Yesterday, when Neil Lennon sat down with his latest post-mortem with the team, it seems to have amounted to little more than a roundtable chat.
There doesn’t seem to have been much tactical analysis. If they re-watched the game he didn’t say so.
There is only one thing scarier right now than the idea that Neil Lennon might be one of those guys who would prefer life if he turned up on match-day, did the team-talk and then went home … it’s the idea that Neil Lennon is actively involved to the best of his ability.
I listen to him more and more carefully.
When he said a few weeks ago that he isn’t sure whether the players are getting enough instruction or too much I was aghast. Top managers don’t ask those kinds of questions; they are capable of breaking tactics and strategies down in a way that even the layperson can understand.
The question as to whether the message is getting through would never arise because any player not on the right page wouldn’t be on the team-sheet.
More and more, he talks of mentality, mind-set, courage. None of those things have ever been a major issue for this team before, so I don’t know why they would be a major issue now. I think they are the ultimate red herrings and that so many people in our support are questioning the team over these things shows how successful Lennon has been at promoting that excuse.
Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Albian Ajeti, Ryan Christie and others have all sat in front of the media in the last month and flatly denied that any of those things are a problem. The media, which is usually all over this stuff, is strangely silent on how this contradicts the manager.
I have to conclude that some of the press corps are perfectly happy with Lennon where he is.
His glib assurances that everything is just fine, that this is all a blip, are terrifying and all the worse in that he actually seems to believe them.
But yesterday he sat down in front of the press and actually told the hacks that he’d asked the players themselves what’s gone wrong. Which, to me, is astonishing. It’s his job to figure that out, not theirs. To me they look a disorganised shambles every time they go out on the pitch.
It’s his job and that of his coaches to fix that … asking the players for their own solutions is yet another calling card of the duff manager.
It worries me that he thinks it’s acceptable.
It’s even scarier that those above him on the board do.
Watch the first goal again; it’s a travesty of bad defending. It would be serious enough if we were talking about one unmarked player poking the ball over the line … but there were three Sparta Prague players standing together totally unmarked. That’s shambolic.
The worst of it is, look at the positioning of the Celtic players … this isn’t just a bunch of guys standing around doing nothing; there’s a plan.
The only problem is that it’s such a childish and basic one that it was exploited easily by the Sparta players.
There is a whole line of Celtic players in front of where the ball is played in … and there’s still one standing keeping all three Sparta players onside. That’s disastrous.
This isn’t a player’s issue. It’s about coaching.
We’ve tried numerous combinations at central defence, and two different tactical formations; three at the back, four at the back … none of it makes a blind bit of difference.
When you watch three at the back decent teams have all the time in the world out wide. But when we played four at the back on Thursday we played so narrowly that Sparta exploited us down the wings time and time again. Goals two and three were both scored because we had concentrated so many players in the middle of the pitch that the flanks were totally exposed.
Watch at 2-1 as the ball comes into the box for the free kick … we’ve already lost a goal to a ball across the defence to a guy at the back post … and there he was again, waiting for a tap-in if it doesn’t come back off the post.
That is coaching. That is bad, bad coaching.
Look at the BT Sport highlights video at the bottom of this piece; we played narrow in both attack and defence all night long although we were being torn apart out wide.
At the same time, the gap between the defence and midfield is too big. I’ve watched teams exploit that all season long and Sparta did it over and over again.
If Lennon and his coaches sat down and re-watched this – as they should with every game – they’d be able to spot what went wrong easily. But that’s not what they do. Honestly, this is the most pathetic display of inept management I’ve seen in Glasgow since Caixinha.
And Lennon is asking the players what went wrong?
We are in a lot of trouble here, my friends.