The Party Is Only Delayed. This Has Still Been An Exceptional Celtic Season.

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The party is delayed, not done away with. I told you guys I would be back to do a piece on the big picture and I feel like there’s no time like the present. The big picture is still rosy and bright.

But before I start let’s get a few things sorted away.

We had one shot on target today. One. At home. That should tell you the vast difference between Celtic when they play on the front foot and Celtic when they sit back and let the opposition play. We should have gone for their throats today and the mood would be one of raucous celebration rather than sober reflection and the cancelling of parties.

This team has gotten here by doing the precise opposite of what we did today.

That’s what makes it hard to take.

Because had we played the game that this manager says he wants to make second nature to us there would be no more debate or discussion about this; we would be champions in all the ways that matter, needing only a draw in the last three games to put a ribbon on it and give Ange his first title in Scotland.

That it is undoubtedly going to come.

That we will win this league, is not really in the slightest doubt. I’ve spent three or four months now counting down the games; I was just looking forward to being able to leave that behind. We’re not there yet though.

Still, it’s another one out of the way, another day closer to the triumph we’ve all been waiting for since winning the last game against them at Celtic Park.

For myself, I always knew that once we got ahead this season we wouldn’t be shifted.

My concern is not that we might yet conspire to throw this away, but that our approach today – and at Hampden – was just patently stupid and such a total break from the kind of football Ange promised us and which we’ve seen all season long.

Because that football is what got us here, that football is what has put us within touching distance of the triumph we crave. I just struggle to see why we didn’t stick with it these past two games against their club. All we had to do was do what we’ve been doing, … and we went with the cautious approach instead. It’s baffling.

Look, the manager will finish this season as the title winning boss and the manager of the year. I know that he will. The draw did suit us. The draw did give us the bare minimum of what we wanted, which was to leave the field no worse off than we were before. The draw doesn’t help them. It doesn’t give them the slightest chance of overturning this.

Over the piece, Ange has done the business. We’ll win this league in spite of a stuttering start for which nobody can blame him at all. We will win this league on the back of a hugely consequential, and even more satisfying, unbeaten run.

And once we’ve done so, the question will be asked as to where this title win ranks amongst the best we’ve all ever witnessed. I’m on the record as saying it will be my most satisfying one since we stopped Rangers winning ten in a row, and I will sure as Hell celebrate it like that, although I’ll have to do it in Spain rather than in Scotland now.

But there is something to ponder here, and it’s as worth saying now, after that draw, as it would have been worth saying had we won comfortably. What this team is on the brink of achieving is almost as remarkable as that which the Invincibles did.

When you stop and think about it, and you recognise that most of our dropped points came in that early part of the campaign where the manager was finding his feet and his team was still being put together one brick at a time, it inspires an interesting thought.

Had we started the way we’ve gone since, we might well now – indeed I think we’d certainly be – on the brink of an unbeaten league campaign at the very least … and maybe even that second Invincible Treble with it.

That’s how good the form has been, and it may offer us a tantalising glimpse of how good this team can potentially get.

The signs are all positive, and as pissed off as I still am with what we watched I do not accept, for one minute, some of the garbage being talked elsewhere about how there are still “gaps all over this team” and other such talk … this is as strong a Celtic squad as I can remember and it is nowhere near at its best yet, even on its best days.

So this season is going to end with the title back at Celtic Park. Of that there is not really the slightest doubt anymore. Because yes, Ange is correct to assert that they needed to win and we only needed to hold our own … they are the ones who came up well short today when you look at it through the long lens of a long league campaign.

We are six clear and I still reckon we will finish the season with a bigger winning margin than that.

On top of that, I’m not at all surprised, although I’m quite pleased, to see that my most on-the-nose prediction from earlier in the season now looks a certainty; 90 points is the magic number.

When I told my old man that at the start of the season I thought it would be in the ballpark.

When I repeated it after the first six games or so I think he and everyone I said it to thought I’d lost the plot, but we have gone on exactly the kind of run that wins leagues … and we are so close to this one that you can taste it.

There are three games left. Get ready to party.

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  • Jim says:

    First half we were good. McGregor was taking it from the CB’s and cutting through their press, the passing was quick and crisp, nobody giving Aribo and Bassey a chance to practice their wrestling techniques. This is the way you need to play against them. The goal was coming and we should have had two more with Jota and Maeda missing great chances.

    You have to give Rangers some credit for what happened in the second half. In spite of playing another hard game on Thursday they upped the tempo and the press. When Bitton came on and McGregor moved up, we lost the fluency between defence and midfield; and we started putting pressure on ourselves with the suicide tikki-taka again. Nearly lost an idiot goal because of it. If anybody can explain to me why playing a goal kick to a defender in your own penalty area is a good idea, be my guest. I couldn’t even see how it benefited Bodo Glimt and they were good at it. We just shouldn’t be doing it.

    Great work from Maeda for the goal. He just needs a bit more composure when chances come, but unlike Hatate you sense that he is getting the measure of these games. Hatate – we have a real problem with that lad, he just wants too much time on the ball.

