Celtic attack the ball to win plaudits, if not points


Barcelona won 2-0 with a goal in each half.  The first, a sublime effort from the Sublime Master, the second a disputed penalty during Celtic’s best period of play.  The visitors forced one point-blank save from Craig Gordon, and struck the woodwork, but Celtic limited them to far fewer chances than on any previous visit since the current Celtic-Barcelona series of games began in 2004.

Attack the ball

On match day two, against Manchester City, the most striking aspect of Celtic’s play was their high pressing.  City were harried throughout.  Celtic did the same to Barcelona last night.  One, two, three and often four players arrived on the scene, high up the field, to close space and nick the ball.  This was a risky tactic but proved to be very effective (note: it didn’t work for Emilio down the left in the second half).

As a consequence, Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong regularly won possession in the midfield.  While you may have detected a drop in the level of our passing game in recent league outings, on a pristine surface last night, and under the greatest scrutiny, our passes were fast and accurate.

This high press combined with crisp passing meant we played the game a lot higher up-field against Barcelona than at any time since Larsson, Thompson and Sutton were doing their stuff.  The performance ended in defeat, so it will not be remembered as fondly as the game in 2012, but our ability to hold the ball, pass and move, was superior.

A few things to ponder:

Whatever was ‘wrong’ with Craig Gordon was fixed after the arrival of some competition.  His save from Suarez was exceptional – even better on TV replay than it looked at the game.

Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko were unlocked by Messi once, but that aside, they didn’t miss a beat, and were always comfortable in possession.  The van Dijk-Denayer partnership has been the high water mark in modern times by which other Celtic central defensive pairings have been judged.  You’d be harsh to argue Jozo and Erik are performing below that level.

Honourable mention for Mikael Lustig too.  Neymar annoyed me with his approach to sportsmanship three years ago.  His behaviour last night, when he should have been red carded for two off-the-ball incidents, discredited his team.  It was no surprise he was substituted within minutes of the second incident.

Scott Brown bossed central midfield for parts of the game.  Stuart Armstrong’s dad probably didn’t know he had that level of performance in him.  He’s unrecognisable from the player who couldn’t get near the team last season.

In common with all of our advanced players, Tom Rogic’s opportunities to shine were fewer than our defensive players, but Barcelona pressed him more than any other Celtic player, and he came away with the ball more often than I expected.

Of the 14 Celtic players used last night, we got 45 minutes from Scott Sinclair and 90 from Moussa Dembele, neither of whom were material to our performance.  The rest were all at the club under Ronny Deila.  The transformation in Celtic, with largely the same players, is astonishing.  Store this experience away for the next time we’re underperforming and need to plan a recovery.

Kieran Tierney, Kolo Toure, Leigh Griffiths, Bir Bitton and Patrick Roberts could have easily made the starting line-up without any perceivable drop in standards.  There’s an unaccustomed depth to Celtic’s squad.

Lots going on right now with a Cup Final to look forward hard on the heels of a Champions League game but we’ll pick up on some strategic stuff tomorrow.  Also keen to get my hands on the calculated leaking of part of a store rental deal without the corresponding information.  If you attempt to drive a club into the sea, it’s financial options will leave it exposed to harsh terms.

This torchlight display on 67 minutes phenomenon is a special.  Respectful, understated and classy.  Well done.


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  1. Despite the result I enjoyed the game. The progress since last season and indeed the start of the group stage was there for all to see. With a bit more composure throughout the games, some more goals could have been scores and more points picked up in a very tough group. Onward and upwards!

  2. VFR800 is now a Monster 821 on

    AULDHEID on 24th November 2016 11:44 am



    Thanks for that.



    I can see what the manager was trying to do with McGregor, playing him one in from the touchline and trying to play him almost as a “guard” when defending and pushing a bit wider when attacking. He doesn’t have the football brain or speed of thought for that. It did, I think, mean that we were weaker in the middle and Tom Rogic suffered from that.



    I said the other day that I thought that a 3 in the middle like that was a good option, but I’d have used Bitton rather than McGregor and played Forrest wide rather than Rogic. Hindsight – it’s easy. So is playing the game for really good players. The not so good players find it hard, and that showed with Callum McGregor last night.




