Just shy a year since their last league defeat, Celtic fell at St Mirren yesterday. With practically none of the ball in the first half, St Mirren scored three minutes before the break. Until then, Celtic passed with precision but without penetration. The goal ignited Celtic, who created a few chances before halftime, but were unable to get back on terms.
Jota and Hatate came on for Maeda and Mooy at the restart without impacting Celtic’s effectiveness. St Mirren doubled their lead early in the second half, prompting Ange Postecoglou then departed from his tactical norm. Abada was replaced by Haksabanovic, but Giakoumakis replaced Turnbull, giving us the unusual sight of two up front, with TV viewers (like me) wondering what the shape was. I still am.
The final period of the game saw further disruption to our tried and tested shape, as Taylor was withdrawn for O’Riley. Celtic defended with Jenz, Welsh and Ralston, as the midfield looked short of space and even shorter in players who knew where they should be moving.
Last week we spoke about the dangers of an away game in the league after an away game in Europe. Minds and bodies are tired, your opponents often get a week to prep for a game you’ve not given a thought to until the day before.
Ange has a responsibility to rest the players when possible. Even though Celtic do not have a game for two weeks, many in the squad will play internationals in that time, adding to their seasons’ toil. He was right to expect more from the starting 11 than he got. Less so his subsequent tactical changes, which looked random and did not improve matters.