After the defeat at Ibrox on 29 December, we anticipated changes, but the most significant decision Brendan Rodgers made was the most unexpected. Celtic’s man of the match that day was goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, without whom the score would have been significantly worse than the 1-0 defeat. Remarkably, he was dropped and has not played since.
The reason for this has nothing to do with Craig’s ability between the sticks, it gets to the reason we lost control of the game: how quickly and accurately we move the ball. Despite a man of the match performance, Craig was dropped because Brendan realised our game plan can be easily dismantled if we are pedestrian in possession.
While Scott Bain is better with the ball at his feet than Craig, and Craig’s liability in this area is limited, central midfield was significantly more culpable for what went wrong at Ibrox.
Since then Callum McGregor has been restored to his normal midfield berth, Scott Brown has retained his place and Olivier Ntcham has been absent through injury, so the manager has had no major selection choices to make in this area. Olivier is now fit and in with a chance of making his first appearance of the year in Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie, while just as we were at Ibrox, we are short at left back, where McGregor moved to fill in.
Brendan has some big decisions to make this week. A central mid of Brown and Ntcham is not right for the football we play. In taking the least expected decision, to drop Gordon for Bain, I hope we saw a sign that Brendan values the velocity with which we circulate the ball.