  3. Meanwhile I somehow got record blog traffic yesterday despite there being a game on and everyone (rightly) having their eyes on that! Thank you!



    Here are the latest pieces:



    One about Messi visiting ibrox which you must have seen in all the papers…





    One about ever-cheaper PR…





    And one about what a bad bad BAD man Mike Ashley is…



  4. 3rd time I’ve asked you that question Auldheid but we always seem to miss each other in the revolving blogs.

  5. I thought the 4-1-4-1 formation we played last night worked well and hopefully will be persevered with for Europe next season. Brown in the holding role was our MOTM, but we need more quality in three of the four positions in front of him, Sinclair being the exception. Armstrong, McGregor and Rogic all offer something to the team but neither are the full package and are lacking in some aspects of their game. They’re all excellent players domestically but of the three only Armstrong has the potential to step up and produce in Europe on a consistent basis. Forrest also falls into this category.


    For next year’s attempt on CL I’d like to see





    Lustig Simunovic Sviatchenko Tierney




    New signing New singing New signing Sinclair





    That would give us Armstrong, Griffiths, Forrest, McGregor and Rogic in reserve hopefully along with Henderson and Christie coming through and playing more.

  6. First of all I enjoyed last nights C L game at Celtic Park, although not the result, I thought we played well and held our Own for bits of the game, but you could obviously see the difference in class, I would honestly say even though they are fabulous to watch, I really don’t want to see Barcelona back at Celtic Park for a long time.



    Familiarity breeds contempt they say and that was getting very obvious last night, a lot of the gamesmanship Barca showed last night made me very uncomfortable and the referee was no better, time we saw the back of them, I’m not naming names in the Barca team but it’s the usual suspects.



    Celtic players to a man last night played as good as they could, BR went with what he thought was the best team with the personnel we have at our club, to name names and slag of Celtic players who played last night to beggars belief, I’m in it for the long haul and back every player who wears the hoops, a thing that is amune to a few know alls in here, IMO.


    HH lurking Huns GIRFUYs your grandchildren will be Tims.

  7. When Brendan came in, all that time ago, I fully expected him to have us so much further down the road to CL domination than this.



    Disappointing that he wasn’t able to man manage Broony and co. to deal with Barcelona and the star struck referee last night.



    That’s two disappointing results at home now, as I fully expected to gub Borussia after the draw against City.



    Not sure if we should continue with Brendan. Thoughts CQN ?

  8. Reply to Kitalba. ..on some levels the game is rigged ever since the CL was formed. The worst example is the seeding of liecester city. I don’t think individual matches are rigged but i’m sure some referees are susceptible to suggestion where teams from bigger nations are concerned. IMHO obviously.

  9. Paul 67 et al.



    I think your article flatters Celtic. I feel we could have pressed them far harder. Of course that is a high risk and potentially demoralising strategy against a team like Barcelona, but IMO it was the only way we could have got a favourable result.



    We were not willing to take that risk.






    Ps: Should it now be compulsory to have a smart phone in Paradise????????

  10. THE EXILED TIM on 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 12:43 PM





    You said last night about some supporters inability to understand the game.



    How right you were-are.





    That’s a bit harsh on Paul 67.




  11. G67-agree, i think our first half performance has been underrated on here IMO,we showed a bit more composure on the ball, or ‘bravery’ as Brendan calls it.

  12. I didn’t thinkit was a penalty. Same thing happened night before for Spurs/ Forward holds defenders arm and pulls him to ground

  13. Awe_Naw_No_Annoni_Oan_Anaw_Noo on

    Of course “the game” is rigged.



    Anything that is not transparent and accountable is done so for a reason and that reason is cheating.



    The result of the cheating is money.



    See 5 way agreement




  14. Paul 67



    ” Of the 14 Celtic players used last night, we got 45 minutes from Scott Sinclair and 90 from Moussa Dembele, neither of whom were material to our performance. The rest were all at the club under Ronny Deila. The transformation in Celtic, with largely the same players, is astonishing. Store this experience away for the next time we’re underperforming and need to plan a recovery.”



    I think this a subject worth exploring further.



