ANGE POSTECOGLOU will need to come up with some answers in the crucial weeks ahead – or Celtic could suffer as they did this time last year.
Neil Lennon’s team came off the rails after last season’s international break with the rot setting in after a tepid display in the derby against Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side at Parkhead.
The Hoops were awful and failed to muster a solitary shot on target throughout a miserable 90 minutes of lethargy. The defence slept as centre-back Connor Goldson had time to saunter upfield and placed two efforts behind the hesitant Vasilis Barkas.
BEGINNING OF THE END…Neil Lennon looks grim as he watches Celtic stumble through a succession of games this time last year.
The confidence seemed to drain from Lennon’s side that black October afternoon in the east end of Glasgow and the side never recovered from one of the most insipid, embarrassing performances against the Govan club in decades.
Former striker Chris Sutton insists his old team must learn from the mistakes of the last campaign – or suffer the dire consequences.
The Hoops goal hero said: “Ange Postecoglou will have let out an almighty sigh of relief this morning with Celtic’s international players reporting back with no major problems like last time.
“But the manager will still need to take a deep breath – because he’s going in to a huge part of the season.
“Celtic have seven games in 22 days before the next break up for internationals and while this stage of the campaign can’t make a season, it can certainly break one.
“You just have to look back to this time last year.
AWAY DAZE…Ange Postecoglou salutes the Celtic fans at Pittodrie after the side’s first away league win since February.
“Celtic were coming back from the break and heading in to the first Old Firm game of the season on the back of eight straight wins.
“But the wheels came off in spectacular fashion with just one win in 11 games leaving the 10-in-a-row hopes in total tatters.
“Neil Lennon never recovered from that point and the damage is still being repaired now.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Postecoglou will need to be cut some slack, but there’s no escaping this period is absolutely crucial.
“Motherwell away tomorrow, there are trips to Hibs and Dundee coming up, both European ties with Ferencvaros and a couple of home games against St Johnstone and Livingston.
“It’s a tricky spell, but there’s not much margin of error. There are some questions that will need answered in the next three weeks. The big one is, what is Postecoglou’s strongest starting eleven?
EIGHT AND COUNTING…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates his eighth goal of the season against Aberdeen.
“We don’t know yet and we’re not even sure if the manager does yet, either.
“Postecoglou has had to deal with a nightmare with injuries and so on, but they are starting to ease now and there will be more competition for places.
“James Forrest should be available soon, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in to the side. He’s been a huge miss over the last year or so, but Liel Abada has been doing well on the right side and it looks like Filipe Jota will be the man for the other flank.
“We know Kyogo Furuhashi will be the main man up front, but it’s now time for Giorgos Giakoumakis to make an impression. He’s had two weeks at Lennoxtown to get up to speed, but now it will be about match sharpness. The good thing for him is there are plenty of games coming thick and fast to achieve it.”
Sutton added: “I’ve said before, there shouldn’t be the pressure on Postecoglou to win the title this year given the mess he inherited.
FORREST ON FIRE…James Forrest is congratulated by team-mates Tom Rogic, Carl Starfelt, Anthony Ralston and Callum McGregor after his goal against AZ Alkmaar at Parkhead in August.
“That doesn’t mean his Celtic side shouldn’t be competitive in the Premiership and in Europe.
“It’s vital they start climbing the table to put pressure on Rangers – but they also need to put on a performance against Ferencvaros on Tuesday.
“There were a lot of positives in the game against Real Betis in Spain and they actually played some decent stuff in spells against Bayer Leverkusen before going to pieces at the end.
“The common theme has been losing bad goals and that’s something Celtic need to cut out against the Hungarians.
“Postecoglou’s side is a work in progress, but they still can’t be the group also-rans. There’s European football after Christmas up for grabs even if they finish third so ending up rock bottom is almost unthinkable.
“These are all questions for the coming weeks and the manager will need to come up with some answers.”