Celtic’s defence has broken records in each of the last two seasons. Last term we conceded 17 goals in 38 league games, an imperious record. This season we’ve conceded nine goals in seven games, a run of form which was already well established before the departure of Virgil van Dijk. So much has gone wrong in such a short space of time it’s difficult to narrow the focus down to a root issue.

Virgil will be a miss, without doubt, but he’s been in attendance for all but the last game of this season, so whatever’s going wrong, we’re not seeing the consequences of his departure yet. We lost Virgil’s junior partner from last season, Jason Denayer, who was replaced by Dedryck Boyata. Dedryck’s contributed to some of the defensive issues: he was culpable for both Inverness goals, for example.

One issue which I couldn’t figure after the Malmo game at Celtic Park, and which re-emerged at Pittodrie, was Mikael Lustig being drawn to the middle of defence, leaving a gap behind him. Jo Inge Berget scored for Malmo after being left unattended, while Aberdeen were unable to punish us from similar situations on Saturday.

Lustig is the definition of reliability, I don’t believe he’s abandoned his duties on the right flank without reason. If Lustig sees his two central defenders in front of the striker when an opponent has the ball on Celtic’s left, he’ll abandon the threat from the right to cover the space the striker has behind Celtic’s two central defenders. This is why we lost the first goal at home to Malmo and could have cost us again on Saturday.

Then there’s the goalkeeper. We’ve debated how a high ball into the six yard box should be the keeper’s ball, defenders should not be running back towards their own goal and challenging in an area where the keeper should win the ball, or take a foul.

There was a bit of shock when we lost goals like this from set-pieces against Malmo, but Aberdeen’s second goal was inexplicable. When the free kick was taken, Craig Gordon was standing on the spot where Paul Quinn met the cross from a moment later. If he stood still, the ball would have hit him. Instead of claiming the ball, Craig backed off and was stranded on his line as Quinn side footed the ball into the net.

Defenders shouldn’t be in this area. The goalkeeper should come out, knowing his own men will not get in his way, and that he can claim the ball unless he’s fouled by an opponent.

If all is going wrong in front of him, a goalkeeper should still be claiming balls into his six yard box, so Craig Gordon is without doubt not prepared when corners and free kicks have been fired into him, but I suspect more than this is going wrong.

It’s impossible to tell from the outside what’s actually going on in a defence but two key aspects of any defensive unit are trust and communication. You need to know where team-mates and threats are, and you need to know that you can rely on team-mates to do what’s necessary. I have my doubts that either have existed in any measurable quantity this season.

Where does authority lie?

Last season Virgil was Celtic’s defensive authority. He had a new central defensive partner, a new goalkeeper, and he was one of our best players, so the lines of authority were clear. This season nothing has been clear. The whole world knew Virgil was leaving last month, while he had another new partner, who had made a career total of 32 appearances. Dedryck has a lot to learn about the game, he’s going to need mentored, and unlike last year, when Jason arrived, his senior partner was in his final weeks at the club.

The full back positions are another area of concern. Emilio was dropped for two European away games, as we publicly looked for and then signed a left back, while Mikael Lustig returned to the team after a lengthy injury, before picking up a minor injury.

With all that going on, problems should not be a surprise, although it’s disappointing that this far into the season we’re still not cohesive. Ronny has some big decisions to make for Amsterdam.


While all else can go wrong, the work of the Celtic Foundation continues to amaze. The photos of Celtic Park Haiti, which opened this week, a product of the Foundation’s work in the country, is a phenomenal monument to the work of Celtic fans. Well done.

You have just one more day to bid on our hospitality auction for the Foundation, take a look here on ebay. You can win hospitality at the Walfrid and attendance in the Directors’ Box for three people for Sunday’s game against Dundee, courtesy of club sponsor, Intelligent Car Leasing.

It’s a genuinely special prize, thanks to Intelligent Car Leasing for their support. Good luck with your bids.

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About Author







    Posted about a week ago not sure if you saw it, but did you live on Castlemilk mid sixties?



    Naw pal brought up in Maryhill.




  2. VVD was certainly the OC of our defence last season.


    He coached Deneyar through games earlier on in the season, he was there to mop up his every mistake, talk to him when he could have made better use of the ball or improved his awareness.



    I dont think the interest or desire was there from him this season.



