I wasn’t concerned when I saw the line-up today because there wasn’t any point in worrying about it.
I thought if the team played with enough intensity we’d make a game of it.
But I should have known better because this team hasn’t approached games with intensity for weeks if not months.
The low tempo football is the way Neil Lennon wants them to play.
This is our future; this dire, turgid, boring stuff.
We didn’t come up against a team today that was anything special.
Get all notions out of your heads about this being some kind of superlative Ibrox team; they aren’t. I’ve seen other sides boss us around like this in this campaign. Our lack of shots on target has been repeated ad infinitum and will be as long as the manager insists on playing this way.
I’ve written about it long enough.
Had Christie played today he’d have been the “second striker” instead of Elyounoussi.
Had Edouard played we’ve still have approached the match with a tactical system so rigid he’d have been running into a brick wall of Sevco defenders all day long.
The difference between this game and St Johnstone away is that we played against better footballers than the Perth side was able to field.
They didn’t have to be special.
This is what £30 million of spending in three years at Ibrox got them.
Today is somehow not surprising, although I was perfectly relaxed about it all week.
Because I knew we weren’t going up against some footballing juggernaut today … it was always going to be about us, how we approached things.
I expected better from us.
I expected more energy and urgency.
I thought the manager might – just might – have learned from watching us these past few months than one up front is not getting the job done.
When I saw the line-up I knew that hope was forlorn; all you could hope for was that the players dug in and fought.
And we didn’t do that any more than we’ve done it in other matches.
I repeat; the only thing that was different about that game than others in this campaign was that we were playing against a team with better players than those we usually face. But this could have happened in any given week lately.
Any one of a number of teams could have done this to us.
The Hungarians did it in the Champions League.
We didn’t change our playing style at all.
We pass the ball backwards.
Players do not move off the ball.
We operate in a rigid group.
We do not press the opposition …. and Lennon likes to play footballers in positions where they fail time and time again.
The problem here is the system.
Not the formation, the system.
Where is our pressing the opposition? Where is the movement off the ball? Time and time again I saw Celtic players with the ball and Sevco players crowding them, allowing no easy pass except the now standard backwards ones. Lennon wants the players to hold their shape.
Which means no movement. Which means no players providing support or cover for one another.
It is disciplined, but it allows no invention and against good teams who can pass the ball and who’s footballers do move when others in their team have it, you get opened up because those players find acres of room into which our players do not move.
The same thing happens when we try to pass the ball.
Nobody moves from his assigned role.
Nobody drifts into space taking opposing players with them to open up opportunities for others to exploit.
When one of our players is trying a forward pass it’s invariably to a guy who’s not running and anticipating a pass but waiting for one … and even a halfway decent opposition player only has to get in front of our guys or off to the side and that’s how possession is lost.
If players were moving around we’d look better and be far more effective.
The question has to be asked; why does Lennon not want our players to play a high-tempo, creative game?
Why doesn’t he want us pressing and moving off the ball?
Is it about fitness?
Does he have doubts about us being able to sustain that kind of football over the 90 minutes of a match?
Think on it this way; one of my long-term criticisms of Lennon as a manager is that you used to only get 45 minutes out of his teams … for those 45 minutes we’d play high intensity football and make a lot of chances. For the next 45 we’d give nothing.
We no longer get the deadening 45 minutes of players looking exhausted … but we don’t get the high intensity 45 minutes either anymore.
Instead it is flat and soulless.
Don’t let anybody kid you, either, that Gerrard is some kind of tactical genius; he certainly has Lennon figured out, but that’s not the same thing.
We created the exact same number of chances today as we did against St Johnstone a fortnight ago, until the late cameo by Griffiths and Klimala. We were equally poor in Riga, in Sarajevo and against Dundee Utd earlier in the campaign when a late Ajeti goal won it for us.
A lot of us clamoured for changing the formation; the manager did that, but has never utilised it to actually have two strikers starting the game.
But above and beyond that is the total lack of movement and aggression in the team, and this timid style is emerging as the key problem; it is too easy to blame players, but when they are told to remain tied to one section of the pitch what are they meant to do?
Defy the manager?
That’s how dressing rooms are lost, and clubs start to disintegrate.
The system is ugly and dreadful to watch; before today it had secured eight wins in a row.
That’s the reason Lennon sticks with it.
It makes me wonder if, with the benefit of hindsight, whether the St Johnstone game shouldn’t have ended in the 0-0 draw; if only I believed it would have forced the manager to confront the obvious flaws in this approach.
Those flaws are readily apparent to anyone who’s looking.
We are vulnerable to any team who plays the high press. Because our players don’t move for the ball any side which presses us has a chance. They force us into those backward passes and then, because our movement is so slow and the style so inflexible, it allows the opposition too much time to re-organise.
Again, I’m going to say this … do not believe the hype that we were beaten by some vastly superior team today. They are nowhere near as good as the media would have you believe, and the proof of that is that we’re not sitting here shell-shocked after a serious beating.
If Sevco was the team the media likes to tell us, we would almost certainly have gotten a hiding today.
Fortunately for us they aren’t remotely as good as the propaganda that surrounds them.
Nothing they did today was particularly brilliant; they were St Johnstone from a fortnight ago.
The difference is, they were able to take their chances against us.
Mo Elyounoussi … do we have some rule saying that he has to play games?
There is no other reason at this moment for having him in the team.
Patryk Klimala has never looked like a lone striker; of course we would play him in that role today.
Lennon will say Ajeti and Griffiths weren’t match fit; and Laxalt was?
Welsh was ready for a game this big?
There was nothing different out there today except that we were against a team more likely to punish us for those failings.
Not a great team.
They are one dimensional and don’t have a single footballer in their squad who we would regard as a game-changer if he was in ours.
Our own keeper was barely tested in spite of having a young kid in front of him and a central defender who wants to play in midfield.
The keeper, by the way, was dreadful.
But that was the Celtic we’ve come to watch these last few months.
And it’s the manager some in our support idolise, who make like for like substitutions even at 2-0 at home.
I’m not as angry as I thought I would be after that; instead, I feel a weary sense that some of the chickens have come home to roost.
There are no excuses for that performance, none that will satisfy the nagging feeling I have that we’ll see worse … even a full-strength team would have been instructed to play in that style, to hold its shape … we know that because teams with Christie, Forrest and Edouard have played just like they did today already this season.
No, what I feel today is a kind of resigned acceptance of what is it be.
Lennon’s refusal to snap out of the fantasy that attacking midfielders can play as strikers despite not one single piece of evidence to support that lunacy, suggests to me that he will not change his approach, and there will be consequences for sticking to this system.
The only questions are how severe they end up, and who pays for them.
Either something changes in our approach, or everything will change with the outcome.
The board backed this guy with big money, but they’re also the people who hired him.
If this all goes wrong, nobody at Celtic Park will escape their share of the blame.
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