Good teams can score anywhere. Great teams can defend anywhere. Celtic have set a modern time record for lowest goals conceded in a league campaign of 17, beating the record jointly held by Martin O’Neill’s Celtic 13 years ago, and by Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen in the 80s, by a single goal.
This is a remarkable achievement but the bald fact hides another story. We conceded 12 times in their first 17 league games of the campaign, but conceded only five in the remaining 21 games:
St Johnstone scored with a rebound after Gordon saved.
St Johnstone scored when Danny Swanson fired unstoppable shot.
Inverness scored with a rebound after Johansen blocked on line.
Kilmarnock scored a deflection from shot from outside box.
Dundee scored from a move which opened Celtic defence.
Unstoppable shots, or deflections, from outside the box are, from a defensive organisation perspective, irrelevant. If someone ‘buys a lottery ticket’ with a low percentage shot and it ends up in the net, you’ve no remedial action to worry about.
Two rebounds ended up in the net. We don’t make many goal-line clearances, by keeper or defender, so reacting to the second ball is worth doing when opponents get inside the Celtic box. Dundee scored an 87th minute consolation in a game they were completely out-thought. Perhaps a momentary lapse from a Celtic team who thought their work was done for the day.
That 17 goal tally, a record which stretches back 96 years, is largely a story of the last six months, but it’s been a different story in cup games over the same period, where we’ve conceded eight in eight games.
The roof fell in over in the first half against Inter Milan at Celtic Park. While the three goals could be put down to bizarre mistakes I suspect the real story is that we didn’t have the game-plan right for an opponent of that standard. The remaining game and a half against Inter was different, where we conceded only a single ‘lottery ticket’ goal.
Dundee United scored with a disputed penalty (let’s not get started) and Inverness scored three against 10 man Celtic. Those three Inverness goals contrast so sharply with the rest of the season that you could conclude that we don’t have a robust game-plan for playing with 10 men against domestic opposition. The earlier 10-man performance at the San Siro was a different (much better) story, but tactics for Inter Milan and for Inverness will always be so different they are not worth comparing.
The loss of Jason Denayer and potential loss of Virgil van Dijk provides Ronny with a real challenge to maintain or improve the defence next season, but as you will know if you’ve been paying attention for the last 10 months, it’s all about systems, not players, so there’s a lot to be hopeful about going forward…….. apart from the fact that the only goals we’ve conceded since the middle of December in all competitions were to players wearing blue or orange!
Happy Lisbon Lions Day!