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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  1. jude2005 is Neil Lennon \o/ on

    Another impressive display from the former Celtic man. Man by Man in the D R re Jackson Irvine. Why did we let him go??

  2. Any tims out there watch the NFL on Sunday?



    Naturally, I have chosen the Green Bay Packers for my team.

  3. things I’ve noticed………



    1. we often wane as a game goes on. all over Malmo at home in the first half. 2-0 going on half a dozen. and then the tempo starts to drop. and the imperceptible shift in tempo and control of the game starts to slip away from us ….happened again on saturday. Looking decent enough in the first half, we ‘dissipated’ as a collective and even with them down to 10 men i didn’t really feel confident we’d score a winner.



    2. Broonie? where for art thou? he’s disappeared as a force and influence in recent matches – Mike in Toronto….cancel your trip!……. he’d only prove you right if you saw him right now.



    3. Youngsters. Thought/hoped that was what RD was all about? O’Connell? Fisher? Tierney? the three of them with Lustig anchoring them in the centre of defence would likely have been better on saturday in terms of potential and cohesion.



    4. Gordon – the Cat needs some lessons from Sipsini’s moggy asap in how to get through the flap in the door and take control of his territory.



    5. said to the wee mhan at noon on saturday – aberdeen will look to press us high up the park so that we then have to punt the ball to griffiths. it’s footie, not rocket science.



    6. the izzie/stokes partnership last season – while inconsistent at times – would actually be an improvement on what we’re doing right now.



    7. when 3 guys (brown, blackett and Gordon) let an opponent get to a long loopy cross as they did for the 2nd aberdeen goal then there’s plenty of responsibility to be shared.



    8. when we all knew that VVD wouldn’t be here when the autumn rain replaced the summer rain and our season started 2 months ago how on earth did we find ourselves playing a rookie defensive unit against our principal rivals?



    HH jamesgang

  4. Craig Gordon getting it tight on here. By virtue of the position he plays his mistakes will be magnified out of all proportion. Craig Gordon was the signing of the season. I would still have him before Big Frazer or indeed every other keeper in the much hyped EPL apart from Van der Sar and Courtois.


    For the avoidance of doubt I am not related to Craig nor am I his agent.


    Up the Hoooops



  5. Yeah Quonno we know.


    But by the law/rule of officiating footy matches if a player is clean through on goal


    & is man handled & pulled back he should have been shown a straight red no if’s


    or but’s simple as but that incompetent twat shows a yellow.


    Even when LG challenged him about said decision the big cheat just laughed it off


    & sure enough if it was a hoops player in the same position as above it would be a


    straight red & even their penalty was soft as well to even up.


    I don’t trust nor like that big cheating numpty/twat a Mr Thompson?


    In my eyes he will always be a cheat end of.


    I remember a few years ago when we where playing the zombies @ rent a ground


    he was officiating said match & just right after the match kicked off a hoops player


    was shown a straight red by him for a normal challenge/tackle he’s a cheat simple as

  6. We are all down and worried and with good reason but all it needs is one good performance and the entire vista will change. As some poster said earlier you can’t write Blackett off after one poor performance and Jozo could hopefully be a good one. Team selection for Ajax will be extremely important, Do you throw Jozo in at the deep end, normally I would say no but maybe it’s time to gamble.


    GMS and Joe Hanson could do with a bit of time on the bench and Kris Commons & Anthony Stokes could do with a bit of time on the pitch.

  7. Tinytim “We are in a very dangerous downwards spiral. The board must change strategy. Failure is on our doorstep. Meltdown is not far away.”



    Did you sub-ed the Old Testament?

  8. JUDE2005 IS NEIL LENNON \O/ on 14TH SEPTEMBER 2015 2:42 PM


    I think zonal marking wd work if the bloody keeper commanded his area better!!!



    No Jude it’s a failure. Unmarked men do not not stop the ball going into the onion


    bag simple as so should we rely on the invisible man to do for us? It’s a no brainer


    it does not work as far as our defending is concerned.


    As for letting good players slip through our grasp? If they are not getting a look in


    as regards to first team appearances then will they want to renew their contracts?


