There was something special about that today from the minute the crowds started to gather.
Sitting in the stand in anticipation of the game, I had a feeling that we would put on a show.
There was just something about the way we played going forward in midweek in the Europa League; I couldn’t see past a comfortable win today. I had no inkling of how comfortable it would be.
This was the first 90 minutes of Ange’s football.
The team is yet to fully coalesce around his ideas and there are at least three critical additions which still need to be made, but from the minute the game started today it was clear that the players are starting to get it and they are starting to play in the manner he wants.
It helps that he has his own signings in place.
A lot will be said about the defence still looking shaky; that may or may not be the case as it’s still a work in progress. It was certainly not in evidence today, mostly because we did what good teams should be looking to. We kept the pressure on at the other end of the pitch with such relentlessness that they barely got a sniff of our goal.
Everything about us middle to front today was sensational. Not just good, sensational. And one of our front players, the excellent Abada, had a quiet game by his standards so far. Part of the reason for that is that we kept him and Christie much further wide than we have recently, a consequence of the decision to play both Rogic and Turnbull in midfield.
Nothing about the manager’s decisions today could be questioned at all. The team selection was spot on. The tactics were spot on. The intensity he wants us to play with was evident from the opening. The inverted full-backs concept gives us more options for passing in midfield and our ability to ping the ball left and right makes us very hard to cope with.
The tactics need to be talked about. We are still, technically, playing one up front, but that system today did not even for a moment resemble what it was under Lennon and in the latter part of Rodgers’ tenure. For one thing, we have technically skilled players whose job it is to run with the ball now, a concept which we make look so easy and natural you wonder why Lennon wasted so much time with tippy-tappy football that went nowhere.
With Abada, Christie, Rogic, Turnbull and the man we’ll talk about in a moment constantly moving and going forward, holding the ball, running with it, every time we had it the Dundee defence simply had no answer for us at all. They looked bewildered at times, totally unable to cope. Even a packed defence will struggle against good technical footballers who rely on keeping it at their feet and looking for overlapping and underlapping runs.
We scored six today and it could have been ten. We will do this to teams over and over and over again this season if we stick to these principles.
Three performances stood out that I want to talk about.
First it is great to see Tony Ralston getting some love from the fans at last because I cannot praise that guy enough, and I have tried to in recent weeks. We are going to sign a full-back, and that might be one of the great injustices we’ve done in recent years because he looks completely transformed and fully buys into what the manager is trying to do.
He was superb today.
Another guy I want to mention is Ryan Christie. In my view we should spend a bit of the budget upping his contract offer and talking him into signing an 18-month extension which keeps him here until at least the end of this campaign. He too deserves special praise because he hasn’t tried to hide, he is taking risks every game for this club.
I never thought I would be writing that. He has been beyond impressive. Ange likes him a lot and would love to see him stay. Dominic McKay should make it a priority.
Which brings us to Kyogo, our new hero, who dazzled today with one of the best home debuts I’ve ever seen from a Celtic player. I watched loads of videos of him when we signed him and all the things that impressed in those clips – his pace, his technical ability, his eye for goal, his awareness, his first touch and his cool head – were all there in that performance.
To score a home debut hat-trick is outrageous.
It was as close to a perfect performance as you will get.
On another day he could have scored all six on his own, and there is no way that this guy, once he gets completely comfortable with the team, will not be a player of the year candidate.
If he can produce that week in, week out, not a team in Scotland will be able to live with him.
It wasn’t just that he led the line superbly though; the stats on the game today are what should truly terrify our rivals. Here’s the one I like best; Kyogo himself had four shots on target today, which is as many shots on target as our whole team was getting in many of the matches last season. The team itself had over a dozen on target.
We were so hungry for goals, we had everyone in their penalty box for a last minute corner. It was a fearsome attacking display, and as these guys get better and more comfortable with each other there will be more performances like this and it was the best one I’ve seen from a Celtic team since Rodgers was here and perhaps even longer than that.
If this is a work in progress, God help this league when this team is at its peak.