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Defenceless

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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.

celticparkhaiti

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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388 Comments

  1. What is the Stars

     

     

    You’ve misread my post – I’ve been a Ronny outer since the Reykjavik games.

     

     

    Taking our greatest victory in the last 10 years and damning it with faint praise (“Imagine how it would have been if you had controlled the game?”) was a warning sign. Some may say it showed his ambition. Personally I thought it showed lack of respect and an unjustified arrogance.

     

     

    There then followed the comments about fitness, as though it was something he had discovered and brought to Celtic (I wonder how Neil Lennon would have taken to being told his players weren’t fit enough?) The hipsters lapped it up. We were all lectured as to how much weight players had lost, and how much farther the players had run in 90 minutes. You think it’s boring to watch? Well, it isn’t. Look – here are the charts to prove it.

     

     

    Meanwhile, the quality of football worsened steadily.

     

     

    And here we are.

     

     

    re. last year, I think if you’d looked at the respective spending power of Celtic compared to the other SPL clubs you wouldn’t have thought he’d lose the league.

     

     

    This season? I’d say the same applies. Aberdeen winning the league would dwarf anything that’s been achieved in modern European football, and would be a bigger upset than when Aalborg won the Danish league in 2014. I can’t see it, but stranger things have happened (probably, although I can’t think of any).

     

     

    What’s so dispiriting is that it would take nothing less than this seismic event to make the board think of removing him. I can understand that – he was their boy, and it will look like the strategy is failing. I believe the strategy is the right one, barring a few tweaks. They simply got the wrong guy. It happens.

     

     

    When Lennon took up the reins in 2010, I felt we’d got the real Celtic back, a bit like some Labour types think they’ve got their party back with Corbyn, only with the added bonus of winning. Right now, watching Celtic feels like a cerebral exercise, done out of familial loyalty, but with a growing feeling of detachment. The spirit that was there under Lennon, Strachan, and O’Neill, the crackling atmosphere of those European nights, is virtually gone.

     

     

    Time to cut this short before I get out the whisky and revolver. A lot of happy clappers challenge those of us on the glass half-empty side to set out a ‘solution’, as though there is a simple answer. Here’s mine, then. If Ronny & John were to leave, I’d have Commons as player-manager for the rest of the season. We saw with Lenny’s instant improvement of that side that inexperience was no barrier to success. Commons has intelligence and the respect of the rest of the dressing room. He would combine pragmatism with a creative approach to the game.

  2. twentyfirstofmaynineteenseventynine on

    WEEMINGER

     

     

    I’d be more than happy to be adding a few quid toward my SB if I was watching the teams that MON put on the park. His first season with us even topped the Centenary season for me and I’ll be forever greatful to my favourite Irishman

     

     

    HH

  3. Twentyfirstofmay – a 30% rise isn’t a few quid and remember that doesn’t take into account the inflation in the transfer market. It was just the average losses converted into an increase in ST prices.

     

     

    Judging by the last window 5-6m seems to get you a 30+ Championship striker these days.

  4. embramike says "the Huns are Deid" on

    Mr Ahmad doesn’t miss them and hit the wall ! Oh Dear !

     

     

    Mr Ahmad said that he had recently “received death threats by phone and online”.

     

     

    He described Rangers fans as “a tribe”, adding: “What the rest of the world will never understand unless they experience it first hand is that Rangers Football Club is a religion, in itself, built on centuries of religious bigotry.”

     

     

    The former director also accused Police Scotland of being “an establishment institution which itself is deeply rooted and immersed in Rangers Football Club’s history for well over 140 years”.

     

     

    Mr Ahmad said: “I firmly believe Police Scotland have their own agenda and are deeply emotionally connected to Rangers Football Club. In my view Police Scotland have a clear conflict of interest.”

  5. Serious questions…are Aberdeen’s players playing for McInnes?

     

    are all Celtic players playing for Ronny?

     

     

    The end of our European campaign will tell us if there is still hope for our Norwegian boss.

     

    With our budget, winning the title should be a foregone conclusion, however, the EL will be

     

    the true litmus test as to whether we have improved or not…

  6. *groans*

     

     

     

    A combination of Hun skullduggery,financial hari-kari and Sky’s mega money madness has done for football here in Scotland.