    Peculiarly when we took possession of the ball at the back, VVD would invariably pass is short to Boyata – when in fact it should have been the other way around.



    A man such as Boyata should not be starting games believing he is the (or a) ball playing central defender – well certainly not at this junction of his career and much like how Deneyar blossomed from a caterpillar to a butterfly during the course of the season Boyata should operate under the same mandate.



    He is costing us a significant amount of possession which affects games as well as directly costing us goals.



    I believe from another website Blackett has no right to buy in his loan deal – if thats the case he shouldnt be there, not until Tierney has proven he isnt quite ready to deputise for Izaguirre – something which hasnt happened to date.



    Craig Gordon is currently looking like a Fraser Forster clone – rooted to the spot and looking scared to come out and clear balls.



    He was effectively our sweeper last season so what the hell has happened to him so far is beyond me because it goes beyond confidence.



    If we have lost a goal because one of the full backs had to cover for one of the central defenders, or a missing defensive midfielder – then in theory it doesnt happen for quite some time thereafter, because it has been sorted out following the review carried out after watching the footage back together.



    We have big, big problems currently.



    Thats only defensively.



    Offensively we look tired, are playing with no aggression, no tempo or hunger (all aside from Lee Griffiths the wee terrior!)



    RD seems to be a fairly motivational kind of guy – the kind of person who can berate you without you realising and criticise you without you becoming defensive.



    He needs to work harder, and quicker to turn things around (evidence of goals conceded from set pieces that progress is too slow)

  3. Lots of things are accumulating and leading to our downward slide.



    But the biggest problem is that the quality of player that we are now signing is not of a high enough standard and in general lack experience.



    The club needs to adapt is strategy in signing up and comers.


    We are now seeing the mediocrity of the players signed from DUFC.


    I have no doubt than in the fullness of time Scott Allan will prove to be inconsistent too.



    Our signing policy needs to change ,and our scouts need to improve.



    Better players will attract better crowds.



    We are in a very dangerous downwards spiral.



    The board must change strategy.



    Failure is on our doorstep.



    Meltdown is not far away.



    DD and his board need to take positive action.



    I have been a big supported of PL over the years.


    I am losing faith in him.


    Time to up your game Peter.




  4. CultsBhoy likes living wage hates heated driveways on 14th September 2015 1:07 pm





    Three BIG defeats – ICT (last season SC) – Malmo – Aberdeen, and of course a draw with Kilmarnock.



    Peter Lawwell, as CEO, provides the football management team, with a budget that is at least double, or treble, all the above added together.



    Why would any of the blame be laid at his door?



    The football department is underachieving, despite having a budget that dwarfs all our opponents in the CL qualifiers for the last two years – the majority of our EL opponents in the last two years, and of course all our Scottish Premiership rivals added together.



    “You can take a horse to water BUT you can’t make it drink”

  5. Captain Beefheart on

    Blackett may be the next Cafu. Problem is that we have no option on him. Why sign him?



    Lots of signings. Sadly, a good number of them look average at best.

  6. Just asking, did the compliance officer ever get around to the Hearts manager after his rant at Wuulie eyes in the back of hid head Collum, I haven’t read anything, anyone know?

  7. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    It is strange that two of the players who were vociferous against Ronnys the players were scared quote.Both Gordon and Brown have suffered a loss of form the third player Commons doesnt get a game. I feel sure that is just chance mind you Gordon has previous at Hearts when he was involved with Hartley and Pressley.I just hope it gets sorted out soon huffy players are no use to Celtic. H.H.

  8. timaloy29 on 14th September 2015 1:02 pm


    Gary 67


    Why bring on Efe at Pittodrie?



    Exactly, Janko should have come on.

  9. Paul67 et al



    We did progress as a team in the second half of last season, largely down to the efforts of Craig, Jason and Virgil at the heart of our defence. Now, we are pretty much where we were this time last season, losing goals which cost us games, points, and qualification for major tournaments. Ronny helped Jason and Virgil improve as players, and got a good shift out of Johansen, and Nir Biton, but two of those players are gone, and one has disappeared temporarily. What we do not have on the park, is an organiser, we have Scott Brown as Captain, and he has brought a lot to the team, but he is no Roy Aitken. Without which our new defenders will struggle.


