If Shane Duffy wanted to whet the appetite of supporters after securing his loan move to Celtic, scoring a 93rd minute equaliser for Ireland in their Nations Cup game in Bulgaria last night was the way to achieve it. Those who know the player told us he was a commanding presence and the manner in which he powered home his header from a corner kick backed this up.
When you watch how teams defend set-pieces against Celtic, you will note their key defensive resources concentrate on Christopher Jullien. He also appears to be the man other Celtic players try to provide space for, by stopping opponents getting a block on him.
Jullien is a better set-piece target than we have had in many years, but this makes us predictable to defend against. Duffy will make Celtic significantly less easy to stop on these occasions.
If there was a Greatest Set-Piece Team of All Time table, Martin O’Neill’s Celtic would sit top. Bobo Balde, Chris Sutton, Joos Valgaeren, Johan Mjallby and John Hartson were five absolute mountains. Defenders seldom knew who to cover. As a consequence, Henrik Larsson did as much damage in the air as any of them.
Football has changed greatly in the years since that team rose to prominence, it was a thing of its time, but defending and attacking at set-pieces requires the same core attributes.