A week ago you and I discussed how Newco fans were more confident ahead of a Celtic game than they had ever been, while we, chastened by a lacklustre Celtic performance against them last month, thought we had a game on our hands at Hampden.
Five days after a very one-sided Scottish Cup semi-final and sentiment in both camps has shifted. Newco were awful on a level that it is hard to do justice on the page. Celtic were imperious in possession and attacked with a swagger.
Don’t let what happened a week ago cloud your judgement. I’ve been going to Ibrox for over 30 years, and many on here have been going twice as long, but no matter how poor old Rangers were in that time, we seldom had it easy. On my first visit there we scored four second half goals against a truly awful outfit, but 45 minutes into the game we were two down and struggling.
If you win at Ibrox, you have played well. Celtic will need to be unscrupulously faithful to their tactical system. Brendan will know how to prepare the players for this. They will need the concentration and energy to deliver the performance.
I have some worries for Pedro (apologies, but I’m not sure if he’s going to be around long enough to make it worthwhile learning how to spell his surname). His 10-second principle is a case in point.
In the interview Chris Davies gave to a few Celtic bloggers, including myself, he explained that when Celtic lose possession, the players are told to spend up to six seconds pressing directly for the ball. If they fail to win possession back in this period, they are to drop back into defensive positions.
They have been trained to do this since preseason. It’s risky, and you will note that they do it every week in domestic football, but the technique was used sparingly in the Champions League group stage. The risk of a Barcelona-type team passing through the press is dangerous, as when players are pressing, they are out of position.
This is how modern football is played, but Pedro should be cautious. You cannot reeducate players overnight. If you attempt to and fail, it’s the manager’s responsibility. In fact, this quote from Pedro is exactly what you should expect when you try to force a new system onto a team midseason:
“When we analysed the game in some moments of the game some players were acting in one direction, which was the right direction and other players were not doing the same thing at the same time.”
This was clearly not the outcome Pedro expected, but his explanation suggests he has a lot to learn about how to tactically change football teams.
What’s worse, instead of shielding his players by taking ownership of the blame, he put the players in the dock. It is no surprise that you can detect grumblings of discontent emanating from loyal Ibrox sources.
Taking about “in the dock”, Sir David Murray is currently in the witness box at Craig Whyte’s trial. Proceedings are enthralling, but we’ll catch up with that later. A point worth reiterating:
It is acceptable to report on what was said at court, but unacceptable to prejudice a witness or defendant with your view on that individual, or on evidence presented. So stick to what was said – that’s fascinating enough.