    No, it also comes under three words instead of one “Breadth of Awareness” not


    Oh I’ll just stick by my “Favourites” & blue eye boys sad but true

  9. Morning All,



    I see Johann Mjallby has left the Bolton setup…any chance we can get him back to CP to sort out our unbelievably bad defence?



    Oh and get Stokes and Izzy back in the team, pronto.



    Hail Hail



    Aberdeen will drop points this week.


    Ajax aren’t very good.



    Yeah Captain Beefheart, hopefully, time will tell as regards


    to the sheep dropping points @ swinecastle the sheep’s


    record & that venue is poor long may it continue.



    As for Ajax (Aye-Axe) they maybe poor but we are not


    exactly firing in all Cylinders @ present, our Gear Stick


    seams to stuck in Reverse @ present hopefully & with


    the grace of you know who this will change asap.

  11. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    I think Boyata will come good it is a big step up from reserve football to regular first team.He is young and a giant of a man and if he finds his form he will be a first class signing. H.H.

  12. Captain Beefheart.



    When big “Wrong” decisions go against our Club in key matches then I know we


    will just blame the Ref yeah we all know we where poor @ the weekend & gripping


    is not going to change the result but if it was any other Club it happened too


    would they not point it out? I’m damn tooting they would big decision’s can also


    have an effect on the final outcome of said matches simple as

  13. Bada



    the way big MickTT was talking earlier I was going to send him in to sort them all oot!



    HH jamesgang

  14. GARY67 on 14TH SEPTEMBER 2015 1:29 PMtimaloy29 on 14th September 2015 1:02 pm Gary 67 Why bring on Efe at Pittodrie?  Exactly, Janko should have come on.-



    We shouldn’t be putting on a RB for a RB against 10 men,they would have had 1 up front,we should have went 3-5-2,or 3-4-3.Another example of no Plan B,or inability to coach players in different formations.I agree with you on maybe Lustig playing CB v Ajax.HH

  15. In the light of things mentioned on here, it is interesting that I came upon this somewhere recently



    ‘you should not feel constrained to just a single formation across the course of a game. Altering your tactics to counter your opponent’s strategy – or being forced into a change due to a red card – are both decisions you may have to make, but if you’re looking for a consistently lethal formation, 4-3-1-2 is best.



    This setup, a variation of 4-4-2, allows you to make the most of the abundance of talent at your disposal, particularly in the striker department. ‘



    I do accept that we do not have an abundance of talent. But the comment suggests that others do not think that one up front is the answer to good attacking football.

  16. The thing that makes me laugh is when a team using man marking concedes a corner, nobody blames the system.



    When somebody concedes using zonal, its the system.



    The ball landed at Quinn’s feet in the penalty box. In a zonal system there should have been at least two players ready to attack the ball and the keeper as well.



    It was just rank defending by a nervous bunch of strangers.

  17. I was in the company of an absolute gent, John Cushley about 10 years ago. Played for Celtic in the early 60s and then Dunfermline and Dumbarton towards the end of his career. Conversation got around to referees and he said with a smile that without a shadow of a doubt that when he was with Celtic the decisions were stacked against us. And in the same sentence explained that when he cam back to Celtic Park as the opposition that his teams got absolutely nothing from the refs and Celtic got everything, it wasn’t a fair fight.



    Was just interesting to hear from an older wise Celtic man through and through who had seen it from both sides.

  18. !!Bada Bing!!



    Did you see Janko against Dundee United? The boy is more of a winger than a fullback



    I thought a ten man Aberdeen would have been ideal. Think of all the times that Efe found himself in good crossing positions but put in poor balls. I don’t blame Efe for that.



    The coach should have went with Janko. If he doesn’t trust Janko against 10 men then we should have kept Fisher.



    Everybody knows Lustig gets injured.

  19. Timaloy 29



    The Green Bay Packers Yes?


    I ‘Love’ the wee Tune they Play when the Get A Touch Down.




    Way Too Go, as our Neighbours across “The Pond’ would say.


    Yeah, :-) :-)

  20. Jungle Jim Hot Smoked on



    You are in good form today with your Old Testament comment and you John Cushley story 0:-)




  21. ConnAire 12



    1 up front is a mare it’s not working simple as if we where playing


    Barcelona every week then it would be understandable but we are


    not so therefore we should be trying out different formations &


    stick with the one which gives us the best outcome but also be


    flexible not static with no plan B–C-D & so on

  22. Communication and organization are the missing ingredients for me.



    Communication only seems to take place after we concede, as players moan at the referee and at each other. I see little communication otherwise.