    Starfelt was excellent at dealing with crosses and high balls today, the whole defence stood tall again. McGregor fantastic as usual but for man of the match I think Jota just shades it.

    Almost there. A legendary first season for Ange.

    • Scud Missile says:

      Jim spot about the fannying about in the 18 yard box when it’s a goal kick that was from both teams doing it, whoever brought that into the game needs sacked,it will only be stopped when goals start to come out from the mistakes and dangerous play that it is causing.

  • Darren James Kerr says:

    I think we miss the direct style of Abada it drives the team forward quicker.

  • Rodders says:

    Once again, after a Glasgow derby there are plenty of comments, some very prescient and some somewhat off the mark, just in my humble opinion. However, I believe all opinions are valid, if made in the correct manner. Was today’s display “abject”, as James stated? Not in my opinion, I predicted a draw, within my circle of friends who cared to ask for my prediction, and both teams could lay claim that they could/should have won it!

    I previously posted that the semi final defeat could be a blessing in disguise. Actually I believe Ange knows his present squad limitations, not that he would throw them under the bus, unlike Mr Shower appointment, but after today, if anyone had any doubts, surely they are banished.

    Today was a good result for us, yes the title is kept on ice, but it highlighted, even for the doubters, that the squad needs to be enhanced with quality signings.

    Lets also give praise to our opposition, in between European semi finals, they performed well. Kent missed his chance, Jota took his in similar circumstances, small margins can make a big difference. Chances then missed, not for the first time this season, to kill the tie, after it looked to me that meeting for the fifth time this season resulted in both teams cancelling each other out in the first half. Not for the first time the second half belonged to StRangers, and despite chances for both teams, the opposition controlled the midfield for longer periods than I would have liked.

    I believe we need to look beyond just this match. Ange’s style of play, “we never stop”, requires a very strong aerobic base to be successful. I believe in it, next season, after a full pre season for most of the squad, is the time to lay judgement. As one simple example, how many times have we seen previous Celtic teams lose possession from a shy as they throw the ball forward only to be picked up by the opposition. This season, for the most part, an early throw in has seen us retain possession to start our attack (sometimes from deep) once again.

    I also believe that we shouldn’t forget how some of our young/inexperienced players have plenty of improvement and experience ahead of them. After the shambles that Desmond/Lawwell/Lennon left us with, the turnaround and leadership under Ange can only be applauded and appreciated. There will be plenty of time in the future to assess his overall contribution to this football club.

    So who makes way in the squad? Difficult decisions lie ahead, and it’s easy for the keyboard warriors like myself to name names. Well the manager and coaching staff see the players on a daily basis, so we need to trust them. Some pointers are surely already there with those who are included and excluded from league squads. Starting from the back, do we have enough competition for our goalkeeping position? Not in my opinion.

    Christopher Julien cannot oust Stephen Welsh from the bench, his days are surely therefore numbered, and even if CCV signs, another quality centre back is required.

    Liam Scales has struggled to make the bench most times, so whilst time is on his side, it looks like an external signing will be made to give competition to the improving Taylor.

    The midfield is a dilemma, if not an enigma, wonderful creativity at times, but also posted missing, especially against StRangers later in games. McCarthy is at least making the bench, but who on earth decided to give him a 4-year contract? Some serious questions remain unanswered! Bitton, in my opinion, is too slow in thought and too slow in action for Ange’s style long term. January signing Ideguchi hasn’t figured much thus far, we need to see how he contributes next season. Soro, another who hasn’t made an impression.

    Up front, well there’s another quandary. I maintain that despite their valued contributions, Maeda and Kyogo are not prolific scorers. Is Giakoumakis? Again, the jury is out but you can’t ever say he lets the game pass him by!

    On to the wide men, and plenty of debate as ever. As much as it pains me, I think Forrest has had his day and he now struggles to push Abeda (for all his inconsistency), for a starting place. In a possible World Cup year he has disappointed and not taken his chance. Mikey Johnston was the most exciting winger in Scotland not too long ago, but the fact that he rarely makes the bench these days surely indicate his future is outwith Celtic Park.

    So there we have it, in my opinion. Another title will be clinched, group ECL status will be achieved, but how will we compete as a club? I believe the answer lies in the quality of our summer signings.

  • Martin H. says:

    Been happy with a draw before game, should have been finished before h.t. couple of good chances in second half, never thought we would be in this position after the start we had to the season.

  • Jim says:

    Rodders, Julien might be sidelined at the moment purely because we are at the sharp end of the season.

    Starfelt, for all his wayward passing, has grown into the jersey. It would have been harsh to drop him and might have backfired.

    The CBs are both resolute defenders but limited ball players. Julien could certainly help in that respect, he is a much more accomplished player on the ball. Next season we will see if he has a future in the team.

  • Smokey says:

    Happy we got a draw and will win this league but surely Ange must see where we can improve on what we have already and also with a plan B in some games.
    This passing about at the back should stop.,.
    I have said my fill on Hatate and it doesn’t wash that Ange says he plays him to get accustomed to the intensity of our games…. Nonsense… he should have been hooked at half time if not before.
    A Broony type would have sorted Lundy out in first ten mins

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