Of all the questions we asked ourselves about this Celtic team in the last few months, the most important, by far, was this; was this team capable of grinding it out?
Was this one of these teams which either showed up and blew the opposition away or dropped points because we didn’t have it in us to fight when that was necessary for the win?
I thought Sunday answered that question to a certain extent, and it was a good answer, it was the kind of answer we wanted and even needed. This team showed a willingness and an ability to dig deep, and that’s important going forward.
Be honest, how many us looked at that forward line and thought “these guys seem like a little lightweight up against that defence”? I know it’s been a concern of mine since the start of the campaign, even accounting for our early wins.
In the rough and tumble of a difficult away game, I worried we’d struggle.
As it turns out, all three of them were willing to battle for the points. Jota and Kyogo looked particularly up for it, with the kid from Portugal especially exciting to watch. He seemed to relish the battle. He seemed to grow more determined as the game went on.
Our fears on that front come from having seen it all before.
There are a lot of players who have passed through our club in recent years who were great individual talents, capable of match winning brilliance but who were passengers on those days when you needed to marry craft with graft.
Elyounoussi was a great case in point.
If he was a consistent performer who was willing to work his balls off for the team, then making a move for him as a permanent signing would have been a no-brainer. As it is, you can already tell that Jota will be worth every penny.
Putting the extra defensive midfielder on the pitch was an important tactical decision from the boss.
He has realised that there are games where you have to sacrifice a little bit of flair. It was a good call, and a positive step … although I have to admit, it was also part of the reason we lacked a little something in the final third.
Every tactical decision is a balancing act.
This manager, who has only been in the job a short time as is trying to integrate a lot of players, is learning as he goes … but he is learning, and you can see that. He’s learning what these players can do, what this team can do, and what it can’t.
We’re watching a team evolve right in front of us.
And what we’ve just learned is that they are up for a fight.