Celtic played their best football in months last night. Why? Well, the shape of the team was different. Scott Brown was no longer in the anchor role, leaving that in the capable hands of Eboue Kouassi (20 last month). Eboue joined this time last year, but has spent most of the intervening period getting to grips with life at Celtic, as well as overcoming illness. He did just fine and went some way to justifying the significant fee Celtic paid.
Olivier Ntcham, no stranger to a robust challenge, played the advanced role of the middle three, while Brown had the freedom to forage wherever need was greatest. It worked.
You will also notice a nascent partnership emerging between Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard. Both thrived. We were even treated to the sight of Moussa collecting a clearance from Dorus de Vries before releaseing Odsonne inside the Celtic half. The big striker stretched his legs to speed away from the Hearts defence before scoring the opening goal. This worked too.
Brendan may have considered the effects of both wing partnerships being broken up. Kieran Tierney was without Scott Sinclair and James Forrest didn’t have Mikael Lustig, but both flourished.
Moments after coming on, Charly Musonda created a chance with a delicious back-heel. Moussa should have converted what would have been a fitting herald for the new loan signing.
My big takeaway from this game? Teams have had 18 months to figure out how to combat Celtic’s play. We have stuttered, in part, because teams knew what to expect and prepared accordingly. Teams need a second system as much as they need a second strip. We now have ours.
NEW CQN PODCAST OUT NOW WITH SPECIAL GUEST FRANK McGARVEY
Paul John Dykes and Kevin Graham are joined by Frank McGarvey at The Penalty Spot in Glasgow.
Frank discusses his time at Liverpool, signing for Celtic, his admiration for Jock Stein, his partnership with Charlie Nicholas, the 1985 Scottish Cup final, why this was his final appearance in the hoops, and Love Street 1986.
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