This was a defensive and tactical failure. Efe Ambrose was slow to follow his man for the first goal (Fraser was the beaten easily, though redeemed himself later). Efe was also brushed off the ball at the second goal. Strength in the six yard box is imperative for a central defender.
Mikael Lustig was caught underneath his man for the cross which led to the second goal, a feature of our defending all night. All he could do was attempt to block the header back across goal, instead of challenge for the ball. He was also in the wrong starting position, and therefore, unable to stop the cross which led to the fourth goal.
With Lustig and Ambrose already culpable at the second goal, Virgil van Dijk was caught napping. He may have expected better from his team-mates, but he should have remained alert with the ball inside the penalty area. The space afforded to Radovic, Virgil’s man, should never have existed.
I’ve no idea why Emilio, our only left back, was omitted from the starting line-up. He offered balance when he came on, until his late horror show when he was turned inside out, then inside out again, at the third goal. It was like watching a clip from the 50s, when full backs didn’t know to get tight and close-off one option for the attacker.
Charlie Mulgrew had a nightmare beyond the level of the others, which is saying something. Two penalty kicks, failing to attack the ball with his man, who headed the third goal, failing to track the run for the fourth, and the debacle which led to possession being lost when Efe was red carded, was a calamitous return.
I’ve heard transfer rumours about everyone who played in defence last night apart from Lustig and Izaguirre. It looked like the defenders had been listening to them too, and had minds on other things.
The squad’s weaknesses were exposed by Legia.
It’s probably too late to lament the absence of Wanyama, but with Brown again out through injury, we’re short of bite in central midfield, exactly what we needed when the defence was comatose. Stefan Johansen and Charlie Mulgrew had the senior combative roles, it just didn’t work. We need to fix this gap as soon as possible.
Ronny got things wrong.
I agree with the manager’s assessment in his post-match BBC interview, the back four didn’t defend as a unit, which is fatal at any level of football, and we didn’t press as a team. I’ll make no excuses for the defenders, but playing this specific 4-3-3 away from home in Europe was asking for trouble.
If we’re short of bite with Johansen and Mulgrew, we’re shorter still if the third man in the middle is the creative Kris Commons. Love him, though we do, he is neither a tackler nor a box-to-box player. The middle three in this formation need to be mobile, covering as much ground as four, sometimes five, opponents. Johansen, Mulgrew and Commons was wrong on all levels. As a result, the Legia midfield probably had their easiest game of the year.
Callum McGregor delivered a goal, as much as anyone could reasonably expect of him, but this was his first game against top-flight full-timers. He needs people to ease him into the role. Jo Inge Berget hasn’t trained with the club, has played only twice since January and there’s a reasonable chance he didn’t know the names of all his team-mates.
If you want to know why we didn’t press as a team as soon as Legia got in amongst us, the clues are everywhere. Of course we didn’t press as a team.
On top of this, we ran the same Pukki experiment as last year, with the same outcome. We’ve seen a lot more of this Celtic team than Ronny, who might now be on the same page as the rest of us.
“Anywhere but Warsaw” was title of the CQN article on the day of the draw as this one was entirely predictable, and that was before Legia won in Dublin. The new manager has yet to get his feet under the table. The squad are in a state of flux. We are short of experienced, reliable, players in several positions, and football in July is often a lottery. There was a chance Legia would capitulate but it was more likely that they would be fitter and better rehearsed.
Seven days is a long time in preseason terms, and as you don’t need me to tell you, we’ve been here before. Don’t think this is over.[calameo code=000390171ae033f39a0c4 lang=en page=120 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]