    I’m not one to mention Dick Advocaat on here as a wee general rule but he did make an interesting comment after Sunderland’s defeat yesterday, to the effect that if you try to play a high pressing game, you need to be able to do it for ninety minutes, not seventy. The Sunderland manager is sixty seven years old. And he is still learning

  10. bournesoup…



    stole my thunder a bit there.



    the scapegoat ‘Izzy’ has been dropped when he is trying every week to do the same thing as Lustig (the fav) does every game. he has always been drawn into the middle, watch all his games, he always does it.



    the goal we conceded was no one else’s fault except Gordon’s. That ball is the goalkeepers all day every day.



    our defence needs settled but not with Boyata anywhere near it.



    too many players underperforming for whatever reason.



    brown and johansen have been dire since start of the season…GMS also doesn’t look the player


    he can be.


    Rogic is dreadful, offered nothing on Saturday.

  11. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    Im not from Glasgow but I have never heard of Castlemilk is that the same place as Castlemulk ? H.H. :- )

  12. Hello again all you young rebels.



    Phew… what a tempestuous couple of days on the blog with


    a lot of good posters falling out with one another and we


    even had a mass flounce all because our team got beat, well


    we’ve been beat before and we’ll get beat again so i hope all


    you ghuys who say you won’t be back reconsider because we


    need you all to counteract the level 5 p.r twats and the multi


    moniker serial agitators.


    We’ve all got our opinions where we are going wrong as a club


    maybe i’ve mellowed with age because years ago if computers


    were available mine would have been thrown out the windae


    a few times because of bad results, i remember standing in a


    deserted Celtic park and thinking why do i bother and then


    there would be a hail..hail from the jungle and that was it, now


    i knew why, because i’m a Celtic supporter nothing more and


    nothing less and when my club needed me i could say i was




    As for the Sheepie game, i expected it tough and with a new


    defence i thought we would do well to get a draw but there’s


    problems of some sort whether it’s Ronnie’s inexperience or a


    player revolt or the perceived boards downsizing who knows


    but it needs sorted and i’m tipping a good result against Ajax


    because i’m an optimist, and i’ve lived through tougher times


    than this.


    So c’mon you bhoys in green no more ammunition for the red


    tops when we are as one we are a formidable force and thats


    what they hate the most.


    H.H Mick

  13. I can’t agree with Gordon getting the blame for the goal. Contact may have been made by the scorer about 5 yards out (just before the ball had a chance to bounce!) but the ball passed head height about 8 yards out. The keeper would expect to come out and take a ball at the highest point by jumping to collect. At least 10 yards from his goal in that case through a crowded box. The most worrying aspect was that no defender jumped for the ball or even just stood and headed it clear unchallenged.

  14. Rowley Birkin QC on

    Jordan McMillan article on BBC local news…surprise surprise….no mention that he was an ex-RFC (in liquidation…..never coming back GSL). Just imagine if it was an ex-Celt…FFs…hidden agenda my arse.

  15. CultsBhoy likes living wage hates heated driveways on

    Mr Pastry



    thanks for your reply…



    You are of course correct in your statement:




    ”Peter Lawwell, as CEO, provides the football management team, with a budget that is at least double, or treble, all the above added together. ” ( although I think you underplay this as I believe it is much higher ratio than this – will check player budget – http://sportsearning.com/2013/01/28/celtic-fc-players-salary-list/)



    Why would any of the blame be laid at his door?



    I think if we believed for a second PL provided a budget and walked away, returning only when negotiating terms with Manager’s choice of player we would share your view. It’s clear PL has a much bigger role than this. Even if does as I outline he should he should be choosing managers who can correctly identify better players…these players should be a mixture of longer termers to give stability and continuity and shorter term punts. It strikes me most players bought in are short term punts.



    Meanwhile PL fills his pocket – regardless of outcomes.

  16. This has a feeling of inevitability about it. Ajax are a good bet to score 3 or 4 against us if they turn up.



    Our scouting for key positions at key times again looks suspect. Why did no other club want Boyata? Or so it would appear?



    We failed to recognise the risk in short term satisfaction via Denayer and replaced him with a guy who is the worst centre back I have seen since Your Paul McGugans etc. Darren Odea was a better centre back and to my mind done nothing wrong. Darren is just an example to compare with the inept Boyata. He seems incapable of finding a Celtic player with a pass, hoofs it long to the smallest player in our side and apparently can’t header or mark. He might come good though!


