Does This Celtic Side Need To Look At Changing Our Tactical Approach?

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Celtic’s tactical approach is in the news again, or rather the question as to whether or not we should be looking to change it is. The way we play has worked, brilliantly, but it’s Ange himself who has hinted that he might be looking to tweak it and a lot of us have been speculating on what that might mean. There are, I think, two possibilities.

The first is to play two up front. The problem with that is that the midfield has a balance which he might well be reluctant to mess with. There are only two ways of playing a two striker setup with four at the back … there are issues with both.

You can play a straight 4-4-2 but that cuts your central midfield to two players.

The three-man central midfield is now pretty much standard across all of European football, and it’s difficult to see how any club can switch to two in the middle of the pitch and not pay a price for having done so. The exception would be if both were box-to-box players capable of covering every blade of grass on the park … it’s not a system we’ve seen under Ange.

The other system which involves four at the back is to play the 4-3-1-2 … that’s more balanced, but you’re sacrificing your natural wide players and asking the full-backs to do a power of work, and leaves them having to do a lot of tracking back.

The variation of that system is the 4-4-2 diamond where you likewise sacrifice your wide-men, play a central two with another midfielder dropping back to anchor in front of the defence and a fourth in an attacking role behind the strikers. That’s actually close to how we play at the moment, with the two wing-backs battering forward to make crosses.

Which brings us to a more intriguing possibility; the two man up front system with three at the back. We actually do have an option to do that, as Alastair Johnson has talked about having played at central defence. We would lose Greg Taylor in that approach.

We haven’t played a genuine three central defenders system since Martin O’Neill, but it worked for him and it worked well. The 3-5-2 he utilised gave us real firepower up front with Sutton, Hartson and Larsson to pick from and the midfield was anchored brilliantly by the twin engine room players of Lennon and Lambert … and that’s another interesting thing.

If we decide to stick with one up front, could we see a more solid midfield shape in some games? Not a full scale departure from the current setup but a tweaked one, where we play two defensive midfielders – say Iwata and McGregor – instead of just one?

That’s a system we might see trialled in pre-season with a view to next season’s Champions League games, and that would be intriguing to watch. It would also change the games against the club from Ibrox slightly… and to our advantage.

Ange is already talking about the summer window in the sort of language that suggests he’s excited about it. The media, of course, wants to spin this as a negative. The important thing to note is that he talks about improvement; that’s the critical element. That we’re seeking to continually get better, and that his plans will all be geared around that.

But we may be able to recognise future tactical plans in the signings he makes … and the areas of the team where he makes them.

It’s going to be very interesting.

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  • Roonsa says:

    Good article. Thanks.

  • SSMPM says:


  • Willbhoy says:

    It’s good to change things up a bit keeps the opposition guessing. Just to let the good people know, the bigot that calls himself Ross Collins worked for a Japanese company, not anymore he was fired today, irony can be a wonderful thing at times

  • Johnno says:

    Be very surprised if Ange wasn’t to make a few tweaks to the current set up of the team next season.
    Especially as we have become a bit jaded over the past number of weeks and teams are so use to our set up now, that we are getting a bit easier to play against, even if it’s taken them 2 years to find solutions and without to much success either.
    Can’t see Ange changing from a 3 man forward line whatsoever and wouldn’t suit our style of playing either imo.
    Yet still believe we look a man short in the midfield area’s, especially in the CL games.
    I know Ange uses the inverted full backs to help with a split midfield in allowing 2 attacking midfield options, just don’t think that option is working as well at the moment, with our counter attacking game lacking somewhat lately.
    With that in mind, I think Ange may look to set the team up as a 343, which we already have so many within the current squad that could adapt very easily to imo.
    The beauty of this squad apart from it’s playing style is the amount of flexibility also within it, which hasn’t been fully used either to date.
    Regardless of what changes Ange has in mind, if any, still believe that a few additions will still be needed with CL in mind, mainly through the central areas of the team Imo

  • Frank says:

    3-3-4 for me with our forward wing backs operating from mid to bolster that area whilst allowing to move forward for crosses or drift back to bolster our back three

  • Brian Cavanagh says:

    Food for thought- and an easy to understand article -thanks for explaining

  • Pcelt says:

    We must change system/tactics for most European games, in many of these games we will not have the majority of possession like spl games.

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