    RD was a learning experience and what I’m wondering is did we have the BR type alternative available at the time?



    Not BR per se (although it is a valid point) but his type and exactly what is it that makes up that type.



    Experience of managing at a level above the SPL?


    Knowledge of players in the game as result of above?


    Good man management skills?


    Good coaching skills? (but others can bring that)


    “Gets Celtic” ( a desirable but not an essential as it can happen over time eg WGS)


    Anything else?



    Then comes the 64m$ dollar question. At what price to bring such a manager to Celtic?



    The cost of not doing so has been pretty well established over over the previous two seasons and will hopefully act as a future guide to those making the “investment” decision.



    As TET (I think) says. Every day is a school day.

  15. The professional game is rigged now and will only get worse as the big four countries are guaranteed at least four teams in the group stages from 2018. The gulf between Europe’s elite clubs and the rest will continue to grow and the CL will diminish as a serious competition. Clubs such as ours are included to make up the numbers and be served up as sacrificial lambs from time to time.



    Before the start of the season, I asked myself what the point of the CL was to Celtic and came to the conclusion it is was to maximise income from the CL largesse by simply qualifying for the CL group stages. Any progress beyond that was of secondary importance to those in charge of the club. I therefore decided not to watch any CL matches as the competition is as rigged as any contest can be. We cannot complain about the competition being rigged if we turn up to watch these matches. That’s not supporting the team. Rather, it’s being taken for a ride and paying for the privilege.



    Last night as most Celtic supporters were relieved that we only got beat 2-0, I went to the local cinema to watch a really good movie called “Arrival” which I would recommend to anyone looking an alternative to the upcoming friendly match at the Etihad

  16. Kitalba



    You were in the queue but new article raised a point I thought worth making when it was in my head.


    I tend to want to capture the buggers as they occur before they gallop off into the nether regions of my brain.



    The answer to your question is at governance levels yes and that can then manifest itself on the park.

  17. TonyDonnelly67



    Sat next to one of ur buddies from the Brazen..Archie.


    Smashing guy..had to listen to my my half cut ramblings! We both agreed Broony was brilliant.


    Spoke highly of u








    Perchance did you see my post at 12.25… it has a lot of relevance to what you said on here two years ago.

  19. CQN mag on this week’s questions for John Paul Taylor.



    “There have been a few questions submitted, but less than we thought; part of this may be down to the fact that there was a big game to distract us this week.”



    Maybe, but could also be own to the lack of answers to last week’s questions.

  20. Awe_Naw_No_Annoni_Oan_Anaw_Noo on

    m6bhoy on 24th November 2016 1:07 pm



    I agree with every word of that and anyone who doesn´t get it. Doesn´t want to get it due to addiction and denial.



    FIFA, UEFA, the SFA and the SPFL all synonymous with corruption.



    Unfortunately for me I am a Celtic addict ( I am not in denial) but I am an addict.



    So I have been weaning myself off my addiction.



    First step was not to contribute financially to the domestic Scottish game.



    Second step not to contribute financially to any broadcast companies.



    I now cherry pick my Celtic games ( CL games only so far this season but I will watch Cup finals, semi finals etc)



    Our PLC can do something about the game in Scotland they have major influence but choose not too or secretly choose to keep it corrupt for their benefit. They would also argue for our benefit. I do not buy that.







    If I thought the game was rigged I’d walk away. I did. I thought I remembered yo saying something very similar a couple of years ago too. Maybe I was mistaken,,,,

  22. M6BHOY,



    Of course it is your prerogative to go to the cinema rather than watch Celtic play Barcelona. I’m sure many made similar choices.



    However nobody forced me to buy a ticket. I did it having sound mind and was not taken for a ride .



    I get enjoyment from watching Celtic play at the highest level, if I didn’t I may have also have gone to the movies as I did on Monday.






    Ps: Bought three slushes at the movies for the pricy sum of £13.50. Now that’s what I being taken for a ride.

  23. Kitalba



    Aw Naw has just nicely explained my position.



    I’m addicted to football and Celtic is where I watch it except when my lad has a game I can watch.



    One of the selfish reasons I want Res12 to succeed is so that I can return to supporting something I can believe is not corrupt.