    We have compounded that mistake by brining in an expensive 21 year old to replace the other mainstay… Signed another temporary defender to piss of Izzy. Blackett seemed confused all match long. I understand Izzy had a long journey but surely this guy isn’t as poor as his first match suggests?


    That was Craig Gordon’s ball all day long but we missed who gave the free kick away… Yes everyone’s favourite Efe Ambrose. Another liability who seems to keep getting played despite a multitude of mistakes.


    The midfield are playing like strangers. Perhaps Boystas bombs over their heads straight to the opposition have a lot to do with that or his short passes to the opposition? I can’t remember the last time Biton won a tackle or Johansen actually did anything constructive.


    We have gone backwards. I have written off Amsterdam. A loss in the next two league games puts Ronny under serious pressure. 8 points behind in the league to a very efficient Aberdeen. Serious serious questions to be asked.

  17. CultsBhoy likes living wage hates heated driveways on

    the frustrating thing is – we’ve had 3 years of uninterrupted league wins with no real competition to create CLEAR GREEN WATER between ourselves and all other team in or about to enter the SPFL.



    That’s what really bother us all…the sure and certain knowledge that we have squandered perhaps the best opportunity most of us will ever see to be miles ahead of the rest in Scotland and positioned to do the club justice in Europe….



    The above is not arrogance or conceit but we have been dealt all the aces after years of being hard done to.


    Nobody is doing it to Celtic right now – the club is slowly doing itself in.

  18. succulentlambstinks on

    Pathetic Ronny. Season 2 and u should be blowing the sheep away. Instead were a bunch of lambs.


    Demote Ronny to the yth set up to bring thru our own Oddegard.


    Bring in Henrik. He cud sign a few good plyrs with his contacts.


    Just a thot.

  19. rt rev david hay



    Yes, agree he does and was doing it in season one, and its not just happened in season five.



    Most full backs do it at some point in every team not just Celtic.



    Dedryk Boyata looks every inch a £1.3million Centre Back and he’s not even trained or played, never mind settled with his new central partner who has just arrived at Lennoxtown



    The alternative pairings would include Charlie Mulgrew or Efe Ambrose.



    So hold on tight.

  20. I am not 100% behind the manager, but he has won 4 out of 5 v Aberdeen, which is 80%. In previous seasons and going back a number of years, we dropped points on a regular basis to them and Dundee United. One defeat should not signal a cry for a sacking. We have lost the spine of our team and this requires sorting. A draw would have been a good result for us and we should have got it. Keeper again rooted to his line like Foster. Ref conned at their penalty with attacker leaving his leg in against the defender’s. Happens a lot and some have it down to a fine art

  21. Looking at the fixture list all our 5 games prior to playing Aberdeen again should be won. They have potentially tricky away days at Tynecastle and Inverness amongst their fixtures. And I doubt they will get it easy at Dingwall.



    Hopefully by the end of October we will be looking to beat them to go top. Just trying to be upbeat.

  22. Ronny Deila’s theory for Celtic was that we settle into a dynamic fluid system of passing and movement with plenty of energy and invention, facilitated by a squad of uber-fit interchangeable players who can take up any number of positions at a moment’s notice and keep the fotball machine ticking over.



    You can extrapolate the above into a series of impressive lectures accompanied by charts and colourful graphs and clips of other teams implementing little parts of your theory that will impress many willing to allow themselves to buy into the football-academic notion just a little.



    The theory has manifested in the real Celtic world in a handful of games back in January/February. Most notably the impressive comeback v Inter. About 10% of Ronny’s tenure so far.



    Unfortunately for the ‘purists’, football is a game of practical application, relying solely on players who can perform in the vital moments, when others’ heads are buried in diagrams and stats.



    The only team ever to have carried out Ronny’s theory in a practical, successful consistent manner are Barcelona circa 5 years back. They are known as the best club side ever for that reason.



    It’s about time we stopped interpreting a bunch of arrows and scribbles on whiteboards and marking defined areas of grass for a more practical approach of winning and using the white ball thingy with players in comfortable positions in formations that are proven to generate chances and results.



    Mix your theory up with some timeworn practicality, Ronny. Play runaround-a-lot all you like, but in a 4-4-2.



