-called “big players” today; Morelos, for example. He was appalling, easily the most disinterested player on the park, which is saying something considering how abject some of our guys looked. Kent had a few moments but none were special. Their midfield is comprised of defensive players, albiet they work as a unit and each knows his individual job. Barisic would have toiled against a more physically confident player than Frimpong, who looks lightweight in these battles.
Gerrard himself has ridden his luck on more than one occasion this season.
He will have injuries at some point.
The virus will hit his squad at some stage.
He will be deprived of key players at crucial junctures.
Most importantly, because they too come up against teams every week who sit back and try to soak up pressure, his team will also drop points.
He, like Lennon, tends to make like-for-like swaps. He sticks to one system. He is over-reliant on set pieces; look how many of their goals this season have come from corners and free kicks, not to mention the penalties they get on a recurring basis.
And it’s because I know these things that I’m less concerned today than I might otherwise have been. This will come down to what happens at Celtic Park. Gerrard is never more than a couple of games from a crisis; that moment will come as it has the last two years.
The question is, will Celtic be ready to exploit it when it does?
The problem is that we don’t have our troubles to seek right now.
We’re all over the place. Before this match all the talk was of how poor our form had been; we were still getting results, but it was clear we weren’t playing well. It’s only in comparison to our own poor displays that they looked effective; until this afternoon it was Celtic who had the advantage in terms of points per game.
There will be a tendency in the next few days and weeks – until Sevco next drops something – to consider them a better team than they are. But I remain unconvinced by them and I am definitely not convinced by their manager, who has spent a lot of money but has not, for me, done anything to write home about. They look better than the average SPL side … but they are still an average SPL side. They will slip up many, many times before this campaign ends.
Whatever else you might spend the next few days worrying about, do not worry about that.
Worry about what goes on inside our own club, about the malaise we seem to be operating under.
Events elsewhere will spin out on their own predictable path.
If we get our act together, we’ll win this with room to spare.
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