When do you stop being an idealist and transform into a zealot instead?
It’s a question that should be haunting Celtic fans today with Ange’s statement to the media last night in the aftermath of that game.
It’s a haunting question because he didn’t sound like a trailblazing manager fizzing with ideas last night; he sounded like someone welded, inflexibly, to a single style even if it proves to be suicidal and self-defeating. If I have one major worry, that’s what it is.
Let’s try and confront a few home truths here, shall we?
We were up against a team with vastly better players last night. They come from a league which is awash in money. The value of their squad is three or four times what ours is worth. This is like Celtic playing against St Mirren at Parkhead.
Let’s also admit something else, something that might be difficult to accept; there is no transfer market strategy that we can pursue that will bring us up to the level of teams like that any more than there is a transfer market strategy that St Mirren can pursue to keep up with ours.
It is simply impossible. We don’t have those resources.
Those are two hard facts. When you acknowledge them you have to conclude that the only way a team like ours is going to beat a team like theirs is if we’re superbly coached, disciplined and tactically astute.
Last night was a brute force attempt at smash-and-grab … there was no finesse to it, and we were left critically exposed on the flanks.
In short, using that tactical system is insane against any team which has the players to punish you out wide and with the pace to stretch you across the backline. They tore us to pieces last night, just as West Ham did in pre-season, and as the Spaniards did in Seville.
What’s worse is that I can think of at least one SPL team – Hibs – who’s game is built on pace and energy on the flanks, and I think Martin Boyle will be rubbing his hands at the prospect of getting all that room to run in come our visit there in October.
Ange has great ideas about how football should be played, but they need to be aligned with a certain pragmatism as well. Callum McGregor has correctly identified one of the issues with this approach; that players need time to adapt to it, and that it’s a process which won’t be completed in a day. But in the meantime, is it too much to ask that the manager adopt a little more common sense in matches against top level opponents with the ability to really hurt you?
Callum’s comments raise another critical point; what if we don’t have players who are capable of adapting to that system?
Take Adam Montgomery; this is a winger who the club has tried to turn into a left back. Difficult enough. Now Ange wants him to play as an inverted full-back, which means cutting inside and playing through the middle at times … do we know that Montgomery is capable of that? That he has the skill-set required for it?
We would all love to think that this team will grow into this system until it’s all second nature; how do we know that’s true? Even if you’re buying players to fit into it, are we ever going to be able to play it at a level which lets us compete with the Leverkusen’s? Or does punching up require something more careful and considered? Something less reckless?
Ange says no. He says we won’t compromise or change our style to suit the opposition; try that approach in any field of endeavour and see how far you get.
If you’re playing a game against a superior player, you adapt your play-style to suit.
If you’re a general who’s outnumbered, you don’t go gung-ho even if that’s what you’d normally do … and this guy refuses to change his approach?
That’s going to lead to other nights just like last night.
Everyone wants this guy to succeed, but if he’s not willing to adapt to suit the circumstances or the level of the opposition then success is almost certainly going to prove elusive.
Flexibility is the key to winning titles and trophies; rigid adherence to one system means you’re only waiting to get found out.
That almost certainly guarantees disaster … and it’s not conducive to getting the time one needs to get your more creative ideas across.