BELEAGUERED Neil Lennon has conceded Celtic are making it “very, very difficult” for themselves as their season threatens to fall apart.
The champions’ bid for a historic tenth successive title is in danger of being derailed before the turn of the year after a succession of miserable performances.
Two more points were carelessly thrown away in the 1-1 draw with St Johnstone at Parkhead yesterday with the team extending a dreadful sequence of results to only two wins in 12 games. They are now 13 points behind Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side although they have two games in hand.
The holders were dismissed from the Betfred League Cup – a trophy they have won for the previous four years – by Ross County the previous week, beaten 2-0 in the east end of Glasgow.
Unseeded and unfancied Ferencvaros won 2-1 at the same venue in August to knock the Hoops out of the Champions League and the Europa League Group H campaign was obliterated under the rubble of defeats from AC Milan (1-3 and 2-4) and Sparta Prague (1-4 home and away). The team’s solitary point came against Lille in France where they blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2. The Euro adventure will end at Parkhead against the same side on Thursday.
NIGHTMARE IN PARADISE…Neil Lennon looking glum against St Johnstone.
In the league, Scotland’s title kings have lost to the Govan club (0-2) and drawn with Kilmarnock (1-1), Aberdeen (3-3), Hibs (2-2) and now the Perth outfit.
It took an equaliser seven minutes from time by Mohamed Elyounoussi to deny Saints their first win at the ground in five years. The last time they visited last season, they were hammered 7-0.
Clearly, it is not the form that wins silverware.
The Celtic gaffer, though, is refusing to walk away. The gritty Irishman has vowed to fight on in an effort to turn things around, despite frustrated fans now calling for his head.
The board have continued to back their under-pressure manager and asked if the latest setback was likely to change his position, Lennon, speaking to the Daily Mail, answered: “I don’t think so. I don’t want it to change, either. I want to keep working.
“I have got good people behind me. I just need to get the players back to the levels that they’re capable of.
“If there is going to be a change, then so be it, but I’ll not stop working to try and get it right.
OFF TARGET…Odsonne Edouard fluffs a good chance.
“I don’t want to pre-empt anything. I want to keep working to try and turn it around. We need a bit of swagger back in the team. It is missing at the minute.
“Some players aren’t fit enough and that has been the case for a long time. Some players are just not in good form. They need some respite at some stage and they need some support from me.
“But, again, it is a two-way thing. The players have got to play better. We have tried everything we can to get the performances right.”
Addressing a run of two wins, six defeats and four draws, Lennon said: “It is not great. It is what it is.”
The supporters again let their feelings known outside the ground in the aftermath of another dismal display and Lennon said: “I understand their frustrations. When we are not playing well, and not getting results. But there are ways and means and some fans are more irate than others.
“Right now, I agree with them that our performances don’t equal the quality that we have – and if that falls on me, then so be it.
“We thought we had the atmosphere right. They are just playing within themselves a little bit. I don’t know why because there is nobody here. There is no reason to get antsy or tentative.
“We want the players to be positive. But there is something missing, that little break or that little bit of magic. We are just not playing with that real drive and oomph. We are lacking that at the minute in a lot of our play.”
THE EQUALISER…Mohamed Elyounoussi looks upset at the end.
Lennon, who arrived at the club in a £6million switch from Leicester City 20 years ago this month, added: “Listen, we need to be realistic. I wouldn’t say it’s over, but we are making it more difficult for ourselves.
“We tried to change it at half-time, to get a bit more urgency in our play. And that’s what’s missing: a lack of urgency, a lack of penetration and not working their goalkeeper enough.
“We had some good chances, but we need one of them to go in. Odsonne was in, Jullien had a header, but we are not creating enough chances. It is all a bit pedestrian for my liking.
“There is a lack of verve: we need more personality, more excitement in our play. Maybe sometimes you get that generated by the atmosphere, but we don’t have that just now.
“They’ve got that in them – look at the start they made on Thursday in Milan. But at the minute they are not playing anywhere near as well as they can.
“It is hugely concerning and I am not going to shy away from that. It is hugely concerning that we can’t keep a clean sheet, when we looked very comfortable in the game. We let people run in behind us and it’s not good enough.
LOOKING ON…Ryan Christie struggles to make an impact.
“And it’s not good enough in the final third – we are taking far too long to work defences. It is not like us at all.
“I don’t want to be critical of the players, but we are missing that spark, that fluency.
“I don’t doubt, because I know these players, and there is a definite lack of confidence there. They have a lack of confidence in themselves, and also a lack of confidence in each other. So, they have to get that back.
“They proved they can do that last year, but this year so far it has been a struggle. It might be a lack of attitude or a lack of desire, but there are bits and pieces that I see that I can’t really change overnight.
“As far as the season goes, we are making it very, very difficult for ourselves to get back into it.”