During periods when Celtic is playing well and things are good, I find myself a contented soul, happy to snigger at those football followers who are less fortunate.
These last few years I’ve had many a giggle and laugh at the Ibrox illiterati.
During those times, I write my articles, post them, chat with my social media team and generally don’t feel a great need to dive into the rest of Celtic cyberspace except when something is recommended to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellow brothers in the blogosphere and would do anything to help them promote their work, as they have helped promote mine, but it’s during the bad times that I lurk on forums, scour the comments, spend lots of time on Twitter and end up in arguments and debates with all and sundry.
I want to know what all my fellow Celtic fans are thinking during times like these.
I want to take the temperature of every fan I know and every fan I don’t.
In the past few weeks, this has led me step by step, finally, to the podcasts.
A Celtic State Of Mind has already gotten a lot of credit on this blog, and I’m now going to give some to guys my friend Ross has mentioned a few times in the past, the team at 20 Minute Tims.
You should listen to it at the link on the previous line.
One of the most startling segments – and there were a few, and I shamelessly expanded on one of their points in the last article, the one about us using twenty-two players and playing two formations – was when they talked about Ryan Christie, and I feel there were things they said in that part which bear exploration and some highlighting, because it got right to the heart of what has gone wrong at Celtic and why the manager isn’t the guy to fix it.
The first thing they said which surprised me, as I wasn’t aware of it at all, was that Christie had been explicitly told by Neil Lennon, last season, that he was to shoot whenever he got the chance. This explains a lot, right away.
This website isn’t the only one which has, on occasion this season, lambasted Christie for being greedy and being unwilling to pass the ball at times. But 20 Minute Tims are the first people, that I’m aware of, to look at this in the context of Lennon’s overall team strategy, and when you think about it in the way they presented it, the whole thing makes sense.
And it should scare the Hell out of every Celtic fan.
As the lads on there pointed out, this is what Lennon does. Christie has been briefed to shoot from anywhere outside the box when he gets a chance. That’s his weapon, in Lennon’s eyes, that’s his function in the team.
It is one of the reasons why Christie is less effective this season than he was in the last campaign, and one of the reasons we don’t create as many chances as we should; the guys specifically mentioned how Christie’s instructions see strikers, and Albian Ajeti in particular, starved of the ball.
Christie is a fantastically good player when he’s fully unleashed. He’s got good feet, great instincts and can set up and score goals. Lennon has reduced to him a hit-and-hope footballer and nullified some of the key features of his game. We created less chances because of this, and we don’t even get any corresponding benefit in terms of goals scored.
Christie has five in all competitions this season, and just three in the league, after 11 games and 19 matches in total.
He only played 24 league games last season and scored 11 times, a ratio that betters this by some ways.
As the boys on the podcast pointed out, this isn’t helping Ryan and it isn’t helping Celtic either. Christie is a sophisticated footballer with a modern style of play; this reduces him to the level of a public park player, which is about the same level as these tactics.
The truly revealing thing is when you get down to hard numbers.
The key start is the “shot conversion rate” – which is how many shots actually wind up in the net.
The guys use stats from other clubs to highlight the point, as well as Celtic players and it’s mind-blowing.
Albian Ajeti has a 71% shot conversion rate, which the guys say is the highest in the league. Tavernier at Ibrox has a 35% conversion rate. Lewis Ferguson at Aberdeen has a 40% conversion rate. Aribo has 44%. Callum McGregor’s is at 20%.
Ryan Christie’s shot conversation is 10%.
This tactic – if you can call it that – would be twice as effective if Neil Lennon had Callum McGregor doing it instead of Christie.
That is ridiculous.
It is a scandal that in the era of modern tactics and statistical analysis that our manager either doesn’t know this stuff, and doesn’t realise that having Christie get the ball to Ajeti is seven times more likely to produce a goal than shooting himself, or he just doesn’t care.
If the boys on a podcast can do this stuff, and understand it, then why can’t our highly paid coaches?
This whole thing is absolutely outrageous and it adds to the general feeling this is a club floundering from the boardroom to the boot-room.
The decision to appoint Lennon and Kennedy as the replacements for a world class management team always looked, to many of us, like sheer folly and the way in which it was done sparked the angriest article I’ve ever written on this site.
That whole affair is now regarded by almost everyone as an embarrassing exercise in cynicism and breathtakingly crass.
It was made worse by the preening, egotistical and quite scandalous public comments of the CEO who openly boasted about a pile of managerial CV’s he couldn’t even be arsed looking at. There is no aspect of the appointment of Neil Lennon that does not haunt those responsible for it, and it’s no wonder that these small men are now hiding behind unattributed press briefings.
But it only takes guys like the 20 Minute Tims podcast team to cut right through the bluff and the bullshit and declare that the emperor has no clothes on.
Their denouement of the tactics and approach and professionalism of the Celtic Park operation is all the starker and more forceful for having been made with genuine concern and love for the club.
Their analysis was devastating.
Ryan Christie symbolises the simplicity of Lennon’s tactical approach and his complete blindness to things that should be blatantly obvious to a man in his position.
I am seriously scared not only for Celtic but for Lennon himself right now; his failure to recognise these issues reveals a certain detachment from his responsibilities which is something that the club should be taking far more seriously than appears to be the case.