Last night’s convincing win was exactly what was needed. Hearts were subjugated by three goals and an avalanche of chances, John Guidetti got off the mark and we kept a clean sheet after eight games without one.
We are a lot more potent up front than we were a month ago and the return of Scott Brown in central mid has tightened things up but that defensive record remains a concern. Hearts were utterly outplayed and failed to score, but that wasn’t for the lack of hospitality from their hosts.
It’s not clear what the difference is between last season’s record-breaking run of domestic clean sheets and our current porous look. Jason Denayer is partnering Virgil instead of Efe Ambrose, while Efe has been shunted right to cover for injured Adam Matthews and Mikael Lustig, but this wasn’t the case for some of our European nightmares last month.
Apart from last night’s pass between two statues, Emilio has overcome his early season jitters and Craig Gordon has been impeccable in goal.
It’s more likely that whatever changes have happened to the shape of the team, specifically, what is happening in front of the defence. Emilio’s back-pass last night occurred when he was under pressure and his midfield options were busy looking for a forward pass. Anthony Stokes’ error on Sunday led to Motherwell’s goal, but it happened on the halfway line. Against Motherwell! Who were able to exploit a lack of defensive cover.
Ronny’s Celtic press quickly and high up the field. I like this plan. As he navigates the squad into a position where this is their natural state there will be transitional damage, but the basis of every successful team is keeping the back door shut.
It will be some time before the manager gets a chance to finalise his defence as he awaits the return of Matthews and Lustig, and he decides on whether to partner van Dijk with Ambrose or Denayer (or Lustig), while Emilio could benefit from being pushed on the left by Charlie Mulgrew. In the meantime, Brown and Johansen, together with whoever plays wide, will need to practice their reverse gears.
St Mirren have failed to score in five of their last eight games, so as well as three points, and a clean sheet, we should be looking for whoever plays in goals to have a trouble-free afternoon.
Thanks to everyone who donated to the Great Scottish Run fund in aid of the Celtic Foundation, and to those who signed up for the race to do their bit. I know our gas has been at a peep recently but the flame of why we are Celtic fans burns as brightly as ever.
You can sign up for the race through the Foundation here, or if you’ve misplaced your trainers, you can help me hit my target here.[calameo code=0003901718cdc4362fa2e? lang=en page=4 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]