     

    The huns and their sleekit support throughout scoddish life has also contrived to do down the game we love. They have little regard for the national game and can’t see further than the dilapidated facade of their own Edmiston Folly.

     

     

    Our Club can’t do a disappearing act and wont be invited to the EPL table as it stands.

     

     

    Celtic – like the world-famous jersey does not shrink to fit inferior players or thinking and while the club hasn’t downsized the stage we grace certainly has.

     

     

    HH.

  7. up_over_goal

     

     

    I think we will have a replacement by mid-October…..if results unfold.

     

     

    Ajax, Dundee, Raith Rovers, Hearts then Fenerbache. We then have 3 away games in a row, with Molde the last of those on 22nd of October.

     

     

    My expectations have plummeted and I’d be ecstatic if we won in the domestic ties and left the EL results out of it.

     

     

    I think Celtic tried something new, we needed to. It hasn’t worked, unfortunately.

     

     

    In principle the ideas were sound.

  8. What will constitute European improvement? We could get further with worse performances than last year by finishing 2nd in group and getting a good draw.

  9. Paul67-

     

     

    Forensic analysis of defensive frailties seem moot when we consider that at the commencement of every season our entire back four are a shiny brand new unit, having been carved up during the holidays.

     

     

    There is zero continuity, nor any form of familiarity and understanding evidenced by the poor positioning you allude to.

     

     

    The Cattenachio teams of old would have imploded under these conditions, and Jock Stein, or Matt Busby would have struggled with the spines of their teams fiddled with on such a regular basis.

     

     

    We can expect a further few weeks of defensive fragility before the players relax, solidify and understanding develops.

     

     

    So, the question begs itself: who is responsible for this lack in this basic understanding of the game?

  10. An Tearmann 4:35

     

    Hail Hail sir & catch up soon.

     

    civility costs nothing as my mam is prone to say .

  11. However, the defensive issue mentioned above does not detract from the issue of WHY were the players so gutless in the away performance in Malmö?

     

     

    Coddled millionaires mincing aboot like a bunch of eejits.

     

     

    It still rankles.

  12. Evening

     

     

    Quick scan of this page and whilst I would say that some of the criticisms of Ronny have some validity I think pulling him up for trying to improve the players’ fitnesses and diets seems wrong. I have to say I have though been puzzled at the way the team has sagged repeatedly in the second half of matches – so I wonder if the players are as fit as they were.

     

     

    Jimbo67

  13. Big Cup Winners

     

     

    A lot depends on Simunovic being a like for like replacement to Van Dijk. We got by last season through a solid CB and CM pairing. If the defence is weaker this year, things could get wobbly.

     

     

    Sometimes injury to one key player can wreck a campaign – Brown’s suspension did for us in Europe 2013/14, while Larsson’s leg break left Barnes’ season in tatters.

     

     

    Scott Brown being out for a long stretch would be ruinous for Ronny.

  14. Coolmore Mafia-

     

     

    Sam Allardyce patrolling the technical area at Celtic Park chomping on his bubble gum? No cheers very much. His style of football would send us all to sleep.

     

     

    Paul Lambert maybe, but would the entitled brigade give him enough time to settle in? I doubt it. He is after all a reasonably inexperienced boss.

  15. Joe

     

     

    While I admire your defence of Ronnie I cannot go along with it. A year in to the Ronnie experiment we are no further forward and in some cases behind where we were when he arrived.

     

    Some want to blame PL for the signings made or not made during the summer but if RD is unhappy with what he has been given then he needs to speak out – he cannot have it both ways!

     

    For me the guy is probably a good coach but he is never a manager!

     

    His insistence on playing a system which he doesn’t have the type or quality of players to play is either stupidity or arrogance. Any other team in Europe trying to play 4-2-3-1 employs at least one and more commonly two proper defensive miss as the 2. We don’t have one on the books let alone in the team. Most other teams would have a real physical forward as the 1 – we have LG!

     

    No disrespect to LG intended as he is one of the very few putting in a real shift IMHO.

