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Celtic again vulnerable to counter in Europe

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20 minutes into last night’s Europa League game against Valencia, Celtic looked competent and in control, if not dangerous.  We had the majority of the ball (as we did for the rest of the game), enjoyed possession inside the Valencia box and had shots on target.

Valencia were probably happy to resist us for this opening period, but from that point onwards, they inhibited Celtic’s midfield from enjoying as much freedom.  Neither side made a chance worthy of the name until the opening goal, three minutes before the break.  Valencia’s second, four minutes after the interval, meant the tie was decided during a very short period of play.

While we opened well we failed to involve Oliver Burke throughout.  The only possession he got was to his feet with his back to goal, the ball invariably bouncing away from him.  Burke is a player who needs service into the channels – something that happened only once before the goals arrived.

For years I have shared fears here of Celtic playing so high up field against European opposition.  Tactics like this result in positives like “What a torrid opening four minutes we gave Juventus” before a counter-attack settles things.

I was actually encourage when Valencia started to compete more effectively midway through the first half, as our best game plan was to counter.  Keep it tight and play on the break, at this level, anything else is a ticket out of the tournament.  And that’s not just for Celtic, these are the tactics Valencia deployed.

The opening goal came through a poor attempt to play offside.  Jozo Simunovic stepped up as Parejo made the forward pass, forcing Sobrino into what should have been an offside position, but Emilio Izaguirre was four paces back, ostensibly, but not actually, covering Cheryshev.  Emilio did no better at the second goal, allowing Sobrino freedom of the box.  Insert the hoary old schoolboy analogy here.

There were things I liked, specifically, playing the ball out from the back.  With central defenders wide, full backs high and central mids deep, Scott Bain was able to find a player in space, 40 yards from goal, and start an attack.  This play is still in its infancy at Celtic, but we need to stick with it.

The impact of Odsonne Eduard, who played the last 30 minutes, was immediate.  It took defenders (plural) to close him down.  We also saw a new aspect to Timothy Weah, who came on at the same time as Edouard as a creative mid.  It was a curious performance from Timothy.  He was everywhere for five minutes, then stuck to position (presumably on instructions) and dropped out of things.

Central mid did not work.  Immediately after a defeat, there is a rabid tendency to find a scapegoat, which is seldom productive, but we need to ask the question why central mid didn’t work, and get it right for the qualifiers.  As for the defence, only Jozo will be around for the qualifiers, and he will most often be sitting beside us in the stands, so the consequences of these mistakes will not linger beyond May.

Valencia are not a PSG.  In competitive terms, I would put them between Salzburg and Leipzig.   I am not going to tell you we would put them out, but if we had played it tight, the tie would still be in the balance.

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  1. Mrs engrossed in a feature length les Anglais ont Débarqué article in one of the hundred magazines accompanying her Daily Mail on Sunday.

     

    Free state blue shirt fae Galway so she is. Should have listened to that inner voice at the alter and made a run for it.

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX1CSSZa1v0

     

    Ave Ave

  2. MATT STEWART

     

     

    CQN poet Laureate, Raconteur and wit (or maybe 1/2)

     

    Looking forward to your Quixote adventures in Valencia and come back with a result

  3. NYE BEVANS’ REBEL SOLDIER on 17TH FEBRUARY 2019 12:12 PM

     

    Murderwell v diets, two horrible sides,a wee interest bet on a red card

     

    at 100/30.

     

    Nice one Nye

     

    Hail hail,

     

    C’mon the hoops,

     

    ???

  4. Hunderbirds are Gone on

    Having had a few days to mull over Thursday’s game, here are my thoughts.

     

    A lot of posters cite relative income as a reason for us to be uncompetitive beyond the group stages of the CL and EL. That is to say, that we cannot be expected to beat teams who have more money than us. Whilst there is obviously a connection between income and sporting success within professional sports (As agreed under oath by SDM ?) this premise does not tell the whole story. Spending money on player pools that means that PSG, Bayern, Barca, Madrid and some EPL teams have now moved beyond our competitive sphere. Money is the reason that we cannot challenge these nouveau riche elite teams. However when it comes to challenging teams who spend amounts that are comparable to us, the likes of Valencia, Benfica, Ajax, we are still coming up short..

     

    Many posters have cited bad tactics from Brendan (and Ronny before him, because we played the same way) as the reason that we are not competitive in Europe. It is true that a more pragmatic and defensive approach may have made us more likely to gain some sort of result against the likes of Valencia last week, or Zenit last year. However I like Brendan’s outlook in attempting to attack in Europe. Building from the back, gaining control through possession and pressing teams when out of possession has not hindered Barcelona amongst others in recent years. The tactic itself is not to blame, it is just that we are not very good at it.

     

    So money is not the answer (to a point) as other teams around our budget level have had more success than us. Tactics are not the (whole) problem, a lot of teams who play the way Brendan’s teams do, have had more success than us.

     

    There are two salient points at play it seems to me:

     

    Firstly, we have a problem attracting top young talent to Scotland. If Ajax, Porto and Celtic were chasing a rising star player who was out of contract with his current club, and the clubs had all offered the same contract terms, I don’t know if the player would choose Ajax or Porto, I do know in that scenario, that Celtic would be third choice. So as Scotland is not a desirable location for talented players looking to build a career in the game and gain exposure for himself, we will have to spend well above the odds to secure any player. The only way we could change that fact, would be to perform much better, and to progress much further, in European competition than we currently do.

     

    So back to tactics. Quite simply we somehow have to expose our players to a higher level of competition more often. For 15 minutes on Thursday, we were doing ok, but as Valencia closed down space and cut out options for the player in possession we began to crack under the pressure. Valencia brought an intensity to their press, that our players just don’t see in Scotland, and as a result they couldn’t cope with it. However I am sure if our current players had more experience against a higher standard then the likes of Calmac and Jamesie could have the kind of impact they currently have in Scotland, in Europe as well.

     

    How is that achieved? There are signs that there is to be a revamp of European club competitions, in the near future, and that may provide salvation for us, and clubs like ourselves, by offering more matches against against good teams.

     

    Is there any unilateral course of action that could help us? It would require some out of the box thinking (See what I did there, aficionados of football puns?). Could we just play first team squad players and development squad players in the Domestic Cup competitions? And use the time it freed up to arrange a few friendlies with higher level European teams (Every season, there are good teams that screw up in the CL and EL, who would be happy to have a game to make some money). We should seek to participate in pre-season season mini tournaments where the standard is higher than the teams we played last pre-season. Maybe it would only take a few extra such games to garner the experience, to enable us to be more competitive.

     

    Let’s try something different. We as a support may have to quit our junkie like attitude to collecting “Pub League” baubles. Would we swap not seriously competing in the Domestic Cup Competitions for greater success in European Competitions? I would. Who knows our squad players might even win the cups anyway?

     

    HH

     

    ?⚽️

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