    Keeper – The Cat


    LB- IZZY (who has done NOTHING to justify his persecution; away v Quarabag he was a rock).


    CB – Mick (give him control of the defence)


    CB – Boyata (let Mick get in his ear).


    RB – Janko


    RMid – Jamesy (wee man deserves a run in team as much as anybody)


    DefenMid – Broon


    CentreMid – Bitton


    Lmid – Armstrong


    CF – Cifti (Play the big dude for half-a-dozen games to prove himself)


    CF – Griffiths (desperate to see how he could perform with a big strike partner to free him up a little).



    The other pretenders to the Hoops can get a fire lit under their bench seats to see if they’re capable of justifying the jersey or are the freeloading imposters this season’s performances are beginning to imply.

  23. Captain Beefheart on

    So far, Cifci has scored the same amount of goals for Celtic as I have.






    Keep him away from the Ajax game. Griff can score against the Dutch.

  24. A lot of players getting written off after a few games and in some cases after one game. Just like we did with Berget last year who while not a world beater is clearly better than he showed with us. Maybe some players just need a bit of time to adjust.

  25. I hope that with time Boyata will improve and show why he was so highly rstedrated rated. But I am worried that he was just a big powerful kid that has given him a huge advantage in his youth and as he’s got older it’s become apparent the talent hasn’t followed. I hate saying this about a Celtic player but he has been terrible so far.



    Mulgrew against Malmo was scarily slow. How he wasn’t hooked after just 10 minutes is beyond me. He might be able to fill in at centre back or defensive mid when we’re going to dominate a game but never again at fullback.



    We don’t have leaders in the team. Worse still we don’t have winners. Too many players from mid table clubs with mid table attitudes that could hold us back regardless of their talent.



    I’ve got a feeling Commons talents could be wanting but we could be doing with him having a run and taking some games by the stuff of the neck.



    I hope big Jozo is a find or we could be in trouble.

  26. BlantyreKev on 14th September 2015 11:08 am




    Looking forward to Thursday enormously because Celtic are playing in Europe. (NB 6pm KO folks)




    *for all the looneys out there it’s being shown on TSN4 at 13:00 john tory time.

  27. Tinytim



    Spot on re your comments on Dundee Utd players, previously we would have signed thee best players in Scotland but 3 from the one team is myopic in its view, these guys when playing regularly won hee haw with Utd and as you say turned in inconsistent performances. No problem with Armstrong but not the other two.

  28. People keep going on as if we’ve failed as a club because we’re not miles ahead of Aberdeen… They’ve won all their games! How do we affect that short of buying all their best players?



    We can’t be streets ahead if our main rivals win all their games no matter how good we are.

  29. Ronny D is now saying we are losing too many goals via “Set Pieces”


    I know Ronny, but we need to also scrap ‘Zonal Marking’ as well.


    It’s not working simple as that.


    Also, & especially @ home (CP) in the SPL try 4-4-2 & 3-5-2 because


    your 4-3-2-1 is mince/rubbish & not working.


    If we had players of the quality of Barcelona FC then maybe yes


    said 4-3-2-1 would work but unfortunately we don’t simple as.


    Come-On-The-Hoops, sort out the Dressing Room bust up’s


    & get back on track. Hail Hail All.

  30. MALONE BHOY on 14TH SEPTEMBER 2015 2:15 PM


    People keep going on as if we’ve failed as a club because we’re not miles ahead of Aberdeen… They’ve won all their games! How do we affect that short of buying all their best players?







    We can’t be streets ahead if our main rivals win all their games no matter how good we are.



    Coveniently ignoring that one of the games was against us, scoring the winner against amateur night defending when down to ten men.



    Despite all the moaning on here over the weekend about Thompson, it was one of the opposition he sent off.





    – See more at: http://www.celticquicknews.co.uk/defenceless/comment-page-2/#comments

  31. Captain Beefheart on




    Exactly. Blaming the ref or media won’t cut it now. The Celtic strategy is to blame.



    Those who drone on about Rangers, the media or the refs are trying to deflect.

  32. Bournesouprecipe



    ‘So hold on tight’



    just about pulled the armrests off my office chair at


    the un-nerving thought of the central defence from hell.


    or as its commonly know…our central defensive pairings


    for the forseable.