    Organization – how to defend at set pieces must be in the Introduction section of a defensive coaches manual.



    Our players have shown that they have the ability, but wonky tactics and odd team selections seem to baffle the players as much as the fans.



    There is NO team spirit evident on the field. None.



    This suggests that there are underlying issues in the dressing room or between coaches and some player(s).



    A Celtic team without a positive team spirit performs like ours did at Pittodrie.



    It’s also alarming that our captain seems as culpable as the weakest link in all of this.



    His job is to bridge the gulf between coach and players and to address dressing room issues amongst players.



    Malmo at home, Malmo away, Kilmarnock away, Aberdeen away…



    Our coaches have seen what we have seen in these and other games.



    Time for some fundamental changes.



    Baily in goal for a start as Gordon seems gun-shy in coming for crosses into the 6 yard box in a crowded area. This uncertainty spreads to the rest of the players and the result is an unopposed tap in from 2 yards for Paul Quinn.



    Locked door sessions with all egos left outside until the issues have been raised, thrashed and sorted.



    Happy Monday

  23. I have only a mild concern about the defence. It will be rectified. So we expect to lose 2 goals every game. And therefore should plan to score 3.



    Now I have a big concern. I don’t see where the goals are coming from. We’re not creating chance after chance and squandering them. Or being denied by a keeper in inspired form.



    We had many of those type of games last year. But absent for most games this season.






    Loss of form? Loss of confidence? Change in system? Players not adhering to the system?



    Wish I knew.



    Though I seem to be one of the few who reckons Ronny is the man to sort it out.

  24. My daughter asked me about getting her tickets for Hearts game next week.


    I was surprised to see the normal price of £26 for an SPL game was now £29 .


    Nice touch by the club, to see them still willing to squeeze every penny out of us


    even if there is going to be 10-15,000 empty seats that day.

  25. glendalystonsils on

    All I saw of the Aberdeen game was the highlights on Sportscene.


    Even allowing for their ‘editing’ which seldom presents a fair reflection of how Celtic have played, it was patently obvious that had Considine been sent off, we would most likely have won that game.


    Our performance might still have been uninspiring but it would have been enough to see off an equally uninspiring Aberdeen.


    There is no way they will take that league title from us.

  26. Hopefully we have identified and resolved the rogue pop up ads that made an unwelcome return to those reading CQN on mobiles.



    Fingers crossed!




    Paul is working on the separate server issue which when sorted should see a difference re speedy access to the site.

  27. AKBW1888



    Ha ha. American sports chants are terrible.



    My personal favorite is the very polite chant “I believe that we will win”






    I didn’t know Steve Gleason as I’m a fairly new NFL fan. I’ll have a look cheers.

  28. A lot of panic on the blog as a result of the Aberdeen loss. I believe we have the making of a formidable back line in the players we have and who we have recently signed. I believed once we have sorted out the familiarity and communication aspect at the back we will see our goals against drop significantly.



    Having said that we need to scrap the lone striker nonsense, especially in our backyard. We need to score goals and may of them to take the MIB out of the equation. I think we all need to calm down and have some patience and support each other as well as the team.



    Too much Hun like behaviour lately and that definitely is not the Celtic way. It has been said before by many respected bloggers, we all have opinions please respect each others






  29. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Dublinbhoy on 14th September 2015 3:06 pm



    I see Johann Mjallby has left the Bolton setup…any chance we can get him back to CP to sort out our unbelievably bad defence


    – ———-


    Good plan. Who would you play him alongside? :-)

  30. Timaloy29 & Bada Bing



    As a Commons fan, I’d normally go along with you, but Stokes should have been playing at Pittodrie (has been consistently excellent there) and wasn’t even on the bench.



    Ronny hasn’t got a clue. He’s alienated some players – Commons, Stokes – while others – GMS & Armstrong – are worsening under his tutelage.



    If it wasn’t for the central mid of Brown and Bitton, it would have been a humiliation on Sunday.