Before this Europa League group got underway the trips to Istanbul and Amsterdam looked daunting. Those games produced two credible draws, but things went wildly wrong elsewhere.
Our goal last night was a peach. Dedryck Boyata split the Fenerbahce defence to open up space for Mikael Lustig to cross for Kris Commons, who peeled off his marker to create the space to head home. Unfortunately only one point was collected as we lost another Keystone Cops goal.
Craig Gordon seems to be struck by a lack of conviction this season. His was not the only failing at our repeated corner kick fiascos but letting a ball trickle through his legs as he appeared caught in two minds is indicative of a player who is doubting himself.
You know Kris Commons scores and creates huge goals for Celtic, we’ve discussed it often enough here. Despite his veteran status and apparent ill-fitting to our system he remains by far our most effective player.
For Ronny, it didn’t go wrong in Europe this season against Fenerbahce or Ajax (I’m absolving him of blame for Efe’s error or a last minute breakaway goal at Celtic Park), it went wrong home and away to Molde and Malmo. We appeared to underestimate both. Did the manager have something to prove against fellow Norwegian managers?
Celtic dominated possession stats in all four games against Molde and Malmo but the Scandinavians exploited the acres of space which simply didn’t exist in our games against Ajax, Fenerbahce or Qarabag, for that matter. Ajax, Fenerbahce and Qarabag got the respect they deserved, not so Molde and Malmo.
The failure is, of course, more complicated than that. Jozo missed the bulk of the campaign, while Dedryck is only just beginning to look like a footballer (lovely pass for the goal last night). Scott Allan looks promising, but we’ve not seen enough of him either due to injury.
Curiously, Ronny’s big 2015 No. 1 striker target, Nadir, looks less like a Ronny Deila player than anyone we’ve bought in years. Knowing we were interested in him, I watched his performances against Celtic last season, and made the same observation at the time.
What happens if your keeper’s form falls off a cliff, one of your new defenders doesn’t settle quickly, two other new players miss months through injury, and your new striker doesn’t morph into a different player? You finish bottom of the Europa League group.
Celtic must now consider their strategy for January. Successive transfer windows have left us weaker, not stronger. Identify the reasons, remediate and we can build on the away performances which bookended this Europa League campaign.
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