     

    All the talk about the problems with the defence would be greatly reduced if we had two guys doing the proper job in front of them. I know it was 3-5-2 under MON but when we played Lenny and Lambert together we won a treble!

     

    So for me the guy might talk a good game but he lacks the hard edged professionalism that we need. A good manager looks at what he has at his disposal then thinks up a way of playing that suits them. He doesn’t think up a system then try to shoe horn players in to that just don’t fit!

     

     

    HH

  16. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Joe Filippis Haircut 5:23

     

    Really good post.

     

    Ronny will get it right, but it will take time. In the meantime there will be bumps on the road.

     

    It may be that the younger players will be more receptive to his ideas than the older ones.

  17. If it’s true as to Ronny losing the dressing room because of his criticisms. Boo Hoo.

     

     

    Pay me a million quid, while pulling on the Hoops and I’d clean the lavvies at Celtic Park with a toothbrush all season.

     

     

    Let me in the dressing for 10 minutes and I’ll set their priorities straight.

  18. Still hearing about unrest in the camp.

     

    Did Johannsen cement Tierney in training? and then 2 players have to be hauled off Johannsen.

     

    Are the new Norweigian sports scientists seriously disliked by the majority of players?

     

    Every day some story about unrest appears to be leaked.

     

    It doesn’t appear to be a happy camp at the moment.

  19. I’m hearing raised voices……………..all’s not well

     

    ….comin’ from the kitchen……………………….

     

     

    *shakes heid*

  20. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Jackson on RS spouting his usual tosh.

     

    Apparently Ronny Deila’s remit was to “keep things ticking along”.

     

    Really Keith? You KNOW this do you?

  21. Captain Beefheart on

    We are entitled to a better standard of player than Cifci, GMS etc. High season book costs in comparison to Maribor.

     

     

    As for the moaning players, they were crap enough to lose to feckin Malmo – they should be giving thanks to Celtic, not moanin.

  22. The Bearded Jungle Journo boxing day 1984 on

    The problems in the dressing room are yet more evidence that, Celtic FC are rudderless.

     

    Is anybody responsible for anything?

     

    Ronny’s been wheeled out – nobodies listening.

     

    John Collins wheeled out – nobodies listening.

     

    John Kennedy wheeled out – who’ll listen?

     

    Who’ll be wheeled out next? Chris McCart? Will he still be there?

  23. BGX on 14TH SEPTEMBER 2015 6:45 PMSaw John Kenneday on Stv, thought he spoke and came across Really well…..

     

    do you think RD would have faced the press if we had won?HH

  24. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    Croppybhoy. Sorry fella we won the SPL and the League cup last season and were in my opinion cheated in the Scottish cup semi-final so that was an improvement on the season before. We have lost one league game and for me Aberdeen were always favorites if you want to know why read my week-end posts.We may win the treble this year we just have to wait and see.Now where we could improve is in Europe but that takes time and we will see how we do in a very hard Europa League group.So in my book Ronny isnt doing as poorly as some on CQN would suggest so I support the manager and the team and believe we will turn the corner sooner rather than later. H.H.

  25. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Jackson blaming the Internet for rumours starting.

     

    Hmm, like Craig Whyte being a billionaire, Keith…..?

  26. That’s the door being banged now………….

     

    ..high voices…….

     

    …………………bangers

  27. Don’ panic Capt Mainwairing

     

    So we lost to Aberdeen, so what. We should not have lost, we all know that and so does Ronny.

     

    I’m not happy with our Dundee Utd recruits to be honest. Big way to go for them imo.

     

     

    I’ve been bleating on about this for ages but we are crying out for a “LUBO”. Guts and thunder are all well and good but we need a guy with some class in midfield. The best we have is KC but he’s not flavour of the month at the moment.

     

    And why oh why does Ronny play with one up front, ffs, driving me nuts. Only oneway to win and that is attack.

     

     

    Come on get a grip

     

     

    Not a happy KINGLuBO

  28. The Bearded Jungle Journo boxing day 1984 on

    Hugh Keevins without the SMSM shackles, would be thee ideal Celtic PR Ghuy.